|Queen consort of France and Navarre
Queen consort of the French
Marie Antoinette with the Rose
Portrait by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1783.
|Queen consort of France and Navarre|
|Tenure||10 May 1774 – 4 September 1791|
|Queen consort of the French|
|Tenure||4 September 1791 – 10 August 1792|
|Spouse||Louis XVI of France|
|Issue||Marie Thérèse of France
Louis Joseph, Dauphin of France
Louis XVII of France
Sophie Hélène Béatrice of France
|House||House of Habsburg-Lorraine|
|Father||Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor|
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
Marie Antoinette (/ / or //; French: [maʁi ɑ̃twanɛt]; baptised Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna; 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 Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor and Empress Maria Theresa.
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 on 10 May 1774. After eight years of marriage, she gave birth to a daughter, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, the first of her four children.
Within the kingdom of France, a growing number of the population eventually came to dislike her, accusing L'Autrichienne, "the Austrian woman", (a nickname given her upon her arrival to France by Louis XV's daughters, Mesdames de France), of being profligate, promiscuous, and of harbouring sympathies for France's enemies, particularly Austria, her country of origin. The Diamond Necklace affair damaged her reputation further. She later became known as Madame Déficit because France's financial crisis was blamed on her lavish spending and her opposition to the social and financial reforms of Turgot and Necker.
During the French Revolution, after the government had placed the royal family under house arrest in the Tuileries Palace in October 1789, several events linked to Marie Antoinette, in particular the June 1791 attempt to flee, and her role in the French Revolutionary War, had disastrous effects on French popular opinion: over a year later, on 10 August 1792, the attack on the Tuileries forced the royal family to take refuge at the Assembly. On 13 August, the family was imprisoned in the Temple. On 21 September 1792, Louis XVI was deposed and the monarchy abolished. After a two-day trial begun on 14 October 1793, Marie Antoinette was convicted by the Revolutionary Tribunal of treason to the principles of the revolution, and executed by guillotine on Place de la Révolution on 16 October 1793.
- 1 Early life(1755-1770)
- 2 Marriage to Louis-Auguste de France (1770)
- 3 Relationship with Madame du Barry (1770-1774)
- 4 Queen of France (1774-1789)
- 5 The French Revolution before Varennes (1789-1791)
- 6 The Radicalization of the Revolution after Varennes (1791-1792)
- 7 Abolition of the monarchy, Imprisonment in the tower, Trial and Execution (1792-1793)
- 8 Legacy
- 9 In popular culture
- 10 Titles from birth to death
- 11 Ancestry
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
Maria Antonia was born on 2 November 1755 at the Hofburg Palace, in Vienna. She was the youngest daughter of Emperor Francis I and Empress Maria Theresa. Her godparents were Joseph I and Mariana Victoria, King and Queen of Portugal; Archduke Joseph and Archduchess Maria Anna acted as proxies for their newborn sister. Shortly after her birth, she was placed under the care of the Governess of the Imperial children, Countess von Brandeis. Maria Antonia was raised with her three-year older sister Maria Carolina, with whom she had a lifelong close relationship. As to her relationship with her mother, it was difficult but both the empress and her daughter loved each other.
Maria Antonia spent her formative years between the Hofburg Palace and Schönnbrunn, the imperial summer residence in Vienna, where on 13 October 1762 she met Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, then a child prodigy.
In spite of the private tutoring she received, results of her schooling were less than satisfactory. At the age of ten, she could not write correctly in German or in any language commonly used at court, such as French and Italian. Conversations with her were stilted.
Under the teaching of Christoph Willibald Gluck, Maria Antonia developed into a good musician. She learned to play the harp, the harpsichord and the flute. During the family's gatherings in the evenings, she would sing, as she had a beautiful voice. She also excelled at dancing, had an "exquisite" poise, and loved dolls.
Marriage to Louis-Auguste de France (1770)
Following the Seven Years' War and the Diplomatic Revolution of 1756, Empress Maria Theresa decided to end hostilities with her longtime enemy, King Louis XV of France; their common desire to destroy the ambitions of Prussia and Great Britain helped to secure a definitive peace between them.
As was customary among royalty, the better way to seal an alliance was with a marriage: on 7 February 1770, Louis XV formally asked the hand of Maria Antonia for his eldest surviving grandson and heir Louis-Auguste, Duke of Berry and Dauphin of France.
On 17 April Maria Antonia formally renounced to all her rights over the Habsburg domains, and on 19 April she was married by proxy to the Dauphin of France at the Augustinian Church in Vienna, with her brother Archduke Ferdinand representing the Dauphin in the ceremony.
On 7 May 1770, on the Île aux Épis, an island on the Rhine between Kehl and Strasbourg, Marie Antoinette was officially handed over to comtesse de Noailles, her lady in waiting until 1775, in charge of the proper court étiquette Marie-Antoinette was to follow. On 14 May, at the edge of the forest of Compiègne, she met king Louis XV, her husband the Dauphin, the king's daughters, Mesdames de France, Adélaïde, Sophie, Victoire, the following day, her brothers-in-law, Louis Stanislas Xavier, comte de Provence; and Charles Philippe, comte d'Artois, at the Château de la Muette, and on 16 May, her husband's younger sisters, Madame Clotilde and Madame Élisabeth, at Versailles.
The ceremonial wedding took place on 16 May 1770, in the Palace of Versailles, and, after the festivities, the day ended with the ritual bedding. The lack of consummation of the marriage plagued the reputation of both Louis-Auguste and Marie Antoinette for the next seven years.
