Marie Antoinette

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Marie Antoinette of Austria
Queen consort of France and Navarre
Queen consort of the French
Marie-Antoinette, 1775 - Musée Antoine Lécuyer2.jpg
Portrait by Jean-Baptiste Gautier Dagoty, 1775. Musée Antoine Lécuyer.
Queen consort of France and Navarre
Tenure 10 May 1774 – 21 September 1792
Spouse Louis XVI, King of France
Issue Marie Thérèse, Duchess of Angoulême
Louis Joseph, Dauphin of France
Louis XVII
Princess Sophie
Full name
Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna
House House of Habsburg-Lorraine
House of Bourbon
Father Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor
Mother Maria Theresa, Queen of Hungary, Croatia, and Bohemia
Born (1755-11-02)2 November 1755
Hofburg Palace, Vienna, Austria, HRE
Died 16 October 1793 (aged 37)
Place de la Révolution, Paris, France
Burial 21 January 1815
Saint Denis Basilica, France
Religion Roman Catholic

Marie Antoinette (/məˈr æntwəˈnɛt/ or /æntwɑːˈnɛt/; French: [maʁi ɑ̃twanɛt]; baptised Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna;[1] 2 November 1755 – 16 October 1793), born an Archduchess of Austria, was Dauphine of France from 1770 to 1774 and Queen of France and Navarre from 1774 to 1792. She was the fifteenth and penultimate child of Maria Theresa of Austria and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor.

In April 1770, upon her marriage to Louis-Auguste, Dauphin of France, she became Dauphine of France. She assumed the title Queen of France and of Navarre when her husband ascended the throne as Louis XVI upon the death of his grandfather Louis XV in May 1774. After seven years of marriage, she gave birth to a daughter, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, the first of her four children.

Initially charmed by her personality and beauty, the French people eventually came to dislike her, accusing "L'Autrichienne" (which literally means the Austrian (woman), but also suggests the French word "chienne", meaning bitch) of being profligate, promiscuous,[2] and of harbouring sympathies for France's enemies, particularly Austria, her country of origin.[3] The Diamond Necklace incident damaged her reputation further. She later became known as Madame Déficit because France's financial crisis was justly blamed on her lavish spending and opposition to reforms.

After the revolutionaries placed the royal family under house arrest in Paris, an attempt to flee (the flight to Varennes) had disastrous effects on French popular opinion: Louis XVI was deposed and the monarchy abolished on 21 September 1792; the royal family was subsequently imprisoned at the Temple Prison. Nine months after her husband's execution, Marie Antoinette was herself tried, convicted by the Revolutionary Tribunal of treason to the principles of the revolution, and executed by guillotine on 16 October 1793. Her death and plots inspired many of those who fought for conservative ideas associated with religion and royal government specially in Vendee and helped the return of much of these ideas in 19th century Europe following the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

Long after her death, Marie Antoinette remains a major historical figure and a major cultural icon associated with high glamour and a certain style of life appealing today to the social and cultural elites, frequently referenced in popular culture,[4] being the subject of several books, films and other forms of media. Most academics and scholars have deemed her frivolous and superficial, and have attributed the start of the French Revolution to her in addition to the beginning of the French Revolutionary Wars of 1792 which ended with the Congress of Vienna; however, others have claimed that she was treated unjustly and that views of her should be more sympathetic.[5][6][7][8]

Early life[edit]

Marie Antoinette at age 12 by Martin van Meytens, circa 1767-1768.

Maria Antoinette was born on November 2, 1755, in Vienna. She was the youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Francis I.[1][9] She was described at her birth as "a completely healthy archduchess",[10]

The relaxed ambience of court life [11] was developed by the Habsburgs.

Maria Antonia had a simple childhood.[12] She was never lonely.[12] This was evident in her relationship with her sister, Maria Carolina.[13]

Antonia's education was poor.[12] The emphasis in Marie Antoinette's education was on manners and appearance.[12] Around ten years old, she still had trouble writing.[14] Conversations with her were stilted.[15][16]

Antonia learned to play the harp.[12] During the family's evenings, she would sing.[17] She also excelled at dancing.[18] She had an "exquisite" poise;[18] She also loved dolls as a young girl.[18][18] Her childhood was somewhat complex because of her relation with her family specially her mother who loved her but raised her in a firm way to be a Queen; Marie Antoinette said one day when she was Queen of France: "I love the Empress but I'm frightened of her, even at a distance; when I'm writing to her, I never feel completely at ease".[19]

Her "private" life was more relaxed than other European princesses' at the time due to the simple natural manner in which she was raised.[20][21][22]

Marriage to Louis: 1770–1793[edit]

Royal Monogram as Queen of France

The events leading to her eventual betrothal to the Dauphin of France began in 1765, when her father died, leaving Maria Theresa to co-rule with Emperor Joseph II.[23] Without the Seven Years' War the marriage might not have occurred.[21]

Marie Antoinette at the clavichord, by Franz Xaver Wagenschön (1768).

The dowry was set at 200,000 crowns, as was traditional.[24] Maria Antonia was married by proxy on 19 April in Vienna to the Dauphin.[25]

Marie Antoinette entering Strasbourg on 7 May 1770

Marie Antoinette was officially handed over to comtesse de Noailles, her lady in waiting who controlled her daily life under the authority of Madame du Barry at least until 1774 .[26] She met the King and the Dauphin. Before reaching Versailles, she also met her future brothers-in-law, Louis Stanislas Xavier, comte de Provence; and Charles Philippe, comte d'Artois.[27] Later, she met her husband's youngest sister, Madame Élisabeth.

Profile medallion of Marie Antoinette as Dauphine of France in 1770, allegorical to her marriage.

The ceremonial wedding took place on 16 May 1770, in the Palace of Versailles, after which was the ritual bedding.[28] It was assumed by custom that consummation of the marriage would take place on the wedding night.[29] However, this did not occur, and the lack of consummation plagued the reputation of both Louis-Auguste and Marie Antoinette for seven years to come.[30]

The initial reaction to the marriage between Marie Antoinette and Louis-Auguste was mixed. On the one hand, the Dauphine herself was popular among the people. Her first official appearance in Paris after the approval of Madame du Barry on 8 June 1773, at the Tuileries was considered by many royal watchers a resounding success. People were easily charmed by her personality and beauty. She had fair skin, straw-blond hair, blue eyes and with her high heels and majestic tall figure, she was a head taller than her court acquaintances, including her family.

Marie Antoinette, at the age of thirteen; this miniature portrait was sent to the dauphin, so he could see his bride before he met her, by Joseph Ducreux (1769).
Portrait of Marie Antoinette in hunting attire (a favorite of her mother), by Joseph Krantzinger (1771), Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

However, the match was unpopular among the elder members of the Court.[31] They accused her of destroying long-standing traditions.[32] Many other courtiers, such as the comtesse du Barry, had tenuous relationships with the Dauphine.[33]

Her relationship with the comtesse du Barry was one which it was important for her to improve, at least on the surface, because Madame du Barry was the mistress of Louis XV, and thus had considerable political influence over the king. In fact, du Barry had been instrumental in ousting the duc de Choiseul, who had helped orchestrate the Franco-Austrian alliance as well as Marie Antoinette's own marriage.[34] After months of continued pressure from her mother and the Austrian minister, the comte de Mercy-Argenteau, Marie Antoinette grudgingly agreed to speak to Mme du Barry on New Year's Day 1772 in order to stop any French protest about the partition of Poland. Although the limit of their conversation was Marie Antoinette's banal comment to the royal mistress that, "there are a lot of people at Versailles today", Mme du Barry was satisfied by her victory with the result that she controlled Marie Antoinette's daily life until 1774 making her a virtual prisoner at court under her control and the crisis, for the most part, dissipated.[35] Later, Marie Antoinette became more polite to the comtesse because she needed her approval before doing anything important, pleasing Louis XV, but also particularly her mother.[36]

Louis Auguste as Dauphin of France, by Louis-Michel Van Loo (1769).

From the beginning, the Dauphine had to contend with constant letters from her mother, who was receiving secret reports on her daughter's behavior from Mercy d'Argenteau.[37]

Marie Antoinette began to spend more on gambling with cards and new clothing, shoes, pomade and rouge.[38]

Marie Antoinette also began to form deep friendships with various ladies in her retinue. Most noted were the sensitive princesse de Lamballe, whom she appointed as Superintendent of her Household.[39][40] Others taken into her confidence at this time included Christoph Willibald Gluck, her former music teacher, whom she took under her patronage.[41]

On 27 April 1774, Louis XV died. Marie Antoinette imprisoned Madame du Barry for two years then exiled her on her lands for many years.[42] Louis-Auguste was crowned King Louis XVI of France at the cathedral of Rheims. Marie Antoinette was not crowned alongside him.[43]

Queenship: 1774–1792[edit]

Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, in coronation robes by Jean-Baptiste Gautier Dagoty, 1775.

