The Victimized Queen: Marie Antoinette

Posted: December 7, 2012 in Research Bibliography

The Victimized Queen: Marie Antoinette

225px-Marie_Antoinette_1767

Portrait of Marie Antoinette
(I own no rights)

When the film Marie Antoinette (2006), starting Kirsten Dunst, shined on the big screen, the protagonist Dunst was portraying caught my attention. The beauty of the film and portrayal of the heroine Marie Antoinette drew me in like a moth to a light buzzer. I could not get enough of the last queen of France. After the last scene of the film of her leaving her home of Versailles in France, left me at an awe of what came to be of her. It was not until after so much research that I did, I know of her fate. I idolize Marie Antoinette; her story, personality and position in France till this day still intrigues me. Her fate was a cruel one, beheaded during the year of the French revolution as the capital cause of debts supposed act of treason and the problems in France, forever tainted as the queen of deficit.  I understand that in those times people could not go into full research when a country was in trouble, so the next best thing was to find a person to blame it on. The film and the articles I have read of Marie Antoinette had me focus on her involvement in the French Revolution. I believe Marie Antoinette was a victimize bystander that had no idea of the problems going on in her country. From the moment she stepped into France, to her final days heading towards the gallows, Marie Antoinette was a victimize queen of her people and the French court.

Marie Antoinette of Austria was born November 2, 1755, the youngest out the fifteen children to the Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Francis I. The events leading to her eventual arrange marriage to the Dauphin of France began in 1765, when Antoinette’s father, Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, died of a stroke in August, leaving Maria Theresa to co-rule with her elder son and heir, the Emperor Joseph II.By that time, marriage arrangements for several of Antoinette’s sisters had begun. The purpose of these marriages was to cement the various complex alliances that Austria  had entered  in the 1750s due to the Seven Years’ War, which included multiple different countries, but most of all  Austria’s traditional enemy, France. Antoinette, being the youngest of Maria Theresa, was not considered to be married off any times soon.  In 1767, an outbreak of small pox unfolded in the royal family; not leaving many eligible survivors to be married off for the Franco-Austrian Alliance, at the age of 15, Antoinette was to be sent off to be married and become the Dauphine of France.

In 1770, Marie left her home country to marry the Dauphine of France, Louis XVI, whom she never met before.  Upon her arrival to France, her life was set; her future, she did not see coming, which she would be to be the butt of jokes and the main talk of scandals. In the article, “Let them Eat Cake”: The Mythical Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution, Barker (1993) states, “When she arrived the as the bride of the Dauphin, she was presented to public as a youthful goddess of beauty and virtue.” Soon after she was shown to the public, she was confined within the royal palace, the public created their own opinion about her.  Barker informs the early attack on Marie began within the court with ready-made enemies such as: Mesdames king Louis XV’s elder un- married daughters, anti- Austrian Cabal and so forth.  Marie was seen a pawn for the Austrian and French alliance, she was referred as l’Autrichienne – (Austrian Women).  Her enemies kept a close watch on her, knowing her every move and daily routine, just to find a slip from the new Dauphine to be quickly criticized. Just being born Austrian and having Austrian blood made Marie target of crucial judgment. For example, they took to notion when Marie arranged a party to see the sun rise with young people, the hostile pamphlets, Le lever de l’aurore appeared. The pamphlets grew to be the informant of all the wrong doing of Marie, which soon would tarnish her reputation, (Barker).

At the age of twenty, Marie became the queen of France, due to the death by small pox of the previous king. Even having the classification of queen, she was not safe from the ridicule of the court. Barker states, ladies of the court insulted and threaten the queen, “Little queen of twenty, years /you who greet the court with jeers / you’ll go back from whence you came.” These assaults were all due to the fact that they believed Marie mocked and neglected proper etiquette.  In   the article, Misunderstood Marie Antoinette, Amiel (2006) states, “Into this honey pot came the Austrian Marie Antoinette, whose prime need was to appear more French than the French.”   Even being the queen of France didn’t entitle her the respect and most of all the consideration of being French, for all they say was an Austrian at the thrown. Her troubles did not only lie within her blood, but in her marriage as well.  For the five years that Marie and Louis have been married the completion of the marriage had not taken place in their private courters.  She had an obligation to France to produce a male heir that she had yet to complete.   “Marie Antoinette had to preserve with a fumbling, impotent husband for the first seven years of her marriage, while she prayed that her failure to produce an heir to the throne would not result in the dissolution of her marriage” ( Amiel). For seven years Marie had to endure the critique rumors that grew in the court; her fear of breaking the alliance and her marriage was a disappointment she did not want to commit.  The pamphlet took their affect; making speculations if the king were a mauvaisfouteur, then the queen must be promiscuous, states Barker. Alleged lovers both male and female were link to queen. The situation was not much improved even in 1778 when Marie became pregnant; the pamphlets made the situation disastrous by stating the ‘the queens children were anyone’s but the king’s’.  To make up for the lack of affection from the king, she replaced the feeling of needing by beginning to spend money to satisfy her needs.

