MARIE ANTOINETTE BIOGRAPHY

Marie Antoine Josephine Jeanne de Bourbon, née Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna von Habsburg-Lothringen, (November 2, 1755 - October 16, 1793), known to history as Marie Antoinette, was born an Archduchess of Austria, and later became Queen of France and Navarre. She was married to Louis XVI of France at age 14, and was the mother of "lost Dauphin" Louis XVII. Marie Antoinette is perhaps best remembered for her legendary (and, some modern historians say, exaggerated) excesses, and for her death: she was executed by guillotine at the height of the French Revolution in 1793, for the crime of treason.

Born at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Maria Antonia was issue of Francis Stephen and Empress Maria Theresa; she was described as "a small, but completely healthy Archduchess." Known at court as "Madame Antoine", a French variation of her name, she was the fifteenth child, and the last daughter, born in the family. By many accounts, her childhood was somewhat complex. On the one hand, her parents had instituted several innovations in court life which made Austria one of the more progressive courts in Europe. While certain court functions remained formal by necessity, the Emperor and Empress nevertheless presided over many basic changes in court life. This included allowing relaxations in who could come to court (a change which allowed people of merit as well as birth to rise rapidly in the imperial favor), a lax dress etiquette, and the abolition of certain court protocols, for example the ritual where dozens of courtiers could be in the Empress' bedchamber, watching when she gave birth; the Empress disliked the ritual and would eject courtiers from her rooms whenever she went into labor. The laxity of court life was compounded by the "private" life which was developed by the Habsburgs, which was based within certain castles (mainly Schönbrunn Palace) that were almost entirely off-limits to the rest of the court. In their "private" life, the family could dress in bourgeois attire with no reproach, played games with "normal" (non-royal) children, had their schooling, and were treated to gardens and menageries. Marie would later attempt to "re-create" this atmosphere through her renovation of the Petit Trianon. While she had an idyllic "private" life, her initial role in the political arena - and in her mother's main aim of alliance through marriage - was relatively minuscule. As there were so many other children who could be married off, Antoine was sometimes neglected by her mother; as a result, Marie Antoinette later described her relationship with her mother as one of awe-inspired fear. She also developed a mistrust of intelligent older women as a result of her mother's close relationship with Archduchess Maria Christina, who shared Maria Theresa's birthday and was her favorite child. The lack of supervision also resulted in a sub-par education in many regards, and she could barely read or write properly in her native German by the time she was twelve.

The events leading to her eventual betrothal to the Dauphin of France began in 1765, when Francis I died of a stroke in August of that year, leaving Maria Theresa to co-rule with her son and heir, Emperor Joseph. By that time, marriage arrangements for several of Marie Antoinette's sisters had commenced, with Archduchess Maria Josepha to King Ferdinand of Naples, and Don Ferdinand of Parma was to tentatively marry one of the remaining eligible archduchesses. This was done to begin the cementing of various complex alliances that Maria Theresa had entered into in the 1750s, climaxing with the Seven Years' War, which included Parma, Naples, Russia, and more importantly Austria's traditional enemy, France. Maria Christina, who had successfully lobbied with her mother for a love match, had married Prince Albert of Saxony by this time; the eldest surviving daughter, Archduchess Maria Anna was crippled and considered unsuitable for marriage. Then, in 1767, a smallpox outbreak hit the family; Antoine was one of the few who were immune due to already having it at a young age. Emperor Joseph's wife, Josephe, died first; Maria Theresa herself caught it and nearly died. Maria Josepha then caught it from her sister-in-law's improperly-sealed tomb, dying quickly afterwards; Archduchess Maria Elisabeth, another older sister, caught it, and, though she did not die, her looks were destroyed and she was rendered ineligible for marriage. To compensate for the loss, Maria Theresa replaced Maria Josepha in the Naples marriage with another daughter, Marie Caroline. Archduchess Maria Amalia, the eldest remaining candidate for marriage, was then married to Don Ferdinand of Parma. This ultimately left twelve-year-old Antoine as the potential bride for the fourteen-year-old Dauphin of France, Louis Auguste. Working painstakingly to process the marriage between the respective governments of France and Austria, the dowry was set at 200,000 crowns; portraits and rings were eventually exchanged as was custom. Finally, Antoine was married by proxy on April 19, 1770, in the Church of the Augustine Friars; her brother Ferdinand stood in as the bridegroom. She was also officially restyled as Marie Antoinette, Dauphine of France. Before leaving Maria Theresa reminded her of her duty to her home country; that she shouldn't forget she was Austrian, and thus had to promote the interests of Austria even as she was to be the future Queen of France. Marie Antoinette was officially handed over to her French bearers on May 7, 1770, on an island near Kehl. Chief among them were the Comte and Comtesse de Noailles, the latter who was appointed the Dauphine's Mistress of the Household by Louis XV of France. She would meet him, Louis Auguste and the royal aunts (known as Mesdames Tantes), one week later. Before reaching Versailles, she would also meet her future brothers-in-law, Louis Stanislas Xavier, Comte de Provence, and Charles Philippe, Comte d'Artois, who would come to play important roles during and after her life. She would meet the rest of the family, including Madame Elisabeth, who would become a close companion later in life. The ceremonial wedding of the Dauphin and Dauphine took place on May 16, 1770, in the palace of Versailles, after which was the ritual bedding. It was assumed by custom that consummation of the marriage would take place on the wedding night. However, this did not occur, and the lack of consummation would plague the reputation of both the Dauphin and Dauphine for seven years.