1774–1778: Early years[edit]

At the outset, the new Queen had limited political influence with her husband. Louis blocked many of her candidates, including Choiseul,[44] from taking important positions, aided and abetted by his two most important ministers, Chief Minister Maurepas and Foreign Minister Vergennes. In spite of that, the Queen played a decisive role in the disgrace and exile of the most powerful of Louis XV ministers, the Duke of Aiguillon.[45]

Archduke Maximilian Francis of Austria visited Marie Antoinette and her husband on 7 February 1775 at the Château de la Muette.

On 6 August 1775, Marie Antoinette's situation became more precarious when her sister-in-law the comtesse d'Artois gave birth to a son.[46]

The Queen plunged further into the costly diversions of buying her dresses from Rose Bertin and gambling on a massive scale. For formal occasions, she adopted a hair style, the pouf, created shortly before by her hairdresser, Léonard Autié.She also began to attract various male admirers including the baron de Besenval, the duc de Coigny, and Count Valentin Esterházy.[47]

She was given free rein to renovate the Petit Trianon, a gift to her by Louis XVI on 15 August 1774;[48] The Petit Trianon became associated with Marie Antoinette's perceived extravagance. With the "English garden", Marie Antoinette and her court adopted the English dress of indienne, of percale or muslin.[49] The tradition of costume at the court at Versailles was broken after more than ten years.[50] Rumors circulated that she plastered the walls with gold and diamonds.[51] Her lady-in-waiting Jeanne-Louise-Henriette Campan defended her reputation and simplicity.[52]

Repayment of the French debt remained a difficult problem, further exacerbated by Vergennes' and specially Marie Antoinette's prodding Louis XVI to involve France in Great Britain's war with its North American colonies.[53] Amidst the atmosphere of the first wave of libelles, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph came to call on his sister and brother-in-law on 18 April 1777. During the subsequent six-week visit to Versailles, Joseph investigated why the royal marriage had not been consummated. He soon realized that no obstacle to the couple's conjugal relations existed, save the Queen's lack of interest and the King's unwillingness to exert himself in that arena. In a letter to his brother Leopold, Joseph graphically described them as "a couple of complete blunderers."[54] Due to Joseph's intervention, the marriage was finally consummated in August 1777.[55] Eight months later, in April, it was suspected that the Queen was finally pregnant with her first child, which was confirmed on 16 May 1778.[56]

1778–1781: Motherhood[edit]

Marie Antoinette in a court dress worn over extremely wide panniers showing her majestic presence in spite of her very large size, by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1778).

In the middle of the Queen's pregnancy, two events occurred which had a profound impact on her later life. First, there was the return of the handsome Swede, Count Axel von Fersen, to Versailles for two years. Secondly, Marie Antoinette's brother, the Emperor Joseph, began making claims on the throne of Bavaria.[57] Marie Antoinette pleaded with her husband for the French to help intercede on behalf of Austria. The Peace of Teschen, signed on 13 May 1779, ended the brief conflict with the Queen imposing French mediation on the demand of her mother and Austria's gaining a territory of at least 100,000 persons, a strong retreat from the early French position which was hostile towards Austria with the impression, partially justified,that the Queen side with Austria against France .[58]

Marie Antoinette's daughter, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte was finally born at Versailles on 19 December 1778.[19][59][60] The baby's paternity was contested in the libelles.[61] Marie Antoinette wrote about her worrisome health, which might have contributed to a miscarriage in July 1779.[62]

Meanwhile, the Queen began to institute changes in the customs practised at court. Some changes had been met with disapproval from the older generation. More importantly was the abandonment of heavy make-up and the popular wide-hooped panniers for a more simple feminine look, typified first by the rustic robe à la polonaise and later by the 'gaulle,' a simple muslin dress that she wore in a 1783 Vigée-Le Brun portrait.[63] She also began to participate in amateur plays and musicals, starting in 1780, in a theatre built for her and other courtiers who wished to indulge in the delights of acting and singing.[64]

In 1780, two candidates who had been supported by Marie Antoinette for positions, the marquis de Castries, and Louis Philippe, marquis de Ségur were appointed Minister of the Navy and Minister of War, respectively. It was the support of the Queen that enabled them to secure their positions and she would support their attempts to prevent the middle classes from reaching high positions in the Army and Navy, this being one of the main reasons for the outbreak of the French Revolution.[65] Finally, the Queen played in 1783 a decisive role in the nomination of Charles Alexandre de Calonne, a close friend of the Polignacs, as Financial Minister and baron de Breteuil as the Minister of Royal Household, making him perhaps the strongest and most conservative minister of the reign. The result of these two nominations was that Marie Antoinette's influence became paramount in government[66]

Marie Antoinette en chemise, portrait of the queen in a "muslin" dress, by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1783). This controversial portrait was viewed by her critics to be improper for a Queen.

Empress Maria Theresa died on 29 November 1780, in Vienna. Marie Antoinette was worried that the death of her mother would jeopardise the Franco-Austrian alliance (as well as, ultimately, herself), but Emperor Joseph reassured her through his own letters that he had no intention of breaking the alliance.

Three months after the empress' death, it was rumoured that Marie Antoinette was pregnant again, which was confirmed in March 1781. Another royal visit from Joseph II in July, partially to reaffirm the Franco-Austrian alliance and also to see his sister again, was tainted with rumours that Marie Antoinette was siphoning treasury money to him.[67]

On 22 October 1781, the Queen gave birth to Louis Joseph Xavier François, who bore the title Dauphin of France. All these pregnancies made Marie Antoinette who was already considered a very large woman to gain much more weight but according to most observers she was considered a beautiful Queen with a majestic presence. A key factor was her launching of new fashions like the use of the pouf on women heads which made them look very tall and her use of high heels.[68][69][70][71][72]

1782–1785: Declining popularity[edit]

Marie Antoinette with her two eldest children, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte and the Dauphin Louis Joseph, in the Petit Trianon's gardens, by Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller (1785).
Queen Marie Antoinette in court dress, by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1783.
The watermill cottage, le Moulin, in the Queen's Hamlet

Despite the general celebration over the birth of the Dauphin, Marie Antoinette's political influence, such as it was, did greatly benefit Austria.[73] During the so-called Kettle War, in which her brother Joseph attempted to open the Scheldt River for naval passage; Marie Antoinette succeeded in obliging Vergennes to pay a huge financial compensation to Austria. Finally, the Queen was able to have her brother's support against England and she neutralized French hostility to his alliance with Russia.[74]

When accused of being a "dupe" by her brother for her political inaction, Marie Antoinette responded that sometimes she had little power.[75] She claimed she had to pretend to the ministers that she was in the full confidence of the King in order to get the information she wanted.[76] The Queen however was not telling her brother the whole truth; the truth was that Marie Antoinette's political influence was beginning to be paramount in the state.[77]

After the royal governess of the Dauphin's, the princesse de Guéméné, went bankrupt and was forced to resign;Marie Antoinette appointed her favourite, the duchesse de Polignac, to the position.[78] This decision met with disapproval from the court, as the duchess was considered to be of too "immodest" a birth to occupy such an exalted position.[79] On the other hand, the Queen trusted Mme de Polignac completely and gave her millions of 'livres' every year .[80]

An engraving of Marie Antoinette à la paysanne, or Marie Antoinette as a peasant; she often dressed as one with her friends at her Hameau, imitating the simple life.

