“The Last Queen Of France” By Saina Ysaac of FIU on April 24th, 2022
“At age 19, I was throne as queen. I was sent to marry the king of France to ease the conflict between France and home. I spend my days being annoyed with my dim-wit husband, Louis XVI. Instead of pestering him, I find pleasure in engaging with others in the court and pestering around with my right-wing woman, Princesse de Lamballe. Sometimes we order the maids to make us a faux farm, so Princesse and I can play dress up. There’s only so much one can do in a chateau like Versailles.”Adapation of a diary entry, Marie Antoinette (1779)
Maira Antonia Josepha Joanna was born on November 2nd, 1755 in Vienna, Austria. She was the 15th child of 16 children ( only 12 survived and reached adult age) of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and the Habsburg empress Maria Theresa.
She spent most of her childhood in Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace and the Hofburg Palace learning the basics of German and the principles of religion and moralistic values.
Although her grades in learning were less than satisfactory. Her European family knew that she could be used as a pawn later. She was born during a time of political unrest. Less than a year after her birth, the Seven Year War broke out, as the French, British, and the Spanish fought over land in the Americas or “New World” in 1756.
England had just declared war on France, this became a priority for Empress Maria Theresa to ensure an alliance with the French. It was common to use matrimonial affairs to create alliances with other countries, this is the reason why many wars were simply family disputes.
“Mein Kleiner löwenzahn , you don’t have to try too hard in school as long as you are pretty and keep your posture. One day you will be remembered by all for being a queen. You were chosen by God, to make this country proud.”Empress Maria Thersa told her daughter as she brushed her ash blonde hair. (1766)
“I will do my best mother”Replied by young Marie (1766)
Young Marie was pledged to marry the 11-year-old grandson of Louis XV, Louis-Auguste in 1765. In 1768, Louis XV sent out a tutor to assess young Marie’s academic abilities along with her temperament. The tutor reported back, “More intelligent than it has been generally supposed” and “she is rather lazy and extremely frivolous, she is hard to teach.”
At the time, Marie was only 14 years old and by May 1770, she was set out to France to get married to the 16-year-old prince.
On May 16, 1770, in Versailles, an extravagant wedding ceremony was held with over 5,000 guests, 57 carriages, 117 -footmen, and 376 horses escorting the newlyweds.
“Madame, my very dear mother, I have not recieved one of your dear letters without having the tears come to my eyes.”An actual exerpt from one of Marie’s letters to home (1770)
15-year-old Marie did not adjust to matrimony very well. Being 652 miles away from Vienna, barely knowing the man she just was forced to marry, and forced to put her makeup on in front of courtiers, made her time in Versailles miserable.
“I absolutely fathom my time spent here I have been forced to marry a man I just met, he’s rather unattractive and immature. He lacks the prestige of a future king. I can not believe God choose a clown to run this country.”Adapation of a Diary entry, Marie Annotinette (1770)
The couple had issues consummating the marriage, it took serval years before completing the task in front of courtiers. Other than the young age, which could be the reason for the lack of sexual development. The pair, could not be as more incompatible, as their personalities clashed with each other. Louis-Auguste was more on the introverted side and Marie Antoinette was on the more extroverted side.
In 1774, Louis XV died and Louis-Auguste took the throne as Louis XVI, making Marie Antonette the queen of France at just the ripe age of 19 years old.
The personality of the married couple differed more as they grew older. Louis being more introverted and shy, began going to bed before midnight, leaving his wife to continue her pleasures in playing cards and spending the country’s money away on frivolous activities such as luxurious fashion and partying. She would wake up right before noon to begin overindulging again.
She found her life in the court rather difficult, as she found politics rather unamusing. Rumors began to form around the speculations about the couple’s love life. People began to believe that Louis XVI was impotent and Antoinette was having an affair with other men, while Louis XVI had a mistress named Madame du Barry, whom Antoinette had conflicts with.
Antoinette found herself as a victim of spiteful remarks from the public. Being a foreigner and the Queen of France made it all more of a reason to poke fun at her. Because of this, Antoinette needed a place away from the public.
Before the Revolution
In 1780, Antoinette spent her days in Petit Trianon, a private castle in Versailles that was designated for mistresses, without Louis XVI.
“As I stare in my vanity mirror, I see my gray-blue eyes softer than an ocean wave. My ash blonde hair and my untanned skin. A figure appears behind me, my lover, the Great Count Axel von Fersen from Sweden. His love is sweeter than an orange-gold fruit called “Kittseer Marille “ (apricot) in July from Kittsee. The only place from pestering gossip is in my woman cave, Petit Trianon. It was created based on my desires. Oh, how I finally love being able to shy away from pestering eyelookers . No rules, just la jouissance.”Adapation of a Diary entry, Marie Annotinette (1780)
This is around the time rumors began to speculate that within Petit Trianon, Antoinette engaged in relations with Swedish diplomat Count Axel von Fresen.
Pamphlets circulating in France began accusing Antoinette of adultery, ignorance, and extravagance. Cartoons were drawn labeling her as “Madame Deficit “. During this time the French government was falling increasingly into debt, which was blamed mainly on the Queen’s overspending on luxurious items and a festive lifestyle.
In 1776, Antoinette and Louis XVI adopted Armand Gagne´
In 1778, Antoinette gave birth to a daughter, Marie Therese of France.
