Marie Antoinette Unveiled: “Beyond the Guillotine and Misquoted Cake”
“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”
“Let them eat cake”
She married at the age of 14 and was 19 when she and her husband, Louis XVI, ascended to the French throne.
She was worshipped and challenged, dragged through the mud, and elevated to the heavens, lived in a palace, and died on the guillotine.
This is the story of Marie Antoinette, France’s final ruler, an egotistical waste of time, and a victim of disinformation/misinformation.
Court life in Austria
Marie Antoinette was born in Vienna on November 2, 1755, as the 15th child and 11th daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Franz I Stephen. A court official described Antoinette as “a small but perfectly healthy Archduchess.”
Her sisters married in royal courts around Europe. To preserve the Austrian-French alliance, they proposed to King Louis XV of France that his grandson marry one of Maria Theresa’s daughters.
The older sisters, Johanna Gabriel, and Marie Joseph, were scheduled to marry first, but they died of smallpox, so it was Marie Antoinette’s turn.
Following lengthy negotiations, the French king declared Marie Antoinette to marry his grandson in 1769.
When the marriage contract was finalised, Maria Theresa learned that her daughter was unfamiliar with French culture or language. As a result, a huge number of tutors were assigned to prepare Marie Antoinette for her future as Queen of France.
Marie Antoinette headed out for France with an entourage and fourteen carriages. At the French-German border, she was asked to hand over all of her belongings, including clothing, servants, and friends, as a symbolic act of renunciation of her Austrian identity.
After many negotiations, she was granted permission to keep the dog.
They dressed her in French costume and took her to Strasbourg, where she was honoured in a grand ceremony. They left for Versailles after a few days.
At Versailles, King Louis XV of France and other members of the royal family greeted Marie. Louis XVI, a shy young man, was to become her future husband and the heir to the French kingdom. He was her senior by one year.
A spectacular wedding with a thousand guests was held in the legendary “Gallery of Mirrors” at Versailles. Marie Antoinette was given a large diamond collection before to her marriage.
The newlyweds were then led to the matrimonial bed, which had been blessed by the Archbishop of Reims. The young couple’s marriage, however, was not consummated that evening or for many years afterwards.
For seven years, the marriage was not consummated
The couple’s most crucial task after marriage was to bear an heir to the kingdom. During the early years of her reign, Marie Antoinette was mostly despised and blamed for this.
Specifically, the couple did not marry even seven years after their wedding, for which Maria was fully responsible. When we put things into perspective, it’s not so strange.
When Marie Antoinette arrived at the French court, she was just 15 years old, and Louis was 16. Both were still in their twenties when they were tasked with reconciling the world’s two superpowers.
Madame de Bari, King Louis XV’s mistress, was also hostile to Louis XVI, the young heir to the throne. Di Bari was a courtesan who rose through the ranks to become a lady of the nobility. Di Bari tried several plots and intrigues to turn King Louis XV against Marie Antoinette, but after the king’s death, she was exiled from the court.
Court life in France
Marie Antoinette’s daily life was not extremely interesting. Every morning, the maids helped her get out of bed and dressed. She was depressed and missing the Austrian court, which was her home.
When Marie Antoinette initially arrived at the French court, her origins were mocked, and she was usually viewed as a simpleton.
Versailles was a court where absurd customs and rumours were utilised to distract inhabitants from the real difficulties.
To fit in, Marie Antoinette began to spend an increasing amount of time selecting fabrics for gorgeous gowns, styling her signature hairstyle, and gambling. New problems arose just when the other courtiers began to accept her for it.
She was uninterested in politics, which irritated the Austrian court because she was meant to increase Austrian influence at the French court, but she did nothing.
The Reign and the Coronation
After King Louis XV died, Louis Auguste was crowned King of France, and Marie Antoinette succeeded him as Queen of France.
At the time of the coronation, bread was in short supply in Paris.
The credited to Marie Antoinette line “If they have no bread, let them eat cakes” (French: “S’ils n’ont plus de pain, qu’ils mangent de la brioche.”) is misquoted in this context.
That is not anything Marie Antoinette is known to have said.
When she learnt of the bread shortage, she observed, “It is certain that the people treated us well in spite of their own misfortune.” We must work harder than ever before to assure their happiness.”
They were greeted warmly by the crowd, and the young queen was magnificently dressed.
It was revealed after the coronation that she had little political influence over her husband. While Louis squandered money on futile wars, all eyes were on Marie Antoinette and her creations, as well as her gambling.
When she became queen, she began to cry because she was worried about why she didn’t have children. Marie Antoinette disliked boredom, thus the topics of discussion in her circle had to be far from worldly or intellectual in nature.
Serious discussions were not permitted in that circle, and the other courtiers felt cut off from the queen’s restricted company.
She quickly began disguising herself and attending Parisian opera balls. This is how she is said to pay her secret boyfriends visits. She started spending a lot more money because she didn’t know how much it was worth.
She mostly spent her money on clothes, diamonds, and video games.
Things began to calm down when Marie Antoinette became pregnant for the first time.
Many people were disappointed when Maria gave birth to the girl Maria Theresa Charlotte seven years after the wedding. Louis, who had a health condition that made sex difficult for him, was the reason the couple did not marry for years.
Of course, Antoinette bore the brunt of the blame at the moment, with claims flying around Paris that she was in a relationship with several other men and so uninterested in Louis, and later that her children were not Louis’s either.
