Marie Antoinette was born November 2, 1755 in Vienna, Austria. She was the youngest and most beautiful daughter of Francis Stephen I and Maria Theresa, Emperor and Empress of the Holy Roman Empire. Marie Antoinette was brought up believing her destiny was to become queen of France. She married the crown prince of France in 1770. Four years later she became queen when her husband was crowned King Louis XVI (House of Bourbon).
The stories of Antoinette's excesses are vastly overstated. In fact, rather than ignoring France's growing financial crisis, she reduced the royal household staff, eliminating many unnecessary positions that were based solely on privilege. In the process she offended the nobles, adding their condemnation to the scandalous stories spread by royal hopefuls. It was the nobility that balked at the financial reforms the government ministers tried to make, not the King and Queen, who were in favor of change. In truth, Antoinette and Louis were placed in harms' way not only by elements of their personalities, but by the changing face of political and social ideology in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In 1789 a mob descended on the palace at Versailles and demanded the royal family move to the Tuilerie palace inside Paris. From that point on the King and Queen were virtual prisoners. Antoinette sought aid from other European rulers including her brother, the Austrian Emperor, and her sister, Queen of Naples. After a failed attempt to flee Paris in 1791 Antoinette continued to seek aid from abroad. When Austria and Prussia declared war on France, she was accused of passing military secrets to the enemy. On August 10, 1792 the royal family was arrested on suspicion of treason and imprisoned. On January 21, 1793 King Louis XVI was convicted and executed on the guillotine.
Marie Antoinette was cruely treated during her final days of captivity. Her best friend, the Princess de Lambelle, was killed and her severed head was put on a pike and paraded in front of the Queen.
Her children (Marie Therese and Louis XVII) were taken from her. Louis XVII was subjected to abuse by the family's jailers and later died, supposedly of Tuberculosis and malnutrition. Marie Therese, her firstborn daughter was the only family member to survive. For additional information about Marie Antoinette and Louis's children, click here.
Antoinette followed her husband to the guillotine on October 16, 1793. She was executed without proof of the crimes for which she was accused. She was only 37 years old.
The Bourbon monarchy was restored in 1814 after the fall of Napoleon I. The succession went to the closest living relative of Louis XVI who became Louis XVIII. He had escaped to Britain where he sat out the Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. The new monarchy had a bumpy road, lasting until 1848 and the ascension of Napoleon III. After Napoleon III abdicated in 1871, France became a republic.
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The Private Life of Marie Antoinette
by Madame Jeanne Louise Campan
In one of the earliest memoirs of the young Queen of France, Madame Campan, Marie Antoinette's first lady-in-waiting and one of her closest and most faithful attendants, paints a dramatic portrait of the Queen's personal and political relationship with her husband the King. Until now the truth about Marie Antoinette has proven elusive. In this book, original published in 1823, Madame Campan strives to reveal the truth about her lady's controversial life.
Marie Antoinette: The Journey
by Antonia Fraser
Fraser's portrait of Marie Antoinette is the sympathetic story of a goodhearted girl poorly prepared for the intrigues into which she was thrust at age 14. Fraser makes no attempt to hide the queen's shortcomings, but focuses on her personal warmth and noble bearing during her final ordeal. Sofia Coppola's new Marie Antoinette film is loosely based on this biography.
The Wicked Queen: The Origins of the Myth of Marie-Antoinette
by Chantal Thomas, Julie Rose (Translator)
Marie Antoinette's detractors carried on a campaign of vilification, beginning soon after her arrival in France, increasing in intensity until her execution in October, 1793. The author argues this campaign did not reflect the queen's character.
Last Days of Marie Antoinette: An Historical Sketch
by Lord Ronald Gower
A sketch of the final days of Marie Antoinette's life, written in 1892.
Marie Antoinette: Princess of Versailles Austria-France, 1769 (Royal Diaries)
by Kathryn Lasky
Kathryn Lasky invents a diary of young Marie Antoinette from 1769, the year she is to marry the future King Louis XVI of France. Reading level ages 9-12.
Produced by Sony Pictures
Sofia Coppola's a portrait of Marie Antionette is beautifully produced, but unfortunately style trumps over substance in this story of the ill fated princess. Kirsten Dunst is fabulous in the lead role. Filmed in and around Versailles, the setting is beautiful. The combination of Dunst and Versailles make this movie worth watching. Loosely based on the Antonia Frazer biography, Marie Antoinette: The Journey.
Produced by PBS Paramount
Filmed by David Grubin in France and Austria, with rare access to Versailles, Le Petit Trianon, and the Austro-Hungarian palaces of her youth.
Marie Antoinette: Scapegoat Queen
Produced by Arts Magic
The Scapegoat Queen follows the Austrian-born princess through the complex politics of her arranged marriage to her sometimes scandalous behavior as Queen of France to her harsh end on the guillotine, arguing that though often foolish, Antoinette deserved neither her savage fate nor her reputation as a callous tyrant.
Produced by MGM Studios
1938 MGM classic starring Norma Shearer as Antoinette and Robert Morley as Louis XVI. Other cast members includes Tyrone Power and John Barrymore. Received four Oscar nominations.
Biographical profile from the Austrian Mint.
Portraits of Marie Antoinette
From 1780 to 1800 Vigee Le Brun painted approximately 30 portraits of Marie Antoinette. You can see them all at this site.
The Last Days of Marie Antoinette
Written in 1885 by Lord Ronald Gower, this link takes you to a scan of the entire sketch telling the story of the final days of Marie Antoinette's life.
A Speech by Edmund Burke
On the death of Marie Antoinette. In this speech Burke criticizes of the excesses of the French Revolution and laments the death of the Queen and the passing of an era.