Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette had her head chopped off, and for what?  Being born rich may make you unpleasant, but it isn’t a crime.  Not being able to tell bread from cake isn’t either.  But they chopped her head off anyway, with the guillotine, the most popular means of mass murder at the time.

Antoinette (baptized Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna or Maria Antonia Josephina Johanna) was born in 1755 in Austria to the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, being declared “a small, but completely healthy Archduchess”.  Her upbringing was considered relatively liberal at the time, being allowed to play with children slightly less rich than herself.  Her schoolwork was poor, when not completed by her tutors out of fear for their jobs.

When she came of marrying age (twelve) Antoinette was sent to the royal court of her country’s traditional enemy, France, where she was welcomed by the people as “the other bitch”.  She was begrudgingly accepted by the court after three months of painful dental surgery.  Finally, she was married by proxy to the future Louis XVI, with her brother Ferdinand standing in as the groom.

Even after meeting Louis, Antoinette still had a hard time fitting in at court, particularly amongst her husband’s mistresses.  In their correspondences, her mother attributed Louis’ inattention to Antoinette’s failure as a beauty and woman of grace, which helped.

After her implied coronation as Queen of France, any attempts to influence national policy were blocked by anti-Austrian sentiments in the court, including those of the King. Turning to the private extravagances of fashion, gambling, and gardening, she became a matter of some scandal, which lessened slightly after she and her husband consummated their marriage.

In-between children, Antoinette continued her previous hobbies, as well as amateur theatre.  She liked historical novels, balloons, and the Incas, though probably not enough to do homework on.  All the while, the supply of bread kept getting shorter, and the people of France angrier.  However, Antoinette never did say “Let them eat cake,” or anything of the sort, and no one said she did until 1843.

Finally, the people noticed how nice Versailles was in comparison to their own houses, and moved her and her family to a more democratic home.  They lived there, between escape attempts, for five years, until, she was given trial for being a traitor to something or other.  Despite being allowed nearly a day of preparation, she lost, and was sentenced to death by guillotine.  This was carried out just after she apologized to the executioner for stepping on his foot.

The life of Marie Antoinette shows us how great it is to be part of the upper crust, through no merit of your own, until the revolution marks you for death, through no fault of your own.  C’est la vie.

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