Marie-Antoinette, queen of France (1774-1792)

Marie-Antoinette, queen of France (1774-1792)

Marie Antoinette of Habsbourg-Lorraine wasqueen of france from 1774 to 1792 and the wife of Louis XVI. Its not always rational unpopularity contributed to discredit the monarchy in the period preceding the French Revolution. Even today Marie-Antoinette divides. Queen martyr? Villainous queen? Or rather the pure product of a regime that is running out of steam and unable to adapt to a world in turmoil?

Marie Antoinette, "A delicious piece"

October 16, 1793, Marie Antoinette entered the legend, she who nevertheless had declared to her mother “Although God gave birth to me in the rank I occupy today, I cannot help admiring the arrangement of Providence which has chosen me, me the last of your children, for the most beautiful kingdom of Europe ”. Too long confined to the role of beautiful brainless and poor politician, Marie-Antoinette is nevertheless "The one who, with the height of her might, struggles to do with her life what anyone who cannot afford it envies those who have the talent: A little piece of art" as Isabelle Huppert said in the preface to her book La Légèreté Française.

The November 2, 1755, TheEmpress Marie Thérèse gives birth to her fifteenth child, Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna. Mischievous, facetious, charming, she excels in the art of shying away. She is a fine learner, a fast learner, but lack of a thorough and timely education will leave significant gaps. She got her energy from her mother but not her wisdom, a real "wind head" as her brother used to describe her. Joseph II. Daughter of Francois of Lorraine, music lover and man of taste, she inherits from him the passion for music, dance and the arts. With a reversal of alliances in 1756, France moved closer to its hereditary enemy Austria. A marriage seems to be imposed as a pledge to strengthen the still fragile alliance which is frowned upon by the French.

Already in court circulating the nickname "Austrian To designate it. On May 16, 1770, Marie-Antoinette married in great pomp in the Royal Chapel of the Palace of Versailles Louis Auguste of Bourbon, the future Louis XVI. This fairy tale ends in a nightmare in Paris on the occasion of the great fireworks display in honor of the newlyweds. A rocket set fire to the final bouquet and the panic-stricken crowd stomped on. There were many deaths, and the young couple, moved by this disaster, actively participated in compensating the victims by drawing on their personal tapes. A tragedy that will lead to others.

The quest for freedom

Marie-Antoinette is not happy in the Court of France. She refuses to comply with her new obligations, to address the favorite Madame du Barry and already alienates herself from the courtiers. She hates the constant spectacle of the French monarchy. She is bored presiding over a table, large cutlery takes her appetite. Of mocking temper, she gives free rein to this inclination. Empress Marie Thérèse advises her daughter to exercise prudence and moderation: "I cannot present it to you too vividly to save you from the abyss into which you are rushing" Refusing to sacrifice herself for her function, eager for happiness and freedom, Marie-Antoinette embodies the new aspirations of this end of the century.

On the death of Louis XV on May 10, 1774, her husband became King of France. The young couple cannot help but express their dismay at this burden. "My God! Protect us, we reign too young" would have exclaimed the young queen. Especially since they are faced with a delicate problem: the wedding has still not been consumed and theabsence of heir weakens the durability of the dynasty. More than any other medical or physiological consideration, it is quite probable that the heaviness of the Versailles court and the natural shyness of the king is the cause. The speculations and the long suspense will end in 1778 with the birth of Marie-Thérèse Charlotte of France, the future Madame Royale.

A palace revolution

Marie Antoinette lightens the protocol and isolates himself with a company chosen according to his heart in his private apartments, his dear Petit Trianon and his Hameau. Her marital problems (it was not until 1778 that her marriage was consummated) grieved her but offered her a unprecedented freedom granted to a queen of France. She joins the public, attends horse races, launches extravagant fashions, buy diamonds unbeknownst to the king, who pays the queen's debts without batting an eyelid, an elegant and refined decor and living environment is created, requires fittings according to his tastes, presides over the creation of his countless pieces of furniture and hangings.

She is at the same time patron, protector of the arts, muse of fashions. The king pushes her into this life of pleasures and sumptuousness. He encourages her on this dangerous slope. Seen too long as a clumsy and soft young man, on the contrary, he proved to be quite energetic and refused to allow the queen to interfere in French politics until 1788. By acting in this way, she no longer appeared as a queen but like a favorite, occupied solely with her pleasures and squandering public funds. Thenecklace case in 1785 finishes ruining its credit and illustrates the divide between the Queen and her people.

