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Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France


Marie Antoinette was born Maria Antonia Josephina Johanna on November 2, 1755 in Vienna, Austria—the musical capital of the world at the time. She was the 15th of 16 children born to Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Francis of Lorraine.

She would be baptized the next day, followed by celebrations which included balls, free theatrical and musical performance in her honor on the 5th and 6th.

On the morning of May 1770, at 14 years old, Antonia arrived at the French Court, the bride of future king Louis XVI (Louis Auguste). The French would call her Marie Antoinette.

Her groom, Louis Auguste—named the Duke of Berry by his grandfather, Louis XV—was a year older. He hunted often and read books on history and science, held no interested in art or music, and did not dance. Others considered him a savage and an imbecile.

Following mass, the parish-priest of Notre Dame of Versailles brought the church register in which baptisms, marriages and deaths were noted. She did not manage to write her four Christian names in a straight line nor avoid an inkblot.

Growing up, Antonia preferred racing around in the park grounds or riding by sleigh to indulging in her studies. The Countess of Brandeiss, who oversaw her education, shortened the hours devoted to reading and writing content to instill in her the religious and moral principles that every archduchess had to possess.

Her parents held the belief that so long as their daughters proficient in the "female" arts of music, tapestry work and watercolors, they would make accomplished wives.

As queen, Marie Antoinette enjoyed entertainment and was influential in choosing shows to be put on at Court. She supported the composers she appreciated and was patron for many artists. With her indifference to rules and social classes, she bore witness to new ideas in a court which still stoutly upheld tradition.

One account of her life is that she became a toy in the hands of much older politicians or intriguers, without ever encountering serious or sincere friendship.

Prior to his death on August 18, 1785, her father left behind a list of instructions to be read by his children twice a year, warning them among other things, against false friendships.

Marie Antoinette became a widow when her husband was guillotined to death after being tried and convicted of treason in January 1793.

After a brief trial, she was convicted of treason and of sexual abuse of her son in October 1793.  On October 16, she too was executed by guillotine. She was 37 years old.

In 1815 her remains, along with those of Louis XVI, were transferred to the Abbey of Saint-Denis and placed in the crypt. 

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