November 2, 2006

Marie Antoinette - Part 3

Marie Antoinette was born on November 2nd, 1755, the inauspicious "Day of the Dead", when Catholics commemorate their departed. Because of the nature of this day, the early birthdays of Marie Antoinette were celebrated on November 1st.

You can read part two here.

I will use this day to commemorate her one last time.

It's true that Marie Antoinette was not ready to be Queen of France when she did, and that she didn't reign responsibly, and that her unpopularity with the people precipitated the French Revolution. What many people fail to realize is that her character changed with the difficulties and that many times, during her last years, she did prove herself worthy of being a Queen.

After the French Revolution, on October 5th, 1789, a mob of people stormed Versailles in the middle of the night, asking for the Queen's blood. Marie Antoinette was able to escape to the King's apartments and avoid the crowd that got to her room and pierced her empty bed with pikes. The next morning, the mob was still outside the palace, asking to see the Queen, to confirm if she was dead or alive. Marie Antoinette stepped out on the balcony, knowing that those people wanted to assassinate her. She showed courage, she stood there for ten minutes, in her night robe, while people were pointing their weapons at her. She then bowed her head and returned inside. Some people in the mob were so impressed by her that they shouted "Long live the Queen". Her dignity saved her life for the moment.

But the Royal family was forced to leave Versailles and to move to Paris, in the Tuileries Palace.

From this day on, until 1793, Marie Antoinette's life had nothing glamorous nor luxurious in it, but years of constant humiliation and terror.

Imprisoned by their own people, the royal family tried to escape to Varennes in 1791, but when they were captured few days later, their situation worsened.

In 1792 the Tuileries Palace was stormed by the Paris mob, who massacrated the Swiss Guards. On this occasion the Queen wanted to stay and face the crowd. And when she was asked: "Madame, do you really want to make yourself responsible for the massacre of the King, your children, yourself...?" her reply was: "On the contrary, what would I not do to be the only victim?" Eventually she gave in, and the royal family was forced once more to flee for their lives.

When Austria and Prussia declared war to France, Marie Antoinette was accused of treason, the royal family was arrested and the monarchy abolished.

They were moved to the Temple prison. Things precipitated again. On January 1793 her husband, the King, was tried for treason and condemned to death. Then she was separated from her son, then from her daughter.

She was brought to trial on October 14, 1793. They didn't really have any proof to condemn her but they did anyway. Two days later she was taken to the guillotine. She had managed to buy a white dress for her final day, which she wore with black silk stockings and plum colored shoes. As she looked up to the guillotine the priest who accompanied her, said: "This is the moment, Madame, to arm yourself with courage" at which she replied: "Courage? The moment when my troubles are going to end is not the moment when my courage is going to fail me".

Thus ended the life of Marie Antoinette Queen of France.

Before her body was buried, a young sculptor, Marie Grosholtz who later became Madame Tussaud, had the opportunity to take a wax imprint for a death mask.

In 1815 Marie Antoinette's body was exhumed and found deteriorated, except for the garters she wore to the execution.

If you ever want to quote Marie Antoinette, do not use "let them eat cake", she never said that.

Use this real quote instead: "It is in misfortune that you realize your true nature".


Briconcella said...

I am sure you have researched Marie Antoinette s life but hold on, she is more complex and human than the "from frivolous queen to saint" version. You should read, if they are translated in english, the diary of her ladies in waiting during the imprisonment at the Temple prison. And know that her heavy perfume was one thing that betrayed the royal family during their botched attempt to flee France. By the way, I am French

NY Spender said...

Thank you, I will look for that book. And I understand what you are saying. I wasn't trying to pass her for a saint. I was saying that she had to endure a lot more than people are aware of. And that she couldn't be anything else but a Queen (you are who you are).

You specify that you are French... do French people today see Marie Antoinette with the same eyes of 1789?

Briconcella said...

Non, of course. In 1789, people just went revolution mad. But we still think that she made every mistake in the book, during her reign. Her mother tried to warn her, you can see that from their letters. What French people don't like is foreign film directors out to restyle her in a clueless-in-Versailles, poor little rich girl:). She was warned. But she chose to take side with the fashionable and cynical set. There is a good french film about the atmosphere at Versailles in those years. It is called "Ridiculous", and has been released in the states.

NY Spender said...

Do you place any blame whatsoever on Louis XVI? He was, as a matter of fact, the King...

Briconcella said...

Hey, this is getting to be a conversation! here is the link to the film mentioned previously:(Ridicule)
PS:poor Louis 16th wasn't cut for the job. No one seemed to be cut for the job, in fact, and the house went bankrupt.

Anonymous said...

is it rly true that she bowed like in the movie when the people were rioting?

Anonymous said...

i love your article. it's very fun to read and i've actually used it for a little research.

write some more!