As a young Queen Antoinette turned to fashion spending exceeded amount of money to satisfy her needs and waste away time. “When her marriage failed, she turned all those late nights and wardrobe experiences into a successful business empires based on the innovative wrap dress” (Amiel).  As the Queen the France she was entitled an allowance a month which she seem to over exceed for she had a duty to be the leader of Fashion.  Antoinette tend to want to escape the court life either with her small group of friends or her private retreats.

“When Marie Antoinette invited friends beneath her royal station to petit Trianon, she never thought that for every one invited, she was making at least a dozen enemies of, as Fraser Puts it , “ those left out” (Amiel).

Antoinette was not fulfilling her duties as a queen to associate with all the higher-archy of the court causing more enemies to be form out the disrespect Antoinette showed towards them. The French debt seemed to remain un-paid for; it seemed to increase due to the fact of Antoinette’s spending .The people of France began to suffer seeing the queen to the reason of their suffering. In reality the French debt was left by the previous king due the 7 year war, and Louis XVI helping to aid the Americans in their revolution against Britain in 1755 affected the French debt increasingly.   “The gilded youth helped create the fantastic image of the profligate, arrogant queen who danced while the people starved” (Barker). Antoinette paid no attention to her own arising unpopularity spreading across France through the pamphlets or the word of mouth of her people. Her behavior was easily misinterpreted and /or exaggerated and turned against her (Barker). Her rumors spread like wild fire and she had no intention of acknowledging or putting them out a fatal mistake she would soon regret.

The memoirs of La Du Barry, the former king’s mistress caused a hassle in the life of Marie Antoinette. King Louis XVI as a king was expected to have a mistress on the side, but that was the not the case for Louis stayed true to his wife Marie Antoinette.  “He was seen as unable to dominate his consort; subject to her sway, his rule was corrupted by feminine sway” (Barker).  During that era mistress of the king were seen as scapegoats to draw the blame and errors of the crown, letting the queen be spared of the blame. So being the case Antoinette was pinned the blame all the more for the king not having a mistress. Antoinette seemed to have control over the king being able to manipulate his power to her whim.  When in reality Antoinette had no say in the matters of French government due to the fact of to Louis anti-Austrian education. Antoinette’s birth in Austria was still irreversible sin.

The Diamond Necklace Affair that took place 1785 was one of the main nail to her already made coffin.  In the article Marie Antoinette and the Diamond Necklace Affair, Winkler (2010) gives a brief in look in what went on during the affair that created more destruction to Queens’s reputation. The affair began when a Charles August Bochmer a Parisian jeweler sending a letter to Antoinette about the 2800 carat made diamond necklace thanking her for the purchase. Antoinette matured over the year due to motherhood had no need s for extravagant jewelry, was utterly confused for she had not made such purchase. Both Antoinette, the jeweler along with religious leader Cardinal De Rohan were caught in a lie by a con woman known as Comtesse de Lamotte Valois. Valois pretended to be an agent of the Queen sent to purchase the necklace, and with a forge letter with the Queen signature there could no question of her position. “Because of the public nature of the proceedings, contemporary press enjoyed another excuse to drag Marie Antoinette through the mud,” (Winkler). With a public court hearing of the affair and Antoinette presumed innocent of the act the people; the press did not care of the outcome for all they say was a Queen spending the money away that the French needed. “Marie Antoinette was an easy scapegoat for the French population prior to the French Revolution,” (Winkler).  The affair was just ammunition for the revolutionary war and more of a reason to send to queen to her death, while the real culprit Valois escaped with her life.

