Peoples and Nations

Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette

Famous for being a Queen of France executed by guillotine

Born - 2nd November 1755, Vienna Austria
Parents - Francis I, Marie Therese
Siblings - Maria Anna, Joseph II, Maria Christina, Maria Elisabeth, Charles Joseph, Maria Amalia, Leopold II, Maria Johanna Gabriela, Maria Josepha, Maria Carolina, Ferdinand, Maximillian Francis
Married - Louis XVI of France
Children - Marie Therese, Louis-Joseph, Louis XVII, Sophie Helene Beatrice
Died - 16th October 1793 aged 37, executed by guillotine

Marie Antoinette was born Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna von Habsburg-Lothringen on 2nd November 1755. She was the fifteenth and youngest child of Empress Maria Thérése of Austria and the Holy Roman Emperor, Francis I.

Maria Antonia had a relatively carefree childhood, spent mostly at the Schönbrunn Palace which was off-limits to the rest of the court. She was educated in religious and moral subjects as well as music, tapestry, embroidery and painting. However, she did not study academic subjects and her reading and writing skills were poor.

In 1765 Maria Antonia's father died suddenly of a stroke. Her mother, left to run the Empire with her son Joseph II, became a remote figure as she devoted much of her time to matters of state.

In 1766 an epidemic of smallpox several members of the royal family. Antonia, who had had the disease at a young age was immune and found herself the only available bride for the Dauphin of France. A marriage between a daughter of the Empress and the Dauphin had been arranged as part of the alliance between Austria and France following the Seven Years War. The marriage took place in 1770 and she was given the name Marie Antoinette, Dauphine of France.

Marie Antoinette was popularly received when she made her first official appearance in Paris in 1773. At court, however, she was coolly received, particularly by the King's mistress Madame du Barry who was firmly against the Austrian alliance. On 10th May 1774 Louis XV died and Marie Antoinette and her young husband became King and Queen of France. Although the couple got on well enough, Louis was unemotional and showed little affection towards his wife. He rarely shared the same bed and it is believed that the marriage was not consummated for several years. Marie Antoinette was blamed for the lack of an heir both by the French and her mother. Deprived of affection Marie Antoinette formed a close friendship with the Princesse de Lamballe and her brother the Comte d'Artois and began to spend her time gambling and buying clothes. Her frivolous behaviour was criticised and her popularity decreased. She also changed many established court practices, opting for less formality, which was disapproved of by older court members.

In 1778 Marie Antoinette gave birth to a daughter, Marie Thérése Charlotte and in 1781 gave birth to a son and heir, Louis Joseph Xavier Francois. Two more children followed in 1785 and 1787. Although the birth of an heir to the throne did, in part, restore some favour to the Queen, she was still criticised for her lack of interest in political affairs and for giving positions to her favourites. Her popularity decreased further with the Affair of the Diamond Necklace, she was accused of having an affair with a Cardinal in order to obtain an expensive diamond necklace for herself. The country was nearing bankruptcy and Marie Antoinette was held responsible.

1789 saw the formation of the Estates General and demands on the King for more rights. The dismissal of the finance minister, Jacques Necker, who sympathised with the Estates General led to riots in Paris and the storming of the Bastille on July 14th. In August the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen proclaimed France a Republic. The King and Queen were moved to the Tuileries in Paris and placed under house arrest.

In September 1792 the monarchy in France was officially ended. Louis was put on trial for undermining the first French Republic in December and executed by guillotine in January 1793. Marie Antoinette was tried and found guilty of treason on October 14th and was executed by guillotine on October 16th 1793.