The inital reaction concerning the marriage between Marie Antoinette and Louis Auguste was decidedly mixed. On the one hand, the Dauphine herself was popular among the people at large; her first official appearance in Paris on June 8, 1773 at Tuileries was considered by many royal watchers a resounding success, with a reported 50,000 people crying out to see her. A visit to the opera for a court performance was also reported a success, with the Dauphine herself leading the applause. She was also widely commemorated for her acts of charity; in one incident, she personally attended to a dying man and arranged for his family to receive an income in his wake.

At Court, however, the match was not so popular, due to the long-standing tensions between Austria and France, which had only so recently been mollified; many courtiers had been active at promoting a match with various Saxon princesses. Others accused her of trying to sway the king to Austria's thrall, destroying long-standing traditions (such as appointing people to posts due to friendship and not to peerage), and of laughing at the influence of older women at the royal court. Many other courtiers, such as the Comtesse du Barry, had a more or less tenuous relationship with the Dauphine. However, Marie Antoinette's relationship with the du Barry was one which was important to rectify, at least on the surface, as the du Barry was the mistress of Louis XV, and thus had some political power. She was instrumental in the ousting of Etienne-François, duc de Choiseul, who had helped orchestrate the Austrian-Franco alliance (and ultimately Marie Antoinette's marriage); due to this, Mesdames Tantes' coaching, and the du Barry's perpetual occupation, the Dauphine refused to acknowledge the favorite, which was considered by some to be political suicide. After months of continued pressure from her mother and the Austrian minister Florimond Claude, comte Mercy d'Argenteau, Marie Antoinette grudgingly agreed to speak to the du Barry on New Year's Day 1772: although the limit of their conversation was Marie Antoinette's banal comment to the du Barry, "There are a lot of people at Versailles today." Later, she agreed to be more polite to the other woman, pleasing Louis XV. Marie Antoinette also still had to contend with her mother, who wrote to her daughter regularly and who received secret reports from Mercy d'Argenteau on her daughter's behavior. The Dauphine was constantly criticized for her inability to "inspire passion" in her husband, who rarely slept with her and had no interest in doing so, and was told again to promote the interests of Austria and the House of Lorraine, which Marie Antoinette was a member of through her late father. The Empress also criticized the Dauphine's pastime of horseback riding, though paradoxically the Empress's favorite portrait of her daughter was one of her in riding garb. The Empress would even go so far as to insult her daughter directly, telling her she was no longer pretty and had no talent, and was thus a failure, particularly after the marriages of the comte de Provence to Joséphine of Savoy and the comte d'Artois to Marie Thérèse of Savoy. To make up for the lack of affection from her husband and the endless criticism of her mother, Marie Antoinette began to spend more on gambling, with cards and horse-betting, as well as trips to the city and new clothing, shoes, pomade and rouge; the purchase of which, while extravagant (causing her to go into debt) and somewhat neglectful of her royal duties (a portion of the Dauphine's allowance was supposed to go to charities), was not as much as critics accused her of spending. She was also expected by tradition to spend money on her attire, so as to outshine other women at Court, being the leading example of fashion in Versailles (the previous queen, Maria Leszczynska, died in 1768, two years prior to Antoinette's arrival). Marie Antoinette also began to form deep friendships with various ladies in her retinue. Most noted were the sensitive and "pure" widow Princesse de Lamballe, whom she appointed as Superintendent of her Household, and the fun-loving Gabrielle, comtesse de Polignac, who would eventually form the cornerstone of the Queen's Private Society (Société Particulière de la Reine). Polignac later became the Royal Governess, and was liked as a friend by Louis Auguste. The closeness of the Dauphine's friendships with these ladies, influenced by various popular publications which promoted such friendships, would later cause accusations of lesbianism to be lodged against these women. Others taken into her confidence at this time included the comte d'Artois; Madame Élisabeth, a younger sister of Louis Auguste; the comtesse de Provence; and Christoph Willibald Gluck, her former music teacher, whom she took under her patronage upon his arrival in France. It was a week after the première of Gluck's opera, Iphigénie en Aulide, which had secured the Dauphine's position as a patron of the arts, that Louis XV began to fall ill on April 27, 1774. On May 4, the dying king sent the comtesse du Barry away from Versailles; on May 10, at 3 pm, he died of smallpox at the age of sixty-four.