In June 1783, Marie Antoinette was pregnant again. Later that month, Count Axel von Fersen returned from America, he was accepted into her private society, probably becoming her affective lover without a full physical relation between the two. Marie Antoinette suffered a miscarriage on the night of 1–2 November 1783.[81]

Trying to calm her mind, the Queen occupied herself with the creation of the Hameau de la reine, a model hamlet in the garden of the Petit Trianon. Started in 1783, the Queen's hamlet, built to the designs of her favoured architect, Richard Mique, was complete in 1787.[82] Its creation, however, unexpectedly caused another uproar when the price of the Hameau was justly criticized by her critics.[83]

Marie Antoinette had other notable interests and activities. She became an avid reader of historical novels, and her scientific interest was strong enough to become a witness and supporting to the launching of hot air balloons for the first time in human history at such a scale rendering a major service for humanity.[84] She was fascinated by Rousseau's "back to nature" philosophy and she had many books in her library.[85] She was able to write in broken English to her friend, the Duchess of Devonshire.[86]

One of her concerns of the Queen became the health of the Dauphin, which was beginning to fail.In 1784, it was widely thought that the sickly Dauphin would not live to be an adult.[81] During this time, Beaumarchais' play The Marriage of Figaro premiered in Paris. After initially having been banned by the King due to its negative portrayal of the nobility, the play was ironically finally allowed to be publicly performed because of the Queen support and its overwhelming popularity at court, where secret readings of it had been given by Marie Antoinette.[87]

The Hameau de la Reine (The Queen's Hamlet), built for Marie-Antoinette in the park of Trianon, in the Domain of Versailles, was an idealized version of the real life conditions of French peasantry. Here: the Moulin, back view.

In August 1784, the Queen reported that she was pregnant again. She bought the Château de Saint-Cloud, a place she had always loved, from the duc d'Orléans, the father of the previously disgraced duc de Chartres. This was a hugely unpopular acquisition, particularly with some factions of the nobility who already disliked her, but also with a growing percentage of the population who felt shocked that a French Queen might own her own residence, independent of the King. Despite having the baron de Breteuil working on her behalf, the purchase did not help improve the public's image of the Queen as frivolous. The château's expensive price, almost 6\10million livres, plus the substantial extra cost of redecorating it, ensured that there was much less money going towards repaying France's substantial debt.[88]

On 27 March 1785, Marie Antoinette gave birth to a second son, Louis Charles, who was created the duc de Normandie.[89] The fact that this delivery occurred exactly nine months following Fersen's visit did not escape the attention of many, and though there is much doubt and historical speculation about the parentage of this child, public opinion towards her decreased noticeably.[90] It is the belief of most of Marie-Antoinette's biographers and the young prince's that he was the biological son of Louis XVI and not Axel von Fersen, even among those biographers who believe the Queen was in affective love with Fersen.[91] Courtiers at Versailles noted in their diaries at the time that the date of the child's conception in fact corresponded perfectly with a period when the King and Queen had spent a lot of time together, but these details were ignored amid attacks on the Queen's character.[92] These suspicions of illegitimacy, along with the continued publication of the libelles, a never-ending cavalcade of court intrigues, the actions of Joseph II in the Kettle War, and her purchase of Saint-Cloud combined to turn popular opinion sharply against the Queen, and the image of a licentious, spendthrift, empty-headed foreign Queen was quickly taking root in the French psyche.[93]

1786-1789: Prelude to the Revolution[edit]

A second daughter, Sophie Hélène Béatrice de France, was born on 9 July 1786, but died on 19 June 1787.

This State Portrait by Vigée-Lebrun (1787) of Marie Antoinette and her children Marie Thérèse, Louis Charles (on her lap), and Louis Joseph, was meant to help her reputation by depicting her as a mother and in simple, yet stately attire.

Continuing deterioration of the French financial situation, despite cutbacks to the royal retinue, ultimately forced the King, the Queen and their Minister of Finance, Calonne, to call the Assembly of Notables, after a hiatus of 160 years. The assembly was held to attempt passing some reforms required to alleviate the financial situation, on which the Parlements refused to cooperate. The first meeting of the assembly took place on 22 February 1787, at which Marie Antoinette was not present. Later, this absence resulted in accusations that the Queen was trying to undermine the purpose of the assembly.[94]

However, the Assembly was a failure, as it did not pass any reforms and instead fell into a pattern of defying the King. The King, on the urging of the Queen, dismissed Calonne on 8 April 1787; Vergennes died on 13 February.[95]

During this time, the Queen began to abandon her more carefree activities to become increasingiy involved in politics, and mostly with the interests of Austria and her children.[96] This was for a variety of reasons. First, her children were Enfants de France, and thus their future as leaders of France needed to be assured. Second, by concentrating on her children, the Queen sought to improve the dissolute image she had acquired from the "Diamond Necklace Affair", in which she had been accused of participating in a crime to defraud the crown jewelers of the cost of a very expensive diamond necklace, and this incident in which she insisted on the arrest and trial of the cardinal de Rohan destroyed her reputation specially when she imprisoned and exiled the cardinal in spite of the parliament decision to exonerate him. Third, the King had begun to withdraw from a decision-making role in government due to the onset of an acute case of depression. The symptoms of this depression were passed off as drunkenness by the libelles. As a result, Marie Antoinette finally emerged as a politically viable entity. In her new capacity as a politician with a very high degree of power, the Queen tried to help the situation brewing between the assembly and the King.[95]

This change in the Queen's political role signalled the beginning of the end of the influence of the duchesse de Polignac, as Marie Antoinette began to dislike the duchesse's huge expenditures and their impact on the finances of the Crown. The duchesse left for England in May, leaving her children behind in Versailles. Also in May, Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne, the archbishop of Toulouse and one of the Queen's political allies, was appointed by the King, on Marie Antoinette's urging and orders, to replace Calonne first as the Finance Minister and then as Prime Minister. He began to institute more cutbacks at court and to restore the absolute power of the King and Queen who were weakened by parliaments .[97]

Brienne, though, was not able to improve the financial situation. Since he was the Queen's ally and creature, this failure adversely affected her political position. The continued poor financial climate of the country resulted in the 25 May dissolution of the Assembly of Notables because of its inability to get things done. This lack of solutions was fairly blamed on the Queen.[98] The financial problems resulted from a combination of several factors: too many expensive wars; a too-large royal family headed by the Queen whose large frivolous expenditures far exceeded the resources of the state; and an unwillingness on the part of many of the aristocrats and Marie Antoinette who were in charge to help defray the costs of the government out of their own pockets with higher taxes. Marie Antoinette earned the nickname of "Madame Déficit" in the summer of 1787 as a result of the public perception that she had singlehandedly ruined the national finances.[99] While sole fault for the financial crisis did not lie with the Queen, Marie Antoinette was the biggest obstacle to any major reform effort. She played a decisive role in the disgrace, exile and partial imprisonment of the Reformer Ministers of Finance, Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, Baron de Laune and Necker. She spent a lot of money on her favorites and on herself, more than any other person in France. Finally the expense of the court was much higher than the official estimate of 7% of the state budget, if the secret expenses of the Queen were taken into account.[100] The Queen attempted to fight back with propaganda portraying her as a caring mother, most notably the premier at Royal Académie Salon de Paris in August 1787 of a portrait of her and her children by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun.[101][102] This attack strategy was eventually dropped, however, because of the death of the Queen's youngest child, Sophie. Around the same time, Jeanne de Lamotte-Valois escaped from prison in France and fled to London, where she published more damaging lies concerning her supposed "affair" with the Queen.[103]

Another state portrait of Marie Antoinette, by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1788)

The political situation in 1787 began to worsen when on Marie Antoinette's urging, the Parlement was exiled, and further deteriorated when the King tried to use a lit de justice to force through legislation on 11 November. He was unexpectedly challenged by his formerly disgraced cousin, the duc de Chartres, who had inherited the title of duc d'Orléans at the death of his father in 1785. The new duc d'Orléans publicly protested the King's actions, and was subsequently exiled.[104] The May Edicts issued on 8 May 1788 were also opposed by the public. Finally, on 8 July and 8 August, the King announced his intention to bring back the Estates General, the traditional elected legislature of the country, which had not been convened since 1614.[105]

Marie Antoinette was directly involved with the exile of the Parlement, the May Edicts or with the announcement regarding the Estates General, she did participate in the King Council, the first Queen to do this in the last hundred years, and she was making the major decisions behind the scene and in Council . Her primary concern in late 1787 and 1788 was the improved health of the Dauphin, who suffered from tuberculosis and his condition continued to deteriorate.[106]

The Queen was instrumental in the recall of Jacques Necker as Finance Minister on 26 August, a popular move, even though she herself was worried that the recall would again go against her if Necker proved unsuccessful in reforming the country's finances.[107]

Miniature of Marie Antoinette by Francois Dumont 1792

Her prediction began to come true when bread prices started to rise following the severe 1788–1789 winter.[citation needed] The Dauphin's condition worsened even more, riots broke out in Paris in April, and on 26 March, Louis XVI himself almost died from a fall off a roof.[citation needed]

"Come, Léonard, dress my hair, I must go like an actress, exhibit myself to a public that may hiss me",[18] the Queen quipped to her hairdresser, who was one of her "ministers of fashion", as she prepared for the Mass celebrating the return of the Estates General on 4 May 1789. She knew that her rival, the duc d'Orléans, who had given money and bread to the people during the winter, would be popularly acclaimed by the crowd much to her detriment.[citation needed] The Estates General convened the next day.[108] During the month of May, the Estates General began to fracture between the democratic Third Estate (consisting of the bourgeoisie and radical nobility), and the royalist nobility of the Second Estate, while the King's brothers began to become more hardline.

