Arias Alma Aguilar Political Science 101 24 September 2012 Marie Antoinette “Let them eat cake” is probably one of the most recited quotes around the world, which is known to be spoken by the last Queen of France, Marie Antoinette. Although often reffered to as “The Party Queen” or in other words, the Queen who danced while her people starved. But what many fail to recognize is the fact that Marie Antoinette was the Queen who cared for her people. The only think she cared for more than the welfare of her people, was the welfare of her children.
In order for one to understand and have the ability to fully understand the French Revolution, and Monarchy, one must go back and analyze Marie Antoinette’s personal background, her political contributions and achievements, and her political influences. Personal Background Marie Antoinette (Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria) was born in Vienna, Austria on November 2nd, 1755. “She was the fifteenth child, and eleventh (and last) daughter of the Emperor Francis 1st of Lorraine and Maria Theresa of Austria, at the head of the Habsburg dynasty”(Moore 3).
Francis 1st died in August 1765, leaving his wife and his elder son to co-rule his empire. “To promote diplomatic relationships with France, Marie Antoinette was asked to marry Louis Auguste, the Dauphin of France” (Campan 3). With the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, an alliance between Austria and France became a priority for Empress Maria Theresa; cementing alliances through matrimonial connections was a common practice among European royal families at the time. In 1765, the son of French Emperor Louis XV, Louis Ferdinand, died, leaving his 11-year-old grandson Louis Auguste heir to the French throne.
Within months, Marie Antoinette and Louis Auguste were pledged to marry each other. A child of only 14 years, delicately beautiful with gray-blue eyes and ash-blonde hair, in May 1770, “Marie Antoinette set out for France to be married, escorted by 57 carriages, 117 footmen and 376 horses. On May 16, 1770, Marie Antoinette and Louis Auguste were married”. (Campan 6) ” Louis XV passed away in 1774, and Louis Auguste succeeded him to the French throne as Louis XVI, making Marie Antoinette, at 19 years old, Queen of France”(Barker 9).
However, as personalities went Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette could not have been more different. He was introverted, shy and indecisive, a lover of solitary pleasures such as reading and metalwork. She was vivacious,outgoing and bold, a social butterfly who loved gambling, partying and extravagant fashions. Political Influences and Development Though many have argued that Marie Antoinette did not have any political development or influences, due to her social and eccentric ways, Marie always referred to someone in her life as the main source of admiration. Her Mother, Queen Maria Theresa, Marie often spoke of her with profound respect, but she based all her schemes for the education of her children on the essentials which had been neglected in her own”(Barker 9). Maria Theresa, often was inspired awe by her great qualities, taught the Archduchesses to fear and respect rather than to love her. “The Empress was too much taken up with high political interests to have it in her power to devote herself to maternal attentions. “(Campan 8) The queen’s influence on domestic policy before 1789 has also been exaggerated. Her interference in politics was usually in order to obtain jobs and money for her friends. It is true, however, that she usually opposed the efforts of reforming ministers such as A. R. J. Turgot (1727–1781) and became involved in court scandals against them. “( Moore 12 ) “Activities such as the “diamond necklace affair,” where the queen was accused of having an improper relationship with a wealthy church official in exchange for an expensive necklace, increased her unpopularity and led to a stream of pamphlets and articles against her”(Barker 11).
The fact that after the birth of her children Marie Antoinette’s way of life became more restrained did not alter the popular image of an immoral and extravagant woman. As soon as the arrival of a stranger of rank at Vienna was made known, the Empress brought her family about her, admitted them to her table, and by this concerted meeting induced a belief that she herself presided over the education of her children. Contributions and Writtings
From the beginning of the revolution, Marie Antoinette and Louis had hopes for a compromise: in other words, a constitution that would include the monarchy. Trying to re-establish normalcy, Marie Antoinette continued her generous patronage of the poor children of Paris. “At the fireworks celebrating the marriage of the young prince and princess in May 1774, there was a stampede in which many people were killed. Louis and Antoinette gave all of their private spending money for a year to relieve the suffering of the victims and their families. (Campan 2)Marie-Antoinette’s reputation for sweetness and mercy became even more entrenched in 1774, when as the new Queen she asked that the people be relieved of a tax called “The Queen’s belt,” customary at the beginning of each reign. “Belts are no longer worn,” she said. She also spent as much time as possible with her own children, particularly the dauphin. “(Moore, 8). Much of the writings Marie wrote was her diary which is filled with a young girl’s feelings about her arranged marriage.
