Marie Antoinette of Austria was born Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna of Austria (November 2, 1755 – October 16, 1793) she was the last Queen of France before the French Revolution. She was born an Archduchess of Austria and was the penultimate child and youngest daughter of Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa, Queen of Hungry, Bohemia and Archduchess of Austria and her husband Franz I, Holy Roman Emperor and Duke of Lorraine. Prior to her marriage she was known as Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria.
Maria Antonia was raised together with her sister, Maria Carolina, who was three years older, and with whom she had a lifelong close relationship. Maria Antonia had a difficult but ultimately loving relationship with her mother, who referred to her as “the little Madame Antoine”.
Under the teaching of Christoph Willibald Gluck, Maria Antonia developed into a good musician. She learned to play the harp, the harpsichord and the flute. She sang during the family’s evening gatherings, as she had a beautiful voice. She also excelled at dancing, had “exquisite” poise, and loved dolls.
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.
Following the Seven Years’ War and the Diplomatic Revolution of 1756, Empress Maria Theresa decided to end hostilities with her longtime enemy, King Louis XV of France. Their common desire to destroy the ambitions of Prussia and Great Britain and to secure a definitive peace between their respective countries led them to seal their alliance with a marriage. On February 7, 1770, Louis XV formally requested the hand of Maria Antonia for his eldest surviving grandson and heir, Louis-Auguste, duc de Berry and Dauphin of France.
Louis-Auguste de France, (August 23, 1754 – January 21, 1793) who was given the title Duc de Berry at birth, was born in the Palace of Versailles. One of seven children, he was the second surviving son of Louis, the Dauphin of France, (1729-1765) and the grandson of Louis XV of France (1710-1774) and of his consort, Maria Leszczyńska. His mother was Marie-Josèphe of Saxony, the daughter of Friedrich-August II, Prince-Elector of Saxony and King of Poland.
Louis-Auguste was overlooked by his parents who favored his older brother, Louis, duc de Bourgogne, who was regarded as bright and handsome but who died at the age of nine in 1761. Louis-Auguste, a strong and healthy boy but very shy, excelled in his studies and had a strong taste for Latin, history, geography, and astronomy and became fluent in Italian and English.
He enjoyed physical activities such as hunting with his grandfather and rough play with his younger brothers, Louis-Stanislas, comte de Provence, and Charles-Philippe, comte d’Artois. From an early age, Louis-Auguste was encouraged in another of his interests, locksmithing, which was seen as a useful pursuit for a child.
Maria Antonia formally renounced her rights to Habsburg domains, and on April 19, 1770 she was married by proxy to the Dauphin of France at the Augustinian Church in Vienna, with her brother Archduke Ferdinand standing in for the Dauphin.
On May 14, Maria Antonia at the age of 14 met her husband at the edge of the forest of Compiègne. Louis-August’s was aged 16. 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-Auguste and Marie Antoinette for the next seven years.
The initial reaction to the marriage between Marie Antoinette and Louis-Auguste was mixed. On the one hand, the Dauphine was beautiful, personable and well-liked by the common people. Her first official appearance in Paris on June 8, 1773 was a resounding success. On the other hand, those opposed to the alliance with Austria had a difficult relationship with Marie Antoinette, as did others who disliked her for more personal or petty reasons.
After eight years of marriage, Marie Antoinette gave birth to Marie Thérèse, the first of her four children. A growing percentage of the population came to dislike her, 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.
On May 10, 1774, her husband ascended the throne as King Louis XVI of France and Navarre and Marie Antoinette 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 21 September 21, 1792 when the monarchy was abolished.
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 13 August. On September 21, 1792, the monarchy was abolished. Louis XVI was executed on January 21, 1793. Marie Antoinette’s trial began on October 14, 1793, and two days later she was convicted by the Revolutionary Tribunal of high treason and executed by guillotine on the Place de la Révolution.