Next Saturday, October 16th will be her 217th Death Anniversary. On that same day, 217 years ago, Marie Antoinette or Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna (1755-1793) was executed by guillotine. She was convicted of treason. Nine months prior to that her husband, King Louis XIV was executed. These all happened at the height of the French Revolution (1789-1799).
Marie Antoinette was a victim from birth to death. Her marriage to King Louis XIV was a move to forge alliances among the warring countries included in the Seven Years War. Included in these countries were Austria, where Marie Antoinette was an Archduchess and France, where Louis-Auguste (who became King Louis XIV) was a Dauphin. Prior to their marriage, France was used to be Austria's traditional enemy. Even at the time of her execution, peasants were shouting: "Hang the Austrian woman! Long live France!". Marie Antoinette did not dream of becoming a French queen. She just followed the wishes of her mother, Empress Maria Theresa who she did not have a good relation as the later had her favorite, Marie Antoinette's younger sister, Maria Carolina. Thus leaving Hamburg for Paris to live in Versailles was Marie Antoinette way of ending her jealousy of being the less-favoured daughter of the empress.
Unfortunately, King Louis XIV did not love her and it took time for their marriage to be consummated. They had 4 children and two of them died at their young age. Their eldest survived, Marie-Therese Charlotte (1778-1851)who later became Dauphine of France upon ascension of her father-in-law to the throne of France in 1824. After the death of the first son who died at the age of 7, the second son (third child) was born: Louis XVII (1785-1795). He, too died but this time, during the imprisonment of her parents in the palace tower.
The line "let them eat cake", with "them" being the hungry French peasants because of bread shortage, has not been proven to have come from her. It first appeared in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions but Rousseau did not name who the "great princess" was.
Marie Antoinette was never a political animal. She had no power and was content in playing her role as a queen attending social functions and doing civic works. Her unhappy marriage resulted to her becoming frivolous. She dressed herself up extravagantly and wanted to have all the luxuries despite the poor economic condition of the country. She was accused of everything from lesbianism, occult and having incestuous relation with her own son.
This is a heartfelt biography of a misunderstood famous figure in French history. She is said to be one of the 4 world-famous French figures in the history following Napoleon Bonaparte, Joan of Arc and Charles de Gaulle. According to Wiki, Fraser's depiction of Marie Antoinette here is kind. For me, that's baloney. This work presented the balanced view of Marie Antoinette and is well-documented as Fraser has all the footnotes and cross-references.
"Is anybody here a mother?" was her heartfelt line during her trial when her accuser brought up her alleged incestuous relation with her own son.
"Pardon me Sir, I meant not to do it" were her last words addressing her executioner when Marie Antoinette accidentally stepped on his toes on her way to the guillotine. Oh yes, like her king husband he faced her trial and execution with grace.
Those last words that should have come from the people who condemned her, in my honest opinion. Her being a political pawn and scapegoat was too tragic. A queen killed by her own people was too sad.
Excellent writing though. Well-researched. Amazing biography!