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Marie Antoinette

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Marie Antoinette

women in history

Written by Liz Pickford


Marie Antoinette was born in 1755 as an Archduchess of Austria, she was daughter of Emperor Francis I and Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. She later became Queen of France and Navarre at the outbreak of the French Revolution, and was famous for her frivolous and extravagant lifestyle. She has famously been quoted throughout history as saying, "If they have no bread, then let them eat cake!" in response to reports of there being no food for the commoners to eat. She was never popular with the French who resented her for her foreign birth and supposed high living ways, and her subjects grew to harbour a resentment that ultimately culminated in her execution in 1793.

-Marie Antoinette-


Born at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna on November 2, 1755, Marie grew up as one of sixteen children of Empress Marie Theresa and the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. Her original name was Marie Antonia; Marie Antoinette was the name she took when she married. It was during her childhood that the Seven Years' War began, with Austria and France as allies for the first time. The struggle focuses on the colonial rivalry between France and England and the fight in Germany between the house of Austria and the rising kingdom of Prussia. She lived a carefree childhood of fun and indulgence and was well educated. She was fond of music and learned to play the harpsichord and played for many people at the court. Unfortunately, her father died when she was only ten years old. A few years later, Marie Antonia's childhood ended abruptly when her mother arranged a marriage for Marie to the young dauphin, the future king Louis XVI of France, to seal an alliance between Austria and France. In 1740, at age 14, Marie left her homeland and sailed to France to marry Louis XVI.


Marie was welcomed to France by Louis XV and his court and was taken to Versailles palace. When Louis XV died, Marie Antoinette was crowned the new Queen of France. Some historians state that Marie was thrust into the lavish lifestyle where the pursuit of pleasure was dominant and so Marie became more extravagant, which led to growing resentment among the French people. Although, other historians believe that rather than ignoring France's growing financial crisis, she reduced the royal household staff and eliminated many unnecessary positions that were based soley on privilege. Marie's main role at the time was to produce a male heir to her husband's royal line. She had already been criticized over and over for not having done so already. After long years of waiting, the Queen gave birth to a daughter, Marie Therese Charlotte on 19th December 1778, followed by Louis Joeseph in 1781, Louis Charles in 1785 and Marie Beatrix in 1786. Unfortunatly, two of her children died during the early years of their life.


During Marie Antoinette's reign as Queen, France was suffering from an economic crisis and was on its way to a revolution. The major cause of the revoultion was the disputes between the different types of social classes in French society. The social structure of France was divided among three groups: the First Estate, the Second Estate, and the Third Estate. The nobles and clergy made up the first and secound estates and they did not have to pay taxes. The common people made up the third estate and they did not have power or freedom in politics, thus worked hard and had to pay heavy taxes. The major cause of the Revolution were the differences between these three groups. However, there was another important factor during these times. France suffered from harsh economic problems. The harvest was poor and the people of France started going hungry. In addition, the aid given by Louis XVI to the American colonies during the War of Independence from Great Britain from 1778 to 1783 had made a huge drain on the economy. King Louis XVI failed to improve the financial situation and by 1789, the government was bankrupt. When Louis XVI finally called the Estates General



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