Louis Auguste (re-styled Louis XVI) was officially crowned on June 11, 1775 at Rheims Cathedral. Marie Antoinette was not crowned alongside him, instead merely accompanying him during the coronation.

From the outset, despite how she was portrayed by contemporary libellistes, the new queen had very little political influence with her husband. Louis, who had been influenced as a child by anti-Austrian sentiments in the court, blocked many of her candidates, including the Duc de Choiseul, from taking important positions, aided and abetted by his two most important ministers, Chief Minister Jean-Frédéric Phélypeaux, Count of Maurepas and Foreign Minister Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes. All three were anti-Austrian, and were wary of the potential repercussions of allowing the queen - and, through her, the Austrian empire - to have any say in French policy. Marie Antoinette's situation became more precarious when, on August 6, 1775, her sister-in-law, Marie Thérèse, the wife of the Comte d'Artois, gave birth to a son, Louis Antoine, immediately titled the Duc d'Angoulême. He would be the heir to the French throne for seven years. Among the candidates were the Princesse de Lamballe and d'Artois, with whom the queen had a good rapport. This caused the queen to plunge further into the costly diversions of buying her dresses from Rose Bertin and gambling, simply to enjoy herself. On one famed occasion, she played for three days straight with players from Paris, straight up until her 21st birthday. She also began to attract various male admirers whom she accepted into her inner circles, including the Baron de Besenval, the Duc de Choigny, and Count Valentin Esterhazy. She was given free reign to renovate the Petit Trianon, which was given to her as a gift by Louis XVI on August 27 1775; she concentrated mainly on horticulture, redesigning the garden in the English mode. Though the castle was built in Louis XV's reign, the Petit Trianon became associated with Marie Antoinette's perceived extravagance; rumors circulated that she plastered the walls with gold and diamonds.

Though the queen was criticized for her expenditures, in truth, her spending amounted to little in comparison to the debt incurred by France during the Seven Years' War, still unpaid. It would be further exacerbated by Vergennes' prodding Louis XVI to get involved in Great Britain's war with its North American colonies, due to France's traditional hatred of England. In the midst of preparations for sending aid to France, and in the atmosphere of first wave of libelles, Emperor Joseph came to call on his sister and brother-in-law on April 18, 1777, the subsequent six-week visit a part of the attempt to figure out why their marriage had not been consummated. It was due to Joseph's intervention that on August 30, 1777, that the marriage was officially consummated. Eight months later, in April, it was suspected that the queen was finally pregnant; this was confirmed on May 16, 1778.