Despite these developments, the Queen was strongly focused on her son, the dying Dauphin who succumbed to tuberculosis at Meudon on 4 June, leaving the title of Dauphin to his younger brother, Louis Charles. This death, which would have normally been nationally mourned, was virtually ignored by the French people,[109] who were instead preparing for the next meeting of the Estates General and hoping for a resolution to the bread crisis. As the Third Estate declared itself a National Assembly and took the Tennis Court Oath, and as others listened to rumors that the Queen wished to bathe in their blood, Marie Antoinette went into mourning for her eldest son.[110] Marie Antoinette's role was decisive in urging the King to remain firm and to not concede to popular demands for reforms. In addition, the Queen was ready to use force to crush the revolution.[111]

July 1789–1792: The French Revolution[edit]

Storming of the Bastille and arrest of the Governor Bernard-René de Launay, 14 July 1789. Museum of the History of France.

The situation began to escalate violently in June as the National Assembly began to demand more rights, and Louis XVI began to push back with efforts to suppress the Third Estate. However, the King's ineffectiveness and the Queen's unpopularity undermined the monarchy as an institution, and so these attempts failed. Then, on 11 July, on Marie Antoinette's urging and orders, Necker was dismissed to be replaced by Breteuil, the Queen's choice to crush the Revolution with mercenary Germanic troops.[112] At the news, Paris was besieged by riots which culminated in the storming of the Bastille on 14 July.[113]

In the days and weeks that followed, many of the most conservative, reactionary royalists, including the comte d'Artois and the duchesse de Polignac, fled France for fear of assassination. Marie Antoinette, whose life was the most in danger, stayed behind in order to help the king promote stability, even as his power was gradually being taken away by the National Constituent Assembly, which was now ruling Paris and conscripting men to serve in the Garde Nationale.[114]

Representation of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in 1789, who includes the "Eye of providence" symbol (eye in triangle), by Jean-Jacques-François Le Barbier, 1789.

By the end of August, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (La Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen), drafted by La Fayette, was adopted, which officially began a constitutional monarchy in France.[115] Despite this, the King was still required to perform certain court ceremonies, even as the situation in Paris worsened due to a bread shortage in September. On 5 October, a mob from Paris descended upon Versailles and forced the royal family, along with the comte de Provence, his wife and Madame Elisabeth, to move to Paris under the watchful eye of the Garde Nationale. The King and Queen were installed in the Tuileries Palace under strong surveillance.[116] During this house arrest, Marie Antoinette conveyed to her friends that she did not intend to involve herself any further in French politics, as everything, whether or not she was involved, would inevitably be attributed to her anyway and she feared the repercussions of further involvement.[117]

Despite the situation, Marie Antoinette was still required to perform charitable functions and to attend certain religious ceremonies, which she did. Most of her time, however, was dedicated to her children.[118] In spite of her status as an effective state prisoner, Marie Antoinette played a very important political role in the period extending between 1789 and 1791. That role was not public because there was a political and public rejection of the Queen who tried to crush the revolution in July 1789. During this period, Marie Antoinette had a complex set of relationships with several key leaders of the early period of the French Revolution. One of the most important politicians of that period was Necker the prime minister who was in charge of financial policy, the Queen hated Necker in spite that she played a decisive role in his return to power. Marie Antoinette blamed Necker for the role he played in supporting the Revolution and she was very happy when he was obliged to resign in 1790.[119]

Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette the leader of the National Guard (and military leader in the American Revolution) hated the Queen and served as her jailer and even considered sending her to a convent. However, he was persuaded by the mayor of Paris, Jean Sylvain Bailly, to try to work with her. La Fayette's relation with the King was acceptable and being a liberal aristocrat he did not want the destruction of the monarchy but instead the installation of a liberal system of government. At times La Fayette worked in the Queen's favor. La Fayette sent the Duke of Orleans, who was accused by the Queen of fomenting trouble, into exile for a period of time. La Fayette even boasted, as the Queen's jailer, that he allowed Marie Antoinette to see Axel de Fersen, albeit under strong surveillance. The Queen who did not have any direct political power during that period because the King's powers were suspended until the constitution was adopted. Marie Antoinette strongly resented her status as an effective prisoner who needed the approval of her guards for any physical or public activity and suffered a lot during these "sad years" as she describe them in her letters, while never losing hope that one day she'll recover her liberty and absolute power.[120]

A significant achievement for Marie Antoinette in that period was the establishment of an alliance with Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau, the most important lawmaker in the assembly. Like La Fayette, Mirabeau was a liberal aristocrat. While Mirabeau was elected on the lower-class list, he was not fundamentally against the monarchy and dreamed of reconciling the monarchy with the revolution. Mirabeau wanted also to be a minister and he was not immune to corruption. On the advice of Count Mercy, Marie Antoinette opened secret negotiations with Mirabeau and they agreed to meet in secret in the castle of Saint Cloud in the summer of 1790. At the meeting, Mirabeau was much impressed by the Queen, saying that she was the only man in her husband's court. A deal was reached turning Mirabeau into one of her political allies. Marie Antoinette also accepted to pay Mirabeau 6000 livres per month and many millions if he succeeded in his mission to restore the King's authority.

The summer of 1790 brought to Marie Antoinette and her family a limited amount of relief, as they were allowed to spend it in the castle of Saint Cloud, which belonged to the Queen. While her situation as a prisoner did not change, she had much greater personal freedom than in Paris, since she was free from the radical elements who surrounded her and followed all her movements in the capital. During this time, she met Mirabeau in secret, an event which could not have happened in Paris.

The only time the royal couple returned to Paris in that period was in 14 July 1790 for the official celebration of the Fall of the Bastille, "The Fete de la Federation". The Abbe Talleyrand said a commemorative Mass in Paris and at least 300,000 persons participated from all over France including 18,000 National Guards. At the event, the King was greeted with numerous cries of "Long Live The King ", especially when he took the oath to protect the Nation and to apply the laws voted by the Constitutional Assembly. There were even some cheers to the Queen, particularly when she presented her son to the Public. Mirabeau advised Marie Antoinette to leave Paris and to travel inside France to profit from the commemoration of the 14 of July, but the Queen was already thinking of leaving France and turning for Foreign Powers to help her crush the Revolution.[121]

Mirabeau sincerely wanted to reconcile the Queen with the people, but the Queen was still attempting to restore as much of the King's authority as possible and to liberate herself from her captivity. Marie Antoinette was happy to see Mirabeau restoring much of the King's powers in the assembly. The King's authority over foreign policy was restored and the right to propose the declaration of war was also given to the King. Over the objections of La Fayette and his allies, the King was given a suspensive veto allowing him to veto any laws for a period of four years. With time, Mirabeau would support the Queen even more, going as far as to agree with her escape plans but perhaps not to the extent of demanding the help of foreign powers.[122] However, this leverage with the Assembly ended with the death of Mirabeau in April 1791, though many moderate leaders of the French Revolution tried to contact the Queen and to establish some kind of cooperation with her.

Just before Mirabeau's death, the Pope condemned the civil constitution of the clergy in March 1791, reduced the number of bishops from 132 to 93, imposed the election of bishops and monks by the French people, and finally reduced the Pope's authority over the Church. Marie Antoinette was raised in the Catholic Faith and while she was not pious as her husband, religion played a decisive role in her life especially after her pregnancies. The Queen's political ideas and her belief in the absolute power of monarchs were based on the simple assumption that Queens and Kings were the representatives of God on earth and that their subjects should obey them in an absolute way. When the people in Paris felt that the Queen was against the new religious laws, Marie Antoinette was publicly insulted and she was not allowed to leave Paris. This incident fortified the Queen's determination to leave Paris.[123]

Marie Antoinette a prisoner in the difficult years of the Tuileries Palace, painted around 1791, by Alexandre Kucharsky.