After the Diamond Necklace the growing unpopularity could no longer be ignored by either the Queen or the Government.  The pamphlets only became more vile and ruthless towards the downgrading Queen. The Monarchy took realization that they had to make an attempt to save the Queen and her standing. The Method chosen was a traditional one: the order of a portrait to be exhibited in the Grand Salon of Louvre Barker.  The idea was the capture a wholesome image of Antoinette surrounded by her children, giving of the radiance of motherhood.  The statement of the portrait was to be a “Symbolic messages, both classical and Christian, abound,” (Barker). When the portrait  appeared to the public the reaction was catastrophic. The people of France were out raged blaspheming the portrait with Madame Deficit. Eventually they had to take down the portrait to settle the crowed. The pamphlets broke down their censorship they were out for the Queens blood, even the French press we out to get the Queen. “The Marie Antoinette in the Revolutionary Press, if she retained her human form at all, possessed supernatural power of evil, she was listed in a list of legendary queens of crime,” (Barker). The portrait backfired Antoinette was falling in bottomless abyss of judgment, her motherly virtue could no longer save her, even after producing an heir. “To him and to her mother, who had borne her specifically to take revenge on France, she owed also her loathing of the French people,” (Barker). Antoinette’s blame was rooted to her roots connected to Austria; the people of France saw their own life span in the vengeful queen who only seeked to fulfill the vindictive plan Maria Theresa must have secretly entrusted her. Antoinette had such hidden plan she was just trying be a mother and a Queen to a country that never seemed to accept her. Antoinette had enter dangerous waters which now endanger monarchy and the throne, but most of all her life.

The French debt was a crisis affecting the lives of the French people.  The prices of French purchases were increasing. The bread price increase was the start of the matter that would throw the French people over the edge. When the people were starving, for not being able to buy a pricy piece of bread the mass rumor of the Queen that got her and her family to be in prison in Paris had reached the peoples ears. “Let them eat cake,” a quote rumored to be heard from the Queens mouth toward the crisis of the starving French with no bread, was the finale calling to all of the tension in France to break to break lose. A situation that took place over that summer about the speculations of Antoinette sending millions of dollars to Austria to enforce an army to overrun France left the people with no choice but to imprison the Royals to Paris to keep a close eye on them. On October 5, 1789 a mob of angry civilians broke into the gates of Versailles to lay violent hands on the Queen. Antoinette lucky got away the attack, but not from the imprisonment along with her family.  “Yet recent scholarship analyzing crown action, dominated by the orthodox interpretation, has turned a blind eye to the fury of the crowd against the queen ad has seen the bourgeois National Assembly as the instigator of the action,” (Barker). The National Assembly, a government against Monarchy had caused more  striation towards the Royal Family especially Antoinette causing action to be taken place by the civilians that lead to the Revolution.

Rumors of Conspiracy’s grew against the withering Queen, talk around the country was that Antoinette wishes to get rid of the King and put her son as rightful heir.  The rumor aroused the crowed with the thought that Austria would succeed with their diabolical scheme. News media attack kept going towards the Queen that soon the call to over throw the Monarchy was on its way. “The alliance with Austria had been the fatal mistake: “Great god! Cannot it be understood that this deadly treaty and the even more deadly influence of Marie Antoinette… has a hundred times brought France to the abyss,” (Barker). Louis only got tinged ridicule they believed he was just a puppet under the destroyer of France Marie Antoinette. The out breaks of riots and growing threats woke up Louis to take action to flee the capital with his family, but were e managed to be caught. The people were disgusted they no longer saw Louis as a fit ruler.

After the fall of Monarchy on the 10t of August 1792, the dethrone Queen was imprisoned in the tower of the Temple, along with her family. The following December Louis stood trial before the National Convention, the elected government that governs France.  Louis was executed that following January, leaving a now widowed Marie to fend for herself. If the French people couldn’t be any crueler, that same August Marie was separated from her children and sister- in- law to await her trial. In the article, 16th of October 1793: execution of Marie-Antoinette, Delors (2010) states, “Transferred, alone without her children or sister-in-law Madame Elisabeth, to the jail of La Conciergeri; located within the premises of the main Courthouse of Paris, next to the Revolutionary Tribunal. For an ordinary prisoner that would mean the trial is imminent.”  The trial and finale judgment of the no longer queen was at her door along with death.

