The life of Marie Antoinette was, undeniably, a tragic one. It was a time of when the people were frustrated with poverty, and sought for revenge on the aristocrats, and on the injustice that they have experienced. It is sad to say that Marie Antoinette was not able to escape the same fate that most aristocrats suffered during the French Revolution.
While it is, of course, arguable that most accounts regarding Marie Antoinette’s life have shown that she was often referred to as “mauvaise fille, mauvaise epouse, mauvaise mere, mauviase reine, monstre en tout [bad daughter, bad wife, bad mother, bad queen, monster in everything]” (Hunt 110-111), her life, remains to be a life that is to be pitied, for it seems that she was thrust into the world without being introduced to it first—a fact which resulted in her own misery and death.
Marie Antoinette: The Beginning and the Ascend to the Throne
In 1769, Louis XV demanded that Empress Maria Teresa of Austria give her daughter’s hand in marriage to his grandson, Louis XVI. This was in lieu of the recent agreement that there would be a truce between France and Austria: the agreement states that in order to seal the friendship, it should be “cemented with marriage” (Zweig and Paul 3).
The daughter of Maria Teresa was Marie Antoinette, a beautiful young woman whom is said to have an appropriate standing, as well as commendable character. Louis XV found her suitable, and eventually, she was wed to the future king of France, Louis XVI, in the Easter of 1770, at the age of fourteen (Zweid and Paul 6).
As soon as she was married to the crown prince, she was able to experience new comforts in life. She was then part of the French court, and even gained the full approval of the king. She was able to have everything that she wants to have, and she was surrounded with various comforts (Marie Antoinette Online).
However, her life experienced a sudden change when the Louis XV died in 1774. Her husband, Louis XVI became the king of France in 1774, around four years after their marriage. Marie Antoinette, only eighteen years old, was then the new Queen of France. Her “enchanted life”(Marie Antoinette Online) has officially ended.
The Miserable Life of the Queen
Marie Antoinette, unfortunately, is often depicted in history as a villains, as an enemy. However, if one would read into her life and meticulously examine every detail, it will be realized that such a statement regarding Marie Antoinette was unfair and harsh.
Marie Antoinette, as a queen, was particularly bored of her duties; it must be understood that she was a very young queen, and yet she had to spend most of her time in various court rituals. She missed being able to pursuit her own desires, particularly those which are in the field of arts. Apart from these, she was not comfortable with being in constant public display, which is part of being a queen. Marie Antoinette preferred the kind of freedom and “relaxed environment” (Marie Antoinette Online) that she experienced when Louis XV was still alive.
On the other hand, as a wife to Louis XVI, she found herself in constant frustration. The man was not her heart’s desire, since their marriage was only the result of an agreement. Although Louis XVI eventually a doting husband to Marie Antoinette, the first years of their marriage was more of a torture to her (Marie Antoinette Online).
Unfortunately, since Marie Antoinette’s life a a queen bored her, she eventually resorted to creating a circle of friends with whom she would go around with. She showered them with expensive gifts, eventually ignoring other nobilities, much to their anger. The queen became extravagant and spent most of her time attending theatricals and masked balls, as well as gambling. In a short period of time, scandalous rumors spread about the queen, which angered many individuals at court (Marie Antoinette Online). In fact, nothing, not even honest speeches delivered by the queen, could make the members of the court feel at ease at her presence (Tytler 99).
A lot of them had often felt that it was wrong for Louis XV to have created an alliance with Austria—unfortunately, this was one of the reasons on Marie Antoinette’s eventual downfall from the throne (Marie Antoinette Online).
However, Marie Antoinette was a good woman who was only trying to find some enjoyment for herself. In fact, when she gave birth to her children, she became a very devoted mother, and abstained from “unmeaning amusement” (Zweig and Paul 143).
However, hatred for the queen kept on growing; a lot of accusations were thrown against her. She was accused of holding banquets to mock those who are starving and she was also accused of being a whore, that she attended orgies of sorts, and that she was was having sexual relations with her female friends. Such accusations were rather unfair, to say the least, since the queen has attended charitable events for the benefit of the poor. Marie Antoinette even allowed poor families to use the hameau; she had been good-hearted and unselfish in helping the citizens of France. However, her acts of kindness were ignored, and people sought to kill her (Marie Antoinette Online).
Eventually, the people’s hatred against their queen and the aristocrats had reached a desperate state. The Bastille fell, people killed the aristocrats, causing fear and havoc everywhere. The queen and king fled to Varennes but was eventually captured as a patriot recognized them and alerted other people. Her husband was killed in the guillotine in December 1792, and she suffered the same fate in October 1973. She was brought to the execution site, and had to endure her last moments hearing the jeers and taunts of her people. She, however, retained her pride, and sat up straight, despite the fact that her death is about to come (Marie Antoinette Online).
As seen in the aforementioned discussion, Marie Antoinette suffered throughout her life. She was unfairly accused by her people, and this eventually resulted to her horrendous death. She was not a villain—she was just a woman who had resorted to the best ways that she knew will make her happy, and yet, people misunderstood her actions as mere whim and selfishness.
According to one historian, Marie Antoinette was not a saint, but she was a guilty woman either. She may have been impulsive and extravagant, but she had certainly been a woman who was charming and well-endowed with “tenderness of heart” (Vidal). As seen in the aforementioned discussion, Marie Antoinette was a victim of circumstances, and yet she retained her pride, and even took her time to take care of her people.
Not only was she good to her people, she was also a good mother. Such characteristics of Marie Antoinette should be highlighted, for they are very important in understanding who she really is, rather than saying that she is the woman who roused the French Revolution with her extravagant and lecherous ways. In a way, such viewpoints of history have mislead people into believing that Marie Antoinette was a woman who did nothing for her people, providing only light to her mistakes and shortcomings as a person.
It is, of course, arguable that Marie Antoinette was not exactly a model queen, but this does not mean that she can be dismissed as an enemy, as an individual who was not able to do her job as a queen, as a mother, and as a women. Although history mostly shows her in a negative light, she remains, nevertheless, a strong woman who carried her head up until the end.
Hunt, Lynn. The Family Romance of the French Revolution. London: Routledge, 1992. Print.
Marie Antoinette Online. (2009). Marie Antoinette – A Biography. Marie Antoinette Online, 2009. Web. 30 Apr. 2010.
Tytler, Sarah. Marie Antoinette: The Woman and the Queen. Warwickshire: Read Books, 2009. Print.
Vidal, Elena Maria. “Marie-Antoinette and Friendship.” Tea at Rianon, 13 Sept. 2007. Web. 30 Apr. 2010.
Zweig, Stefan and Eden Paul. Marie Antoinette: The Portrait of an Average Woman. New York: Crown Publishers, 2002. Print.