We lend it the taste of men (Axel de Fersen) and women (Madame de Polignac). The campaign to destroy the image of the Queen has no limits. To tarnish the crown all attacks will focus on the Queen. Marie Antoinette is the woman to be defeated and everything is done to achieve it.

Illusions and disillusions

Hated and slandered, she takes refuge in illusion at the same time as pamphlets more and more garbage against it. She recomposes her life in a setting that has only the appearances of reality. She finds solace in her role as a mother. The misfortunes never coming alone, the successive crises of the regime and the bankruptcy of the Kingdom precipitate the revolutionary events and intensify the campaign of desecration of the queen. Marie-Antoinette faces the storm as Reine. On October 6, 1789 it was as a worthy heir to her mother that she appeared on the balcony of Versailles in front of a surly crowd who wanted her head, but a crowd manipulated because the various insurrections under the Revolution were often organized and rarely spontaneous. Recluse at the Tuileries Palace, she will act as Queen, but Queen of the Ancien Régime.

Much has been said about treason for the benefit of foreign powers, double game, "Austrian committee" see "lesbian conspiracy" ... it is to forget that Marie Antoinette was the mother of the heir to the Crown, the too infamous Louis XVII. On the other hand, it is to omit that Marie-Antoinette knew only one form of government, the Absolute monarchy and divine right. Any interference with this concept was neither conceivable nor desirable. Marie Antoinette by placing herself in this opposition to the constitution thought to act for the good of the Crown and for the defense of her children.

She gets closer to Mirabeau who charges dearly for his services to the Crown. He dies too soon but lucid in recognizing that with him disappears the last hope of saving the monarchy and therefore the queen. Therefore, the leak is inevitable. The team that ended in Varennes and which was not intended to cross the border but to stop at Montmédy in France stigmatized even more the image of a counter-revolutionary Queen whereas in other times Anne of Austria had used the same process to reaffirm the rights of his son, Louis XIV.

She maintains an abundant correspondence with Barnave who will never succeed in making the queen understand that her political model has become a pipe dream. She was counting on the European princes to help the King of France to reconquer his kingdom as it had done until then ... To her appeals for help, Austria remained silent and will elude the question so well that her response by the manifesto of Brunswick will ignite the powder.

The long walk to the scaffold of Marie-Antoinette

The August 10, 1792, the Tuileries Palace falls into the hands of the attackers and the Monarchy crumbles. the Royal Family is incarcerated at Temple Prison. January 21, 1793 after an unfair trial, Louis XVI is beheaded. On July 3, 1793 a decree separates the Louis dolphin of his family and entrusts his education to the shoemaker Simon who thanks to his republican treatments will obtain the deposition for incest of the son against his mother during his trial.

Marie Antoinette, who is no more than the "Widow Capet », Was placed in solitary confinement in the Conciergerie prison in Paris on August 2, 1793. After a final escape attempt known as the Conspiracy of the carnation, Marie-Antoinette learned on October 12, 1793 during an interrogation that his trial is set for October 14, 1793. One of his defenders, Chauveau Lagarde, sums up this parody of justice quite well "We are forced to undertake such an important defense out of the blue. This is contrary to the laws of justice ”.

He is accused of being responsible for all the ills of the French and of incest. The file is empty but Marie Antoinette must die. She defends herself energetically and remains queen to the end. On October 14, she appeared before the Revolutionary court who condemns her to death for treason. She climbs with great courage on the erected scaffold Revolution Square October 16, 1793 to be there guillotined.

"I teach you, my brother, that I was one of the jurors who judged the ferocious beast who devoured a large part of the Republic, the one that was calified if it became a raine" finished saying on October 15, 1793 the carpenter Trinchard as an epitaph

Non-exhaustive bibliography

- Marie-Antoinette, biography of Stefan Zweig. Paperback, 1999.

- Marie-Antoinette - Correspondance (1770-1793), Evelyne LEVER, Tallandier editions, 2005.

- The queens of France at the time of the Bourbons - Marie-Antoinette l´insoumise, by Simone BERTIERE, editions de Fallois, 2002.


Video: Arrival of Marie Antoinette in Versailles, France.