In the middle of her pregnancy, two events which would mark the queen's later life occurred; the return of the Swedish ladykiller and the Queen's eventual reputed lover, Count Axel von Fersen to Versailles for the subsequent two years, and the disgrace of the Duc de Chartres in the wake of his questionable conduct during the Battle of Ouessant against the British. The emperor Joseph also began to make succession claims for Bavaria through his late second wife, and Marie Antoinette's pleading for the French to help intercede on behalf of Austria was rebuffed by the king and his ministers. The Peace of Teschen, signed on May 13, 1779, would later end the brief conflict, but the incident once more showed the limited influence that the queen had in politics. Marie Antoinette's daughter, Marie Thérèse Charlotte, known affectionately as "Madame Royale" (Madame Fille du Roi) was finally born at Versailles after a particularly difficult labor on December 19, 1778, followed by an ordeal in the afterbirth where the Queen literally collapsed from suffocation and hemorrhaging; the room was packed with courtiers watching the birth and the doctor aiding her supposedly caused the excessive bleeding by accident. The windows had to be torn out to revive her; just as it had been forbidden at the Austrian court, the queen banned most courtiers from entering her bedchamber for subsequent labors. The baby's paternity was contested in the libelles and most notably by the Comte de Provence, who had always been open about his desire to become King through various means; however, it was never contested by the king himself, who was close to his daughter. However, the pressure to have a male heir continued to be applied, and Antoinette wrote about her worrisome health, which might have contributed to a miscarriage in the summer of 1779.

Meanwhile, the queen began to institute changes in the modes of court, with the approval of the king. She also began to participate in amateur theatrics, starting in 1780, in a theatre built for her and other courtiers who wished to indulge in singing and acting. In 1780, two candidates who had been supported by Marie Antoinette for positions, Charles, the marquis de Castries, and Louis Phillipe, Comte de Ségur, were appointed Minister of the Navy and the Minister of War, respectively. Though many believed it was entirely the support of the Queen that enabled them to secure their positions, in truth it was mostly due to the influence of Finance Minister Jacques Necker that got them the positions. Later that year, Empress Maria Theresa's health began to give way due to dropsy and an unnamed respiratory problem; she died on November 29, 1780, aged sixty-three in Vienna; she was mourned throughout Europe. Though Marie Antoinette was worried that the death of her mother would jeopardize the Franco-Austrian alliance (as well as, ultimately, herself), Emperor Joseph reassured her through his own letters (as the empress had not stopped writing to Marie Antoinette until shortly before her death) that he had no intention of breaking the alliance. Three months after the empress' death, it was rumored that Marie Antoinette was pregnant again, which was confirmed in March of 1781. Another royal visit from Joseph II in July, partially to reaffirm the Franco-Austrian alliance and also a means of seeing his sister again, was tainted with rumors that Marie Antoinette was siphoning treasury money off to him, which were false. The queen would give birth to Louis Joseph Xavier François, titled the Duc de Bretagne, on October 22, 1781.

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Despite the general celebration over the birth of the Dauphin, Marie Antoinette's political influence, such as it was, did not increase to the benefit of Austria, as it had been hoped. Instead, after the death of the Comte de Maurepas, the influence of Vergennes was strengthened, and she was again left out of political affairs. The same would happen during the so-called Scheldt Affair, when Joseph attempted to open up the Scheldt River for naval passage; a territory exchange as a pretext to claim Bavaria was again re-buffed as against French interests. When accused of being a "dupe" by her brother for her supposed inactivity, Marie Antoinette responded that she had little power; the king rarely talked to her about policy, and his anti-Austrian-tinted education as a child fortified his refusals in allowing his wife any participation in his cabals; as a result, she had to pretend he told her in order to get information from his ministers, and so that the public believed she had more power than she did. Marie Antoinette's temperament was more suited to her children, whose education and upbringing she personally saw to. This was against the mode of Versailles, where the queen usually had little say over the "Children of France", as royal children were called, and they were instead handed over to various courtiers who fought over the privilege. In particular, after the Royal Governess at the time of the Dauphin's birth, the Princesse de Rohan-Guéméné, went bankrupt and was forced to resign, and Marie Antoinette appointed the Duchess de Polignac to replace her. This met with disapproval from the court, as the duchess was considered to be of too "immodest" a birth to occupy the position; on the other hand, both the king and queen trusted her entirely, and the duchess had children of her own to whom the queen had become attached. In June 1783, Marie Antoinette was pregnant again; that same month, Count Fersen returned from America, in order to secure a military appointment, and he was accepted into her Private Society. He would leave in September to be Captain of the Bodyguard for Gustavus III, the Swedish king, who was conducting a tour of Europe. Marie Antoinette would suffer a miscarriage two months later, prompting more fears for her health. During this first visit, and Fersen's return on June 7, 1784, the queen would be occupied with the creation of a "model village" of twelve cottages and a mill at the Petit Trianon (nine cottages of which still stand today); this caused another uproar, and the actual price of the hameau were once again inflated by her critics. In truth, it was copied from another, far grander "model village" from the Prince de Condé; the Comtesse de Provence's version even included windmills and a marble dairyhouse. She became an avid reader of historical novels, was also a witness to the launching of hot air balloons, and briefly had in her confidence various personages such as William Pitt and the Duke of Dorset.