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 on 8 June 1773 was a resounding success. She and the Dauphin had been acclaimed throughout the day with climax taking place at the Tuileries before their return to Versailles. With her fair skin, straw-blond hair, blue eyes, beautiful smile and majestic figure, people could not help but be charmed by the personality and beauty of the not yet 18-year-old princess. On the other hand, those opposed to the alliance with Austria, and others on personal grounds, such as the comtesse du Barry, had a tenuous relationship with the Dauphine.
Relationship with Madame du Barry (1770-1774)
Her relationship with Madame du Barry was politically important to improve, at least on the surface, because Madame du Barry was Louis XV's mistress, with considerable political influence over the king. In fact, the favorite had been instrumental in ousting the duc de Choiseul, who had helped orchestrate the Franco-Austrian alliance and Marie Antoinette's marriage. After months of continued pressure from her mother and the comte de Mercy-Argenteau, the Austrian ambassador to France, who was sending Maria-Theresa secret reports on Marie-Antoinette's behavior, the Dauphine grudgingly agreed to speak to Madame du Barry on New Year's Day 1772 in order to stop any French protest about the partition of Poland. Although the limit of the conversation was Marie Antoinette's banal comment to the royal mistress: "There are a lot of people at Versailles today", Mademe du Barry was satisfied by her victory, and the crisis, for the most part, dissipated. Afterwards, Marie Antoinette never addressed a word to the comtesse. Madame Du Barry, who dominated court life, had much influence on the king who, in spite of Marie-Antoinette's strong objection, exiled in 1770 one of her ladies-in-waiting, the duchesse de Gramont, sister of Choiseul. Mercy and the dauphin occasionally visited Madame du Barry in order to please the king. In 1772, the Dauphine, whose influence on the king was non-existent, could not make her planned entrance in Paris because of a conflict of étiquette between Mesdames aunts and the comtesse de Noailles. Although she, the Dauphin and his brothers had been allowed to attend incognito the previous carnival ball at the Opera, it was only after their official entrance in the capital on 8 June 1773 that the young couple had more freedom to visit Paris.
On 10 May 1774, Louis XV died. On May 12 the new king, Louis XVI, "under the influence of his pious aunts" and Marie Antoinette exiled Madame du Barry to the abbaye de Pont-aux-Dames, in Meaux by lettre de cachet. Over the next two years, du Barry was allowed greater freedom but she was never allowed to return to the royal court. The aunts themselves were later kept in a semi retreat by the queen, a situation they greatly resented and they were among the first at court to spread malevolent rumors about Marie Antoinette.
Queen of France (1774-1789)
Early years (1774-1778)
On 11 June 1775, Louis was crowned king Louis XVI of France at the cathedral of Reims. Following the custom, Marie Antoinette was not crowned alongside him. Had she been crowned Queen of France, the ceremony would have taken place at the Basilica of Saint Denis.
At the outset, the new queen had limited political influence with her husband. Louis blocked several of her candidates, including Choiseul, from taking important positions, with the support of his two most important ministers, Chief Minister Maurepas and Foreign Minister Vergennes. However, the queen played a decisive role in the disgrace and exile of the most powerful of Louis XV ministers, the Duke of Aiguillon.
Opening the door to criticism in a time when the country was facing a grave financial crisis, and the population suffering from difficult economical conditions, as illustrated in the Flour War, a series of riots against the high price of flour and bread, which took place between April and May 1775, the queen went into the costly diversions of buying her dresses from Rose Bertin and gambling, with the result that (with the help of the libelles) her image began to tarnish in the eyes of both the middle and lower classes and, with time, part of the French opinion saw no major difference between her and the favorites of the previous kings.
For formal occasions, she adopted hair styles, the pouf and the panache (bundle of feathers) created by Rose Bertin, and the wearing of high heels which added at least a foot to her height. She became a fashion model to the ladies at court and in Parisian high society. She also began to befriend a few male admirers, such as the baron de Besenval, the duc de Coigny, and the Count Valentin Esterházy.
Marie Antoinette formed deep friendships with various ladies at court. Most noted was princesse de Lamballe, and a cousin of the members of the royal family. On 19 September 1774, the new queen appointed her Superintendent of her Household, a charge she gave later on to the duchesse de Polignac.
She was given free rein to renovate the Petit Trianon, a gift to her by Louis XVI on 15 August 1774; 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. The tradition of costume at the court at Versailles was broken after more than ten years. Rumors circulated that she plastered the walls with gold and diamonds. Her lady-in-waiting Jeanne-Louise-Henriette Campan defended her reputation and simplicity.
Motherhood, changes at court, intervention in politics (1778-1781)
Amidst the atmosphere of a wave of libelles, the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph came to France incognito, under the name comte de Falkenstein, for a six-week visit during which he toured Paris extensively and was a simple guest at Versailles. He met his sister and her husband on 18 April 1777 at the château de la Muette, and spoke frankly to his brother-in-law, curious as to why the royal marriage had not been consummated, arriving at the conclusion 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." Due to Joseph's intervention, the marriage was finally consummated in August 1777. Eight months later, in April 1778, it was suspected that the queen was pregnant, which was officially announced the following May 16. Marie Antoinette's daughter, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, Madame Royale, was born at Versailles on 19 December 1778. The child's paternity was contested in the libelles.
