Marie Antoinette, also known as Maria Antonia Josepha Joanna, was the last queen of France. She was the fifteenth child of Maria Theresa and Emperor Francis I. She was born on November 2, 1755, In Vienna, Austria. She lived a carefree childhood and received an education as the other aristocratic girls of the 18th century. Her education focused mainly on religious and moral principles, while her brothers studied more on the academic subject matters.
After the Seven Years’ War in 1763, Maria Theresa wanted to preserve the alliance between Austria and France through marital connections. In 1766, there was a new alliance between the French and Hapsburg thrones. Maria Theresa promised to give her daughter’s hand in marriage to the future king, Louis XVI, of France. However, four years later, 1770, Marie Antoinette and the eldest son of France, Louis XVI whom she had never met, got married in Vienna. She got married at the age of 14. At that time, France was the most powerful nation of continental Europe and the royal palace at Versailles was the wealthiest.
On May 16, 1770, a lavish second wedding ceremony was held in the royal chapel at Versailles. There were more than 5,000 guests watching the two teenagers getting married and that marked the beginning of Marie Antoinette’s life in the public eye. She was given the title “Dauphine of France” upon her marriage. Because of France’s wealth, she was dressed with fashionable clothes and was exalted by the French king, Louis XV. Initially, she was much loved by the French people because of her beauty and youthful charm and personalities. Marie was also loved because she gave charity, visited the olds, blinds, and widows, and adopted children for her servants. She acted in a way that the public accepted her.
In 1774, her enchanted life reached its peak when king XV died and her husband succeeded him and became King Louis XVI. And Marie Antoinette still as a teenager, 19 years old, became the Queen of France.Her personalities are different to those of Louis XVI’s. Louis XVI was introverted, shy, and indecisive, while on the other hand, Marie Antoinette was vivacious, outgoing, and bold. The king and the queen had a difficult relationship and personality conflicts were frequent. Therefore, to distract herself from this troublesome marriage, Marie Antoinette indulged herself in partying and gambling. They did not have any child until 1778. Marie Antoinette gave birth to daughter, Marie Therese Charlotte.
In 1780, Marie Antoinette began spending most of her time at her private castle, Petit Trianon, without the king. There was a rumor spreading about Marie Antoinette’s relationship with a Swedish diplomat, Count Axel von Fersen. Later, the French people were furious with Marie Antoinette’s fabulously extravagant lifestyle when France was going through financial turmoil and poor harvest. Some accused her of ignorance, extravagance, and adultery. There is a statement that showed how she was a profligate spender: “One year she lost the equivalent of $1.5 million by gambling in card games.” She later got the title “Madame Deficit.” The French public, which once adored her was now unrestricted in their display of hatred towards her.
In 1785, Marie Antoinette’s reputation was tarnished by a diamond necklace scandal. A thief disguised as the queen stole an expensive diamond necklace and smuggled it to London. She was really innocent of any involvement; nevertheless, she was guilty in the eyes of the people. In 1786, she began building the Hameau de la Reine to show that she was not affected by the criticism.
The poor and disastrous living conditions of the Third Estate convinced them that the monarchy was responsible for their problems. There were revolts throughout the country demanding that the monarchy be brought down. On July 14, 1789, thousands of French workers and peasants crowded the Bastille prison and took arms and bullets, which marked the beginning of the French Revolution. On October 6, the crowd demanded that the king and the queen be brought to Paris. At that time, the incompetent king, Louis XVI, was paralyzed due to the terror, while Marie Antoinette made futile attempts to save the monarchy by meeting with advisers and European rulers begging them to help save France’s monarchy.
In the summer of 1792, the French monarchy was abolished by the National Convention and Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were arrested. Louis XVI was tried by the Convention which later found him guilty and sentenced him to death. Marie Antoinette was also tried for some charges including thievery and treason. Sadly, she was wrongly accused of sexually abusing her own son. Later, she was also sentenced to death and was executed at the guillotine on October 16, 1793, at the age of 38.
Maria Antonia Josepha Joanna. (2014). The Biography.com website.Retrieved October 15, 2014, fromhttp://www.biography.com/people/marie-antoinette-9398996.