Despite the many things which she did in her time, the primary concern at the time was the health of the Dauphin, which was beginning to fail. At the time Fersen returned to Versailles in 1784, the possibility of the Dauphin not lasting through his childhood was commonly accepted, and it was rumored that the king and queen were attempting to have another child as a result. During this time, also, The Marriage of Figaro was premiered in Paris; after having banned it due to its portrayal of the nobility, it was ironically allowed because of its overwhelming popularity in secret readings with the nobility. After Fersen's six week visit was over, the queen reported that she was pregnant in August; with the future enlargement of her family in mind, she attempted to buy some personal property, in the form of the castle of St. Cloud, so she could pass it on to her children without stipulation. This was a hugely unpopular acquisition, one which caused her unpopularity with certain factions of the nobility to start spilling out into the rest of France, as the idea of a French Queen owning her own house independent of the king was unheard of. The negotiations between ministers, most notably with the Baron de Breteuil working on behalf of the queen, did not help, as the price - 6 million livres - and the substantial extra cost on furnishings the castle ensured that there would be less money going towards repaying France's substantial debt. On March 27, 1785, Marie Antoinette gave birth to a second son, Louis Charles, who was created the Duc de Normandie. He was noticeably stronger in constitution, even at birth, in comparison with the sickly Dauphin, and was affectionately nicknamed the queen's chou d'amour. This naturally led to suspicions of illegitimacy once more.

Several months after the birth of Louis Joseph, the queen received a letter from famed jewellers Boehmer and Bassenge, regarding a certain necklace which, it was eventually learned, the queen had apparently purchased through the auspisces of Prince Louis, Cardinal de Rohan. Marie Antoinette felt nothing but disdain towards Rohan, however, as he had flaunted libelles about her during his time as ambassador to Vienna; since his return to Paris in 1777 she had publicly snubbed him. Nor had she shown any interest towards the necklace itself, an ostentatious diamond-studded piece originally made with the Comtesse du Barry in mind, described by detractors as a "veritable yoke"; she had rejected the jewelers' offer to sell it to her on several occasions. It turned out that the cardinal had bought the necklace for the queen, on the commission of Jeanne, Comtesse de Lamotte-Valois, a con woman who had also been passed over by the queen and who became Rohan's mistress in 1783. Using papers forged by Reteaux de Villette, another of her lovers, Lamotte Valois convinced the cardinal she was a close friend of the queen's and that she had been commissioned to help get the necklace through him. Desperate for recognition by the queen, Rohan met with Nicole d'Olivia, who was hired to impersonate the queen, in Versailes' Grove of Venus, and received an order to buy the necklace so as to rectify Rohan's position. After the cardinal purchased the necklace, it was given to a "valet", who was in fact Jeanne's husband, who pried the gems from the necklace and sold them to the London jewelers Grey and Jeffries, where they were subsequently sold. Naturally, the payments for the necklace to Boehmer and Bassenge and Rohan (who apparently was to be paid back) were never brought forth; this, combined with the revealing to Madame Campan, the First Lady of the Queen's Bedchamber, that the Cardinal had bought the jewels and had used the forged signatures to do so, brought the arrest of the Cardinal, the Comtesse, d'Olivia, Villette and several others thought to be remotely involved in the case. The case was brought to the Parlement de Paris, which caused the entire affair to explode and permanently damage Marie Antoinette's reputation. The Parlement, in its own turn, had its own problems with the king, which involved the despised lit de justice that hindered its own power. Partially revenge against the king's power, partially a response to the queen's supposed life of sin and waste, vividly painted in the libelles, the Parlement acquitted the Cardinal de Rohan on May 31, 1786 as an unsuspecting victim, though he was stripped of his titles and banished from court. The Lamottes were handed life imprisonments and were to be branded as thieves (the Comte de Lamotte was in London and hence was tried in absentia), while everyone else was handed reprimands and confiscated of property. Yet most of the blame fell upon the queen herself; despite having nothing to do with orchestrating the fraud that lead to the "Diamond Necklace Affair", to this day she is still portrayed by some quarters as being somewhat or completely to blame for what happened. Amidst all of the attention focused on the trial, the queen turned thirty on November 2, 1785; she began to abandon some of the more frivolous clothing that she had favored in her youth for more dignified clothing. She was also starting to gain weight; it would turn out that she was pregnant once more, which she feared would affect her health, as she had only given birth several months prior. Ultimately, the stress of the "Diamond Necklace Affair" would cause her to go into labor; Sophie Hélène Béatrix was born on July 9, 1786, several weeks premature. As the queen had feared, her health was affected by the pregnancy, and she began to complain of shortness of breath soon afterwards.

