Saturday, September 26, 2009

Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette was the queen of France at the outbreak of the French Revolution (1787–99). Her extravagant lifestyle, which included lavish parties and expensive clothes and jewelry, made her unpopular with most French citizens. When the king was overthrown, Marie Antoinette was put in jail and eventually beheaded.

Marie Antoinette, child of Maria Theresa and the Emperor Francis I was born at Vienna, Austria on the 2nd of November 1755. Maria Teresa arranged a special marriage of Marie (at age 15) to improve her the relations with France. France was the most powerful nation at that time and Marie was considered the most fortunate woman in the world. Marie Antoinette had to fit the part of the most influential woman in France.

In 1770 she married Louis XVI (1754–1793). Louis was the French dauphin, or the oldest son of the king of France. He became king fours years later in 1774, which made Marie Antoinette the queen.

Marie was unhappy in her marriage to the king, though. King Louis’ interests were totally different than Marie’s. He loved hunting, quietness and solitude. She loved the arts, fashion, dances and the French nightlife There was also difficulty in consummating their marriage because Louis was unable to. This resulted in an unconsummated marriage for seven years. Marie Antoinette gave birth to her first child, a daughter, in 1778, and sons in 1781 and 1785.

Marie Antoinette was welcomed in France at first. Her frivolity contrasted with the withdrawn personality of her husband. After her mother died in 1780, she became more extravagant and this led to growing resentment. The French were suspicious of her ties to Austria and her influence on the King in attempting to foster policies friendly to Austria.

After the Bastille was stormed on July 14, 1789, the queen urged the king to resist the Assembly's reforms, making her even more unpopular, and leading to the attribution to her of the remark, "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche!" -- "Let them eat cake!" In October, 1789, the royal couple were forced to move to Paris.

Reportedly planned by Marie Antoinette, the escape of the royal couple from Paris was stopped at Varennes on October 21, 1791. Imprisoned with the king, Marie Antoinette continued to plot. She hoped for foreign intervention to end the revolution and free the royal family. She urged her brother, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II, to intervene, and supported a declaration of war against Austria in April, 1792, which she hoped would result in the defeat of France.

Louis and Marie were stripped of their royal callings along with anything valuable including documents, jewels, and other precious objects of the royal family. The new Republic threw the royal family into jail. Other aristocrats were imprisoned at this same time also. This was the beginning of “The Reign of Terror”. The royal family was under even closer guard in dark prison cells. In December 1792, King Louis XVI was tried for treason, convicted and put to death. In January 1793, he was executed on the guillotine. On October 14, Marie Antoinette was awoken at night and faced the Revolutionary Tribunal and soon after was found guilty and beheaded.

What Happened to Marie Antoinette's Children?

The French Revolution resulted in the slaughter of countless victims, one of the most well-known being Marie Antoinette, but what of her children? King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were the parents of four royal children. The dramatic outcomes of their lives are as varied as surely the children were themselves.

Marie Therese Charlotte de Bourbon

The first child of the King and Queen of France, Marie Therese Charlotte, was born December 19, 1778 at Versailles, France after many years with no heir. Although Marie Therese gained her mother some popular support, it was not to last. Marie Therese would enjoy the happiest outcome following the Revolution, however. She is the only child to have survived the violence.

After the family had been placed under arrest on August 10, 1792, Marie Therese remained with her mother and her paternal aunt, Madame Elizabeth until nearly a year later. On August 2, 1793, the queen was taken from her daughter and sister in law and was removed to another prison.

Unlike her mother and aunt, Marie Therese survived her time in prison from 1792 to 1795. Following this, she joined her uncle, the next King of France, Louis XVIII (Tsar Paul I of Russia) in exile and married her cousin, Louis Antoine duc d’Angouleme in 1799. She lived in various locations across Europe: Vienna, Russia and England, before returning to France in 1814 after the abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Marie Therese did not remain in France long, however. She and her husband fled to England in 1830 after the betrayal of their Bourbon cousin, Louis-Philippe duc d’Orleans in which he spread the rumor that Charles X, the next Bourbon in line for the throne, had abdicated the throne of France. A few short minutes later, Marie Therese’s husband, Louis Antoine, the next in line abdicated, leaving Louis-Philippe to step into his place.Marie Therese died on October 19, 1851 of pneumonia and was buried at the Kostanjevica Monastery in Kostanjevica Slovenia, in the Bourbon family crypt. She bore no children and thus, the Bourbon line through King Louis XVI came to an end.

Louis Joseph Xavier Francois de Bourbon, Dauphin de France

Louis Joseph was born on October 22, 1781, also at Versailles, but only lived until he was seven years of age. The Dauphin died on June 4, 1789 in Mendon, France and is buried at the cemetery of Saint-Denis, Ile-de-France, France.

Louis XVII Charles, Roi de France

Louis XVII was born on March 27, 1785, and was named duc de Normandie at birth. He succeeded his brother when Louis Joseph died, though he never ruled France. On July 3, 1793, he was taken from his mother for his “re-education” and never saw her again. He was housed in Temple Prison, Paris, France where he was abused and dreadfully mistreated. It was from complications of abuse and tuberculosis that the Dauphin died at ten years of age. He is buried at the Cemetery of St. Marguerite in Paris.

Marie Sophie Helen Beatrice de Bourbon

Known by her middle name, Sophie Beatrice lived less than a year. She was born on July 9, 1786 and died eleven months later on June 19, 1787. She is buried in the same cemetery as her brother, Louis Joseph: Saint-Denis, Ile-de-France, France.
Louis-Philippe’s reign ended in 1848 following another revolution and with that, France became a Republic and would never return to monarchal rule.
The French Revolution ended many institutions in France, one of the most central being the monarchy. The two children of Marie Antoinette who survived long enough to witness the Revolution know doubt endured unimaginable hardships and horrors, with little happy ending.

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