From SiefarWikiEn

Jump to: navigation, search


Marie-Antoinette was born in Vienna on Nov. 2, 1755, the fifteenth child of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, and Maria-Theresa, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia. In 1770, Marie-Antoinette wed the future Louis XVI. Arranged to re-enforce the alliance of France and Austria, the marriage made her the most visible symbol of the troubled union between these two countries.

Marie-Antoinette was initially well-received by the French, who expected her to exert a benign influence over her unprepossessing husband. But her popularity declined soon after she became queen in May, 1774. Her disdain for French etiquette offended many courtiers, and her blatant favoritism embittered those she proclaimed her enemies. For still uncertain reasons, her marriage was not consummated until 1777, prompting false rumors she was cuckolding the King in the arms of lovers of both sexes. Her much delayed maternity left her time to indulge her love of gambling and fashion. Once she bore children -Marie-Thérèse (1778-1851), Louis-Joseph (1781-89), Louis-Charles (1785-95), Sophie-Béatrice (1786-87)- the Queen actively intervened in their upbringing. Her maternity brought mixed political results. She acquired more political credit and used it to win ministerial appointments for three favorites; but many feared she was using her influence to advance Austrian interests. Marie-Antoinette did lobby on occasion in support of Austrian policies, and these interventions gave rise to false rumors she was exporting huge sums of money to Austria. Tainted by her association with the rapacious Polignac faction, Marie-Antoinette was falsely implicated in the Diamond Necklace Affair (1785). Her purchase of the Saint-Cloud palace at state expense (1786) reinforced her reputation for venality. Thereafter she was denounced as "Madame Deficit" for allegedly bankrupting the state. Just before 1789, the Queen's political influence increased. On June 4, 1789, her first son died, but political events left little time for grief.

Throughout the Revolution, Marie-Antoinette remained a staunch monarchist. On October 5-6, 1789, a mostly female crowd stormed Versailles, broke into her bedroom threatening death, and forced the royal family to move to Paris. Henceforth, Marie-Antoinette lived in fear of dismemberment, and her blonde hair turned white. Although moderates advocated her political rehabilitation, the radical press ran a scurrilous, pornographic campaign against her as the epitome of Old Regime vice. In 1790, Marie-Antoinette was accused of directing an "Austrian Committee" bent on subverting the Revolution for Austria's sake. She and her family fled Paris in June, 1791, but the poorly executed flight failed. A virtual captive, the Queen looked to foreign military intervention to rescue her and her family, but not even her Austrian relatives tendered support. The outbreak of war against Austria on April 20, 1792 further compromised her position. When the monarchy collapsed on Aug. 10, 1792, the royal family was imprisoned in the Temple. The National Convention put Louis XVI on trial and executed him on Jan. 21, 1793. Tearfully separated from her son Louis-Charles on July 3, 1793, Marie-Antoinette was indicted for conspiring against France on Aug. 1, 1793 and moved to the Conciergerie. Lacking material evidence, the prosecution delayed the trial until it had suborned the perjured testimony of Louis-Charles, who deposed not only that his mother had met with Counter-Revolutionaries, but also that she had committed incest with him. At her trial, Marie-Antoinette won a moral victory by refusing to reply to the incest libel in the name of offended motherhood, but she was convicted and guillotined on Oct. 16, 1793. Always under public scrutiny, Marie-Antoinette became a screen on which her subjects and later observers projected their dreams, fears, and frustrations. To austere republicans, she represented the embodiment of court corruption; to French nationalists, she was an Austrian agent bent on comprising national security. In reaction to Revolutionary vilification, Counter-Revolutionaries rehabilitated her as a saintly martyr during the Restoration. Thereafter Marie-Antoinette was variously seen as a symbol of virtuous motherhood, feminine frivolity, lesbian sexuality, and indifference to popular suffering. If no one view has prevailed, it is still fair to say that she was a woman of no extraordinary talents thrown into an extraordinary situation.

Personal tools
In other languages