According to royal custom, the newborn was referred to as “Madame Royale,” the appellation given to the eldest daughter of French kings. Because “a son belongs to the state, and a daughter belongs to her,” Marie Antoinette was especially fond of her daughter.
After Madame Royal, three more children were born: a daughter named Sophie Beatriz and two sons, Louis Joseph, the heir to the throne, and Louis Charles, Duke of Normandy (Louis XVII).
Marie Antoinette’s luxury dwindled as she aged. She got involved in philanthropic work and dedicated her life to assisting children. After she hit thirty, she stopped buying valuable stones and began dressing more conservatively and modestly. She matured into a more measured and modest individual.
The revolution’s “night before”
The royal family suffered two major personal setbacks. Sophie Beatriz, the royal couple’s youngest daughter, died before turning one year old, and soon after, Crown Prince Louis Joseph, the eldest son, had a fatal case of tuberculosis and died.
The French government was severely in debt as a result of costly wars and inefficient taxation. The monarch convened a gathering of nobles to discuss the problem and potential solutions. However, the nobility were unable to come up with a solution. The king then called an assembly of the estates in May 1789. The assembly of estates was the primary organisation that represented the French people.
The ultra-monarchist elites of Versailles feared the assembly of the estates.
On July 11, 1789, the queen and the king’s brother, Count d’Artois, persuaded the king to sack the reformist minister and reorganise the administration because they feared the reformists in the assembly of estates were plotting the monarchy’s demise.
The new prime minister, Baron de Bretaille, became close to the queen. The Baron de Bretay was a royalist and a devoted Catholic. Many Parisians openly revolted, fearing that this was the beginning of the king’s takeover. Some army members supported the crowd, while others did not.
July 14th is Bastille Day.
A large crowd marched towards Paris’s Bastille jail, a symbol of regal power. They gained control of the prison on July 14, 1789. They lynched two MPs who supported the king and the prison warden. That was the beginning of the French Revolution.
The royal court was in disarray, and many courtiers fled. However, Louis XVI chose to remain at Versailles.
On October 5, 1789, Paris was notified that the monarch was stockpiling all of the grain. A hungry and agitated throng descended on Versailles. During a brief meeting, the queen begged the king once more to leave Versailles. The king declined once more.
The mob slaughtered the king’s guard, which was made up of Swiss mercenaries, after breaking into the palace in the early hours of the morning.
When a mob attacked the queen’s quarters. A large crowd gathered in the castle courtyard demanded that the queen emerge onto the balcony.
She arrived in a nightgown with two children. The queen stood alone on the balcony in front of the crowd for ten minutes.
She then bowed and returned. The crowd screamed “Long live the queen” after being moved by the queen’s bravery.
Monarchy with a constitution
A well-known constitutional assembly member secretly met with Marie Antoinette in an attempt to restore full royal authority, but the talks failed.
With the decision to revoke the privileges of the Catholic Church in 1790, any hope of a compromise between the king and the revolutionaries vanished. By 1791, both the monarch and queen had concluded that the republic would ruin France. They decided to flee to Montmedier, a royalist bastion in eastern France, where they planned to rally supporters.
However, the king was taken prisoner at Varen. The local rebels returned the king to Paris in the Tuileries castle. This exemplified the monarch’s and royal family’s resistance to the Republic.
Following that, Marie Antoinette attempted to preserve the monarchy by secretly negotiating with the head of the legislative group of constitutional monarchists.
The monarchy was declared illegal by the National Convention on September 21, 1792, after the republicans had held the king on August 13, 1792. The royal family was then transported to a stronghold to prevent the king from being liberated later. Following that, violence erupted in Paris.
On December 11, 1792, King Louis XVI was judged guilty of treason and sentenced to death on January 17, 1793. On January 21, 1793, he was executed by guillotine.
The Guillotine and the Prison
Marie Antoinette never seemed to recover from the king’s death. When the guards roused Marie Antoinette up at two a.m. on August 2, 1793, she refused to get dressed. Her daughter was taken away from her and she was brought to the Concierge prison. “Widow Capet” was her given name.
From so on, she was known as Antoinette Capet, or Prisoner No. 280, rather than Marie Antoinette. Marie Antoinette was placed under intensive monitoring after her failed escape.
The trial took place on October 14, 1793. The prosecution called forty witnesses. Marie Antoinette was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death on October 15, 1793. The following day, October 16, she was executed by guillotine.
On October 16, 1793, the guards arrived at her cell early, cut her hair, and shackled her hands behind her back. They drove her through the streets of Paris for an hour until they arrived at Revolution Square, the location of the guillotine.
“Now is the moment, madam, to arm yourself with courage,” the priest who was with her murmured in hushed tones as she climbed out of the car and observed the guillotine.
Marie Antoinette chuckled as she turned to face him. My fearlessness will not abandon me when my problems are resolved.
According to folklore, her final words were “Excuse me, sir,” as she stumbled over the executioner’s foot.
Marie Antoinette was executed by guillotine at 12:15 p.m.
As a result, one of history’s most misunderstood ladies died at the hands of the guillotine, having nothing.
She was left without her family, her children, whom she loves beyond all else, contaminated by her husband’s lies and incompetence.
We did not begin to perceive her life from the perspective of a young lady entering the unknown, whose life was governed by men whose incompetence eventually led to her death, until many years later.
She is only one example of how difficult it was to be a woman in a world controlled by males, even in the best of conditions.
This post was written by Mario Bekes