1917: Mata Hari, femme fatale 1622: Anne de Chantraine, young witch

1793: Marie Antoinette

October 16th, 2008 Headsman

This afternoon in Paris, 1793, the French Revolution devoured the Queen.

Thirteen-year-old Madame Antoine — a year before marriage, and rebranding as Marie Antoinette. A vast gallery of her portraiture awaits here.

Among the most emblematic death penalty victims in history, Marie Antoinette — the “widow Capet,” as she was styled in egalite, after the guillotine shortened her husband — had the bad luck to personify the decadence of the ancien regime under the hegemony of the sans-culotte.

(And, of course, the good luck to be born heir to all the perks of absolutism she enjoyed for the first thirty-plus years of life. So, you know: a mixed bag.)

Those infamous excesses — and her infamous alleged bon mot, “let them eat cake” — are said to have been greatly exaggerated, nothing that everyone wasn’t doing, nothing that wasn’t understandable under the circumstances.

She had a gift, it seems, for accumulating to her personal reputation the outrage incurred by every gross and petty indulgence of the old order. And she had a popular press, the libelles, ready to embroider them salaciously.

Poor Marie.

Jacques-Louis David sketched this portrait of a haggard Marie Antoinette en route to the guillotine.

Cruel, wanton, senseless … her death was all of these, but then many others in the Terror suffered the same, as many others had under the Bourbons.

As royal dynastic pairings go, she’d been dealt a bad hand.

Her mere presence in France was fruit of the controversial policy of alliance with the Austrian Habsburgs from the Seven Years’ War, and she was trundled off with her dowry and her teenage wiles to the foreign snakepit of Versailles just as the minister advancing that policy fell. Distrusted by the French as an Austrian catspaw, castigated by her family for her inadequacies thereto, socially expected to display conspicuous regal largesse during a budget crisis not of her making, and unable for the longest time to get a successful coition from her indifferent and/or impotent husband, it must have seemed to her some days like every play was a losing one.

She struggled to gain traction at court. But she would lose much more than influence.

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. (WikiQuote)

Her bearing she kept forever: in a kangaroo court with a foreordained outcome where her imperious dignity still managed to turn aside an accusation of sexual abuse her son had been cajoled into supplying; on the scaffold, when she did not neglect courtesy to the executioner whose foot she trod:

“Monsieur, je vous demande pardon. Je ne l’ai pas fait exprès.”

For much more queenliness, Marie-Antoinette.org delivers what the url promises, in quantity. If this figure or this period appeals, be sure to browse its forums.

Naturally, the doomed queen has had plenty of attention from printed word as well:

A few books about Marie Antoinette

As well as less, er, traditional media.

Part of the Themed Set: Belles Epoque.

Also on this date

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Arts and Literature,Austria,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,Famous Last Words,France,Guillotine,Habsburg Realm,History,Martyrs,Popular Culture,Public Executions,Royalty,Scandal,The Worm Turns,Treason,Women

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15 Responses to “1793: Marie Antoinette”

  1. 1
    ExecutedToday.com » Themed Set: Belles Epoque Says:

    [...] Oct. 16: Marie Antoinette [...]

  2. 2
    ExecutedToday.com » 1794: Three generations of Noailles women, but not the Marquise de Lafayette Says:

    [...] of natural causes the previous summer) for their aristocratic stock — the eldest had been Marie Antoinette’s etiquette [...]

  3. 3
    ExecutedToday.com » Nine Executed People Who Make Great Halloween Costumes Says:

    [...] 1793: Marie Antoinette Recently Commented [...]

  4. 4
    ExecutedToday.com » 1793: Olympe de Gouges, a head of her time Says:

    [...] * Article 10: “Woman has the right to mount the scaffold; she must equally have the right to mount the rostrum.” The work was dedicated to Marie Antoinette. [...]

  5. 5
    ExecutedToday.com » 1793: Madame du Barry, who hated to go Says:

    [...] Versaille costume dramas have made great hay with the courtesan who became the mistress of Louis XV, and her catty court rivalry with Marie Antoinette. [...]

  6. 6
    ExecutedToday.com » Themed Set: The Feminine Mystique Says:

    [...] company of many a woman, but our hobby is a noticeably gendered one: whether as common criminals, fallen royals, political prisoners, war criminals, or any other subset of the execution-prone, women who face the [...]

  7. 7
    ExecutedToday.com » 1795: Antoine Quentin Fouquier-Tinville, Robespierre’s prosecutor Says:

    [...] Marie Antoinette. [...]

  8. 8
    ExecutedToday.com » 1794: Jacques Hebert and his followers Says:

    [...] Man Duchesne” — savaged first the royal couple, and then (after that pair lost their well-coiffed heads) whatever the retrograde element of the unfolding Revolution happened to be on any given day: the [...]

  9. 9
    On a Good Death — the Noble Spirit and the Question of Suicide « Occidental Ascent Says:

    [...] earlier or tidily concluded, artworks are subject to revaluation and specifics matter. Who died rightly here? This ambiguity makes it hard to formulate what count as a good self-death. 14. The sense of [...]

  10. 10
    ExecutedToday.com » 1869: Charles Carpentier Says:

    [...] its built, the guillotine at this point had been improved from the revolutionary original that Marie Antoinette or Robespierre died upon. But it had the same theatrical [...]

  11. 11
    Executed Today? « Histor Eidenai Says:

    [...] Marie Antoinette [...]

  12. 12
    ExecutedToday.com » 1800: Mario Cavaradossi, Tosca’s lover Says:

    [...] The action of Tosca takes place in a Rome which has received an initial, incorrect notice of Austrian victory. This is of particular import in the Eternal City because it’s under the temporary receivership of the Hapsburg Queen Maria Carolina, a virulent foe of the French Republic as befits a sister of Marie Antoinette. [...]

  13. 13
    ExecutedToday.com » 1799: Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel, Neapolitan Jacobin Says:

    [...] pop princess with a hit poem for the nuptials of King Ferdinand and Maria Carolina (the latter was Marie Antoinette‘s [...]

  14. 14
    (A)narchists’ Complaint: Lest We Forget | Soul Snatcher, Productions ™ Democracy Wall Says:

    [...] Verdier had thrown herself at the Queen’s feet, imploring the reprieve of the culprit, and that Marie Antoinette had prevailed on the King to grant it. The news had doubtless led to the dispersion of the [...]

  15. 15
    ExecutedToday.com » 1794: Simon-Nicholas Henri Linguet, who defended Nero Says:

    [...] able to return to his country with the Austrian embassy courtesy of ennoblement conferred by Marie Antoinette‘s brother Emperor Joseph II. His restored relations with Europe’s crowned heads, [...]

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