Despite her attempts to remain out of the public eye, she was falsely accused in the libelles of conducting an affair with the commander of the Garde Nationale, the marquis de La Fayette, whom in reality she loathed for his liberal tendencies and his role in the royal family's forced departure from Versailles.[124] This was not the only accusation Marie Antoinette faced from such "libelles." In such pamphlets as "Le Godmiché Royal" (translated, "The Royal Dildo"), it was suggested that she routinely engaged in deviant sexual acts of various sorts, most famously with the English Baroness 'Lady Sophie Farrell' of Bournemouth, a renowned lesbian of the time.[125] From acting as a tribade (in her case, in the lesbian sense), to sleeping with her son, Marie Antoinette was constantly an object of rumor and false accusations of committing sexual acts with partners other than the King. Later, allegations of this sort (from incest to orgiastic excesses) were used to justify her execution.[126][127] Ultimately, none of the charges of sexual depravity has any credible evidentiary support; Marie Antoinette was simply an easy target for rumor and criticism.

Marie Antoinette at that period of time had in general very good relations with her husband, who was passing through a depressive phase and who was letting her make all the major political and personnel decisions affecting their lives. Marie Antoinette's priority in the spring of 1791 was to escape her captivity but with her family; she refused to be separated from her children and especially from her husband. Even Fersen could not convince her to leave without the King; the Queen wanted the King to come with her both because she loved the King, the father of her children, and because she was aware that without the King, she would lose all her political powers. Marie Antoinette asked and ordered Fersen and Breteuil (who represented her in the courts of Europe) to prepare an escape plan while she continued her negotiations with some moderate leaders of the French Revolution.[128]

The arrest and restrain of Marie Antoinette and her family at Varennes and the pushing on her to return to Paris, by Thomas Falcon Marshall, 1854.

During this time, there were many plots designed to help members of the royal family escape. The queen rejected several because she would not leave without the king. Other opportunities to rescue the family were ultimately frittered away by the indecisive King. Once the King finally did commit to a plan, his indecision played an important role in its poor execution and ultimate failure. In an elaborate attempt to escape from Paris to the royalist stronghold of Montmédy planned by Count Axel von Fersen and the baron de Breteuil, some members of the royal family were to pose as the servants of a wealthy Russian baroness. Initially, the Queen rejected the plan because it required her to leave with only her son, as she wished the rest of the royal family to accompany her. The King wasted time deciding upon which members of the family should be included in the venture, what the departure date should be, and the exact path of the route to be used. After many delays, the escape ultimately occurred on 21 June 1791, but the entire family was captured twenty-four hours later at Varennes and taken back to Paris within a week. The escape attempt destroyed much of the remaining support of the populace for the King[129]

When the Queen was captured with her family, the assembly sent three representatives to escort the royal family back to Paris. Marie Antoinette was humiliated by the people as never before; she was beaten and pushed by the crowds; people spat on her and her hands were put forcefully behind her back under the excuse of escorting her. Antoine Barnave, the representative of the moderate party in the constitutional assembly, protected the Queen from the crowds at the peril of his own life. Even Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve, the representative of the Girondin radical republican party of Madame Roland, took pity on the royal family. Marie Antoinette was brought safely to Paris; in addition, thanks to Barnave, she was not brought to trial and publicly exonerated of any crimes in relation with her attempt of escape.

Marie Antoinette prisoner and humiliated inside Paris on 25 June 1791

Using her connection with the moderate leader Barnave, Marie Antoinette played a leading but indirect role in the establishment of the French Constitution of 1791. In its details, the constitution of 1791 was a compromise between the ideas of the Old Regime and the ideals of the French Revolution. It was not directed against the King but certainly against the old nobility. This constitution called for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy where the King was given important but not full powers. The King was given substantial powers according to the articles of the Constitution. Executive power was under the control of the King, who was also the head the army, in charge of foreign policy and chose ministers. While the King could not declare war, the new Legislative Assembly, which replaced the previous Constituent Assembly on 1 October, could go to war only if requested to do so by the King. The King was also considered to have immunity for actions he might take as a monarch, but this did not extend to other members of his family. An English visitor in the Tuileries gardens would witness two soldiers observing and guarding the Queen keeping their hats on in her presence while singing disgusting songs, on the grounds that there was no mention of her in the Constitution. Finally, the King was given the right to veto any law for four years.[130] The King, who was considered the head of state, was given a budget of 25 millions livres every year in order to allow him to pay the functions of his court.

As her letters show, the Queen was incompletely sincere in this cooperation with the moderate leaders of the French Revolution, which ultimately ended any chance to establish a moderate government in France.,[131] as it led to a further decline in the popularity of both the King and Queen. The view that the unpopular Queen was controlling the King further degraded their standing with the people. The Jacobin Party successfully exploited the failed escape to advance its radical agenda. Its members called for the end to any type of monarchy in France.[132]

The constitution called for a moderate system of government. Barnave, who believed in the sincerity of the Queen, took great political risks in the hope of producing a stable social and political structure. Barnave established a system of voting that was based on the middle-class vote. In addition, the civil constitution of the clergy, which greatly displeased Marie Antoinette because it created a national church outside the influence of the Papacy, was not considered a constitutional act. Barnave was able to secure a moderate majority that was ready to work with the Queen in spite of her unpopularity. This situation lasted a few months until the spring of 1792.[133]

During these years at the Tuileries, the Queen was a prisoner guarded night and day by many soldiers who never left her for a moment, not even in her bedroom. Many of these jailers were radicals who openly disrespected her, smoking in her face, denying her any privacy and maximally restricting her movements. Marie Antoinette was never allowed to visit her palace of Saint Cloud and was required to seek her guards' permission to see her children or husband, who sometimes refused her request. If permission was granted to leave her rooms, she was escorted by soldiers who surrounded her on all sides and who were present in all her meetings. This occurred despite the fact that she and her husband were still legally ruling sovereigns. However, over the course of her strict captivity, in poor spirits and with restrictions on her social life, the health of Marie Antoinette began to deteriorate rapidly. The hair of the Queen turned at least partially white,she began to lose a lot of blood but she remained a charismatic woman who was able to charm even some of her enemies. She developed problems in at least one of her legs, necessitating assistance when walking and further reducing her activities.[134]

In February 1792, Ferson was able to see the Queen a final time in spite of the strong measures of restriction around the prisoner Queen. Beyond doubt, Fersen bribed some of the guards, but was not able to pass more than a short period of time in the palace where the Queen was effectively imprisoned. Marie Antoinette would acknowledge that the security measures were so strong that it was impossible to escape with barred windows in her rooms and an escort of soldiers following her day and night dictating her every move.

Barnave advised the Queen to recall the Austrian ambassador Count Mercy, who had played such a huge part in her life, in addition to the Princess de Lamballe. Count Mercy, who was appointed in a high position in the Austrian Empire, refused to return for a variety of reasons. This saddened the Queen greatly, leaving the impression that she was left to her demise, especially that Mercy was a paternal figure for her sent by her mother to take care of her since her coming to France. She was more lucky with the Princess de Lamballe, who returned and filled a great void in the affective and social life of the captive Queen. As for her social life, it was difficult for the Queen, effectively a prisoner guarded night and day, to have an effective social life. Wherever Marie Antoinette went, there was a soldier before her and one after her; it was only during the night that she was partially free, but she was obliged to keep the door of her bedroom open so that she can be seen by her guards, who did not always respect her.[135]

Marie Antoinette hoped that the armies sent by the rulers of Europe would be able to crush the Revolution even if the cost was the blood of her own people. The Queen particularly counted on the support of her Austrian family. After her brother Joseph died in 1790, Léopold was ready to support Marie Antoinette but to only a limited degree. Her nephew Francis, who succeeded his father Leopold in 1792, was a very conservative ruler who was ready to support Marie Antoinette because he hated and feared the French Revolution. When the Queen asked him to declare war on France, he accepted out of monarchical solidarity and because he wanted to establish Austrian influence over Western Europe. To be fair to Marie Antoinette, she was not the only person who wanted war, as many radical leaders of the French Revolution also wanted war for their own reasons. The Jacobin party itself was split into two factions; the radicals under the leadership of Robespierre did not want to participate in the war, fearing a union of the Monarchies against them. The Moderate Jacobins or Girondins, as they were called under the leadership of Madame Roland and Brissot, were for the war because they wanted to spread the ideals of the French Revolution all over Europe and they also believed that a war would unite the French People against their internal and external enemies. While the role of Madame Roland was the most important as de facto-leader of the Girondins, Brissot, the leader of the foreign comity in the National Assembly, played a key role in the drafting of the war resolution. Yet according to the simple facts and description of events, the most important actor remained the Queen because according to the constitution, only the King could propose to the Assembly to declare war. The facts speak for themselves: not only did the Queen push Austria to declare war as we know from her letters, she also pushed her husband to propose the declaration of war to the National Assembly.[136]

Plate with the beginning of the text of the song La Carmagnole : Madame Veto...

