**Giveaway details at bottom of post!**
Once upon a time there were two podcasters who began their women’s history show with an episode about Marie Antoinette. Four and a half years later they revisited her life simply because they felt there was more to say about this woman who has been long misquoted and misunderstood. They were able to add a great deal of content and context and have a much longer conversation -two parts!- about the life of the last Queen of France.
(The first episode was never heard again and we all lived happily ever after.)
Maria Antoine Josepha Joanna was born into Austrian royalty on November 2, 1755. She was a girl with a fine pedigree, stunning looks, graceful carriage and a pleasant demeanor. The path of her life was created by her mother who took great pride and long thought into marrying-off her children not necessarily for love, but for political reasons. Her youngest daughter would be plunged into an extraordinary life in a foreign land first as the Dauphine of France, then as Queen, style icon, mother, and eventually, political prisoner and symbol of all that was wrong with her adopted country.
But this isn’t a Disney Princess story. It was one of patience, sacrifice, duty and planning, and –quite frankly- it wasn’t all big fashion, cake and champagne. That was the image, not the reality. In some regards, the history of Marie Antoinette was not only a result of her upbringing and the political climate, but she was also a victim of the social media of her time (and ultimately, the guillotine. Ouch.)
We cover the early life of Maria Antonia in more detail in the podcast (we cover EVERYTHING in more detail in the podcast), but let’s sum up her parents as this: Theirs was a very powerful marriage. Empress Maria Theresa had succeeded her father to the throne of a little collection of lands called the Holy Roman Empire (we jest, it was sizable) and with Papa, Holy Roman Emperor Francis I they created the Hapsburg-Lorraine dynasty. As part of her Empress duties, Maria Theresa grew her own collection of political pawns…er, children. Maria Antonia was the 15th of 16, and the 11th daughter.
Marie Antonia was so far down the marriage list it’s almost as if she was forgotten or put on a shelf “for later” for most of her happy, carefree childhood. But by the time that she was 10, Mama was forced to pull her off the shelf. A series of incidents took one, then another of her sisters out of the marriage game so when the Dauphin of France, Louis Auguste was ready to be matched to cement a Franco-Austrian alliance, the only contender was the sweet in temperament, pretty but seriously unpolished Maria Antonia. There were no other options; within in a couple of years the deal and her fate were set.
Tutors, stylists, hairdressers and 1700s orthodontia were brought in and and transformed Maria Antonia. Within a year she went from rough around the edges Archduchess to Queen-to-be.
The (happy?) couple had yet to set eyes upon each other in 1770 when Maria Antonia packed up, said her good-byes to the family and life that she knew and left Austria.
She would never return.
But what awaited 14 year-old Maria Antonia after her after 2 1/2 week journey with 57 carriages, 117 footmen, 376 horses? A new french name, Marie Antoinette, a 15 year-old future king for a husband and a little palace named Versailles. (Again, we jest, it was huge)
After a tour through the kingdom, the two had their second, in-person wedding full of pomp and champagne. They headed off to the marriage bed, all eyes on them to begin producing future rulers of France…and nothing happened.
For seven years nothing really happened in that marriage bed. Marie Antoinette’s life was busy though. She had styles to set, parties to attend, social rules to learn…then break. Within that time Louis took the throne after his grandfather died, and Marie Antoinette earned the love of their people as a kind, beautiful and oh, so stylish Queen.
We give you the full scoop on her partying days, her fashion, her friends, her life and her struggles during her first few years in France. And we carry on about the marriage consummation…seven YEARS?!
Will she and Louis ever get things working? Will she really party through the French Revolution? Who is Axel Von Fersen and just how important was he to Marie Antoinette?
And most importantly how did she get from beloved Queen to the gallows?
Part Two, our friends. We shall reveal all in Marie Antoinette Reboot, Part Deux
Having a bad day? Whatever day it is, you are NOT alone! Michael Farquhar has collected 365 historically bad days in his new book, Bad Days in History: A Gleefully Grim Chronicle of Misfortune, Mayhem, and Misery for Every Day of the Year.
From terrifying to tragic to sober or hysterical epic ooop-si-days happen to everyone. Some people just do them bigger and this book is the place to read about the biggest, baddest days ever.
The fine people of National Geographic have given us TWO copies to pass along to you. Post a comment (only one) proving you are a real person (maybe share your really bad day…or not, we aren’t nosey like that, you can just say hi or tell us your favorite historical woman or whatever appropriate comment you would like to make. Yes, we will delete offensive ones, we don’t tolerate that kind of antic.)
(All comments held for moderation. From home page: click COMMENTS at the top of the post, above the player bar; from the show page, comment field appears at bottom.)
(Media recommendations and links will be in the Shownotes for Part Two)