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Marie Antoinette Josèphe Jeanne of Austria (née Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna; November 2, 1755 – October 16, 1793) was the last Queen of France and Navarre before the French Revolution.

Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria was a member of the House of Habsburg and the youngest daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Franz I and his wife, the Empress Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria, Queen of Bohemia, Hungary and Croatia.

Maria Antonia spent her formative years between the Hofburg Palace and Schönbrunn, the imperial summer residence in Vienna, where on October 13, 1762, when she was seven, she met Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, two months her junior and a child prodigy.

Despite the private tutoring she received, the results of her schooling were less than satisfactory. At the age of 10 she could not write correctly in German or in any language commonly used at court, such as French or Italian, and conversations with her were stilted.

Maria Antonia was raised together with her sister, Archduchess Maria Carolina, who was three years older, and with whom she had a lifelong close relationship. Maria Carolina of Austria (1752 – 1814) was Queen of Naples and Sicily as the wife of King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies.

Maria Carolina of Austria, sister of Marie Antoinette

Maria Antonia had a difficult but ultimately loving relationship with her mother, who referred to her as “the little Madame Antoine”.

Maria Antonia formally renounced her rights to Habsburg domains, and on April 19 she was married by proxy to the Dauphin of France, Louis Augusté at the Augustinian Church in Vienna, with her brother Archduke Ferdinand standing in for the Dauphin.

On May 14, she met her husband at the edge of the forest of Compiègne. Upon her arrival in France, she adopted the French version of her name: Marie Antoinette. A further ceremonial wedding took place on May 16, 1770 in the Palace of Versailles and, after the festivities, the day ended with the ritual bedding. The couple’s longtime failure to consummate the marriage plagued the reputations of both Louis-Augusté and Marie Antoinette for the next seven years.

The marriage was met with hostility from the French public. France’s alliance with Austria had pulled the country into the disastrous Seven Years’ War, in which it was defeated by the British and the Prussians, both in Europe and in North America. By the time that Louis-Augusté and Marie-Antoinette were married, the French people generally disliked the Austrian alliance, and Marie-Antoinette was seen as an unwelcome foreigner.

When Louis Augusté’s father died in 1765, he became the new Dauphin. Upon his grandfather’s death on May 10, 1774, he assumed the title King of France and Navarre and she became Queen Consort of France and Navarre.

Marie Antoinette’s position at court improved when, after eight years of marriage, she started having children. She became increasingly unpopular among the people, however, with the French libelles accusing her of being profligate, promiscuous, harboring sympathies for France’s perceived enemies—particularly her native Austria—and her children of being illegitimate.

The false accusations of the Affair of the Diamond Necklace damaged her reputation further. During the Revolution, she became known as Madame Déficit because the country’s financial crisis was blamed on her lavish spending and her opposition to the social and financial reforms of Turgot and Necker.

Several events were linked to Marie Antoinette during the Revolution after the government had placed the royal family under house arrest in the Tuileries Palace in October 1789.

The June 1791 attempted flight to Varennes and her role in the War of the First Coalition had disastrous effects on French popular opinion. On August 10, 1792, the attack on the Tuileries forced the royal family to take refuge at the Assembly, and they were imprisoned in the Temple Prison on August 13.

On September 21, 1792, the monarchy was abolished. Louis XVI was executed by guillotine on January 21, 1793.

Marie Antoinette’s trial began on October 14, 1793; she was convicted two days later by the Revolutionary Tribunal of high treason and executed, also by guillotine, at the Place de la Révolution.