However, as the result of Leopold's aggressive tendencies, and those of his son Francis II on the Queen's behalf, who succeeded him in March, it was that France declared war on Austria on 20 April 1792. This caused the Queen to be viewed as an enemy, even though she was personally against Austrian claims on French lands. That summer, the situation was compounded by multiple defeats of French armies by the Austrians, in part because Marie Antoinette betrayed her country's military secrets[137] to the foreign powers. In addition, the King on the orders of the Queen vetoed several measures that would have restricted his power even further. During this time, due to his political activities, Louis received the nickname "Monsieur Veto" and the name "Madame Veto" was likewise subsequently bequeathed on Marie Antoinette.[138] These names were then prominently featured in different contexts, including La Carmagnole.

1792-1793: Royal Deposition, "Widow Capet", trial, and execution[edit]

Up until the deposition of the royal family in August 1792 and his own fall from grace, Barnave remained the most important advisor and supporter of the Queen inside France. Marie Antoinette was ready to work with Barnave as long as he was ready to follow her orders, which Barnave did to a large extent and over a long period of time. Goaded by the Queen, Barnave convinced Lafayette to use force against the radical elements of the French Revolution. As a result, tens of thousands of political opponents of Marie Antoinette were either killed, exiled or sent to prisons. Rather than cooperating with Lafayette, Marie Antoinette refused to be helped by him and played a decisive role in defeating him in his aims to become the mayor of Paris in October 1791.[139]

Barnave and the moderates made up about 260 lawmakers in the new Legislative Assembly; the radicals numbered around 136, and the rest (around 350) were in the middle. At first, the majority was with Barnave, but the Queen's policy led to the radicalization of the assembly and the moderates lost control of the legislative process. The moderate government collapsed in April 1792 and a radical ministry headed by the Girondins was formed. Worse than that, the assembly passed a series of laws concerning the Church, the aristocracy and the formation of new national guard units which were vetoed by the King on the orders of the Queen. The radical Girondin government who was formed in April 1792 controlled the legislative assembly with 330 members, while Marie Antoinette and Barnave were not supported by more than 120 members.The two strongest members of that government were Jean Marie Roland,the husband of Madame Roland, who was minister of interior, and General Dumouriez, the minister of foreign affairs. Dumouriez sympathized with the royal couple and wanted to save them. However, he was rebuffed by the Queen, who wanted to crush the Revolution by counting on the support of foreign powers.[140]

Marie Antoinette's actions in refusing to collaborate with the Girondin radical ministry who were in power between April and June 1792 led the Girondins to denounce the treason of the Austrian comity, a direct allusion to the Queen. After Madame Roland sent a letter to the King denouncing the Queen's role in these matters, the King sacked the Government on the order of Marie Antoinette, losing his majority in the Assembly. Dumouriez resigned and refused a post in any new government. At this point, most of the French people and political parties turned against the royal authority. Marie Antoinette even collaborated with Madame du Barry using the Duke of Brissac, the leader of the constitutional guard and the lover of Madame du Barry, as an intermediate to fund and prepare a counterrevolution in the War in the Vendee. This counterrevolution would interrupt in 1793, causing hundred of thousands of deaths and bring the Revolution to a quick end in 1799. In addition, Marie Antoinette pushed the King to refuse the new laws voted by the Legislative Assembly in 1792.[141]

The laws were not very radical by themselves except perhaps in relation to the Church; pragmatism should have led the Queen to accept the new laws even on a temporary basis in order to conciliate the fury of the people. Instead Marie Antoinette continued her plots with the foreign powers by pushing them to issue the Declaration of Pillnitz in August 1791, which threatened invasion of France. This led in turn to a French declaration of war in April 1792 and the French Revolutionary War and the popular revolution of August 1792 which ended the monarchy.[142]

Marie Antoinette with her children and Madame Élisabeth, when the mob broke into the Tuileries Palace on 20 June 1792.

On 20 June, "a mob of terrifying aspect" broke in to the Tuileries and made the King wear the bonnet rouge (red Phrygian cap) to show his loyalty to France. The Queen was treated even worse than her husband on that day. She faced many hours of tense moments during which a few soldiers stood between her and the population who insulted her, accused her of betraying France, and threatened her life. In consequence, the Queen ordered Fersen first to push foreign powers to activate their invasion of France and second to issue a manifesto in which the foreign powers threatened to destroy Paris if anything happened to the Queen and her family. This manifesto triggered the events of 10 August [143] when an armed mob, on the verge of forcing its way into the Tuileries Palace, forced the King and the royal family to seek refuge at the Legislative Assembly. An hour and a half later, the palace was invaded by the mob, who massacred the Swiss Guards.[144] On 13 August, the royal family was imprisoned in the tower of the Temple in the Marais under conditions considerably harsher than their previous confinement in the Tuileries.[145]

A week later, many of the royal family's attendants, among them the princesse de Lamballe, were taken in for interrogation by the Paris Commune. Transferred to the La Force prison, the princesse de Lamballe was a victim of the September Massacres, killed on 3 September. Her head was affixed on a pike and marched through the city. Although Marie Antoinette did not see the head of her friend as it was paraded outside her prison window, she fainted upon learning about the gruesome end that had befallen her faithful companion.[146]

Marie Antoinette as a "sad prisoner" in the Temple Tower, attributed to Alexandre Kucharsky.

On 21 September, the fall of the monarchy was officially declared, and the National Convention became the legal authority of France. The royal family was re-styled as the non-royal "Capets". Preparations began for the trial of the king in a court of law.[147]

Charged with undermining the First French Republic, Louis was separated from his family and tried in December. He was found guilty by the Convention, led by the Jacobins who rejected the idea of keeping him as a hostage. A month later, he was condemned to death by guillotine and executed on 21 January 1793.[148]

"Day of 21 January 1793 the death of Louis Capet on the Place de la Révolution"—French engraving.

The Queen, now called the "Widow Capet", plunged into deep mourning and refused to eat or do any exercise. She proclaimed her son as Louis XVII hoping to rule France in his name as Regent; the comte de Provence, in exile, recognised his nephew as the new King of France. The royalists, especially those preparing the insurrection in Vendee and the clergy, supported Marie Antoinette, who wished to used this support in order to free herself from prison and subsequently crush the revolution, counting on a civil war inside France and the pressure of foreign armies and powers to achieve this. The Queen could count on the sympathy of many conservative factions and social-religious groups who were turning against the Revolution, and on many wealthy figures who were ready to corrupt republican officials in order to facilitate the escape of the Queen, which was a necessary step in order to form a new legal political entity.[149] Marie Antoinette was treated badly by her jailors who smoked in her face, insulted her and cut her from all social contacts; in addition to the very strict conditions of captivity imposed on her. The Queen was imprisoned in the highest level of the Tower Temple in a cell which the sun did not reach because the walls of the cell were more than ten feet wide and the barred windows were closed with big stones. The Queen was separated from the rest of her family during the night and a large part of the day . She was watched day and night without privacy, while all her pastimes and luxuries were taken from her with the exceptions of her books and her high heels. Unsurprisingly, given the conditions, Marie Antoinette's health deteriorated because she was restrained and obliged to sit almost all the time under the public supervision of more than 50 guards who were changed every 48 hours. She developed problems in at least one of her legs, and was obliged for assistance when walking. However, while the Queen may have desired to escape even without her family as we know from her smuggled letters, any plans to free her clearly came to naught. An attempt to make her escape by putting the cloth of one of her guards who was bribed because of her very big size came to nothing to the" great desperation and sadness" of the Queen as we know from her letters.[150] Marie-Antoinette's health rapidly deteriorated in the following months, due to tuberculosis and possibly uterine cancer and frequent hemorrhages.[151]

"Marie Antoinette au Tribunal Révolutionnaire", by Alphonse François.