The continuing dissipation of the financial situation in France, though cutbacks in the royal retinue had been made, ultimately forced the king, in collaboration with his current Minister of Finance, Charles Alexandre Calonne, to call the Assembly of Notables, after an absence of 160 years, to try and pass some of the reforms needed to alleviate the situation when the Parlements refused to cooperate. The first meeting of the Assembly took place on February 22, 1787, at which Marie Antoinette was not present and was afterwards accused of trying to undermine the process. However, the Assembly was a failure with or without the queen, as they did not pass any reforms and instead fell into a pattern of defying the king, demanding other reforms and for the acquicence of the Parlements. As a result, the king to dismiss Calonne on April 8, 1787; Vergennes died on February 13 and the king, once more ignoring the queen's pro-Austrian candidate (which she had half-heartedly endorsed) appointing a childhood friend, the comte de Montmorin, to replace him as Foreign Minister. During this time, even as her candidate was rejected, the queen began to abandon her more carefree activities to become more involved in politics than ever before, and mostly against the interests of Austria. This was for a variety of reasons; her children were the Children of France, and thus their future needed to be assured, the after effects of the "Diamond Necklace Affair" which in a way this was the queen's way of fighting the image presented, and the king's own condition, which was largely affected by a major depression, the symptoms of which were passed off as drunkeness by the libelles. As a result, she finally became a politically viable entity, though she herself was not gifted as such. Nevertheless, she did her best to help the situation brewing between the Assembly and the king. The change in interests also signalled the beginning of the end of the influence of the Polignacs, as Marie Antoinette began to dislike the duchesse's expenditures which were all at the queen's expense and to her discredit. The duchesse left for England in May, leaving her children behind in Versailles. Also, on May 1, Etienne de Loménie de Brienne, Archbishop of Toulouse and one of the queen's political allies, was appointed by the king as Financial Minister, and began instituting more cutbacks at court. The clear preference of Marie Antoinette for the minister who would, like Calonne, fail to rectify the finances, hurt the queen even more. The Assembly of Notables was then dissolved on May 25 because of their inability to get things done. The lack of solutions, as a result, would cause the blame of the entire situation - which was really a result of successive wars, a too-large royal family given astronomical allowances (as every royal individual had their own household, and some, such as the Comte de Provence and Mesdames Tantes, spent far more frivolously than the queen ever had), and the unwillingness of ministers and other non-royal nobles to help defray the costs - to fall on the queen. She would earn her famous nickname of "Madame Déficit" in the summer of 1787 as a result of her perceived destroying of the French government. The queen attempted to fight back with her own propaganda that portrayed her as the mother of the Children of France, most notably with the portrait of her and her children done by Vigée-Lebrun, which was to premiere at the Royal Académie Salon de Paris in August 1787. It was eventually dropped, however, due to the death of Sophie, the youngest child, due to convulsions from her baby teeth coming in, and also due to the unpopularity of the queen.

