Why She Made HistoryMarie-Antoinette, Queen of France, was highly disliked by France’s people. She lived a lavish lifestyle during a time when France’s people were starving. Marie-Antoinette influenced her husband, King Louis XVI, to maintain the strength of the monarchy.
As you read the biography below, think about what led
to Marie-Antoinette’s demise.
Marie-Antoinette, born in Vienna, Austria, was the daughter of Emperor Francis I and Empress Maria Theresa. When Marie-Antoinette was fifteen years old, she married Louis, the heir to the French throne. Just four years later, in 1774, Louis became King Louis XVI, making Marie-Antoinette Queen of France.
France was in a state of famine and unrest. There was hope that the marriage between Marie-Antoinette and Louis would bring a much-needed alliance between France and Austria, France’s long-time enemy. But France’s people did not take to the young queen. Marie-Antoinette spent lavishly on her clothes, belongings, and recreational activities. This made her unpopular with the public.
It has been written that Marie-Antoinette said of the starving French, “Let them eat cake.” While there is no proof that the queen uttered these words, it is believed that Marie-Antoinette did not understand the extent to which economic problems raged throughout France.
When the French Revolution (1789–1799) began, mobs organized rebellions throughout France to try to overthrow the monarchy. During this time, Marie-Antoinette influenced her husband to maintain the power of the monarchy. After Marie-Antoinette contacted her brother, Emperor Leopold II of Austria, to help save the monarchy, the people imprisoned Louis and Marie-Antoinette. In 1792, France’s monarchy was overthrown. A year later, the people of France guillotined King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette for treason.
What did you learn?
1. RecallWhat were some of the reasons that Marie-Antoinette was so disliked by the French people?
2. Express and Support a Point of View Do you feel that Marie-Antoinette was justly criticized by the public? Provide reasons or examples to support your point of view.
Write a short letter that a French revolutionist could have written to Marie-Antoinette. Explain what the monarch could do differently to improve the lives of the French. Write your letter on a separate piece of paper.