Ill Fated Queen of France
1755 – 1793 A.D.
Marie Antoinette Josephe Jeanne De Lorraine, archduchess of Austria and queen of France, was the fifth daughter of Maria Theresa and Francis I. She was born at Vienna, November 2, 1755, was carefully educated, and possessed an uncommon share of grace and beauty. Her hand was demanded by Louis XIV., for his grandson, the dauphin, afterwards Louis XVI., to whom she was married in 1770, before she had attained her fifteenth year.
Her position at the French court was difficult from the very first, and it soon became dangerous. There was a difference of character between her and the people among whom she had come to live which proved fatal in the end. Her morals were perfectly pure and her heart full of noble and generous instincts. During the first years of her residence in France the queen was the idol of the people. Four years from this period all was changed. Circumstances remote in their origin had brought about in France a state of feeling fast ripening to a fearful issue.
The queen could no longer do with impunity what had been done by her predecessors. The extravagance and thoughtlessness of youth, and a neglect of the strict formality of court etiquette, injured her reputation. She became a mark of censure, and finally an object of hatred to the people, who accused her of the most improbable crimes. Accused of being an Austrian at heart, and an enemy to France, every evil in the state was now attributed to her, and the Parisians soon exhibited their hatred in acts of open violence.
In October, 1789, the populace proceeded with rancor to Versailles, broke into the castle, murdered several of the bodyguard, and forced themselves into the queen’s apartments. When questioned by the officers of justice as to what she had seen on that memorable day, she replied, “I have seen all, I have hear all, I have forgotten all.”
She accompanied the king in his flight to Varennes, in 1791, and endured with him, with unexampled fortitude and magnanimity, and the insults which now followed in quick succession. In April, 1792, she accompanied the king from the Tuileries, where they had been for some time detained close prisoners, to the Legislative Assembly, where she was arraigned. Transferred to the Temple, she endured, with the members of the royal family, every variety of privation and indignity. On January 21, 1793, the king perished on a scaffold; her son was forcibly torn from her, and she was removed to the Conciergerie to await her trial in a damp and squalid cell. On the 14th of October she appeared before the revolutionary tribunal.
During the trial, which lasted seventy-three hours, Marie Antoinette preserved all her dignity and composure. Her replies to the infamous charges were preferred against her were simple, noble, and laconic. When all of the accusations had been heard, she was asked if she had anything to say. She replied, “I was a queen, and you took away my crown; a wife, and you killed my husband; a mother, and you deprived me of my children. My blood alone remains: take it, but do not make me suffer long.”
At four o’clock on the morning of the 16th she was condemned to death by a unanimous vote. She heard her sentence with admirable dignity and self-possession. At half-past twelve on the same day she ascended the scaffold. Scarcely any traces remained of the dazzling loveliness which had once charmed all hearts; her hair had long since become blanched with grief, her eyes were almost sightless from continued weeping. She knelt and prayed for a few moments in a low tone, then rose and calmly delivered herself to the executioner. Thus perished, a victim to the circumstances of birth and position.
No fouler crime ever stained the annals of savage life than the murder of this unfortunate queen, by people calling themselves the most civilized nation in the world.
Marie Antoinette had four children: a daughter, who died in infancy; the dauphin, who died in 1789; the young Louis, who perished in the Temple in 1795; and Maria Theresa Charlotte, who became the wife of the eldest son of Charles X.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.