Women have played huge roles in shaping history since the dawn of time. Some of those women have been warriors, fighting for freedom, love, or just about anything else. Some of those women have been diplomats, using their words and charisma to further their causes and keep their people safe. Still, others have been symbols, giving people hope. Marie Antoinette was none of those things and all of those things. She wasn’t just a queen and a diplomat, she was a scapegoat that many people blamed for the French Revolution, to the point where she was blamed for things that she didn’t even do. She was accused, tried and executed for crimes that had very little to do with what she actually did, but with who she was.
Marie Antoinette was a woman who ultimately didn’t deserve what happened to her. She started off living a very privileged life, ended up marrying at a ridiculously young age, was basically a teen idol when she was younger and was a very interesting queen. She didn’t actually do the thing she was most famous for doing, and the things that she probably should be famous for are things that very few people know. If anything, she could actually be considered a feminist icon if you really look at her life. Here are 15 things that you probably didn’t know about Marie Antoinette, but are things that you definitely should know.
15. She Was An Austrian Princess
Marie Antoinette was born Marie Antonia an Austrian princess in the year 1755. She was actually an archduchess because of her parents. Her mother was the Habsburg empress Maria Theresa, and her father was the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. Marie Antoinette wasn’t just an archduchess, she was the 15th and the last child to be born to this couple. While she didn’t exactly come from humble beginnings, Marie Antoinette eventually rose to be the Queen of France in the days before the French Revolution. She was close to her sister, Marie Carolina, and while her relationship with her mom was fraught with difficulty, everyone who knew them knew that they loved each other. She actually met Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart when he was a seven-year-old child prodigy when she was a kid.
14. She Got Married At 14
When she got older, she ended up marrying the future king of France, Louis XVI. As an Austrian princess, her marriage to the future French king was an excellent way to seal the newfound bond between their two countries. This is super important because both Austria and France were recovering from the Seven Years War. She was married to him on May 7th, 1770, and she was 14 when they were married. She was actually delivered to the French on an island in the middle of the Rhine river and escorted to Versailles by a grand procession, so no one can say that she didn’t arrive in style. The day after she met 15-year-old Dauphin Louis-Auguste, the future king of France, she married him.
13. She Didn’t Consummate The Marriage For Seven Years
While Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were married quickly, the marriage took a very long time to consummate. This is understandable considering they were just kids at the time, they’d only known each other for about a day before they were married, and the marriage itself was part of a set of political machinations and hadn’t had much to do with love. Regardless, once they were married, they were escorted to the bridal chamber by Louis XVI’s grandfather, Louis XV. Needless to say, this awkward arrangement didn’t result in a happy wedding night. Not only was the wedding night a bust, the next seven years would be as well. It turns out that Louis XVI had a condition that wasn’t just painful, it left him impotent. All of Europe was talking about how Louis XVI and his wife hadn’t had sex yet. In 1777, Emperor Joseph II intervened, and the problem was solved. Louis XVI either had surgery, or the couple had managed to work out their differences, but either way, Marie Antoinette was pregnant within the year.
12. She Was Basically The 18th Century Equivalent Of A Disney Channel Star
Before she became the scapegoat of a revolution, she was kind of a big deal. When she was younger, she was the object of fascination for all of France. Before she became queen, the French public loved her. When she first showed up in the French capital, a crowd of 50,000 people showed up. That crowd ended up getting so unruly and uncontrollable that at least thirty people ended up getting trampled to death because everyone was so excited to see her. She inspired the same kind of fanatic fandom that pop stars and actors might receive nowadays. She might not have released great music or been in any TV shows or anything, but she was a person that people went out of their way to go see.
11. She Built Battleships In Her Hair
Marie Antoinette was a trendsetter of the highest order. She had a royal hairdresser who’d help her come up with her crazy hairdos. The hairdresser’s name was Léonard Autié, and he eventually grew to become one of her closest friends and confidantes. He was also the guy who came up with hairdos that literally defied gravity. Some of them could be as tall as four feet. Imagine having a four-foot tall hairdo for any reason. They weren’t just making magic out of hair, either: Autié would put feathers, trinkets, and more in her hair. He even made a huge model of the La Belle Poute warship in her hair as a celebration of the time the ship sunk a British frigate.
10. She Had A Village Built For Her
While it wasn’t Marie Antoinette’s fault that turmoil and unrest came to France, some of her actions definitely didn’t help the situation. While French peasants were starving in towns and villages all over France, she was commissioning the construction of the Petit Hameau. The Petit Hameau was a utopian hamlet that had a ton of fun stuff in it, like lakes, gardens, watermills, farmhouses and cottages. She’d dress up as a peasant with some of her ladies in waiting, and they’d pretend to be milkmaids and regular people. She was one of those royals who spent a lot on random stuff but didn’t put that money into anything significant. Things like this made the revolutionaries really mad, and they insulted her for it, calling her “Madame Deficit.”
9. She Never Told People To Go Eat Cake
This is really important because it shows how history is written, and how sometimes, history gets it wrong. According to history, when Marie Antoinette was told that the starving peasants of France had no bread to eat, she said “Let them eat cake.” That’s all well and good, except that she never actually said that, or at least there’s no record of her ever saying that. That phrase “let them eat cake” predates her arrival in France by several years, and it wasn’t actually said by any one specific person. “Let them eat cake” was a phrase that was meant to describe the way royals were totally out of touch with the people they were supposed to govern. Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau described King Louis XIV’s wife Marie-Therese this way. The phrase was also tied to two aunts of Marie Antoinette’s husband’s before it was ever said that she said it.
