11 Facts About Marie Antoinette You May Not Know

facts about Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette at the age of thirteen; by Joseph Ducreux, 1769. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Marie Antoinette is often considered one of the most fascinating and interesting women of 18th century France. If you are familiar with her at all, you probably know that she was born on 2 November 1755 and was the fifteenth and second youngest child of Empress Maria Theresa and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. She married Louis-Auguste (later Louis XVI) by proxy at age fourteen on 19 April 1770 and met him for the first time about a month later at the edge of the Forest of Compiègne.

When Louis XV died about four years later, Louis-Auguste assumed the throne as Louis XVI. Marie Antoinette then became Queen of the French. She and Louis XVI had four children — Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, Louis-Joseph, Louis-Charles (Louis XVII), and Sophie — and only Marie-Thérèse Charlotte grew to adulthood. However, there are many other interesting things about her, and, so, here are 11 facts about Marie Antoinette you may not know. Continue reading

The Indictment Against Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette au Tribunal révolutionnaire. By Alphonse François From Painting by Paul Delaroche (1857). Courtesy of Library of Congress
Marie Antoinette au Tribunal révolutionnaire. By Alphonse François From Painting by Paul Delaroche (1857). Courtesy of Library of Congress.

An indictment against Marie Antoinette was drawn up by the Public Accuser of the Revolutionary Tribunal, Antoine Quentin Fouquier-Tinville, on 13 October 1793. The indictment considered the Queen’s life, “from the epoch of her marriage in 1770, to the memorable era of the 10th of August, 1792.”[1]

Once the indictment was prepared, it was given to the Queen. At the time, she was imprisoned at the Conciergerie as Prisoner no. 280. She requested defenders, which was granted. She then selected lawyer Guillaume Alexandre Tronson du Coudray and the well-known and respected lawyer Claude François Chauveau-Lagarde. Because her trial was scheduled to begin the next morning on 14 October, her defense team had less than a day to prepare. 

The Norfolk Chronicle published the indictment, and it is provided below verbatim: Continue reading

Louis XVI’s Sibling: Count of Artois or Charles X

The Dauphin Louis and the Dauphine Marie Josèphe, Public Domain
The Dauphin Louis and the Dauphine Marie Josèphe. Public Domain.

Charles Philippe of France was born 9 October 1757 at the Palace of Versailles. He was the youngest son of the Dauphin Louis and the Dauphine Marie Josèphe and was known throughout most of his life as the Count of Artois (Comte d’Artois). His father died in 1765 and his mother died two years later from tuberculosis. This left Charles and his siblings — Louis Auguste (the future Louis XVI), Louis Stanislas, Count of Provence (the future Louis XVIII), Clotilde (“Madame Clotilde”), and Élisabeth (“Madame Élisabeth”) — orphans. Because the Count of Artois was the youngest, it seemed unlikely he would ever become king. Continue reading

A Plot to Save Marie Antoinette: The Carnation Plot

Marie Antoinette. Author’s Collection.

A plot to save Marie Antoinette, known as the Carnation Plot (also referred to as either le complot de l’oeillet or affaire de l’œillet) was one of many devised while she was imprisoned. The Carnation Plot was inspired by a chevalier of St. Louis, named Alexandre Gonsse de Rougeville. Rougeville was loyal to King Louis XVI and had been at his side when a mob broke into the Tuileries and harangued the King and Queen on 20 June. Two months later, he was there during the insurrection at the Tuileries known as 10 August.

After 10 August, Louis XVI and his family were imprisoned at the Temple. Louis XVI was then guillotined on 21 January 1793. Several months later, at 1:00am on 1 August 1793, Marie Antoinette, now known as the Widow Capet, was transferred from the Temple to an isolated cell in the Conciergerie. She was identified as prisoner 280. Continue reading

Henri, Count of Chambord

Seven-day King known as Henri V
Henri, His Mother, and His Older Sister, Louise Marie, by François Gérard, in 1822. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Henri, Count of Chambord was born on 29 September 1820 at the Tuileries Palace and named Henri of Artois. Henri was the son of Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Berry, and his wife Princess Caroline of Naples and Sicily. Unfortunately, Henri’s father, the Duke of Berry who was also the youngest son of Charles X of France, was assassinated seven months before Henri’s birth and died on 14 February 1820.

To ensure the legitimacy of Henri’s birth by the Princess Caroline, witnesses were brought in, and among the witnesses was Maréchal Suchet who had been chosen by Bonapartists to witness and certify the birth. The birth happened so quickly the Princess refused to have Henri separated from the umbilical cord before the official witnesses arrived. Thus, when Suchet arrived, the Duchess supposedly told him to tug on the umbilical cord and see that it was still attached. According to the British ambassador Sir Charles Stuart, “Suchet proved a bit faint-hearted and she repeated, ‘Mais tirez donc, M. le Maréchal.'”

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Marie Antoinette’s White Hair

Pouf a la Belle Poule, Public Domain
Pouf a la Belle Poule. Public Domain.

