In Part One we talked about Marie Antoinette’s childhood, the speedy preparations for marriage and her early years in France. In this episode, the conclusion of our revisit, we get to the rest of her story as she travels from well-liked to queen to the (dramatic pause) guillotine.
Husband, Louis XVI, while fumbly in the Create an Heir department and lacking a lot of things in common with her, was kind to Marie. During her, let’s call them “party years” he indulged her and gave her a little playhouse all her own so that she could escape the demands, traditions and all the backstabby, gossipy people of Versailles: Le Petite Trianon. It was a place Marie could let her hair down, grant admission to only those who she invited and frolic and dress like a fair country maiden (Disney World style– no need to actually take care of the animals, that’s what the servants are for).
Marie and Axel kissing in a hameau…did they or didn’t they? We can only speculate…and we do in the podcast. But whatever the truth we do know this: Louis and Marie FINALLY figured out how to make babies and her first, a girl she named after her mother, was born when Marie was 23. Three years later she had a son, shortly after that another son and lastly another girl. But two of her children died very young leaving her first and third born their only children.
Motherhood softened Marie and slowed down her partying ways. She dressed less flashy and slowly began to see what was happening to France outside the protected walls of Versailles…and it wasn’t good. Drought, crop failure, a heavy financial support of the American Revolution that was draining the royal funds and increasing taxation was making the common man very angry at the aristocracy in general. Marie became the target of their ire. So what that she wasn’t responsible for their troubles or ALL the spending? She represented everything that the people felt was wrong; even with her hair let down she made for a very big target.
Marie’s life was crumbling: first the death of her children and her mother on top of the fallout of a scam surrounding a very expensive bauble (not her fault but do facts really matter when a mob is looking for a scapegoat?). On July 14, 1789 a group of upset and motivated Parisians stormed the Bastille, a prison, looking for weapons and a revolution began to take shape. More skirmishes and angry mobs led Louis to attempt to flee, Marie to try to negotiate with her family in Austria, and many plans to be formed and bungled. The family was soon imprisoned in the Tuilleries.
Like everything else in Marie’s story we go into far greater detail in the podcast but conditions and treatment of the family was decent at the beginning, then not so much. Louis was executed first, then Marie was put on trial accused of treason, but it was really a formality and she was quickly sentenced to death.
On October 16, 1793 Marie Antoinette wearing a simple white dress and plum colored shoes was executed. Her son, Louis Charles, died within two years from horrible treatment in prison. Speculation about his death lasted long after and his heart longer still.
Daughter Marie Therese was released at 17, married-off for political reasons and was queen on a technicality for as long as it took her husband to abdicate. She died at the age of 73, childless and in exile in Austria.
Marie Antoinette was originally buried in an unmarked mass grave but in 1815 she was exhumed and moved to more plush digs: the Bourbon family crypt in Paris.
Killing off the rumor that she said, “let them eat cake” is still a mission of women’s history podcasters to this very day.
Time Travel with The History Chicks
Marie Antoinette’s legacy is in full force over 220 years after she tripped up the gallows stairs…long live her appeal!
Let’s be honest, not all of us are going to make it to Paris, but we can still visit her old haunt! (Have you hugged your internet today?)
Versailles! There is so much to do on the official Versailles website, it’s almost (sorta, kinda…no, not really) like visiting.
We have a strong suspicion that you like your content via audio. Rick Steve’s audio tours of Paris might be just the thing to get you around the sights!
Just go ahead and bookmark this for ANY period clothing references. The Costumer’s Manifesto
Beckett’s fabulous Pinterest board for Marie Antoinette!
The Smithsonian, check them out for even more intel!
We are a part of some mini-documentaries that may add to your knowledge bank! Here are links, (Le Petite Trianon, Louis XIV, The Affair of the Diamond Necklace but in case you want to watch one RIGHT NOW:
A couple more beautiful sites chock full of intel about the era: Marie Antoinette’s Gossip Guide to the 18th Century and Madame Guillotine
The dress-up doll game Susan talked about is at Doll Divine
So what she left out a child…and a few other things…it’s BEAUTIFUL!