In the middle of the queen's pregnancy, two events occurred which had a profound impact on her later life: the return of Count Axel von Fersen to Versailles for two years, and her brother's claims on the throne of Bavaria. 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 inhabitants - a strong retreat from the early French position which was hostile towards Austria with the impression, partially justified, that the queen sided with Austria against France .
Meanwhile, the queen began to institute changes in the customs practiced 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 she wore in a 1783 Vigée-Le Brun portrait. She also began to participate in amateur plays and musicals, starting in 1780, in a theatre built for her.
Repayment of the French debt remained a difficult problem, further exacerbated by Vergennes and also Marie Antoinette's prodding Louis XVI to involve France in Great Britain's war with its North American colonies; the queen played a very important role in supporting the American Revolution by, first, securing Austrian and Russian support for France which resulted in the establishment of a neutral league which stopped England's attack on international trade; second, sending part of her retinue to fight in America; third, supporting both Franklin and Jefferson in their social lives in Paris and Versailles during the time they were Ministers to France, and finally, weighing in decisively for the nomination of Philippe Henri, marquis de Ségur, as Minister of War and Charles Eugène Gabriel de La Croix, marquis de Castries, Secretary of the Navy in 1780, who helped George Washington in defeating the British in the American Revolutionary War, which ended in 1783.
Finally, the queen played in 1783 a decisive role in the nomination of Charles Alexandre de Calonne, a close friend of the Polignacs, as Controller-General of Finances, and the baron de Breteuil as the Minister for the Maison du Roi (Minister of the 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 and the new ministers rejected any major change to the structure of the old regime. More than that, the decree by de Ségur, the minister of war, requiring four quarterings of nobility as a condition for the appointment of officers, blocked the access of members of the middle class to important positions in the armed forces, posing the concept of equality one of the main grievances and causes of the French Revolution.
Empress Maria Theresa died on 29 November 1780, in Vienna. Marie Antoinette feared that the death of her mother would jeopardise the Franco-Austrian alliance (as well as, ultimately, herself), but her brother, Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor, reassured her through his own letters that he had no intention of breaking the alliance.
Marie Antoinette's second pregnancy was confirmed in March 1781. On 22 October 1781, the queen gave birth to Louis Joseph Xavier François, who bore the title Dauphin of France.
A second visit from Joseph II, which had taken place in July 1781, 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.
In the period of life corresponding to her pregnancies (1778-1786), Marie Antoinette gained weight with a double chin, as was noticed and commented by both her brother Joseph ("she has the fine face of a good fat German"), the king of Sweden (who described her as "too fat") and observers at court, such as the count of Tilly; yet she retained a majestic presence and a great charisma which imposed itself on her court and visitors; "she dominated all other ladies of her court with her proud and regal carriage as a great oak rises above all the other trees of the forest", according to the comte d'Hézecques.
Declining popularity, Fersen, Polignac and other Court Activity (1782-1785)
Despite the general celebration over the birth of the Dauphin, Marie Antoinette's political influence, such as it was, did greatly benefit Austria. During the 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 obtain her brother's support against Great Britain in the American Revolution and she neutralized French hostility to his alliance with Russia.
After the royal governess of the Dauphin's, the princesse de Guéméné, went bankrupt and resigned; Marie Antoinette appointed her favourite, the duchesse de Polignac, to the position. This decision met with disapproval from the court, as the duchess was considered to be of too modest a birth to occupy such an exalted position. On the other hand, both the king and the queen trusted Mme de Polignac completely, gave her thirteen-room apartment in Versailles and paid her well. The entire Polignac family benefited greatly from the royal favour in titles and positions, but its sudden wealth and lavish lifestyle outraged most aristocratic families who resented the Polignacs' dominance at court, and also fueled the increasing disapprobation of the king's subjects, in particular the Parisians, toward Marie Antoinette. Mercy wrote to the Empress:"It is almost unexampled that in so short a time, the royal favour should have brought such overwhelming advantages to a family".
In June 1783, it was announced that Marie Antoinette was again pregnant; however, on the night of 1–2 November, she suffered a miscarriage.
After his return from America in June 1783, Fersen was accepted into the queen's private society probably becoming her affective lover without a full physical relation between the two, an opinion shared by most historians who were influenced by Castelot view; Fraser and Zweig believed on the other part they were probably lovers for a limited period of time .
In 1783, the queen was busy with the creation of her hameau, built by her favoured architect, Richard Mique, according to the designs of the painter Hubert Robert. Its creation, however, caused another uproar when its cost was known.
Marie Antoinette liked reading history books. She supported scientific endeavours, encouraging and witnessing the first launch of a hot air balloon (Montgolfière), technology that would render a major future service to humanity. She had 5000 books in her library, those on music, often dedicated to her, being the most read. She was able to write in imperfect English to her friend, the Duchess of Devonshire. An accomplished musician, the queen supported and sponsored the arts, in particular music.
By 1784, it had become obvious that the sickly Dauphin would not reach adulthood.
On 27 April 1784, Beaumarchais's 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's support and its overwhelming popularity at court, where secret readings of it had been given by Marie Antoinette. The play was a disaster for the image of the monarchy and aristocracy. It did inspire Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, which premiered in Vienna on 1 May 1786.
In August 1784, it was announced that the queen was pregnant again.
