Queen of France
1755 – 1793 A.D.
Marie Antoinette, Queen of France. She was the youngest daughter of Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria, and at the age of fifteen years was married to the Dauphin, grandson of Louis XV and heir to the French crown.
At this early age she assumed her position as Dauphine in the dissolute court of Louis XV, where a woman of ripe years and cultivated intellect would have required the greatest prudence and caution to steer her way among innumerable difficulties. The memoirs of the time all dwell upon the promises of her yet undeveloped beauty; the noble cast of her features, her brilliant complexion, the golden shade of her beautiful hair, her graceful manner, and the remarkable dignity of her attitude.
The scandalous reign of Louis XV ended with his death on May 10, 1774, and wjen the courtiers announced the event to the Daughin and his wife, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette burst into tears, and with a joint impulse fell on their knees exclaiming: God help us and protect us! We are too young to reign! The king was not yet twenty; the queen was in her nineteenth year.
The nation, crushed with taxes and reduced to grinding poverty by the vices and shameless extravagance of Louis XV hailed the new reign with hopes and expectations of coming prosperity, but these anticipations could only prove illusive. The awkward, good-natured king was a weak ruler, and his beautiful young queen was thoughtless and pleasure-loving, spending money lavishly at a time when everyone felt the necessity of reforms and economy.
The queen’s first child, known as Madame Royale, lived until 1851. the second and fourth, a boy and girl, died in infancy, while the third, who because Dauphin, was destined to suffer a dreadful fate.
While the affairs of France were growing more serious, the inefficient reign of Louis, and the frivolous amusements of Marie Antoinette continued, but her mind was soon to be engrossed by other cares – the Revolution was looming in the future, and in July, 1789, it broke forth in the storming of the Bastille. During the next four years the familiar events of the insurrection moved rapidly, leading to the arrest, trial and condemnation of the king and queen.The Dauphin, the nominal heir to the crown of France, was torn from his mother and thrust into a loathsome prison-cell, where he suffered horrible tortures, and died at the age of ten years.
King Louis XVI perished on the scaffold in January, 1793, and in the following October Marie Antoinette was summoned before the Revolutionary Court. During the trial she conducted herself with queenly dignity, and received the sentence of death with fortitude. On the morning of October 16, 1793, she was driven in a rude cart to the guillotine in the place de la Révelotion, and there made the heroic final statement for waht she called “errors, but not crimes. the executioner held up the head to the populace. The deep awe of the spectators the face of Marie Antoinette expressed perfect consciousness, and the eyes look on the crowd. The expression was that of intense astonishment, as of some wonderful vision revealed.
Carlyle in his History of the French Revolution says:
Is there a man’s heart that thinks without pity of those long months and years of slow-wasting ignominy; of thy birth, in imperial Schönbrunn, the winds of heaven not to visit thy face too roughly, they foot to light on softness, thy eye on splendor; and then of thy death, or hundred deaths, to which the guillotine and Forquier Tinville’s judgment-bar was but the merciful end! Look then, O man born of woman! The bloom of that face is wasted, the hair is grey with care; the brightness of those eyes is quenched, their lids hang drooping, the face is stony pale, as of one living in death. Mean weeds, which her own hand has mended, attire the Queen of the World. The death-hurdle, where thou sittest motionless has to stop; a people, drunk with vengeance, looking at thee there. Far as the eye reaches, a multitudinous sea of maniac heads, the air of deaf with their triumphant-yell. There is no heart to say God pity thee! But thy path of thorns is nigh ended, one long last look at the Tuileries, where thy step was once so light – where thy children shall not dwell. They head is on the block; the axe rushes – dumb lies the world; that wild-yelling world, and all its madness is behind thee.”
Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.