Despite the very difficult conditions of her captivity, the debate as to her fate was the central question of the National Convention after Louis' death. While some continually advocated for her death, others proposed exchanging her for French prisoners of war or for a ransom from the Holy Roman Emperor. Thomas Paine advocated exile to America.[152] Starting in April, however, a Committee of Public Safety was formed, and men such as Jacques Hébert were beginning to call for Antoinette's trial; by the end of May, the Girondins had been chased from power and arrested.[153] Other calls were made to "retrain" the Dauphin, to make him more pliant to revolutionary ideas. To carry this out, the eight-year-old Louis Charles was separated from Antoinette on 3 July and given to the care of a cobbler named Antoine Simon.[154] On 1 August, Marie Antoinette was taken restrained with her hands behind her back out of the Tower under a lot of insults; she was pushed and her head was injured before being placed in a coach, which took her to the Conciergerie as Prisoner No. 280.[155] Various attempts to free her, such as the Carnation Plot in September, had failed. Marie Antoinette may have wanted to escape at all costs, even without her family, but was so closely guarded and isolated in the Conciergerie and so totally separated from any potential contact that escape was impossible. Marie Antoinette endured the most difficult part of her captivity in that cell who was below ground and cut from the other cells by a lot of iron doors. It was occupied by guards at all times, with no respect paid to her privacy or dignity which made her suffer a lot. She was so deprived of contact that all attempts to escape and engage in plots against the Revolution, by supporting the civil war in Vendee or the invasion of France by foreign powers, were doomed to end in failure, even with the support of Michonis, one of the officials who was inspector of prisons. However, it seems the imprisoned Queen received a Catholic priest at least once and her plots and suffering inspired a lot of royalists and conservative religious groups who were able slowly but surely able to regain the confidence of the majority of the French People and to impose most of their ideas in France and Europe after 1799 when the Revolution was ended.[156] While in the Conciergerie, she was attended by Rosalie Lamorlière.[157]

Marie Antoinette's Cell in the Conciergerie where no privacy was allowed to her

She was finally tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal on 14 October. Some historians believe the outcome of the trial had been decided in advance by the Committee of Public Safety around the time the Carnation Plot was uncovered.[158] Unlike the King, who had been given time to prepare a defence, the Queen was given less than one day. Among the accusations, many originating as rumors in the libelles, were orchestrating orgies in Versailles, sending millions of livres of treasury money to Austria, plotting to kill the Duke of Orléans, declaring her son to be the new King of France, and orchestrating the massacre of the Swiss Guards in 1792.[159]

Funerary monument to King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, sculptures by Edme Gaulle and Pierre Petitot in the Basilica of St Denis

The most infamous charge was that she sexually abused her son. She was accused by Louis Charles, who had been coached by Hébert and his guardian. After being reminded that she had not answered the charge of incest, Marie Antoinette protested emotionally to the accusation, and the women present in the courtroom, including market women who had stormed the palace for her entrails in 1789, even began to support her.[160] She had been partially composed throughout the trial until this accusation was made, to which she finally answered, "If I have not replied, it is because Nature itself refuses to respond to such a charge laid against a mother."[this quote needs a citation]

After two days of proceedings, in the early morning of 16 October, she was declared guilty of treason.[161] Back in her cell, greatly saddened, deeply hurt and greatly surprised by her condemnation to death when she had expected life imprisonment, she composed a letter to her sister-in-law Madame Élisabeth, affirming her clear conscience, her Catholic faith and her feelings for her children. The letter did not reach Élisabeth.[162]

Marie Antoinette on her way to the guillotine. (Pen and ink by Jacques-Louis David, 16 October 1793)
Marie Antoinette's painful execution with her head shown to the people while her large bound body was desecrated without proper burial.

On that same day, Marie Antoinette was forced to undress before her guards and clothed in a plain white dress. Her hair was cut off, her hands were bound painfully behind her back causing her a lot of pains and tears and leashed on a rope she was driven through Paris in an open cart, the population reaction to that harsh treatment was mixed, many called her "Autri-chienne" (meaning "chienne" in the last part something associated with the dog in that language), other people kept silence for multiple reasons. Despite this humiliation, much more severe than the manner in which her husband had been put to death; Marie Antoinette who looked sad and under great pain was able to some extent to maintain her composure, earning the respect of some of her enemies.[163] For her final confession much to her chagrin, she was given a priest recognized not by Rome but by the local constitutional church in France. Her last picture, by the painter Jacques-Louis David, depicts a very large, woman with a very ample body, simply clad, with her hands bound behind her back and herself leashed in a rope in her way to execution, who (according to biographer Antonia Fraser) has lost much of her beauty but maintains an air of dignity, deep sadness and great sufferance.[164] Marie Antoinette had sufficient determination to die (in her view) as a martyred Queen.[165] At 12:15 p.m. on 16 October 1793, two and a half weeks before her thirty-eighth birthday, Marie Antoinette was guillotined at the Place de la Révolution (present-day Place de la Concorde).[166][167] Her last words were "Pardon me, sir, I meant not to do it", to Henri Sanson the executioner, whose foot she had accidentally stepped on after climbing the scaffold. Her body was thrown into an unmarked grave in the Madeleine cemetery, rue d'Anjou (which was closed the following year).[citation needed]

Her sister-in-law Élisabeth was executed in 1794 and her son died in prison in 1795. Her daughter returned to Austria in a prisoner exchange, married and died childless in 1851.[168]

Both Marie Antoinette's body and that of Louis XVI were exhumed on 18 January 1815, during the Bourbon Restoration, when the comte de Provence had become King Louis XVIII. Christian burial of the royal remains took place three days later, on 21 January, in the necropolis of French kings at the Basilica of St Denis.[169]

In popular culture[edit]

The phrase "Let them eat cake" is often attributed to Marie Antoinette, but there is no evidence she ever uttered it, and it is now generally regarded as a "journalistic cliché".[170] It may have been a rumor started by angry French peasants as a form of libel. This phrase originally appeared in Book VI of the first part (finished in 1767, published in 1782) of Rousseau's putative autobiographical work, Les Confessions: "Enfin je me rappelai le pis-aller d'une grande princesse à qui l'on disait que les paysans n'avaient pas de pain, et qui répondit: Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" ("Finally I recalled the stopgap solution of a great princess who was told that the peasants had no bread, and who responded: 'Let them eat brioche'"). Apart from the fact that Rousseau ascribes these words to an unknown princess, vaguely referred to as a "great princess", some think that he invented it altogether as Confessions was largely inaccurate.[171]

In America, expressions of gratitude to France for its help in the American Revolution included the naming of the city of Marietta, Ohio, founded in 1788. The Ohio Company of Associates chose the name Marietta after an affectionate nickname for Marie Antoinette.[172]

Marie Antoinette is referenced in the lyrics of the song "Killer Queen" by the rock band Queen.

Titles from birth to death[edit]

  • 2 November 1755 – 19 April 1770: Her Royal Highness Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria
  • 19 April 1770 – 10 May 1774: Her Royal Highness The Dauphine of France
  • 10 May 1774 – 1 October 1791: Her Most Christian Majesty The Queen of France and Navarre
  • 1 October 1791 – 21 September 1792: Her Most Christian Majesty The Queen of the French
  • 21 September 1792 – 21 January 1793: Madame Capet
  • 21 January 1793 – 16 October 1793: La Veuve ("the widow") Capet