The queen was not directly involved with the exile of Parlement, the May Edicts or with the announcement regarding the Estates General. She was, however, present with Madame Royale, when Tippu Sahib of Mysore visited Versailles for help against the British; more importantly she was the reason for the recall of Jacques Necker as Finance Minister on August 26, a popular move, even though she herself was worried that the recall would again go against her if Necker was unsuccessful. Her prediction began to come true when the bread prices began to rise due to the severe 1788-1789 winter. The Dauphin's condition worsened even more, riots broke out in Paris in April, and on March 26, Louis XVI himself almost died from a fall off the roof. During the month of May, as the Estates General began to fissure between the more radical Third Estate comprised of the bourgeois and radical nobility) and the nobility of the Second Estate, while the king's brothers began to become more hardline and the queen's influence once more gave way to nothing. Instead, she turned to the care of the dying Dauphin, who finally passed at Meudon, with the queen at his side, on June 4, aged seven. His death, which would have normally been nationally mourned, was virtually ignored by the French people, who were instead preparing for the next meeting of the Estates General and the solution to the bread prices. As the Third Estate declared itself a National Assembly and took the Tennis Court Oath, and others listened to rumors that their queen wished to bathe in their blood, as she went into mourning.

The situation began to escalate violently in July as the National Assembly began to demand more rights and Louis XVI began to lean back towards the nobility's demands to suppress the Third Estate. Then, on July 11, Necker was dismissed. Paris was besieged by riots at the news, which culminated in the famous Storming of the Bastille on July 14. In the weeks that followed, many of the influential conservative aristocrats, including the comte d'Artois and the duchesse de Polignac (who had briefly returned to France several months prior), fled France. Marie Antoinette, who was probably most in danger and plagued with threats of immurement and the exclusion of her as the Queen Regent should her husband die, stayed behind in order to help the king promote stability, even as his power was gradually taken away by the National Assembly, who now ruled Paris, and were conscripting men to serve in the National Guard.

By the end of August, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (La Déclaration des droits de l'Homme et du citoyen) was adopted, which officially created the beginning of a constitutional monarchy in France. Despite this, the king was still required to perform court ceremonies, even as the situation in Paris started to worsen due to the bread shortage in September. In October on the beliefs that the king and queen were withholding bread, a bevy of market-women marched on Versailles to demand their voices be heard. The next day, they stormed the castle, killing several bodyguards in lieu of meeting the king, threatening Marie Antoinette's life in the process. The riot prompted the royal family - who also consisted of the Comte and Comtesse de Provence and the king's sister Madame Elisabeth - to move to Paris under guard of the National Guard; they stayed at the Tuileries under a lax house arrest. After this Marie Antoinette conveyed to her friends that she did not intend to involve herself any further in French politics, as everything, whether or not she was involved, would inevitably be attributed to her anyway and she feared the repercussions of further involvement. Despite the situation, Marie Antoinette was still required to perform charitable functions and certain religious ceremonies, which she did, though outside of this most of her time was dedicated to her children once more. Meanwhile, she was not privy to the creation of the French Constitution, which was further weakening the king's authority, creating a constitutional monarchy. She nevertheless hoped for a future where her son would be able to rule, convinced that the violence would soon pass. She was, however, subjected to several different confidences that involved her fleeing France on her own, which she rejected because she wished to stay with the king. Other attempts to rescue the king in the early days of their residence in the Tuileries were ultimately rejected by the king through his indecisiveness. The king's indecisiveness also played an important role in the poor execution of an elaborate attempt to escape from Paris to the fortress town of Montmédy conducted in 1791 with the aide of Count von Fersen. Initially, the queen rejected the plan because it required her to leave with only her son. She wished instead for the rest of the royal family to accompany her. The king ended up blundering on the subject of accompaniment, the date of departure, and also the route of the escape. The escape ultimately occurred on June 21, 1791, and was a failure; the entire family was captured twenty-four hours later at Varennes and taken back to Paris within the week. The result was a decline in popularity for both the king and queen, which correlated with the rise of the Jacobin party in French politics, who called for the end to any type of monarchy in France. Though the Constitution was accepted on September 14, Marie Antoinette hoped through the end of 1791 that the Constitution would prove unworkable and also that, perhaps, her brother, Leopold (who had succeeded Emperor Joseph upon his death on February 20, 1790) and other European states would put pressure upon the French revolutionaries, with the threat of an armed congress, to liberate them. However, she was unaware that Leopold was more interested in taking advantage of France's state of chaos for his own personal gain rather than help her or her family.