On 24 October of that year, putting baron de Breteuil in charge of its acquisition, Louis XVI bought the Château de Saint-Cloud from the duc d'Orléans, in the name of his wife. This was unpopular, particularly with some factions of the nobility who already disliked the queen, but also with a growing percentage of the population who disapproved of a Queen of France owning her private residence, independently of the king; thus, the purchase of Saint-Cloud contributed to damage the image of the queen even further in the public opinion. 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.
Prelude to the Revolution: Scandals and the failure of Reforms (1786-1789)
On 27 March 1785, Marie Antoinette gave birth to a second son, Louis Charles, who bore the title of Duke of Normandy. The fact that the birth occurred exactly nine months following Fersen's visit did not escape the attention of many, leading to doubt and speculation about the parentage of the child, and to a noticeable decline of the queen's reputation in public opinion. However, it is the belief of most of Marie-Antoinette's and Louis XVII's biographers that the young prince was the biological son of Louis XVI and not Axel von Fersen's. 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. 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, the purchase of Saint-Cloud and the Diamond Necklace scandal 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.
A second daughter, Marie Sophie Hélène Béatrice, Madame Sophie, was born on 9 July 1786. She died on 19 June 1787, before reaching her first year, and was Marie Antoinette's last child.
Marie-Antoinette began to abandon her more carefree activities to become increasingly involved in politics in her role as "Queen of France". By showing to the public her attention to the education and care of her children, the queen sought to improve the dissolute image she had acquired in 1785 from the "Diamond Necklace Affair", in which public opinion had falsely accused her of criminal participation in defrauding the jewelers Boehmer and Bassenge of the cost of a very expensive diamond necklace they had created originally for Madame du Barry. The main actors of the scandal were the Cardinal de Rohan, prince de Rohan-Guéméné, Great Almoner of France, and Jeanne de Valois-Saint-Rémy, comtesse de La Motte, a descendant of an illegitimate child of Henry II of France of the House of Valois. Marie Antoinette had a profound dislike for Rohan since the time he had been the French ambassador to Vienna when she was a child because of his style of life and his critics against her mother. In spite of his high clerical position at the Court which he was able to get against the wish of the queen because of the king promise to his family, she never addressed a word to him. Others involved were Nicole le Guay d'Oliva, a prostitute who happened to be a lookalike of Marie Antoinette, Rétaux de Villette, a forger, Alessandro Cagliostro, an Italian adventurer, and the comte de La Motte, Jeanne de Valois' husband. Mme de La Motte tricked Rohan into buying the necklace as a gift to Marie-Antoinette, in order for him to get into the favors of the queen. When the affair was discovered, those involved (except de La Motte and Réaux de Villette who managed to flee) were arrested, tried, convicted and either imprisoned or exiled. The only one imprisoned was Mme de La Motte, who was given a life sentence to Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, which also served as a prison for women. Judged by the Parlement, Rohan was found innocent of any wrongdoing , and allowed to leave the Bastille. Marie Antoinette, who had insisted on the arrest of the Cardinal from the beguining with the support of Breuteil who was a very old enemy of the Cardinal against the advise of Vergenne was dealt a heavy personal blow, as was the monarchy, and in spite of the fact that the guilty ones were tried and convicted, the affair proved to be extremely damaging to her reputation, which never recovered from it. The queen did not help her case when she insisted that the Cardinal should be tried by Parliament like a common criminal ; Rohan was put in the Bastille but not before ordering his personal papers to be burned. Also Marie Antoinette tried to influence the verdict of the court with no results, finally the Cardinal was exiled by the king in spite of the verdict in his favour. The public retained two major ideas from this scandal, the first one was that the Queen was spending a lot of money while the people was suffering a lot in their daily life with a lot of persons not sure if they will have enough bread for their family the next day; and finally the bosquet incident in which Marie Antoinette was supposedly met the Cardinal in secret, the truth was that a prostitute took the place of the queen and was able to trick the Cardinal who believed that he saw the queen. Marie Antoinette was certainly completly innocent in that matter and she did not know anything about this meeting but her past actions made the public believed she was not innocent and her loss was double as she was seen not only as a ruler who spent the money of her subject but also a person with no moral authority to govern France and to help its people.
As the king had begun to withdraw from a decision-making role in government due to the onset of an acute case of depression, he turned more and more to his wife for advice. As a result, Marie Antoinette emerged as a politically viable entity. In her new capacity as a politician with an increasing degree of power, the queen tried to help the situation brewing between the assembly and the king. 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 question the Polignacs' huge expenditures and their impact on the finances of the Crown.
Continuing deterioration of the French financial situation, despite cutbacks to the royal retinue and court expenses, ultimately forced the king, the queen and their Minister of Finance, Calonne, at the urging of Vergennes, to call the Assembly of Notables, after a hiatus of 160 years. The assembly was held to attempt passing necessary 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, (nine days after the death of Vergennes on 13 February). Marie Antoinette did not attend the meetings of the assembly and this absence resulted in accusations that the queen was trying to undermine its purpose. The Assembly was a failure: it did not pass any reforms and, instead, fell into the pattern of defying the king. On the urging of the queen, Louis XVI dismissed Calonne on 8 April 1787.
On 1 May 1787, 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, to replace Calonne, first as the Controller-General of Finances and then as Prime Minister. He began to institute more cutbacks at court, while trying to restore the royal absolute power weakened by parliaments.
