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Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette was born in 1755, in Austria. She was the daughter of Austrian Archduchess Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. From an early age, her marriage to the French dauphin (heir to the throne) was planned, and, in 1770, at the age of 15, the union took place. The dauphin became king Louis XVI in 1774. Marie's attempts to sway French foreign policy in favor of her native Austria were making her increasingly unpopular in France. She was also unhappy in her personal life, especially in her marriage, which remained unconsummated for seven years.

During the years of increasing resentment of the starving French masses, Marie became known for living a life of luxury, pleasure and careless extravagance. It is surely her notoriously lavish behavior that had so many believing that her answer to the bread crisis was to "let them eat cake," when in fact, she never spoke those words. In fact, as the Revolution of 1789 neared, popular hatred of Marie grew, and on October 5, 1789 she was mobbed by a crowd of infuriated women (60,000 strong) who stormed the Palace of Versailles. According to reporters, Marie was quite calm, noble and dignified, and a great number of these women were received by Marie in her drawing room. She is quoted as having said: "I know they have come from Paris to demand my head, but I learned from my mother not to fear death and I shall await it with firmness"

The royal family were removed from Versailles to Paris and placed under a virtual 'house arrest'. They attempted to flee the country (the flight to Varennes) in 1791, but were caught and returned to Paris. In August 1792, the Tuileries palace was stormed, and she and her husband were removed to the Temple and accused of treason. The king was executed in January, 1793. Marie Antoinette's son was taken from her, and tortured, and she was transferred to the Conciergerie. She was quickly tried before the Revolutionary Tribunal (October 14-15, 1793), found guilty, and guillotined (October 16th) at the age of 38. In her last days she displayed the same steadfastness, courage, and dignity of which she had spoken years earlier.


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