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Get to Know Marie Antoinette

By- Angela Padrón

Marie Antoinette was born on November 2, 1755 in Vienna, Austria as Maria Antonia Josepha Joanna. She was one of fifteen children born to Maria Theresa, the empress of Austria, and Holy Emperor Francis I.

Upon marrying King Louis XVI of France on May 16, 1770, at the age of nineteen, Marie became the queen of France. Her reign is seen as one of the instigating factors of the French Revolution. While King Louis was said to be introverted and shy, Marie was more of a “social butterfly” who loved parties and extravagant fashion and possessions. As queen, Marie lived in luxury and was surrounded by riches. She was sometimes called “Madame Deficit” due to rumors of adultery and her outlandish ways of living and speaking. Despite the government’s financial troubles after intervening in the American Revolutionary War, Marie lived as if the royal money was endless. The public becoming increasingly frustrated with paying high taxes, as well as the poor condition of crops and the increase in grain prices—all while Marie continued her lavish lifestyle. This angered the public greatly; Marie came to be seen as an insensitive, selfish foreigner who didn’t care that the common people were suffering.

July 14, 1789, marked the start of the French Revolution. An angry mob stormed Versailles, and King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were arrested and forced to go to Paris. Two years later, the king and queen fled for the Austrian border. They attempted to take back the French government to regain their throne, but they were captured and returned to Paris. In September of 1791, the king agreed to abide by the revolutionists’ constitution in exchange for his monarchy, even if that allowed him only symbolic power.

Thousands of French citizens lost their lives during the French Revolution. In 1792, France declared war on Austria, and France was losing. Many blamed the royal family, especially Marie, for all of the country’s woes, and they wanted King Louis XVI to step down. Soon the monarchy was taken down, and the king and queen were arrested again. King Louis XVI was convicted of treason and executed in January 1793. In the following months, Marie Antoinette was charged with treason and theft. A jury found her guilty, and she was beheaded at the guillotine on October 16, 1793, at the age of thirty-seven.

Marie Antoinette’s story and legacy continue to live on today. Some say that the night before her execution, all of the hair on her head turned white, a condition that has come to be known as “Marie Antoinette syndrome.” Legend also has it that when Marie heard that the common people had no bread to eat, she said, “Let them eat cake!” though there is no proof that she actually uttered these words. Although many thought of Marie Antoinette as an evil woman, she is nonetheless remembered for her wardrobe, jewelry, and scandalous lifestyle.

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