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Marie Antoinette Essay

Marie Josephe Jeanne Antoinette was born on 2nd November 1795 in Vienna, Austria to the emperor Joseph and empress Maria Therese. Her mother was a very powerful woman, who had about 15 children in total.

In 1770, when she was only fourteen, Marie was married off to the French Dauphin (heir to the throne). Before she was married, Marie had to say goodbye to her parents and siblings, some of whom she would never see again, and travel to the Austrian/French border. It was here, in a tent on a platform situated in the middle of the River Rhine, that she was forced to strip off all her clothes and pass through the tent to France. They were married and Marie later gave birth to three children.

In 1774 her husband became King Louis XVI and she became Queen of France. The personalities of the two rulers were very different; Louis was phlegmatic and withdrawn, whilst Marie was happy, frivolous and imprudent in her actions and choice of friends.

Although she had been very popular upon her arrival in France, she soon became unpopular within the court and throughout the country. Her actions antagonised many nobles, including Louis’s brothers, and those Frenchmen who resented France’s recently formed alliance with Austria, who had been long regarded as the traditional enemy.

For the general population Marie Antoinette became regarded as a symbol of the extravagance of the court. Her reign as Queen was marked as the decline of the French Monarchy, and largely contributed to the outbreak of the French Revolution.

She was accused of frequently involving herself in foreign affairs, although the frequency of her interventions was exaggerated, her input in politics was usually to obtain positions for her friends. It is true, however, that she usually opposed the efforts of reforming ministers such as A. Turgot and became involved in court intrigues against them. Activities such as these, as well as her personal life, increased her unpopularity and let to streams of leaflets being published against her. Although, following the birth of her children, Marie Antoinette’s way of life became more restrained, this did little to alter her public image as an immoral and extravagant woman.

In summer 1788 Marie Antoinette granted the Third Estate as many representatives as many as the First and Second combined, she also agreed to the return of Jacques Necker as the Chief Minister.

Marie Antoinette’s role in the efforts of the monarchy was to work with such people as the Comte de Mirabeau and later with the monarchist A. P. Barnave, but she lacked confidence in them. On 21st June 1791 the royal couple attempted to escape, but they were caught. Following this Marie was convinced that only foreign intervention could save the French monarchy and so enlisted the help of her brother, the emperor Leopald II of Austria. Convinced that France would be easily defeated in her weak condition, Marie Antoinette favoured the declaration of war on Austria in April 1872.

On August 10th 1792, a mob stormed the Tuileries Palace and ended the monarchy. The following month the National Convention established the first French Republic.

On August 13th 1792, Marie Antoinette was imprisoned first in the Temple with her family and later in the Conciergerie. After a number of unsuccessful attempts to escape, she appeared before the Revolutionary Tribunal charged with aiding the enemy and iniciating civil war. She was found guilty and sentenced to death.

On 16th October 1793 she went to the guillotine where she was executed, as was her husband Louis XVI. Marie Antoinette was sympathised with for her dignity and courage in prison and before the executioner.


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