Women In History

Maria Antoinette

Women In History

Possibly one of the most misunderstood women in history, the name of Maria Antoinette is well-known.

The last Queen of France was sent to the guillotine at the young age of 37, and some of her last words were courageous: “Courage! I have shown it for many years; think you I shall lose it at the moment when my sufferings are to end!” Yes, this Queen is an Inspiration!

The Archduchess Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna Von Hasburg Lothringen (Maria Antoinette) was born on November 22nd, 1755, at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. This little girl was the 15th child of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I Stephen and Empress Maria Theresa. As a child, this little princess had a very carefree life and was allowed to play alongside ‘commoners’, and would enjoy the winter snows, sledding with her brothers freely through the Austrian countryside “in a swan shaped sledge.” Maria was fond of comedy and performing, and was encouraged to entertain the Royal Court with her singing and dancing. Partying became a big part of her life but her mother also taught Maria how to gamble. Unusually, Maria’s father would lavish his attention on his little daughter. Sadly for Maria, Francis I Stephen (her father) died of a stroke, when she was only 9 years of age.

From a young age, this princess had to wear a ‘pelican’ (a device designed to straighten the crooked teeth) which sounds very painful for the little girl.

Maria was ‘trained’ to be a beauty but she also received a formal education too. Study did not interest Maria and she knew almost nothing about her own country (according to her governesses, it wasn’t for want of trying).Rather, she enjoyed musical interest. Her handwriting was ‘poor’ and has only a grasp of French but Maria could speak Italian and Latin eloquently.

Maria was now ‘catapulted’ into a crash course to prepare her for her new life as the Queen of France. She spent a whole year preparing her for life in Versailles, including trying to improve her grasp on the French language. At 14 years of age, it was believed that this young princess was ready to go into her new life. Time taught poor Maria that she was very unprepared and under-educated.

Maria Antoinette married Louis (the young French prince) when she was 14 years of age and the prince was 15 years of age. The marriage was by proxy on May 7th, 1770. This marriage was to secure the existing alliance between France and Vienna. Two days after this, Maria arrived at the Palace of Versailles where there were held the formal marriage and celebrations. The young couple met at the King’s study for the first time. The couple now had their official wedding ceremony and the celebrations afterwards almost shut down France.

France, at that time, was a very different country. The French Royal Family were “ON SHOW” ALL of the time! From the moment someone woke up to being put to bed at night, the whole day was like a scene out of a play. Eating and even giving birth was on show.

It seemed that the young couple did not consummate the marriage for the next seven years. The prince was not interested in his beautiful new, young wife. He went out hunting and she held parties and gambled. Thinking about how young the couple were, it is no wonder they wanted to wait.

In 1774, the prince succeeded to the throne. It was vital the new King of France had an heir. In 1777, Maria became pregnant, at last, and gave birth to a little princess, Marie Therese Charlotte, in 1778. Marie, the Queen of France, gave birth before “a live audience.” The rest of her children were born in private. In 1781 came Louis Joseph Xavier Francoise, in 1785 came Sophie Beatrix.

In 1783, the Hameau de la Reine was constructed. It was a fake rustic village where Maria could go to for the peace and quiet she so desired. Here, she and the children could relax and enjoy the countryside environment. Unfortunately, because the King rarely visited, propaganda condemned Maria saying that she had many extra-marital affairs here. Considering the lack of privacy, even in this ideal setting, this was very unlikely.

Propaganda again spread lies about the Queen of France and people who believed them started to hate Maria. Now she was being called a lesbian (which was just not accepted back then). There is no evidence to support these lies. To those outside the Palace (and even the ordinary people) Maria was now a frivolous woman who spent a lot of money whilst the people of France starved. The expression: “let them eat cake” by ‘Madame Deficit’ was spread which fuelled the anger that was already stirring. History tells us that Maria Antoinette never actually said those words --- more lies that were spread about this woman who was actually quite caring about other people!

When the life of the French people became ‘catastrophic’, Maria attempted to save money on her annual expenses. She got rid of ‘unnecessary staff’ and stopped some of the privileges of the Upper Classes, but Maria still carried on gambling and having ‘extravagant’ parties which was a mistake on her part.

Maria did, however, set up a home for unwed mothers, adopted poor children to be raised as her own and paid for the education of impoverished children.

Poor Maria was also said to have influenced the King where politics were concerned, but considering her lack of education (as a child), this is highly unlikely.

In 11789, the people of France lost control, whipped up by the lies of propaganda, and a mob descended on the Palace of Versailles wanting the blood of the French Royal Family. The Family were taken to the Tuileries Palace in Paris and were put under house-arrest. The Family tried to escape but were caught and this was now the start of the end for the King and Queen of France.

Louis was arrested on January 21st, 1793. Nine months later, Maria was fully tried and was executed on October 16th, 1793, at just 37 years of age, by ‘Madame Guillotine’ at Place de la Concorde.

I draw Inspiration from this woman who was so cruelly lied about, so much so, that it meant her execution. Maria was Courageous, even until the end, and never let the hatred of these liars to destroy her caring personality.

Look out for more articles on Women in History.

Most of the information came from the book “A Short History of Maria Antoinette” by Jessica Manson.

history
Ruth Elizabeth Stiff
Ruth Elizabeth Stiff
Read next: The State
Ruth Elizabeth Stiff

I love all things Earthy and Self-Help

History is one of my favourite subjects and I love to write short fiction

Research is so interesting for me too

See all posts by Ruth Elizabeth Stiff