Brienne, though, was not able to improve the financial situation. Since he was the queen's ally, 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 blamed on the queen.  The financial problems resulted from a combination of several factors: too many expensive wars; a too-large royal family whose large frivolous expenditures far exceeded the resources of the state; and an unwillingness on the part of most members of the privileged classes, aristocracy and clergy, to help defray the costs of the government out of their own pockets, by relinquishing some of their financial privileges. As a result of the public perception that she had single-handedly ruined the national finances, Marie Antoinette was given the nickname of "Madame Déficit" in the summer of 1787. 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 had played a decisive role in the disgrace of the reformer Ministers of Finance, Turgot (in 1776), and Jacques Necker (first dismissal in 1781). If the secret expenses of the queen were taken into account, the expense of the court was much higher than the official estimate of 7% of the state budget. The queen attempted to fight back with propaganda portraying her as a caring mother, most notably in the painting by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun exhibited at the Royal Académie Salon de Paris in August 1787, showing her with her children. Around the same time, Jeanne de Valois-Saint-Rémy escaped from prison and fled to London, where she published damaging slander concerning her supposed amorous affair with the queen.
The political situation in 1787 began to worsen when on Marie Antoinette's urging, on 15 August the Parlement was exiled in Troyes. It further deteriorated when Louis XVI tried to use a lit de justice to force through legislation on 11 November. The new duc d'Orléans publicly protested the king's actions, and was subsequently exiled to his estate at Villers-Cotterêts. The May Edicts issued on 8 May 1788 were also opposed by the public and parliaments. Finally, on 8 August, Louis XVI announced his intention to bring back the Estates General, the traditional elected legislature of the country, which had not been convened since 1614.
While from late 1787 up to his death in June 1789, Marie-Antoinette's primary concern was the continued deterioration of the health of the Dauphin, who suffered from tuberculosis, she was directly involved with the exile of the Parlement, the May Edicts and the announcement regarding the Estates General; she did participate in the King Council, the first queen to do this in over 175 years (since Marie de' Medici had been named Chef du Conseil du Roi, between 1614 and 1617), and she was making the major decisions behind the scene and in the King Council.
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. Marie Antoinette accepted the proposition of Necker to double the representation of the Tiers État in an attempt to check the power of the aristocracy
The queen 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. The Estates General convened the next day in Versailles. During the month of May, it began to fracture between the democratic Third Estate (consisting of the bourgeoisie and radical nobility), and the royalist nobility of the Second Estate.
The death of the Dauphin on 4 June, which deeply affected his parents, was virtually ignored by the French people, 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 people either spread or believed rumors that the queen wished to bathe in their blood, Marie Antoinette went into mourning for her eldest son. Her role was decisive in urging the king to remain firm and to not concede to popular demands for reforms. In addition, she was showing her determination to use force to crush the forthcoming revolution.
The French Revolution before Varennes (1789-1791)
The situation escalated on 20 June as the Third Estate, which had been joined by several members of the clergy and radical nobility, found the door to its appointed meeting place closed by order of the king. It thus met at the tennis court in Versailles and took the Tennis Court Oath not to separate before it had given a constitution to the nation.
On 11 July, on Marie Antoinette's urging, Necker was dismissed to be replaced by Breteuil, the queen's choice to crush the Revolution with mercenary Swiss troops under the command of one of her favorites, Pierre Victor, baron de Besenval de Brünstatt. At the news, Paris was besieged by riots which culminated in the storming of the Bastille on 14 July, and on 15 July La Fayette was named commander-in-chief of the newly-formed Garde nationale.
In the days following the storming of the Bastille, the emigration of members of the aristocracy began specially the most conservative wing, with the departure of the comte d'Artois and the unpopular favorites and friends of the queen likes the Polignacs on 17 July, on the order of Louis XVI and urging of Marie Antoinette, for fear of assassination. Marie Antoinette, whose life was as much in danger, remained by the king whose power was gradually being taken away by the National Constituent Assembly.
The abolition of feudal privileges by the National Constituent Assembly on 4 August 1789, and 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 with the help of Thomas Jefferson, and adopted on 26 August, led the way to the Constitutional Monarchy (4 September 1791-21 September 1792). In spite of these dramatic changes, life at court continued, while the situation in Paris was becoming critical because of bread shortage in September. On 5 October, a crowd from Paris descended upon Versailles and forced the royal family, to move to the Tuileries Palace in Paris, where they lived under a form of house arrest under the watch of La Fayette's Garde nationale, while the comte de Provence and his wife were allowed to live in the Luxembourg Palace
Despite the situation, Marie Antoinette continued performing charitable functions, attending religious ceremonies, and she mostly dedicated her time to her children. In spite of her status as an effective state prisoner, she played a very important political, albeit not public, role in the period extending between 1789 and 1791. During this period, Marie Antoinette had a complex set of relationships with several key actors of the early period of the French Revolution. One of the most important was Necker, the "Prime Minister of France" in charge of financial policy. In spite of her dislike of him, the queen played a decisive role in his return to power; however, she blamed him for his role in supporting the Revolution, and did not regret his resignation in 1790.
Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, one of the former heroes of the American War, served as the warden of the royal family in his position as commander-in-chief of the National Guard. In spite of his dislike of the queen - he detested her as much as she detested him and, at one time, had even threatened sending her to a convent - he was persuaded by the mayor of Paris, Jean Sylvain Bailly, to work with her, and there were times when he worked in her favor, Lafayette even boasted that he allowed the queen to see Fersen a number of times albeit under a strong supervision. His relation with the king was more cordial: being a liberal aristocrat, he did not want the fall of the monarchy but the establishment of a liberal one which is based on a sincere collaboration between the king and the people to establish a liberal form of government; he even sent the Duke of Orléans, who was accused by the queen of fomenting trouble, into exile for a period of time. The queen did not have any direct political power during that period because those of the king were suspended until the constitution was adopted and the public rejection of her after her attempt to crush the revolution in July 1789. She 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 described them in her letters, while never losing hope that one day she'd recover her freedom and power.
Despite her attempts to remain out of the public eye, Marie Antoinette was falsely accused in the libelles of conducting an affair with La Fayette, whom she loathed. This was not the only accusation thrown at Marie Antoinette: in pamphlets such as those published in "Le Godmiché Royal" (translated, "The Royal Dildo"), it was suggested that she routinely engaged in deviant sexual acts, with the English Baroness 'Lady Sophie Farrell' of Bournemouth, a well-known lesbian of the time. Publication of such calumnies continued to the end, climaxing at her trial with that of incest with her son. None of the charges of sexual depravity has any credible evidentiary support; Marie Antoinette was simply an easy target for gossip, which escalated to calumny.
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. He had joined the tiers état, and was not against the monarchy, but wanted to reconcile the monarchy with the revolution. He also wanted to be a minister and was not immune to corruption. On the advice of Mercy, Marie Antoinette opened secret negotiations with him and both agreed to meet in secret at the château of Saint Cloud in the summer of 1790. At the meeting, Mirabeau was much impressed by the queen, and remarked in a letter to the comte de La Marck that she was the only man the king had by him: La reine est le seul homme que le roi ait auprès de lui. A deal was reached turning Mirabeau into one of her political allies. Marie Antoinette also accepted to pay him 6000 livres per month and one million 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 at Saint Cloud, where 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. The stay at Saint Cloud thus made her meeting with Mirabeau possible.
The only time the royal couple returned to Paris in that period was on 14 July, to attend the Fête de la Fédération, the official ceremony commemorating the fall of the Bastille one year earlier, which was held at the Champ de Mars. At least 300,000 persons participated from all over France including 18,000 national guards, with Talleyrand, bishop of Autun, celebrating a mass at the autel de la patrie ("altar of the fatherland"). At the event, the king was greeted with loud cheers of "Long Live The King ", especially when he took the oath to protect the Nation and to enforce the laws voted by the Constitutional Assembly. There were even cheers to the queen, particularly when she presented her son, the Dauphin, to the public. Afterwards, Mirabeau advised Marie Antoinette 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 to foreign powers to help her crush the Revolution.
Mirabeau sincerely wanted to reconcile the queen with the people, and she was happy to see him restoring much of the king's powers, such as his authority over foreign policy, and the right to declare war. 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. 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.
In March 1791, Pope Pius VI had condemned the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which reduced the number of bishops from 132 to 93, imposed the election of bishops and all members of the clergy by the French people, and finally reduced the Pope's authority over the Church. Marie Antoinette and her husband were raised in the Catholic faith and religion played a decisive role in their life. The queen's political ideas and her belief in the absolute power of monarchs were even more conservative than that of her husband. They were based on the assumption that the King was the representative of God on earth and that his subjects should obey him in an absolute way. Aware that the queen was against the Constitution of the Clergy, and that the royal family wanted to spend Easter in Saint Cloud where a refractory priest would celebrate mass, a crowd, soon joined by the Garde nationale (disobeying La Fayette's orders), kept the royal family from leaving Paris. As the royal family was forced to return to the Tuileries Palace, Marie Antoinette complained in a loud voice that she and her family were no longer free. This incident fortified her in her determination to leave Paris; however, both for affective and political reasons, not alone, but with her family, and even the king, who had been hesitant, accepted his wife's decision to flee with the help of foreign powers and counter revolutionary forces. Fersen and Breteuil (who represented her in the courts of Europe) were put in charge of the escape plan, while she continued her negotiations with some moderate leaders of the French Revolution.
The Radicalization of the Revolution after Varennes (1791-1792)
There had been several plots designed to help members of the royal family escape, which the queen had rejected because she would not leave without the king, or which had frittered away because of the king's indecision. Once Louis XVI 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 Fersen and the baron de Breteuil, some members of the royal family were to pose as the servants of Mme de Korff, a wealthy Russian baroness. Initially, the queen rejected the plan because it required her to leave with only her son. The king wasted time deciding upon which persons attached to the royal 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 arrested 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 population for the king
Upon learning of the capture of the royal family, the National Constituent Assembly sent three representatives, Antoine Barnave, Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve and Charles César de Fay de La Tour-Maubourg to Varennes to escort it back to Paris. Marie Antoinette and her family were jeered and insulted by the people as never before, they were pushed and spat upon. The prestige of the French monarchy had never been at such a low level. Marie Antoinette was treated particularly in a bad manner with most of the anger directed towards her, she was restrained and when one day she tried to use the dauphin to stop the anger, many told her they know he was not from her husband. Barnave, the representative of the moderate party in the Assembly, protected Marie Antoinette from the crowds. Even Pétion took pity on the royal family, which was brought safely back to Paris where it met a welcome of total silence from the crowd. . In addition, thanks to Barnave, the royal couple was not brought to trial and was publicly exonerated of any crime in relation with the attempted escape.
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 Ancien Régime 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 - 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. 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., 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.
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.
