Marie Antoinette

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Marie Antoinette

(ăntwənĕt`, äNtwänĕt`), 1755–93, queen of France, wife of King Louis XVILouis XVI,
1754–93, king of France (1774–92), third son of the dauphin (Louis) and Marie Josèphe of Saxony, grandson and successor of King Louis XV. In 1770 he married the Austrian archduchess Marie Antoinette.
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 and daughter of Austrian Archduchess Maria TheresaMaria Theresa
, 1717–80, Austrian archduchess, queen of Bohemia and Hungary (1740–80), consort of Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and dowager empress after the accession (1765) of her son, Joseph II.
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 and Holy Roman Emperor Francis IFrancis I,
1708–65, Holy Roman emperor (1745–65), duke of Lorraine (1729–37) as Francis Stephen, grand duke of Tuscany (1737–65), husband of Archduchess Maria Theresa.
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. She was married in 1770 to the dauphin, who became king in 1774. Her marriage had been made to strengthen France's alliance with its long-time enemy, Austria. The union, however, was not altogether popular, and Marie Antoinette's actions only increased hostility toward her. She constantly sought the advice of the Austrian ambassador and attempted to influence French foreign policy in favor of Austria.

Unhappy in her marriage, which remained unconsummated for seven years, she surrounded herself with a dissolute clique, led by Yolande de PolignacPolignac, Yolande Martine Gabrielle de Polastron, duchesse de
, c.1749–1793, favorite of Queen Marie Antoinette of France. Her husband, Jules, comte de Polignac, was created duke and acquired a huge fortune through her favor with the queen.
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 and Marie Thérèse de LamballeLamballe, Marie Thérèse Louise de Savoie-Carignan, princesse de
, 1749–92, devoted friend and favorite of Queen Marie Antoinette of France. Extremely unpopular, she was killed by a mob during the French Revolution in the September massacres (1792), and her
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, and threw herself into a life of pleasure and careless extravagance. Her notorious reputation led to scandals such as the Affair of the Diamond NecklaceDiamond Necklace, Affair of the,
scandal that took place at the court of King Louis XVI of France just before the French Revolution. An adventuress who called herself the comtesse de La Motte duped Cardinal de Rohan, the grand almoner, who was out of favor with Queen Marie
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 and to rumors concerning her relations with officers of the guard and with Hans Axel FersenFersen, Count Hans Axel,
1755–1810, Swedish soldier and diplomat; son of Count Fredrik Axel Fersen. He entered (1779) the French service, was aide-de-camp of comte de Rochambeau in the American Revolution, and later at the court of Versailles became a favorite of Marie
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. The famous solution to the bread famine, "Let them eat cake," is unjustly attributed to the queen, but it is certain that Marie Antoinette lacked understanding of economic problems. With the birth of her first son, her life became more sedate.

Although she had contributed to the downfall of A. R. J. TurgotTurgot, Anne Robert Jacques
, 1727–81, French economist, comptroller general of finances (1774–76). The son of a rich merchant, he showed precocious ability at school and at the Sorbonne.
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 in 1776 and was hostile to Jacques NeckerNecker, Jacques
, 1732–1804, French financier and statesman, b. Geneva, Switzerland. In 1750 he went to Paris and entered banking. He rose rapidly to importance, established a bank of his own, and became a director of the French East India Company.
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, her influence on the king's decisions during the first two years of the French RevolutionFrench Revolution,
political upheaval of world importance in France that began in 1789. Origins of the Revolution

Historians disagree in evaluating the factors that brought about the Revolution.
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 (1789–91) has been exaggerated. She was brought with the king from Versailles to Paris (Oct., 1789) and was seized at Varennes when the royal family attempted to escape (1791). Despite her hatred of the Revolution, the apathy of the king forced her to conduct negotiations first with the comte de MirabeauMirabeau, Honoré Gabriel Riquetti or Riqueti, comte de
, 1749–91, French revolutionary and political leader; son of Victor de Mirabeau.
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, then with Antoine BarnaveBarnave, Antoine Pierre Joseph Marie
, 1761–93, French revolutionary. A member of the States-General of 1789 from Grenoble, he was a brilliant speaker and leader of the Jacobins.
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. Simultaneously, however, she secretly urged Austrian intervention; after war was declared, she fully identified the cause of the Bourbon dynasty with that of France.

After the storming of the Tuileries palace (Aug., 1792), she and her husband were removed to the Temple and accused of treason. The king was executed in Jan., 1793. Marie Antoinette's son was taken from her (see Louis XVIILouis XVII
(Louis Charles), 1785–1795?, titular king of France (1793–95), known in popular legend as the "lost dauphin." The second son of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, he became dauphin at the death (1789) of his elder brother.
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), and she was transferred to the Conciergerie. Known derisively as the "Widow Capet," she was tried before the Revolutionary Tribunal (Oct. 14–15, 1793), found guilty, and guillotined (Oct. 16). In her last misfortunes she displayed steadfastness, courage, serenity, and dignity. Her portraits, notably by Élisabeth Vigée-LebrunVigée-Lebrun, Élisabeth
, 1755–1842, French portrait painter; pupil of her father, the painter Louis Vigée. She was influenced by Greuze. Summoned to Versailles in 1779 to paint Marie Antoinette, she embarked upon a long and successful career.
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, are well known.

Bibliography

Among Marie Antoinette's published correspondence see Lettres de Marie Antoinette (2 vol., 1895–96) and Olivier Bernier ed., Secrets of Marie Antoinette: A Collection of Letters (1986). See also biographies by S. Zweig (tr. 1933), A. Castelot (tr., 1957), D. M. Mayer (1969), P. Huisman (tr. 1971), J. Haslip (1987), A. Fraser (2001), and C. Weber (2006).

Marie Antoinette

 

Born Nov. 2, 1755, in Vienna; died Oct. 16, 1793, in Paris. French queen; wife of the French king Louis XVI (from 1770); daughter of the Austrian emperor Francis I and the empress Maria Theresa.

Before the Great French Revolution, Marie Antoinette spent enormous sums on amusements (she was nicknamed Madame Deficit) and repeatedly sought the dismissal of ministers (such as A. Turgot and J. Necker) who attempted to carry out financial reforms and reduce the expenditures of the court. From the beginning of the revolution, she was an instigator of counterrevolutionary plots and foreign interventions. After the overthrow of the monarchy on Aug. 10, 1792, she was arrested and, by sentence of the court, guillotined.

REFERENCES

Arnaud-Bouteloup, J. Le Role politique de Marie-Antoinette. Orleans, 1924.
Maze, J. Louis XVI et Marie-Antoinette, vols. 1-2. Paris, 1949-52. Castelot, A. Marie-Antoinette, 4th ed. Paris, 1956.

Marie Antoinette

(1755–1793) beautiful queen consort of King Louis XVI of France. [Fr. Hist.: EB, VI: 620]

Marie Antoinette

1755--93, queen of France (1774--93) by marriage to Louis XVI of France. Her opposition to reform during the Revolution contributed to the overthrow of the monarchy; guillotined