Marie Antoinette’s hair was of intense interest to the French in the 18th century. In fact, the hairstyles she created and wore helped to establish her identity as a French queen. With the help of her hairdresser, Marie Antoinette created some of the most memorable styles, including one towering pouf that featured a French frigate, complete with masts and rigging, called Pouf a la Belle Poule. Eventually, however, the queen’s hair began falling out. Just as quickly as her towering pouf hairstyles had risen to extraordinary heights, short locks became all the rage when her hair was chopped off.

The Queen’s hair changed again after France found itself in the middle of a revolution. It was reported that suddenly the Queen’s strawberry blonde hair was white and that it became white practically over night. But the idea that a person’s hair can turn white over night, did not first happen to the French Queen. The first mention of someone’s hair turning white overnight was printed in the Talmud, where it was claimed that it happened to a 17-year-old Jewish scholar because of overwork. There were also apparently other cases of hair turning white over night, which were pointed out by one nineteenth-century doctor in the following description: Continue reading

Death of Ferdinand Philippe, Duke of Orléans

Death of Ferdinand Philippe, Duke of Orléans: Duke of Orléans
Duke of Orléans by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In July of 1842, a sad event occurred. It was the accidentally death of Ferdinand Philippe when he fell from his carriage. He was the son of King Louis Philippe I and Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily, and he was born in his mother’s native Sicily in Palermo, on Monday 3 September 1810, during his parents’ exile.

Ferdinand Philippe was originally given the title Duke of Chartres and for this reason affectionately called “Chartres” within the family circle. However, he had been baptized Ferdinand Philippe Louis Charles Henri, and most people knew him as Ferdinand Philippe in honor of his grandfathers, Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies and Philippe Égalité. In addition, as the oldest son, Ferdinand Philippe was heir to the title Duke of Orléans, which was the name he was usually referred to at the time of his death and the name that I will refer to him in this post. Continue reading

Removing the Dauphin From His Mother (Marie Antoinette)

Louis-Charles by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun in 1789
Louis-Charles at Age 4 Painted by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun in 1789. Public Domain.

After the royal family was imprisoned in the Temple, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette worried about their fate and worried that the Dauphin (Louis-Charles) might be taken from them. Louis-Charles was born 27 March 1785 at Versailles and was the second son of the King and Queen, but he became the Dauphin after his older brother died of tuberculosis. Louis-Charles was described by one historian as having large blue eyes, a mouth “like his mother’s, and … her bright colour of hair and skin.” He was said to be delicate in frame and excitable in temperament. He was also described in the following way

“[Louis-Charles was] courteous and affectionate, but impatient of control. His mother’s intelligent devotion earned from him, baby as he was, a love and respect which never failed to influence him.”

To ensure that Louis-Charles would not be taken, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette refused to let him be separated from them or go outdoors, even for a walk. Thus, his days at the Temple became routine and involved his father teaching him writing, history, mathematics, geography, and spelling until the Commune one day declared that the Dauphin could no longer study mathematics. It seems they thought that “this was a hieroglyphic language which might be used for correspondence in cipher.” Continue reading

Louis XVI’s Sibling: Madame Élisabeth

Madame Élisabeth in 1768, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Madame Élisabeth in 1768, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Known as Madame Élisabeth, Élisabeth Philippine Marie Hélène de France, was the youngest sibling of King Louis XVI. She was born on 3 May 1764 at the Palace of Versailles to Louis, Dauphin of France, and his wife, Marie-Josèphe of Saxony. However, her parents were both dead by the time she was two and she was reported to be in delicate health.

Madame Élisabeth had a sister who was five years older than her. Her name was Marie Clotilde, and she was born 23 September 1759. They developed a close relationship because both girls were given a royal education and shared time together. They became even closer when Marie Clotilde once insisted upon taking care of Élisabeth when she was ill. Thereafter, Élisabeth held a deep attachment for her older sister.

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Marie Antoinette and Donkey Riding

Marie Antoinette and Donkey Riding
Marie Antoinette, Author’s Collection

In my book, “Marie Antoinette’s Confidante,” one of the things I talk about is Marie Antoinette and donkey riding. It all began after Marie Antoinette arrived in France, became bored, and developed a strong desire to ride horses. Her mother, the Empress Maria Theresa, was an excellent horsewoman, and as Marie Antoinette’s new husband, the Dauphin and future Louis XVI, loved to hunt, Marie Antoinette thought that riding horses might be way to spend more time with him.

When Marie Antoinette voiced her desire to ride horses, she was immediately met with opposition. Among those opposing her riding horses was the Austrian diplomat named the Count of Mercy-Argenteau, but better known simply as Mercy. Mercy was the person who had cemented Marie Antoinette’s marriage to the Dauphin, and when he arrived in France with Marie Antoinette, Mercy found himself in a position of power. He could impress the Empress by revealing everything that Marie Antoinette was doing, thinking, or feeling, and then influence Marie Antoinette in the ways that her mother wanted. Continue reading