The result of Leopold's aggressive tendencies - and those of his son Francis II, who succeeded him in March - was that war was declared between France and Austria on April 20, 1792. This caused the queen to be viewed as an enemy, even though she was personally against Austrian claims on French lands. The situation became compounded in the summer when French armies were continually defeated and the king vetoed several measures that would have restricted his power even further, which caused Marie Antoinette to receive the nickname "Madame Veto". On June 20, a mob broke into the Tuileries and demanded the king wear the tricolor to show his loyalty to France. On July 31, the king's unpopularity was so great that the National Assembly officially suspended his power with the words, "Louis XVI is no longer the King of the French". The vulnerability of the abolished king was exposed on August 10, when a clash between Swiss Guards and republican forces forced the royal family to take refuge with the Assembly; several hundred died in the standoff. The royal family was moved to the tower of the Temple in the Marais on August 13, which was considerably harsher than their previous conditions. A week later, many of the royal family's attendants, among them the princesse de Lamballe, were taken in for interrogation by the Paris Commune. On September 21, the monarchy was officially ended, and the National Convention was installed as the legal authority of France, and the royal family was re-styled as the non-royal "Capets"; preparations for trying the king also went underway. Charged with undermining the Republic, Louis was separated from his family and tried in December. He was found guilty by the Convention, led by the Jacobins who rejected the idea of keeping him as a hostage. However, the sentence would not come until a month later, when he was condemned to execution by guillotine.

Louis was executed on January 21, 1793, at the age of thirty-eight. The result was that the "Widow Capet", as the former queen was called after the abolition of the monarchy, plunged into deep mourning; she refused to eat or take any exercise. Nor did she proclaim her son as Louis XVII, unlike the Comte de Provence, who in exile proclaimed himself regent for the boy. Her health rapidly deteriorated in the following months. By this time she suffered from tuberculosis and possibly uterine cancer, which caused her to hemorrhage frequently. Despite her condition, the debate as to her fate was the central question of the National Convention after Louis's death. There were those who had been advocating her death for some time, while some had the idea of exchanging her for French prisoners of war or for a ransom from the Holy Roman Emperor. Thomas Paine advocated exile to America. Starting in April, however, a Committee of Public Safety was formed, and men such as Jacques Hébert were beginning to call for Antoinette's trial; by the end of May, the Girondins had been chased out of power and arrested. Other calls were made to "retrain" the Dauphin, to make him more pliant to revolutionary ideas. This was carried out when Louis Charles was separated from Antoinette on July 3, and given to the care of a cobbler. On August 1, she herself was taken out of the Tower and entered into the Conciergerie as Prisoner No. 280. Despite various attempts to get her out, such as the Carnation Plot in September, Marie Antoinette refused when the plots for her escape were brought to her attention.

She was finally tried by revolutionary tribunal on October 14. Unlike the king, who had been given time to prepare a defense, the queen's trial was far more of a sham, considering the time she was given (less than one day) and the Jacobin's misogynistic view of women in general. The outcome of the trial had already been decided by the Committee of Public Safety around the time the Carnation Plot was uncovered, and she was declared guilty in the early morning of October 16, after two days of proceedings. She was executed later that day, at 12:15 pm, two and a half weeks before her thirty-eighth birthday. Her body was thrown in an unmarked grave in the former La Madeleine cemetery (closed in 1794). Both her body and that of Louis XVI were exhumed on January 18, 1815. Re-inhumation of the royal remains took place three days later, on January 21, in the necropolis of French kings at St. Denis Basilica.

Titles
Her Royal Highness Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria, Princess of Hungary and Bohemia, Princess of Tuscany (1755-1770).
Her Royal Highness The Dauphine of France (Son Altesse Royale la Dauphine de France) (1770-1774).
Her Majesty The Queen of France and Navarre (Sa Majesté la Reine de France et de Navarre) (1774-1791).
Her Majesty The Queen of the French (Sa Majesté la Reine des Français) (1791-1792).

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