In 1781, Antoinette gave birth to a son, Louis Joseph, Dauphin of France.
In 1785, Antoinette gave birth to a son, Louis XVII.
In 1787, Antoinette and Louis XVI adopted Jean Amilcar, Antoinette had him manumitted.
In 1785, a thief posed as Antoinette and stole a 647- diamond necklace smuggled the necklace to the borders of London, to be resold in pieces. Despite not having any association with the thief, the public continued to slaughter her name. This is the scandal that made Antoniette notorious.
In 1786, Antoinette disregarded all libels formed against her and decided to begin building a retreat called, Hameau de la Reine, right near Petit Trianon in Versailles. This is where Antoinette and Princess de Lamballe would dress in peasant clothing and pretend to be a milkmaid or a shepherdess.
There are rumors going around that I am a whore. I simply do not understand the folk in France, I do nothing but tend to myself in the chateau. Maybe if I wasn’t nobility, I would be miserable just like them. And blame all my issues on nobility. It is not my fault, God decided them to be poor.Adapation of a Diary entry, Marie Annotinette (1780)
These stories fueled the anger in the already unhappy bourgeoisie and lower classes. It seemed that the Queen did not care about the people or even understand the hardships that were going on in the streets of France. This sharp contrast became the division that ignited the revolution.
“Madame Deficit” and the End of Noble Privileges
France’s increasing debt can not simply be blamed on the lone hand of Marie Antoinette as the American Revolution was quite pricey on the hand of the French. As the first estate and nobility had no taxes to pay, they increased the tax on the people causing them to become resentful, as their money would be wasted away on the expenses of the rich.
Louis XVI and his delegators attempted to impose an equitable tax to ease the tension against the people, but the nobility declined. The press began labeling Marie Antoinette as “Madame Veto”, although she is only one member of the nobility, she was again to blame.
Anger continued to rage as during the National Assembly, which turned out to be a loss for the third estate, as the nobility and clergy declined their entitlement. After this, the French people began to believe that the nobility and the monarchy were plotting against them. Pamphleteers continued to bash Antoinette’s name, labeling her as l’Autrichienne (“Austrian whore”) accusing her of adultery, lesbianism, and incest.
In October 1789, a mob of about 10,000 angry Parisians protested in Versailles and took the King and Queen and imprisoned them in Tuileries Palace.
Although according to historians, it’s almost impossible for Marie Antoinette to have said ‘let them eat cake’, in response to hearing that the people had no bread to eat. This is because despite how the people pictured her, Antoinette was known to give to charity and actually had concern for her country’s common class.
In June 1791, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette fled Paris to the Austrian border, with the help of Count Axel von Fersen, where it was thought that Antoinette’s brother was waiting to invade France and restore the nobility in the country. This made the people label her as a traitor, and she was condemned for treason.
On Wednesday, October 16th, 1793, Maire Antoinette was sent to the guillotine. After being put on a two-day trial for treason and theft and charged with incest with her own son. She was found guilty by an all-male jury.
“The guillotine is set up, still droplets of blood dripping off of the shiny blade. Today is the day that the Queen is to be beheaded. Oh what a glorious day, God has finally given us a chance to change the country for the better. I am somewhat frightened for the future sake, but I can wait to see the head of that blonde whore in the basket. Everyone is chanting, “KILL THAT WHORE, KILL THAT WHORE !!!” People are spitting as far as they can, if she was someone else I might have felt somewhat sorry for her, she’s getting what she deserves for being such an ignorant piece of s***. Pardon my french, but finally, Marie Antoinette will be put to death alas.”An adaptation of a cillivan POV on Oct.16th,1793
Marie Antoinette will always be remembered as a vile queen. Her “wrongdoings” will always overshadow the truth.
As a woman in the 18th century, speaking your mind in front of patriarchy is quite intimidating. Being frowned upon by accusations that your male counterpart is also doing is infuriating. Antoinette was sadly, the product of her environment. Being a forgneier and showing no desire to visit Paris, fueled the people’s dislike of her.
Even though she is the stepping stone for French fashion and beauty along with being named as the reason for the revolution. It is important to note that once an individual reputation is tarnished, it is impossible to clear the air.
After completing this project I see the contrast between being a 19-year-old woman in undergrad, and a 19-year-old queen of France. her responsibilities were forced upon her without forewarning and attempted to live her best life, even if it was a the expense of the lower class and bourgioue. But she is not the only person to blame, there is an entire nobility committee, she had no say as a woman and queen, who possess no political power.
Even if she wanted to fix the country, she would have to do it by playing by ear thru Louis XVI, who was a horrible king that lacked confidence in his ability to reign the country.
As a woman, culture expects you to be a perfect flower. So others can adore and admire you as if you are more than just a man. Being a woman means no faults and no mistakes, a perfect track record. Whereas the men are applauded for having the least satisfactory remarks.
Antoinette was labeled as a whore, even though her husband was having an ongoing affair. Antoinette was labeled as “Madame Veto”, even though she had no power to do so. Antoinette was labeled as a thief, even though she had no connections to the scandal. Antoinette was a victim of how others perceived her rather than who she actually was. A young queen thrashed upon a patricidal world, attempting to navigate through the difficult hurdles by the French people.
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