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 and kept her a lot of times under great restraint, stopping her completely from any physical activity or movement. 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, restraining her completely 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 and she began to lose a lot of blood, but she remained a very big 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.
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 since 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 in the night that she was the more controlled, as 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 and invaded frequently her privacy.
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 who was attached to her died in 1790, Léopold her brother who was cool towards Marie Antoinette was ready to support the queen 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.
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 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. These names were then prominently featured in different contexts, including La Carmagnole.
Abolition of the monarchy, Imprisonment in the tower, Trial and Execution (1792-1793)
Up until the suspension of the king on 10 August 1792 and his own fall from grace, Barnave remained the most important advisor and supporter of the queen inside France. Marie Antoinette was willing to work with him as long as he was ready to follow her demands, which Barnave did to a large extent. With the support of Barbave ans his friends, Lafayette opened fire on the people demonstrating on the Champ de Mars and presenting a petition for the abolishment of the monarch with the result that hundreds of people died and radical elements were purged with many of them like Danton leaving France. However, 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 November 1791.
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. To make matters worse, 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. The radical Girondin government, which was formed in April 1792, controlled the legislative assembly with 330 members, while Barnave's section was not supported by more than 120 members. The two strongest members of that government were Jean Marie 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 with the support of foreign powers.
Marie Antoinette's actions in refusing to collaborate with the Girondin radical ministry, 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, Louis XVI 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, the tide within the population and political parties turned against the royal authority. At this point, Marie Antoinette accepted the help of Madame du Barry using the latter's lover, Duke of Brissac, commander of the Constitutional Guard, as an intermediate to fund and prepare a counterrevolution in the 1793-1796 War in the Vendée. In addition, Marie Antoinette pushed the king to refuse the new laws voted by the Legislative Assembly in 1792. and continued to seek the help of 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, which led to the French Revolutionary War and to the events of August 1792 which ended the monarchy.
On 20 June 1792, "a mob of terrifying aspect" broke into the Tuileries, made the king wear the bonnet rouge (red Phrygian cap) to show his loyalty to the Republic, insulted Marie Antoinette, 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 to issue a manifesto in which the foreign powers threatened to destroy Paris if anything happened to the royal family. This manifesto triggered the events of 10 August  when the approach of an armed mob on its way to the Tuileries Palace, forced 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. 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.
A week later, several 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, after a rapid judgment, the Marie Louise de Lamballe was massacred on 3 September. Her head was affixed on a pike and marched through the city to the Temple for the queen to see. Marie Antoinette did not see this but fainted upon learning of it.
On 21 September 1792, the fall of the monarchy was officially declared, and the National Convention became the governing body of the French Republic. The royal family was re-styled as the non-royal "Capets". Preparations began for the trial of the king in a court of law.
Charged with undermining the First French Republic, Louis XVI 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. On 15 January 1793, by vote with a majority of one voice, that of Philippe Égalité, he was condemned to death by guillotine and was executed on 21 January 1793.
The queen, now called "Widow Capet", plunged into deep mourning and refused to eat. She still hoped her son, Louis XVII, whom comte de Provence, in exile, had recognised as he new king of France, would one day rule France. The royalists, including those preparing the insurrection in Vendée, and the refractory clergy, supported Marie Antoinette, who wished to use this support to recover her freedom thanks to the help of a civil war inside France and the pressure of foreign armies and powers. Throughout her imprisonment and up to her execution, Marie-Antoinette could count on the sympathy of conservative factions and social-religious groups which were turning against the Revolution, and on wealthy individuals ready to corrupt republican officials in order to facilitate her escape; however, all plots and activities failed. Marie Antoinette, whose health was beginning to deteriorate, and her family were treated badly by their jailors; they were imprisoned in the tower of the Temple, insulted, some of the guards going as far as smoking in the face of the queen. Strict security measures were taken to assure that the queen was not able to communicate with the outside world; but, in spite of these measures, which kept Marie Antoinette always under the supervision of her jailors, many of the guardians were opened to corruption and a line of communication was kept with the outer world.
After Louis' execution, Marie Antoinette's fate became a central question of the National Convention. 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. Starting in April, however, during the Reign of Terror, a Committee of Public Safety dominated by Robespierre 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. Calls were also 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 his mother on 3 July after a struggle of many hours when Marie Antoinette tried to retain her son in vain; and given to the care of a cobbler named Antoine Simon. The queen spent hours trying to catch a glimpse of her son through the barred windows but the boy had completely turned against his family, accusing them of many wrongdoings.  On 1 August, following various plots for her escape, 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. The queen was moved to an isolated underground cell in the Conciergerie as 'Prisoner No. 280'. This period of time was the most difficult period of her captivity. She was always attended by guards who restrained her, did not allow her any privacy and treated her very badly; an attempt to escape was foiled due to the inability to corrupt all the guards, to fear, and also to the large numbers of iron doors which totally cut the underground cell where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned from the rest of the prison. In her cell, she was attended by Rosalie Lamorlière and at least once received a Catholic priest.
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. She was given less than one day to prepare her defence. Among the accusations, many previously published in the libelles, were orchestrating orgies in Versailles, sending millions of livres of treasury money to Austria, plotting to kill the Duke of Orléans, orchestrating the massacre of the Swiss Guards in 1792, declaring her son to be the new king of France, and—by her son Louis Charles himself (pushed by radical elements who controlled him)—of having sexually abused him. This last accusation drew an emotional response from Marie Antoinette, who refused to respond to this charge and, instead, calling on all mothers present in the room: their reaction brought her comfort since the women in the audience were not sympathetic to her.