8. She Was Accused Of Incest
Marie Antoinette was accused of a lot of things, and while she was definitely a flawed individual who could be very self-centered, she definitely wasn’t some of the things that she was condemned to death for. After her husband was executed, she was put on trial for crimes against the French republic. Nine months after his death, Marie Antoinette found herself standing trial for crimes like high treason and sexual promiscuity. The weirdest of those crimes was incest. She was accused of having sex with her son, Louis-Charles, who was forced to testify that it actually happened. His testifying that his mom sexually molested him led an all-male jury to convict her of her crimes and condemn her to death.
7. Her Burial Was Depressing
We all know the story of her execution, but her burial is actually really, really depressing. After she was executed, her body was put in a coffin and dumped in a random, common grave behind the Church of the Madeline. The queen of France, formerly a teen idol and a princess of Austria, was dumped in an unmarked grave. That was where she stayed until 1815. That was the year the Bourbon Restoration put King Louis XVII on the throne after Napoleon got exiled. As the king, he ordered the body of his brother, Louis XVI, and Marie Antoinette exhumed. Thankfully, after they were dug up, they were given proper burials alongside other French royals in the Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis. It took awhile, but they ended up where they belonged in the end.
6. Marietta, Ohio
Marie Antoinette’s influence extends far beyond France. There’s a U.S. city that’s named after her. A group of veterans from the American Revolution founded the first permanent settlement of the Northwest Territory back in 1788. That territory was set up where the Muskingum and Ohio rivers meet. The veterans wanted to honor France because France had been instrumental in helping the Americans win the revolution against the British. That’s how they found themselves naming their new community Marietta. Marietta, Ohio was named after the queen, and they even sent a letter to her, offering her a public square in town.
5. She Had A Fit And Collapsed After The Birth Of Her First Child
If you’re a woman who’s given birth, or if you’re anyone who’s watched a woman give birth, you know that it’s a really hard thing to do. Marie-Antoinette felt that firsthand when she gave birth to her first child. As she was giving birth to her daughter, Marie Therese, she had a convulsive fit 12 hours into her labor. That happened because she was giving birth in a stuffy room, and her doctor was pretty terrible. She also had to give birth in front of all of her courtiers. She didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl until hours after she had the baby, but when she found out, she’s reported as saying: , “Poor little girl, you are not what was desired, but you are no less dear to me on that account. A son would have been property of the state. You shall be mine.” Personally, I found this really heartwarming.
4. Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Her Kids
Marie Antoinette’s kids were pretty interesting. First, there was Marie Therese, who was the only one of her children to survive adulthood. Her second child was Louis Joseph, who was three years younger, the King’s male heir and the next Dauphin of France. After that was Louis Charles, and her last child was Sophie. Sophie died of tuberculosis right before her first birthday, which is already sad enough, but it gets worse when you find out Louis Joseph died at the age of seven, probably of tuberculosis. Louis Charles lived until the age of ten, and died in prison during the Revolution, on June 8th, 1795. That probably happened thanks to tuberculosis and the horrible prison conditions he had to deal with.
3. Marie Antoinette’s Oldest Daughter, Marie Therese
Marie Therese survived all that, and actually was the Queen of France for something like 20 minutes, which was long enough for her husband to abdicate and for them to go into exile. Her life was miserable, though. She’d lost her whole family by the time the Revolution was over, and had spent some time in prison herself before getting released in December of 1795, a few months after the death of her last surviving sibling. She was 17 at the time, and promptly married off to the Duc d’Angoulême, Louis XVIII’s nephew. Their marriage was unhappy and unconsummated, and spent in exile. She also hadn’t inherited her mom’s beauty or grace, which was really unfortunate for her since she held her mom’s title for awhile. She had bad teeth, a really masculine build, and a red face, according to the accounts of the day. When she died, she wrote a last testament, and forgave the people who’d ruined her life, the way she thought her parents might.
2. She Was Blamed For Years Of Political Unrest
The people of France basically blamed her for the French Revolution, which was totally not true. Sure, she had some issues with self-centeredness and would do some dumb things (like build a fake village and pretend to be a commoner, for example), but she wasn’t the reason why France entered the Reign of Terror or anything. The people had been poor long before she’d ever come to France, and the system was set up against them to begin with. The poor had to pay a lot of taxes, and aristocrats didn’t have to pay any, meaning that the rich just got richer and the poor just got poorer. As for Marie Antoinette, she was more of a victim of rumors than anything else. She spent a lot of money, but she wasn’t the reason why the French Revolution happened.
1. She’s A Historical Icon For A Reason
There are a lot of good reasons why Marie Antoinette is a historical icon who’s the subject of such fascination. She’s a deeply flawed woman who’s been misrepresented by history, and she was definitely misrepresented while she was alive. The system was stacked against her, and we could argue that that’s why she died. We could also argue that she died because she was a perfect representation of what people hated about the aristocracy. She was excessive and extravagant, but that’s also why people were so fascinated by her. If anything, the U.S. could be partially to blame for all of the things she was blamed for. France had sunk a lot of money into helping the U.S. achieve independence, and the amount was a lot more than one woman could ever spend. Marie Antoinette was a lot of things, but she wasn’t all of the things the world said she was.