A fourteen year old Austrian Archduchess named Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna married the future Louis XVI of France by proxy on 19 April 1770. Her name was officially changed to the Francophone pronunciation of Marie Antoinette, and she became the Queen of France and of Navarre on May 10, 1774.
Being queen would eventually kill her, but not before her reputation was falsely dragged through the muck.
Marie Antoinette was the lightning rod for French dissatisfaction, because she was seen as an Austrian interloper and femme fatale. As happens to all women who are seen as “bad”, she was accused of promiscuity and lavishly slut shamed; another victim of The Jezebel Effect. Among other things, she “was falsely accused in the libelles of conducting an affair with [Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette who had a major role in the American victory over the English in the Revolutionary War], whom she loathed, and, as was published in “Le Godmiché Royal” (translated, “The Royal Dildo“), on having a sexual relationship with the English Baroness ‘Lady Sophie Farrell’ of Bournemouth, a well-known lesbian of the time.” At her “trial” by the Revolutionary Tribunal on October 14, 1793, Marie Antoinette was furthermore accused of staging orgies at Versailles and sexually assaulting her own son. None of these things were true.
However, the young girl getting married on a lovely spring day at the Augustinian Church in Vienna wouldn’t have foreseen anything other than the privilege and pleasure of becoming Queen of France. She said her vows without ever having seen her fifteen year old groom; her brother served as the royal stand-in for Louis. A few weeks later the teen bride set off for France, escorted by 57 carriages, 117 footmen and 376 horses. She met her spouse and his grandfather, Louis XV, in the Picardy region of France on 14 May, where she knelt before the king and was briefly embraced by her shy husband. She was brought to the Palace of Versailles where another formal marriage ceremony took place two days later. Marie Antoinette did not make her first official appearance in Paris until 8 June 1773.
From the first, Marie Antoinette was over her head at the new court. She was a talented musician and could dance like a dream, but she wasn’t the brightest crayon in the box and she was utterly lacking in statecraft or political acumen. Homesick, she turned to her new husband’s aunts to be mothered and comforted, and they gave her appallingly bad advice and used her to socially punish the king’s mistress Madame du Barry. In the first decade she was queen, she seldom interfered in government, except to plead for policies on behalf of her siblings. Instead, she spent her time gambling, playing, and pushing fashion away from clumsy dresses and heavy makeup in favor of a “more simple feminine look, typified first by the rustic robe à la polonaise and later by the gaulle, a simple muslin dress Marie Antoinette wore in a 1783 Vigée-Le Brun portrait”.
Maria Antoinette would eventually excel at motherhood as much as she did in style. Her children were her beloved focus, even as the erroneous reports of her supposed evils spread throughout the country and the the first rumbles of the French Revolution shook Versailles. The queen even “adopted a number of children during her reign. When one of her maids died, Marie adopted the woman’s orphaned daughter, who became a companion to Marie’s own first daughter. Similarly, when an usher and his wife died suddenly, Marie adopted the three children, paying for two girls to enter a convent while the third became a companion for her son Louis-Charles. Most strikingly, she baptized and took into her care a Senegalese boy presented to her as a gift, who normally would have been pressed into service.”
Alas for Marie Antoinette, she would see her world crumble, her husband murdered, and her children imprisoned. In the summer of 1792, she and her two surviving children, Maria-Therese and Louis-Charles, would be captured by an armed mob (which slaughtered the Swiss Guards attempting to protect the royal family) and carried off to the Temple fortress in Paris.
Louis XVI would be guillotined in January of 1793, making Marie Antoinette a widow and their seven-year-old son King Louis XVII of France.
Although the queen would be executed in October when both her remaining children were alive, her little boy would be brutalized in prison and die of tuberculosis at age ten. Upon examining the small king’s body, a doctor was horrified to find a multitude of “scars from abuses of the poor boy, such as whippings, all over the front and back of his torso as well as on his arms, legs, and feet”. The eldest daughter would live to see the restoration, but she would never have children of her own.
Such an inauspicious end to the family that began on 19 April, 1770.