Marie Antoinette at age 13 by Martin van Meytens, 1767.
Well, boys and girls, tonight I was looking forward to a nice quiet evening of gubernatorial and presidential debates. But what should I see when I get to the "Today in History" section of the local newspaper? Today is the 219th anniversary of the death of Marie Antoinette. She lost her head on October 16, 1793 in what is now the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
Marie was just short of her 38th birthday. Her body was tossed into an unmarked grave but exhumed in 1815 and taken to the Basilica of Saint Denis for a proper Christian burial.
I visited her gravesite last March.
She is also immortalized in stone in Saint Denis, alongside her husband, Louis XVI.
Funerary monument to King Louis XVIand Queen Marie Antoinette,
(I have developed quite a thing for statues lately.)
Some Marie Antoinette facts...
-- She was the 15th child of Holy Roman Emperor Francis 1 and Empress Maria Theresa of Austria.
-- At her home court, she was encouraged to play with the "commoners" and was allowed to wander the gardens and have pets. The atmosphere was much more relaxed than it was in France. She tried to recreate this later at the Petit Trianon and her little farm, le petit Hameau, but she was not very successful. It is a cool place to visit, though, and where I saw my first "wild" boar. (If you find yourself at Versailles in nice weather, rent a bike and ride around the grounds-- a great way to see everything without wearing yourself out and spending all of your time walking.)
-- She didn't take her education very seriously and had lousy handwriting.
However, she was a good singer and dancer, could speak Italian and French in addition to her native German, was fairly proficient in English, was a decent artist, and had great poise-- a queen in training, wouldn't you say?
-- Maria Antonia, as she was called, had crooked teeth and the French didn't care for that so before her marriage, she had to have very painful oral surgery to correct her smile and bring her up to queenly snuff. No braces back in the day.
-- After all the marriage negotiations, she was finally wed by proxy in Vienna. Her brother stood in for the bridegroom who couldn't make the trip, I guess. She was handed over to the French at the age of 15 and headed for the palace of Versailles where another wedding ceremony took place. The mystery surrounding the consummation of the marriage plagued the newlyweds for years. A marriage of convenience? Perhaps the future king of France had problems?
-- Her mom was hyper-critical and her husband was not very affectionate. She turned to shopping and gambling. However, she did seem to get tired of fancy petticoats and lots of make-up and helped change fashion.
Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (1778).
-- She birthed four children, two sons and two daughters, but one daughter lived less than a year.
--"Let them eat cake." Did she really say this? Supposedly, upon being told that the peasants had no bread to eat, she quipped that they could eat brioche, a sweeter bread than the usual baguette.
-- There is a fascinating story about The Diamond Necklace Affair at this website. I can't possibly retell it and do it justice. Just click and read on. It was the undoing of Marie Antoinette.
As I attempted to write this post about Queen Marie Antoinette, I quickly realized that I had barely scratched the surface and that I am very ignorant about her. I've seen the 2006 movie, Marie Antoinette, starring Kristin Dunst and didn't care for it. I just read a story about the attempted escape from Paris by the royal family in the book Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb.
I have this book in my bookcase but have not read it.
It has now been placed just under the Graham Robb book and is next on my list.
For the past four years (since spending Halloween in France and not dressing up), I have considered dressing up as her for Halloween. I think that this is a sign that the time has come. I have two weeks to get that costume pulled together. Got any good suggestions?
Also while living in France, I decided to try to learn to make a decent brioche à l'orange. The B&B guests were served quite a bit of it. I discovered that it makes great French toast, too. I tried several different recipes and blogged about it here and here.
Bon appétit, Marie Antoinette!