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Marie Antionette: Good or Bad?


It is no secret that Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France before the French Revolution, is not only a very controversial being in history but an iconic one at that. Most famously known for her, not confirmed, quote “let them eat cake” has coined her extravagance and indulgence. However, there has always been discourse over her reign and how she handled French affairs and money… But she has been romanticized over time with films such as “Marie Antoinette” (2006). That creates an aesthetic around her life, lifestyle, and fashion choices. How much of her praise for being an “icon” is deserved? How much of her punishment- death by guillotine – was deserved? 


Marie Antoinette began her ‘test drive’ as a wife on May 16, 1770, after being married under circumstances to Dauphin Louis at the young age of 14. Due to her Austrian heritage, the feud with Vienna made for an unpopular status for Antoinette as a young girl. Antoinette attempted to create a relationship with her husband to get any sort of recognition which she failed to receive due to her inattentive spouse who made no effort to form a connection with Marie. He was reluctant to even reproduce with her due to his suspicion of Austrians in general. When Louis became King Louis XVI  in May of 1774, Marie diverted her attention to entertainment and splendors to distract herself from her so-called husband, who made no effort with her. 


A woman of taste, Marie Antoinette spent a lot of her time picking fabrics and indulging in the extravagance she was permitted to at such a young age. She adored fashion and art resulting in her buying – allegedly- 300 gowns a year! However, both herself and King Louis XVI were extremely young once they were crowned at a very unstable point in France’s history – politically and financially. King Louis XVI put an excessive amount of political pressure on Marie Antoinette due to his own political negligence caused her to become so present within the political standards with which she did not agree. Antoinette spent time attempting to advance Austrian interests. This was unsuccessful. Most people also blame her extravagance for France’s financial downfall but even frequent requests from her favorite designers did not drain France’s treasury, but rather her other expenditures minorly contributed to the huge debt between 1770-80s. 


Marie Antoinette’s unpopularity rose during the French Revolution when she was politically unamused due to the death of her elder son she spent time focusing on, understandably. However, she is uncredited in the fact that was more politically decisive than her husband in 1789. When crowds stormed the Palace of Versailles, “she successfully prodded [her husband] to resist the attempts of the Revolutionary National Assembly to abolish feudalism and restrict the royal prerogative.” This resulted in Antoinette becoming a victim to her ‘agitators’ who claimed she harshly remarked “Let them eat cake!” In response to hungry people without bread and food. Which was never proven to even be true, there is no evidence that she said this phrase however it has been coined for her anyway. The true downfall of the queen was caused by her attempts to free the royal family from their virtual captivity, which led to their failed escape to Paris. In the last efforts, Antoinette opened up secret negotiations as well as worked in the efforts of the Austrians – enraging the French and leading to the overthrow of the monarchy. The overthrow left Marie Antoinette in Parisian prisons where her only defender was eventually killed, having her head put on a stick and marched around outside of Antoinette’s cell. Shortly after this, she was placed in solitary confinement, placed in front of the Revolutionary Tribune, and killed by guillotine two days later. 


After that “brief” timeline of Marie Antoinette’s reign and her mistakes, was she truly the worst thing to happen to France? Was her hate completely justified? Was her torment and death justified? To make a long story short, she was just a girl! A young girl, aged fourteen, thrust into the royal life with standards to uphold in which she had no experience! Not to mention for a country she wasn’t even from. A girl of her age is not meant to be married without living life or knowing herself, let alone running entire countries. Although she was not immediately running the country, she WAS immediately under the pressure of being worthy to one day run the country. She had all eyes on her the moment she came to France to be with a man who was emotionally detached from her. Their young age contributes to the detachment in their relationship, but King Louis XVI also made no effort to appease Marie Antoinette’s attempts at even getting to know each other. The pressure on a girl to fornicate and bring on an heir is also an extremely heavy task as motherhood is the greatest task of all. However, she could barely even do what needed to be done to bring the heir into the world with her husband’s attitude even though he knew that was the way for her to stay. As for her lavishness, any woman who lacks the attention from her husband would find satisfaction in other places. Once permitted to in other countries, and with the right assets, Antoinette must’ve felt inclined to spend the money and cease her cravings for fashion and land. Despite people blaming a lot of her indulgence on France’s financial downfall, it actually was one of the lesser impactful factors, coming in behind France’s involvement with the American War of Independence. However, the exaggeration of her spending caused more scrutinizing from France and more conspiracies against the reason behind her spending, claiming she was purposefully draining Frances funds. 


The pressure on women in society and the constant attempt to drag them down explains the situation of Marie Antoinette’s death. Although this piece is not a defense of her rule of France, the hate she received and still does and the blame she inevitably takes for France’s financial downfall was not earned. The defense I can give is a young woman who was given an extreme responsibility at such a young age and was not ready. She began attempting to make a relationship with a man who wanted no part with her, worked through his dismissal of her through luxurious fulfillments, and ended protecting her children. She was tormented during her time in prison, and harshly murdered at the hands of France because she was a woman that people did not understand, no one attempted to understand the position she was faced with and killed her on account of being the last and ‘third’ more harmful cause to France’s financial ties. 


To conclude, Marie Antoinette was literally just a girl with taste. 

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About the Contributor
Reagan Lancaster is a senior at Quakertown High School, this is her second year writing for the PawPrints and her second semester as an editor! Reagan loves movies, music, and absorbing media or talking about the media… Reagan is excited to further her journalistic career and take on the role of editor. 

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