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The last Queen of France and Navarre before the French Revolution was born (Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna; November 2, 1755 – October 16, 1793) an Archduchess of Austria and was the penultimate child and youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and Franz I, Holy Roman Emperor. She became Dauphine of France in May 1770 at age 14 upon her marriage to Louis-Auguste, heir apparent to the French throne. On May 10, 1774, her husband ascended the throne as Louis XVI and she assumed the title Queen of France and Navarre, which she held until September 1791, when she became Queen of the French as the French Revolution proceeded, a title that she held until September 21, 1792.

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On September 21, 1792, the fall of the monarchy was officially declared and the National Convention became the governing body of the French Republic. The royal family name was downgraded to the non-royal “Capets”. Preparations began for the trial of the king in a court of law.

Charged with undermining the First French Republic, Louis XVI was separated from his family and tried in December. He was found guilty by the Convention, led by the Jacobins who rejected the idea of keeping him as a hostage. On 15 January 1793, by a majority of one vote, that of his cousin, Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, known then as Philippe Égalité, he was condemned to death by guillotine and executed on 21 January 21, 1793.

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After Louis’ execution, Marie Antoinette’s fate became a central question of the National Convention. While some advocated her death, others proposed exchanging her for French prisoners of war or for a ransom from Franz II, Holy Roman Emperor. Thomas Paine advocated exile to America.

After months of captivity Marie Antoinette was tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal on October 14, 1793. Some historians believe the outcome of the trial had been decided in advance by the Committee of Public Safety around the time the Carnation Plot was uncovered. She and her lawyers were given less than one day to prepare her defense. Among the accusations, many previously published in the libelles, were: orchestrating orgies in Versailles, sending millions of livres of treasury money to Austria, planning the massacre of the gardes françaises (National Guards) in 1792, declaring her son to be the new king of France, and incest, a charge made by her son Louis-Charles, (the nominal King Louis XVII) pressured into doing so by the radical Jacques Hébert who controlled him. This last accusation drew an emotional response from Marie Antoinette, who refused to respond to this charge, instead appealing to all mothers present in the room; their reaction comforted her, since these women were not otherwise sympathetic to her.

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Early on October 16, Marie Antoinette was declared guilty of the three main charges against her: depletion of the national treasury, conspiracy against the internal and external security of the State, and high treason because of her intelligence activities in the interest of the enemy; the latter charge alone was enough to condemn her to death. At worst, she and her lawyers had expected life imprisonment. In the hours left to her, she composed a letter to her sister-in-law, Madame Élisabeth, affirming her clear conscience, her Catholic faith, and her love and concern for her children. The letter did not reach Élisabeth. Her will was part of the collection of papers of Robespierre found under his bed and were published by Edme-Bonaventure Courtois.

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Preparing for her execution, she had to change clothes in front of her guards. She put on a plain white dress, white being the color worn by widowed queens of France. Her hair was shorn, her hands bound painfully behind her back and she was put on a rope leash. Unlike her husband, who had been taken to his execution in a carriage (carrosse), she had to sit in an open cart (charrette) for the hour it took to convey her from the Conciergerie via the rue Saint-Honoré thoroughfare to reach the guillotine erected in the Place de la Révolution (the present-day Place de la Concorde). She maintained her composure, despite the insults of the jeering crowd. A constitutional priest was assigned to her to hear her final confession. He sat by her in the cart, but she ignored him all the way to the scaffold.

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Marie Antoinette was guillotined at 12:15 p.m. on October 16, 1793. Her last words are recorded as, “Pardonnez-moi, monsieur. Je ne l’ai pas fait exprès” or “Pardon me, sir, I did not do it on purpose”, after accidentally stepping on her executioner’s shoe. Her head was one of which Marie Tussaud was employed to make death masks. Her body was thrown into an unmarked grave in the Madeleine cemetery located close by in rue d’Anjou. Because its capacity was exhausted the cemetery was closed the following year, on March 25, 1794.

Both Marie Antoinette’s and Louis XVI’s bodies were exhumed on January 18, 1815, during the Bourbon Restoration, when Prince Louis Stanislas, Comte de Provence ascended the newly reestablished throne as King Louis XVIII of France and of Navarre. Christian burial of the royal remains took place three days later, on January 21, in the necropolis of French kings at the Basilica of St Denis.