The youngest daughter of Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa, Marie-Antoinette's marriage to the future king Louis XVI was a classic example of dynastic matchmaking. It cemented a relatively young (and very unpopular) alliance between Austria and France (the Diplomatic Revolution of 1756). As queen, allegations of political meddling, financial profligacy and sexual promiscuity made her a lightning rod for political, social and cultural tensions in later eighteenth-century France. This continued into the Revolution, and the duchess notes Marie-Antoinette's unpopularity from its outset. She was imprisoned with Louis XVI after he was deposed in August 1792 and remained there with her children after her husband's execution in January 1793. She was herself put on trial and executed by the Paris Revolutionary Tribunal in October 1793.
Appears in these Letters:
The Estates General was the national representative body called by Louis XVI to solve the state’s financial problems. It was set up with ornate...
8 August: The Duchess Rides Through the Great Fear
The duchess felt trapped in Paris following the Revolutionary events of July 1789. She decided to leave Paris for her provincial estates at Moreuil in...
14 October: A King Imprisoned? The October Days
On 5-6 October 1789, a Parisian crowd led by thousands of women marched out to demonstrate at Versailles and forced the royal family to relocate to...
Here the duchess sifts through the wreckage of the royal family's thwarted attempt to escape Paris in June 1791. Before leaving on what would become...
The summer of 1792 was a perfect storm for the French monarchy, with rising demands for a Republic amid military defeats and the lasting resentment...
22 October: The Execution of Marie-Antoinette
The execution of the former queen Marie-Antoinette on 16 October 1793, after a highly politicised show trial at the Paris Revolutionary Tribunal, was...
Portrait by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1778