Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) was an Austrian archduchess who became the wife of Louis XVI of France. She was the last Queen of France before the French Revolution. Her love of fashion, gambling, and other expensive pursuits led to her become the symbol of everything that was wrong with the monarchy. The French people despised her, and she was eventually tried for treason and sentenced to death.
Let’s have a look at the top 10 most interesting facts about Marie Antoinette.
Marie Antoinette Facts
1. She was only 14 when she was married.
Marie Antoinette was the youngest daughter of Maria Theresa, empress of Austria, and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. Her marriage to Louis was designed to preserve French Austrian relations in war-torn Europe, an interesting Marie Antoinette fact. She was only 14 years old on her wedding day, May 16, 1770. The wedding took place the day after she met Louis for the first time. He was only a year older than her.
2. Marie Antoinette probably did NOT say, “Let them eat cake.”.
The last French queen is often quoted as replying, “Let them eat cake” when told how the French people were starving. But there is no evidence that she ever said this. This response by a noblewoman appears in a book written by the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1766 when Marie Antoinette was just 11 years old. It was most likely propaganda spread to discredit her to the French people.
3. She loved acting.
Another thing that built resentment towards Marie Antoinette was her hobby of playacting. She had a theatre built at her private palace, the Petit Trianon, where she and her friends would amuse themselves performing plays and musicals. She also had a fantasy village built with a real dairy and a barn that also served as a ballroom. The queen would delight in dressing as a simple shepherdess, but the people took offense at her romanticizing their difficult lives.
4. Her hairstyles were three feet high.
On the coronation of her husband in 1775, Marie Antoinette wore her hair in a style called the “pouf,” which set off the fashion amongst French ladies. The style was elaborate and labor-intensive. It involved building up the hair with false hairpieces and shaped cushions (or “poufs”), sometimes as high as three feet, an interesting Marie Antoinette fact. Whole scenes would be depicted in the hair – sea battles complete with battleships, animals, birds, flowers, and other novelty items.
5. Marie Antoinette was nicknamed “Madame Deficit.”
Marie Antoinette’s extravagant lifestyle was blamed for the poor state of the nation’s finances, and she was given the nickname “Madame Deficit”. But France was already virtually bankrupt by the time Louis XVI became king. They were also assisting the colonists in the American Civil War against Britain, which was very expensive. And Marie Antoinette was not the only big spender at court. Her brother-in-law apparently had even more shoes than she did – a pair for every day of the year.
6. She tried unsuccessfully to leave France.
As public sentiment rose up against the monarchy, the queen tried to persuade her husband to leave France, but he remained indecisive. She declined a number of attempts to get her out of France without her family. Then in April 1791, the royal family was prevented by the National Guard from leaving Paris to attend an Easter church service in St Cloud. This event finally convinced the king that the royal family was no longer free, and he agreed to leave. In June 1971, the family made an attempt to flee Paris in an elaborate plot that involved them dressing up as servants of an imaginary Russian dignitary. An interesting fact about Marie Antoinette is that she were captured 24 hours later at Varennes and brought back to Paris to jeering mobs.
7. Marie Antoinette spent the last years of her life in jail.
After their attempted escape, the royal family was kept under guard in the Tuileries Palace in Paris. But in August 1972, they were moved to much harsher conditions in the Temple Prison, an old fort. Within a few months, the king was executed, and Marie Antoinette’s 8-year-old son Louis XVII was taken from her to be raised as a son of the revolution by a cobbler. The queen’s fate was unsettled at first. There was some discussion of exchanging her for prisoners of war or a ransom, and even exiling her to America. But in the end, she was transferred to the Conciergerie prison to await trial. Here she lost all privileges and privacy.
8. She was beheaded by guillotine.
On October 14, 1793, Marie Antoinette was tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal and found guilty of high treason and other charges. Two days later, she was driven through the streets in an open cart to be guillotined. She maintained her composure throughout, even apologizing to the executioner for accidentally stepping on his foot. She was only 37 years old.
9. Her body was exhumed.
In 1815, Louis XVI’s brother, Louis XVIII, was returned to the throne. He ordered that Marie Antoinette’s body be exhumed from the commoner’s grave she’d been placed in after she was executed. She and her husband were re-buried with other royals in Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis.
10. Marie Antoinette Syndrome is a real medical condition.
An interesting fact about Marie Antoinette is that legend has it that her hair turned white overnight the night from stress. While it’s unlikely to have happened overnight, there are a few medical conditions that may lead to accelerated loss of hair color. A 2009 paper in the Archives of Dermatology coined the phrase “Marie Antoinette Syndrome” for the sudden whitening of scalp hair. It could also have been that she was unable to dye her hair in jail.
Marie Antoinette is often accused of causing the French revolution through her decadence and insensitivity to the French people. In reality, she was a political pawn. Sent as a child to a foreign country whose people hated her, to marry a man she didn’t know and shared nothing in common. And now you know ten interesting facts about Marie Antoinette!
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