Labels : Marie Antoinette
I noted that today, May 16, 237 years ago, in 1770, Marie Antoinette (aged 14) married the future Louis XVI (aged 15).
I recently finished reading the “Marie Antoinette” by Antonia Fraser, a best-seller. Both this rather recent book and a previous one by Stefan Zweig (1933) give a much more nuanced view on Marie Antoinette than many of us may have got from school and elsewhere, often based on pamphlets, sometimes true - especially about her spending, often false.
Antonia Fraser’s book gave the idea to Sofia Coppola to make a film, starring Kirsten Dunst. The film may not have had quite the same success as Sofia’s previous film, “Lost in Translation”, but I quite liked it. The film ends with the revolution, but the book covers her whole life. The film is now available on CD (I have no commission).
Many of you may know her story better than I, but I thought some of the readers would like to refresh their memory about her life. (I must admit I was touched by the book and the film, so it may not be quite neutral).
Marie Antoinette had a rather short life 1755-1793. Look at her portraits (at 12, 14 and at 22 and on the way to the guillotine, at 38).
Daughter of Francis I and Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, she was forced to a political marriage, at 14, with someone who - in the beginning - did not care the least about her. Everybody expected a crown prince. It took seven years before she gave birth to a first child - a girl (the last public birth at the Court – in front of hundreds). She then had three other children, two boys and another girl. She loved and cared a lot about her children. Her youngest daughter died at the age of 1 and her eldest son at the age of 7.
In 1789, the French revolution forced the royal couple and their children to leave Versailles for the Tuileries Palace in Paris, as “prisoners”. The few next years, Marie Antoinette impressed many, including the revolutionary side, for her courage and strength of character. I’m not going into any further details (the escape and the capture at Varennes etc., organized by her supposedly Swedish lover, the Count Axel von Fersen).
Louis XVI was arrested in August 1792 and the monarchy was abolished in September the same year (reestablished after Napoleon). The royal family now became real prisoners in the Temple Fortress. The violence increased. Marie Antoinette’s best friend (the Princess of Lamballe) was captured, refused to repudiate her oath of loyalty to the Queen and was murdered. Her head was put on a pike and displayed outside Marie Antoinette’s prison window.
The King was condemned and taken to the guillotine in January 1793. In July the same year, her son (then 8), supposed to become Louis XVII, was taken from her – he died in captivity two years later. A few weeks later she was separated also from her last daughter and brought to the Conciergerie, where you can still visit her cell. In some kind of trial, she was condemned to death and brought to the guillotine as “Prisoner 280”, October 16, 1793. Her head was exhibited to the crowd. The guillotine was placed on the present Place de la Concorde.
Later (again after Napoleon), she was buried at the St. Denis basilica, together with her husband and most other French Kings and Queens.