She describes a French Court dominated by intricate rules of etiquette and protocol and excessive attention to fashion and grooming. In her last letter, Marie-Antoinette wrote to her sister-in-law Madame Elisabeth: “‘Happiness is doubled when shared with a friend’…. ” ( Campan 4 )In those words are contained the value she placed on friendship to her happiness. The queen had a great capacity for friendship, although she was not always smart in her choice of companions. Conclusion The story of revolution and resistance in 18th-century France is a complicated one, and no two historians tell the story the same way.
However, it is clear that for the revolutionaries, Marie Antoinette’s significance was mainly, powerfully symbolic. “She and the people around her seemed to represent everything that was wrong with the monarchy and the Second Estate: They appeared to be tone-deaf, out of touch, disloyal (along with her allegedly treasonous behavior, writers and pamphleteers frequently accused the queen of adultery) and self-interested”( Moore 17 ). What Marie Antoinette was actually like was beside the point; the image of the queen was far more influential than the woman herself. Marie Antoinette was the Austrian born child bride of the future King Louis XVI of France. It was an arranged marriage designed to (hopefully) create a better relationship between the two countries which was a common practice by the Monarchy to reduce conflicts and warfare between Nations”(Campan 7). The French people resented the Austrian Queen and she was the subject of numerous rumors that she had been planted in France as a spy, was a spendthrift, was cold, cruel, evil, mean and any number of other charges.
In truth, she was a well educated woman with excellent regal poise, she was a well qualified linguist, played the Harp with great versatility, was an accomplished equestrian and was considered to be an excellent mother to her four children. ” She was put to death during the French Revolution at the age of 37 on 16 October 1793. ” (Marie Antoinette Biography 3) Marie Antoinette was a symbol of goodness and of everything that was right with the French monarchy. Also as queen, she made many changes that affected France’s system of government and law.
Marie had abolished the law of segregated dining spaces, as she felt it was wrong. She had gained popularity with people of France at first with her generosity as she continuosly gave to the poor of Paris. ” After the Revolution, Marie faced the women who stormed Versailles and when her family and her were forced to live in Paris as prisoners she never lost hope that she would find a way to get out and hold her family’s reputation as well as her political career; Even after the Republic was proclaimed in 1792, and her husband was executed. (Barker 5) Despite the tragic outcome of Marie Antoinette’s life, she never blamed her people. She remained a devoted mother and wife, although her life as the Queen of France ended in a moments notice. Although many through time have viewed her as a shallow, weak and a self- indulgent person. But through recent years many historians have concluded the opposite; seen more as a lively, misunderstood, and compassionate character. She was a devoted mother,making sure her children were well educated, and cherished.
And even when she knew her life was coming to an end, she made sure her children were in safe hands. And as Queen, she wanted the best for her people, giving generous donations and contributions to the minority. Marie Antoinette as a person and a friend was quite possibly one of her best traits, marked through history. The Political side of her and her family status was the main source of The French Revolution. She was proud to be french, but in the end all the hopes she had for her country demolished right before her eyes. But as terrible as she might be portrayed in your history books.
Marie Antoinette will always be the last Queen France ever had. Bibliography Barker, Nancy. “Let Them Eat Cake: The Mythical Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution. ” Historian (Summer 1993): 709-25. Madame Campan. Memoirs of Marie Antoinette. N. p. : Barker, n. d. Memoirs of Marie Antoinette. Web. 01 Sept. 2012. . “Marie Antoinette Biography. ” Marie Antoinette Biography. N. p. , 01 July 2012. Web. 25 Aug. 2012. . Moore, Marianne. “Marie Antoinette. ” New World Encyclopedia. N. p. , 03 Apr. 2007. Web. 01 Sept. 2012. .