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Marie-Antoinette – Queen Consort of King Louis XVII (1 of 2)

Queen Consort of King Louis XVII

Marie Antoinette was born on November 2, 1755 in Vienna and died on October 16, 1793 in Paris.  Queen consort of King Louis XVI of France (ruled 1774-93); by refusing to accept the constitutional restrictions imposed on her husband during the early years of the French Revolution, she contributed to the popular unrest that let to the overthrow of the monarchy in August 1792.

The 11th daughter of the Holy Roman emperor Francis I and Maria Theresa, Marie-Antoinette was married in 1770 to the dauphin Louis, grandson of France’s King Louis XV (ruled 1715-74).  The match was designed to strengthen France’s alliance with Austria, but the anti-Austrian prejudices current in France prevented Mari-Antoinette from winning acceptance in her adopted country.  The timid, uninspiring Louis proved to be an inattentive husband; and by the time he ascended the throne in 1774, Mari-Antoinette had withdrawn into the companionship of a small circle of frivolous court favorites.

At first the Queen was interested in politics only as a means of securing favors for her friends; the efforts she made to advance Austrian interests were blocked by the King and his ministers.  Her extravagant court expenditures contributed—although to a minor degree—to the huge debt incurred by the French state in the 1770s and 1780s, and her close associations with the more dissipated members of the court aristocracy prompted her enemies to circulate slanderous report of her alleged extramarital affairs.  These vilifications culminated in the Affair of the Diamond Necklace (1785-86), in which the Queen was unjustly accused of having formed an immoral relationship with a cardinal.  The scandal discredited the monarchy and encouraged the nobles to oppose vigorously (1787-88) all the financial reforms advocated by the King’s ministers.

During these crises, as in those to come, Marie-Antoinette proved to be stronger and more decisive than her husband.  By the time the Revolution broke out in 1789, she was exerting a powerful influence in the royal councils.  After a crowd stormed the Bastille on July 14, the Queen failed to convince Louis to take refuge with his army at Metz.  In August-September, however, she successfully prodded him to resist the attempts of the revolutionary National Assembly to abolish feudalism and restrict the royal prerogative. – The New Encyclopedia Britannica


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