Marie Antoinette was born a princess to Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria and Francis I, the Holy Roman Emperor on the 2nd November 1755 in Vienna, Austria. It was Maria Theresa’s aim to position her children in places of power through marriage, much like Queen Victoria had done through her children.
On the 16th May 1770, Louis-Auguste (16) the crown prince of France, marries Marie Antoinette (15) in a royal marriage, cementing an alliance between Austria and France.
In 1774, Louis XV died and Louis-Auguste ascended to the French throne as King Louis XVI (20) with his wife Marie Antoinette becoming Queen of France (19).
Some seven years had passed since their marriage, and no off-spring had been born continuing the family line. Emperor Joseph of Austria, the Queen’s brother had to step in and offer advice. His intervention saw the birth of Marie Therese Charlotte, less than a year later.
Marie became bored with the court rituals of being a Queen, and constantly being on display. She sought escape from this life, surrounding herself with questionable friends like; Yolande de Polignac and Therese de Lamballe. Often lavishing them with expensive gifts and creating positions for them within her household.
It was a life of sheer pleasure; Masked Balls, Gambling, the Theatre, yet she was supposed to be a French Queen, present in Court and part of the French nobility … but she was often absent.
This young Queen, with blonde hair and astounding beauty, set fashion trends across France. She enjoyed showing off her beauty and style, and spent outrageous amounts on her clothing.
Some envied, other’s hated Marie Antoinette for her contempt of handed down traditions of court etiquette, often interceding on Austrian causes.
Fabricated stories circulated, accusing her of affairs and sexual acts with members of the court … thus muddying her name across Paris. One act grabbed the nation’s attention: The Diamond Necklace Affair, which would question her moral beliefs. For it was, one Madame Lamotte, who sought a position in court. The eligible Prince de Rohan; Cardinal of France was excluded from the Queen’s selected group of loyal friends.
A plot was orchestrated, where Lamotte posed as the Lesbian lover of Marie Antoinette, and she convinced Rohan that the Queen wanted the necklace made by Boehmer for Louis XV’s lover; Madame du Barry. Rohan obtained the diamond necklace from Boehmer, and then passed it on to Lamotte. The charade was exposed when Boehmer asked the Queen for payment.
Both King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were outraged at the charade. Prince de Rohan was arrested, and the trial saw the Monarchy paraded before the nation.
In the late 1780’s France had a series of poor harvests, and those most affected were the country’s poor, peasants’ starved.
France a country with huge debts, found itself unable to repay those inherited from Louis XV.
Tragedy would strike at the heart of the French Monarchy. For it was in 1789; “The Dauphin” son of Louis and Marie died in June from a crippling and agonizing disease.
Louis called upon the Estates in May 1789, a way of gaining support from the common people, to force through much needed reforms.
The Queen wanted to preserve the right of the Monarchy, and opposed any reforms which would give the common people, more say in how France was ruled.
In July 1789 the Bastille was seized by the people. The King could see a revolution was coming and desired not to provoke the situation. So on the 15th July, military troops concentrated around Paris were dispersed.
In October of 1789, tales spread through the down trodden Paris slums, of banquets at Versailles Palace whilst their loyal subjects starved.
On the 4th October Parisians demanded bread from the King, and he met with some to hear their grievances. A number of women gained entrance to the palace, and ripped the Queen’s bed to shreds, as she escaped half-naked.
Situations forced upon them, they moved to Tuileries Palace in Paris, and they would come under the close scrutiny of Parisians, making them vulnerable to possible attack.
It became obvious as to who ruled France; Marie Antoinette … For she sought out assistance from abroad, to step in and restore royal authority in France.
In July of 1792, Prussian armies invaded France, and the people of Paris were warned, if any harm came to King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the invading armies would exact revenge upon them.
In August 1792, Tuileries palace was attacked by the people, and some 900 Swiss guards who protected the monarchy lost their lives.
The monarchy was abolished in 1792, which led to the imprisonment of hundreds of aristocrats, of which many lost their lives in prison. One of these was Madame Lamballe who had returned to Paris to aid Marie Antoinette, and was hacked to death for failing to swear an oath against the Queen.
King Louis XVI and his Queen; Marie Antoinette were held at the Temple Fortress to await their fate. In December of 1792, Louis was brought before the National Convention on the charge of treason and found guilty. On the 21st January 1793, he was executed on the guillotine.
Over the next two years, hundreds of aristocrats and people of France would face tribunals and be executed on the guillotine. In September of 1793, Marie Antoinette was moved to the Conciergerie Prison, where she was under constant guard in solitary confinement.
On the 14th October, she faced the Revolutionary Tribunal, and found guilty and executed by guillotine on the 16th October.
The bodily remains of Marie Antoinette were buried in an unmarked grave, and so ended the life of the Queen of France, the former Princess of Austria aged 38.