Antoinette had a chance to go home to Austria for in the time of her trial, France and Austria were at war and she could have been a hostage negotiated, but Austria had no intention of giving up a war that was close to being beaten. “For the National Convention, there is political advantage in the executing a hated public figure, and none in keeping her alive,” (Delors). From the moment Marie trial began on October 14 the convention has no plans in letting her live, her fate was sealed she was guilty no matter the circumstances. In the book, The story of Marie Antoinette, Bicknell (1897) states “Chauveau-Lagarde, who at once went to consult the Queen, found that the trial was to commence the next day, he vainly asked for a delay of three days to prepare his defense, the refusal of the government proved only too clearly that no justice could be expected, and the Queen’s fate was sealed beforehand.” The counts against Marie Antoinette were un- avoidable treason; conspiracy and collusion with domestic and foreign enemies were serious false accusations that were only proven through rumors. Two day were given to prove her innocents without a lawyer, while they gave the king months to prepare and someone to defend his honor, the French government were in a hurry to plaster guilty on her head.  In the article Marie Antoinette and her children: The shocking accusations at Marie Antoinette are Trial, culture and stuff (2010) states “The trial often felled into a pattern of throwing accusation at Marie Antoinette without any tangible evidence.”  The witness called to witness did not have real contact with the Queen, and had no probable answers that could incriminate the Queen on the accusation given to her. When Antoinette was called to speak on her behalf editor of that time of the news paper was assigned to cross witness the widow. Jacques Rene Hebert was one of the main news media head that tarnished and incriminated the Queen’s reputation. Hebert had a golden opportunity; his plan was to tarnish the last vestige of humanity life in the public image of Marie Antoinette and that was the glow of motherhood (culture and stuff).  Hebert used Antoinette motherly kindness of letting her son sleep in her be when he was frighten as a chance to imprint the thought that Antoinette sexually molested her son.  In reality Hebert was assigning for the boys guard to inflict the teaching of self pleasure and prostitutes into the boy cell.  Marie outrage of the accusation broke her robotic posture yelling to the court “I did not answer, because nature itself recoils from such an accusation address to a mother! I appeal to all those who may be here” (Bicknell)! Antoinette managed to save her motherly figure, but the following day October 16 1793 Marie Antoinette was beheaded.

From the moment she stepped into France, to her final days heading towards the gallows, Marie Antoinette was a victimize queen of her people and the French court. With the ending of her life with a trial without justice, a revolution that pins false accusations towards a woman certain to die with a blacken character shows the cruelty that lies within people’s hearts. Marie Antoinette suffered judgment due to Austrian ties and the un- known issues that were accruing in her country. Marie Antoinette was guilty of one thing that she did have too much fun, but it was understandable for her childhood was taken away and was forced to be married at 15.  From the moment she walked on that soil France saw her as only a foreign enemy, when she was much more and could have been so much more; someone they could have loved.

Work Cited APA Form:

Amiel, B. (2006). Misunderstood Marie Antoinette. Maclean’s, 119,(44),48-50.

Baker,N,N. (1993). ‘Let them eat cake’: The mythical Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution. Historia, 55, (4),709.

Bicknell, A. (1897). The Story of Marie Antoinette. New York: Century Co.

Binham, K.(2003.Marie Antoinette was ‘one of us’: Accounts of that Martyred Wicked Queen. Eighteenth century: Theory & Interpretation (Texas Tech University Press), 44,213,233-255.

Culture&stuff . (2012, April 2). Retrieved from http://cultureandstuff.com/2010/04/02/marie-antoinette-and-her-children-the-shocking-accusations-at-marie-antoinettes-trial/

Delors, C. (2010). 16th of October 1793: execution of Marie-Antoinette. Retrieved from blog. Catherine Delors website:http://blog.catherinedelors.com/16th-of-october-1793-execution-of-marie-antoinette-2/

Fraser, A. (2001).  Marie Antoinette The Journey. New York: N.A. Talese/Doubleday.

MarieAntoinette Biography. Retrieved from:http://www.essortment.com/marie-antoinette-     biography-20463.html

Winkler, M . (2010). Marie Antoinette and the diamond Necklace Affair. Retrieved from suite101Website: http://suite101.com/article/marie-antoinette-and-the-diamond-necklace-affair-a301794

Zevin, A. (2007). Marie Antoinette and the Ghost of the French Revolution. Cineaste, 32, (2), 32-34.

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