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Marie Antoinette: A Short Biography

Maria Antonia Josephina Johanna was born on 2 November 1755 in Vienna, Austria. She was the 11th child (and most beautiful daughter) of Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa. She was so beautiful that when she was around the age of 10, a young musician by the name of Wolfgang Armetis Mozart fell in love with her and proposed marriage.

She became a symbol of the wanton extravagance of the 18th-century monarchy. She was born into the Hapsburg-Lorraine House of Austria, the oldest royal house of Europe (which still exists in England and Austria today). Throughout her life, she longed for her childhood home of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria.

In 1770, Marie was married to the Dauphin of France, Louis XVI; she was 14, and he was 15. The first wedding was held separately because she was still in Austria and Louis in France. So her brother, the future Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II (who she was closer with than any of her other siblings) stood in for Louis. Four years into their marriage, Louis ascended to the throne of France, and Marie became Queen of France. She was 19, and Louis was 20.

Marie was unhappy in her marriage. Louis was homely, awkward and hardly her heart’s desire. His devotion to the hunt, clocks, his workshop, and his early hours was in contrast to her pursuit of the arts, fashion, dance, and French nightlife. Some historians think this is why their marriage went unconsummated for seven years. It was not until Marie’s brother, Joseph II, visited her in France and had a “talk” with Louis that their marriage was consummated. It was not until after the birth of Marie and Louis’s first child Marie Therese, Duchess of Angouleme, that Louis and Marie finally started to find things in common and spending time together (historians believe it might have been because Marie finally started to settle down, spend less time at parties and more time with family).

Marie was the centre of gossip. It was widely believed that she had many lovers, perhaps the most famous was the Diamond Necklace affair, in which she was unjustly accused of having formed informal relations with the cardinal for a diamond necklace. The only proven lover of hers was Count Axel Von Fersen. Marie had only one affair with Count Axel Fersen. Among other untrue gossip about her is that she was blonde or she was a red head. Her hair colour was more like a strawberry blonde. She also never said, “Let them eat cake.”

After she became Queen in 1774, Marie spent less time at court and surrounded herself with a dissolute clique led by Yolande de Polignac and Therese de Lambell. She spent most of her free time at the Petit Trianon or the Hameau. She would also play a milkmaid when she performed in the opera.

In 1789, a mob descended on the place at Versailles and demanded the royal family move to the Tuileries Palace in Paris. From then on, they were prisoners. On 10 August 1792, the royal family was arrested on suspicion of treason and was imprisoned. On that same day, a crowd stormed the Tuileries Palace and ended the monarchy. On 21 January 1793, King Louis XVI was convicted and executed by guillotine. Marie’s best friend, The Princesse de Lambelle, was killed, her head severed, put on a spike and paraded around in front of her.

On 16 October 1793, just five months and 25 days after her husband’s execution, Marie was executed by guillotine – just 17 days before her 38th birthday. Marie was killed without proof of the crimes for which she was accused. The last words Marie ever said were, “I am sorry. I did not mean to.” This was because when walking up the steps to the guillotine she accidentally stepped on someone’s foot.

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