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Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna was born 2 November 1755 to the Emperor Francis I and Empress Maria Teresa of Austria. Born in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Maria Antonia (best known by her French name Marie Antoinette), was born a princess to the most powerful monarchy on the continent of Europe at that time. She was the fifteenth out of sixteen children born to the Emperor and Empress of Austria.


Musical and Graceful

Maria enjoyed music and learned to play the harpsichord. She excelled in dancing and was described as having an "exquisite pose" and "famously graceful deportment." She had a menagerie (mini-zoo) at home at Austria, which she later recreated in the Petit Trianon in France.


The Hand of Destiny

A series of events led to her betrothal to the Dauphin of France. Her father, Francis I, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire died of a stroke in August, leaving her mother (whom she more feared than loved) Maria Theresa to co-rule with her older brother, the Emperor Joseph II.


A Diplomatic Alliance

The Seven Years War temporarily united the traditional enemies France and Austria, and Maria Theresa planned to marry one of her daughters to the heir to the French throne. In 1767 a small pox epidemic killed several of her siblings and this left the 12 year old princess as the only potential bride left in the family for the 14year old Louis Augusta (who was also her second cousin and heir to the French throne).


louis-15-1313617 960 720Marriage

France at that time was the most powerful nation in continental Europe. The young princess could hardly have hoped for a more prestigious marriage. The French King Louis XV pronounced her "delightful!" and the Dauphin and Dauphine married in the Palace of Versailles, 16 May 1770. At her first official appearance in Paris, 8 June 1773 at Tulieries a tremendous crowd of 50 000 people gathered to see the princess. She was described as a "charming beauty with fair skin, strawberry blonde hair and deep blue eyes."


2b70ed94a5417fb065f77c2fbadc4846--la-marquise-marie-antoinetteA Time of Popularity

Although the princess was initially very popular there were elder members of the court who deeply resented having an Austrian as heir to the throne and made her the target of outrageous smears, gossip and slander. Her first enemy was Madam Du Barry, the mistress of Louis XV. Marie Antoinette soon came to be the leading example of fashion in Versailles, outshining all the other women at court.


Generous

To make up for the lack of affection from her awkward husband and the endless criticisms from her mother, Marie Antoinette began to throw herself wholeheartedly into shopping and partying. Marie Antoinette was generous with her friends and with the poor alike. The princess also became a major patron of the arts and sponsored soup kitchens for the poor, innovating education for orphans and even adopting some unfortunates. Despite all this her enemies circulated rumours that she was extravagant, immoral and plastered the walls with gold and diamonds!


Bankruptcy

The real reason for France's increasing financial woes was actually the enormous debt incurred by France during the Seven Years War, and later the expense of assisting the North American colonies in their war against France's traditional rival, Great Britain.


Childless

As Louis ignored his wife for the first seven years of their marriage, Marie Antoinette was frequently taunted for her inability to produce an heir to the throne. A visit from her brother, the Emperor Joseph I, was necessary to persuade Louis XVI to become a devoted husband.


marie antoinette 021Coronation

When King Louis XV died of small pox at age 64 in 1775, her husband was crowned King Louis XVI of France at the Cathedral of Rheims. Marie Antoinette then became Her Majesty, the Queen of France.


Innovative

The Queen instituted significant changes in the customs practised at court, including abolishing the segregated dining spaces, and abandoning the heavy make-up and popular wide-hooped panniers. She also participated in plays and musicals and personally directed the education of her children. This was against all previous traditions of Versailles. She suffered a number of miscarriages, yet gave birth to four children, including the Dauphin who became Louis XVII.


Slandered

Despite her enemies depicting her as frivolous and heartless, she had many meaningful friendships, was an avid reader of historical novels, studied English, and certainly never said the quote attributed to her: "If they have no bread, let them eat cake!" All historians dismiss that as revolutionary propaganda which was attributed to the Queen because, being an Austrian by nationality, she made a convenient target for the revolutionaries.


Steadfast under Trial

Marie Antoinette demonstrated tremendous courage and steadfastness in the face of the violent mobs which stormed the palace at Versailles and kidnapped her and her family, imprisoning them and finally separating her husband and her son from her.

 

Marie Antoinette Execution1

Tribulation

After the summary trial of the king and his execution, 21 January 1793 at the age of 38, Marie Antoinette was plunged into deep mourning and her health rapidly deteriorated as she suffered from tuberculosis and cancer during her last months. On 14 October she was tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal and remained composed in the face of outrageous accusations and abuse. She declared her clear conscience, her Christian faith and her love for her children.


Courageous

On the same day her hair was cut off and she was driven through Paris in an open cart wearing a simple white dress. At 12:15pm, 16 October 1793, at the age of 37, she was executed at the Place De la Revolution (Today Place de la Concorde). She was courageous to the very last.


Restoration

In 1815, during the Restoration, both her body and that of Louis XVI were exhumed and received a decent Christian burial in the Necropolis of French Royalty at the Basilica of St. Denis.


Victim of Revolution

Few women have had to endure such a total reversal of fortunes, being born at the very apex of power and privilege in Europe and dying at the hands of such a brutal mob during the French Revolution. Marie Antoinette was a victim of circumstances completely outside of her control, yet she faced her fate with Christian courage and faith.


Dr. Peter Hammond

Reformation Society
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa
Tel: 021-689-4480
Email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website:www.ReformationSA.org

 

See also:

Bastille Day and Why Christians Should Not Celebrate the French Revolution.

 

The best book on the French Revolution is: Robespierre - Inside the French Revolution by Otto Scott, available from Christian Liberty Books, PO Box 358, Howard Place 7450, Cape Town, South Africa, Tel: 021-689-7478, Fax: 086-551-7490, Email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  and Website: www.christianlibertybooks.co.za.

 

Sources:

Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France by Evelyne Lever, St. Martins Griffin, 2000.

Marie Antoinette, The Journey by Antonia Fraser, anchor, 2001.

www.marie-antoinette.org.

 
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