See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Lever 2006, p. 1
  2. ^ C. f. "it is both impolitic and immoral for palaces to belong to a Queen of France" (part of a speech by a councilor in the Parlement de Paris, early 1785, after Louis XVI bought St Cloud chateau for the personal use of Marie Antoinette), quoted in Castelot 1957, p. 233
  3. ^ C.f. the following quote: "she (Marie Antoinette) thus obtained promises from Louis XVI which were in contradiction with the Council's (of Louis XVI's ministers) decisions", quoted in Castelot 1957, p. 186
  4. ^ "Marie Antoinette Biography". Retrieved 17 July 2011. 
  5. ^ Jefferson, Thomas. Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson. Courier Dover Publications. Retrieved March 29, 2013. I have ever believed that had there been no queen, there would have been no revolution. 
  6. ^ "A Reputation in Shreds - Marie Antoinette Online". Retrieved 17 July 2011. 
  7. ^ "Marie Antoinette". Antonia Fraser. Retrieved 17 July 2011. 
  8. ^ Konigsberg, Eric (22 October 2006). "Marie Antoinette, Citoyenne". Retrieved 17 July 2011. 
  9. ^ Fraser 2002, p. 5
  10. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 3
  11. ^ Lever 2006, p. 7
  12. ^ a b c d e Cronin 1989, p. 45
  13. ^ Lever 2006, p. 10
  14. ^ France Loisirs, Michel de Decker, 2005, p.16
  15. ^ Fraser 2002, pp. 32–33
  16. ^ France Loisirs, Michel de Decker, 2005, p.17
  17. ^ Cronin 1989, p. 46
  18. ^ a b c d e Weber 2007[page needed]
  19. ^ a b Fraser 2001, pp. 22–23,166–170
  20. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 22
  21. ^ a b Cronin 1974, p. 46
  22. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 23
  23. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 25
  24. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 42–50
  25. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 51–53
  26. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 58–62
  27. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 64–69
  28. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 70–71
  29. ^ Cronin 1974, pp. 49–50
  30. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 157
  31. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 47
  32. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 94, 130–31
  33. ^ Cronin 1974, pp. 61–63
  34. ^ Cronin 1974, p. 61
  35. ^ Lever 2006
  36. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 87–90, 97–99
  37. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 80–81
  38. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 141
  39. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 129–131
  40. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 131–132; Bonnet 1981
  41. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 111–113
  42. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 113–116
  43. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 132–137
  44. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 136–137
  45. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 124–127
  46. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 137–139
  47. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 140–145
  48. ^ Cronin 1974, p. 215
  49. ^ Fashion, the mirror of history, page 190, Michael Batterberry, Ariane Ruskin Batterberry, Greenwich House, 1977. ISBN 978-0-517-38881-5
  50. ^ 20,000 years of fashion: the history of costume and personal adornment, page 350, François Boucher, Yvonne Deslandres, H.N. Abrams, 1987. ISBN 978-0-8109-1693-7
  51. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 150–151
  52. ^ A History of the Gardens of Versailles, page 218, Michel Baridon, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8122-4078-8
  53. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 152
  54. ^ Cronin 1974, pp. 158–159
  55. ^ Cronin 1974, p. 159
  56. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 160–162
  57. ^ Cronin 1974, pp. 162–164
  58. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 164–168
  59. ^ Cronin 1974, p. 161
  60. ^ Hibbert 2002, p. 23
  61. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 169
  62. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 172
  63. ^ Cronin 1974, pp. 127–128
  64. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 174–179
  65. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 183–186
  66. ^ Fraser & 2001 pp218-220
  67. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 184–187
  68. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 187–188
  69. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 191
  70. ^ Cronin 1974, p. 190
  71. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 256
  72. ^ Tilly & Memoirs of the Comte Alexandre de Tilly,introd Havelock Ellis 1933, pp. 68
  73. ^ Fraser, pp.232-6
  74. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 195–198
  75. ^ Fraser, p. 234-6
  76. ^ Fraser, p.235-6
  77. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 197–198,199–205
  78. ^ Cronin 1974, p. 193
  79. ^ Hector Fleischman & Madame de Polignac 1910, pp. 60–62
  80. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 198–201
  81. ^ a b Fraser 2001, p. 202
  82. ^ Lever 2006, p. 158
  83. ^ Fraser, pp. 245-7.
  84. ^ Cronin 1974, pp. 204–205
  85. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 208
  86. ^ Cronin 1974, pp. 133–134
  87. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 214–215
  88. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 216–220
  89. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 224–225
  90. ^ Lever 2006, p. 189
  91. ^ Stefan Zweig and Antonia Fraser, who believe Fersen and the Queen were romantically involved with one another, argue that there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Louis XVI was not the child's father - see Stefan Zweig, Marie Antoinette: The portrait of an average woman (New York, 1933), pp. 143, 244-7, and Fraser, pp. 267-9. This is also the view taken in biographies like Ian Dunlop, Marie-Antoinette: A Portrait (London, 1993), Évelyne Lever, Marie-Antoinette : la dernière reine (Paris, 2000), Simone Bertière, Marie-Antoinette: l'insoumise (Paris, 2003), and Jonathan Beckman, How to ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette, the Stolen Diamonds and the Scandal that shook the French throne (London, 2014), all of which argue that the Queen was not romantically or sexually involved with von Fersen. Beckman argues that 'there was speculation that he [Fersen] had an affair with the Queen. To keep such a liaison hidden for years would have required a talent for logistics and discretion well beyond Marie Antoinette.' Munro Price, The Fall of the French Monarchy: Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and the baron de Breteuil (London, 2002) argues that it is impossible to know one way or the other how the Queen and von Fersen felt about one another, but that if they ever did consummate their union, it took place after the birth of all four of her children and quite possibly only in the final few weeks of her freedom. The prince's biographer, Deborah Cadbury, in The Lost King of France: The tragic story of Marie-Antoinette's Favourite Son (London, 2003), pp. 22-4 also argues strongly that Louis XVI was the younger son's biological father.
  92. ^ Cadbury, p. 23
  93. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 226
  94. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 246–248
  95. ^ a b Fraser 2001, pp. 248–250
  96. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 248–252
  97. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 250–260
  98. ^ Fraser
  99. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 254–255
  100. ^ Fraser & 2001 pp254-260
  101. ^ Facos, p. 12.
  102. ^ Schama, p. 221.
  103. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 255–258
  104. ^ Fraser & 2001 pp 257-258
  105. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 258–259
  106. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 260–261
  107. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 263–265
  108. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 270–273
  109. ^ Template:Louis Nicorlardet
  110. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 274–278
  111. ^ Fraser & 2001 pp279-282
  112. ^ Fraser & 2001 pp280-285
  113. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 282–284
  114. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 284–289
  115. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 289
  116. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 298–304
  117. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 304
  118. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 304–308
  119. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 315
  120. ^ Fraser & 2001 pp310-314
  121. ^ 2001 Fraser, pp. 314–316
  122. ^ Fraser & 2001 pp315-319
  123. ^ Fraser & 2001 pp321-323
  124. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 319
  125. ^ "Project MUSE — Early American Literature — Charles Brockden Brown's Ormond and Lesbian Possibility in the Early Republic". Retrieved 1 August 2010. 
  126. ^ Bonnie Zimmerman (2000). Lesbian histories and cultures: an encyclopedia (Volume 1). Taylor & Francis. pp. 776–777. ISBN 9780815319207. Retrieved February 29, 2012. 
  127. ^ Dena Goodman (2003). Marie-Antoinette: writings on the body of a queen. Psychology Press. pp. 144–145. ISBN 9780415933957. Retrieved February 19, 2012. 
  128. ^ Fraser & 2001 pp321-325
  129. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 325–348
  130. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 355–356
  131. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 353–354
  132. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 350–352
  133. ^ Fraser & 2001 pp357-358
  134. ^ Lettres de Marie Antoinette vol 2 1895, pp. 364–378
  135. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 360–363
  136. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 364–365
  137. ^ 2001 pp365-368
  138. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 365–368
  139. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 350,360–371
  140. ^ Castelot 1957, pp. 295–298
  141. ^ Castelot 1957, pp. 299–305
  142. ^ Fraser & 2001 pp371-373
  143. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 368,375–378
  144. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 373–379
  145. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 382–386
  146. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 389
  147. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 392
  148. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 395–399
  149. ^ Castelot 1957, pp. 305–315
  150. ^ Castelot 1957, pp. 315–325
  151. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 404–405, 408
  152. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 398, 408
  153. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 411–412
  154. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 412–414
  155. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 414–415
  156. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 416–420
  157. ^ G. Lenotre: The Last Days of Marie Antoinette, 1907.
  158. ^ Castelot 1957, pp. 425–435
  159. ^ Castelot 1957, pp. 380–385
  160. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 429–435
  161. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 424–425, 436
  162. ^ "Last Letter of Marie-Antoinette", Tea at Trianon, 26 May 2007 
  163. ^ Castelot 1957, pp. 395–405
  164. ^ Castelot 1957, pp. 435–440
  165. ^ Fraser & 2001 pp 436-440
  166. ^ Fraser 2001, p. 440
  167. ^ The Times 23 October 1793, The Times.
  168. ^ Richard Covington (November 2006), "Marie Antoinette", Smithsonian magazine 
  169. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. 411, 447
  170. ^ Fraser 2001, pp. xviii, 160; Lever 2006, pp. 63–5; Lanser 2003, pp. 273–290
  171. ^ Johnson 1990, p. 17
  172. ^ Sturtevant, pp. 14, 72.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]