Early on 16 October;, she was declared guilty of treason and condemned to death, while she had expected life imprisonment. In the few hours left to her, 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. She was then forced to undress in front of her guards watching over her, and put on a plain white dress. Her hair was shorn, her hands bound painfully behind her back and she was leashed with a rope. She was then driven in an open cart from the Conciergerie, via the rue Saint-Honoré thoroughfare, to the guillotine erected Place de la Révolution, under the jeering of the crowds, some calling her Autrichienne (Autrichienne referring to her Austrian ethnicity, while chienne in French is a female dog: bitch), while some remained silent. All the while, she maintained her composure. For her final confession she was given a priest, (prêtre assermenté), recognized not by Rome but by the French Republic constitutional church, with the result that Marie Antoinette refused to confess or talk to him although he was with her the whole time until her execution. In this and other matters related to her confinement and to the manner in which she was taken to her execution, she was treated more harshly than Louis XVI had been.
She was guillotined at 12:15 p.m. on 16 October 1793, at the Place de la Révolution (present-day Place de la Concorde). 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, (which was closed the following year)., rue d'Anjou.
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.
Long after her death, Marie Antoinette remains a major historical figure linked with conservative and the Catholic Church positions; and a major cultural icon associated with high glamour, wealth and a certain style of life based on luxury and celebrity appealing today to the social and cultural elites; frequently referenced in popular culture, being the subject of several books, films and other forms of media. Most academics and scholars, have deemed her the quintessential representative of class conflict, western aristocracy and absolutism government in addition to being frivolous, 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 with their millions of victims and the introduction of nationalistic and modern ideas. On the other hand, Marie Antoinette supported the American Revolution in 1776 and the American Revolutionary War, and helped inspire a conservative reaction in France after 1791, which saw its greatest manifestation in the War in the Vendée which led, several years after the death of the queen, to the end of the Revolution and to the return of conservative and religious ideas in France and in Europe. That tendency saw its first manifestation in the writing of Edmund Burke, the most important theorist of modern conservative thought, who criticized the Revolution as early as 1790 and defended Marie Antoinette in his various books. For some, Marie Antoinette was a victim of her family ambition and the general situation in France, in addition, even some of her critics recognize her qualities as a mother, her courage in dying, even her charisma. She also patronized the arts, sciences and fashion.
In popular culture
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". 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.
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.
Titles from birth to death
- 2 November 1755 – 19 April 1770: Her Royal Highness Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria, Princess of Hungary and Bohemia
- 19 April 1770 – 10 May 1774: Her Royal Highness The Dauphine of France, Archduchess of Austria, Princess of Hungary and Bohemia
- 10 May 1774 – 14 September 1791: Her Most Christian Majesty The Queen of France and Navarre
- 14 September 1791 – 21 September 1792: Her Majesty The Queen of the French
- Lever 2006, p. 1
- 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 the Château de Saint-Cloud for the personal use of Marie Antoinette), quoted in Castelot 1957, p. 233
- 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
- Fraser 2002, p. 5
- Fraser 2002, pp. 5–6
- Michel de Decker: Marie-Antoinette, les dangereuses liaisons de la reine, France Loisirs, 2005, p. 12.
- Marie Célestine Amélie de Ségur d'Armaillé: Marie-Thérèse et Marie-Antoinette, Didier, 1870, p. 47.
- Lever 2006, p. 10
- Fraser 2001, pp. 22–23,166–170
- Michel de Decker: Marie-Antoinette, les dangereuses liaisons de la reine, France Loisirs, 2005, p. 14.
- Philippe Delorme: Marie-Antoinette. Épouse de Louis XVI, mère de Louis XVII, Pygmalion Éditions, 1999, p. 13.
- Michel de Decker: Marie-Antoinette, les dangereuses liaisons de la reine, France Loisirs, 2005, p. 15.
- Marie Célestine Amélie de Ségur d'Armaillé: Marie-Thérèse et Marie-Antoinette, Didier, 1870, p. 34.
- Évelyne Lever: C'était Marie-Antoinette, Fayard, 2006, p. 14.
- Cronin 1989, p. 45
- France Loisirs, Michel de Decker, 2005, p.16
- Fraser 2002, pp. 32–33
- France Loisirs, Michel de Decker, 2005, p.17
- Cronin 1989, p. 46
- Weber 2007[page needed]
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I have ever believed that had there been no queen, there would have been no revolution.
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- "Marie Antionette" in the Catholic Encyclopedia
- Story of Marie Antoinette with Primary Sources
- Find A Grave
- Marie Antoinette's Head: The Royal Hairdresser, the Queen, and the Revolution - Lyons Press page
- Marie Antoinette's official Versailles profile
- Marie Antoinette Online—A site with a sympathetic bend, and contains a great deal of information.
- The marais of Marie-Antoinette sur parismarais.com
- Tea At Trianon—Many articles on all things Antoinette, from Versailles to Trianon to the most obscure details of life in Royal France, by historian and author Elena Maria Vidal.
- "Marie Antoinette". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- Online catalog of Marie Antoinette's personal reading library from the Petit-Trianon palace, based on 1863 printed catalog, online at LibraryThing.
- If they have no bread, let them eat cake.
- 2015 Irish Examiner article