Marie Antoinette was born on November 2, 1755 in Austria. She was born a princess, the fifteenth child of the Empress, Maria Teresa. After a very brief stint as Princess of France, being married to Prince Louis XVI in 1770 at the mature age of 15, she became Queen of France just four years later.
Marie's life as Queen of France was not happy. She spent her days and nights separate from her King because their interests were very different. He appreciated the solitary hobbies of reading, the arts, and hunting, where Marie was a socialite, enjoying parties, shopping, and the night life of France. She was also treated very badly by the aristocracy of France because she was blamed for the lack of children for her King, as an heir to the throne. The truth was that King Louis XVI was impotent for the first seven years of their marriage. He finally got an operation that resolved his problems.
Marie was so detached from her marriage that she even began to behave as though she was not married at all. She spent more and more time with her friends because they would regale her with stories and laughter, as well as expensive and glamorous gifts. She loved shopping and would spend more money than was allotted on her wardrobe, buying elaborate masks and beautiful gowns to display her beauty to the highest degree. She decorated her private chalet in Venice with the best furnishings. She even spent money on an additional retreat in Vienna, but kept the small palace to entertain her friends and the politically powerful.
Marie was not behaving much like a Queen, and this was making the French Courts and France in general with her lavish living. She would not adhere to the strict guidelines of etiquette that were dictated by the rest of French aristocracy, which alienated her more and more from the rest of the royal bloodlines in France. Also, because of her overwhelming behavior, she was creating a lot of trouble and making powerful enemies for the king. After living the life of an irresponsible brat for 14 years, the citizens of France in all would feel nothing but hate for this woman.
As Marie was now the mother of four heirs to the throne of France, and the scandals of her behavior meeting her head-on, she began to realize the errors of her ways and started acting like royalty instead of one of the insufferable and irresponsible drunkards and party trollops that ran the streets of French cities. When she was confronted with the scandalous stories that were being spread about her, she felt real concern for the reputations of the King and her children.
Marie was a kind hearted woman who had a soul that compelled her to go and help the impoverished masses during a great famine in the 1780's. Although her attempts were genuine, her previous behavior was haunting her, and keeping her from doing the best good that she could. All the citizens of France could remember was how much of their tax money had been spent on her extravagant lifestyle during the good times. They all believed that this money would be better spent now, when everyone is going hungry. They could not forgive her for her past. Although Marie did in fact spend a lot of money on her lifestyle, she did not spend the country into debt. The previous king had put the country into debt thanks to their involvement in wars to help liberate Spain from British control in the early 18th century. The famous quote: "Let them eat cake" was more of a cry of anguish by the hungry than it was something that Marie had actually said. There was nothing in her conduct during this poverty that would have truly given Marie cause to say such a terrible thing in reference to these hungry people. They were just speaking from anger over her past.
Other than the previous king spending money on their wars, France, during King Louis XVI donated money to the American colonies during their fight for independence from 1778 to 1783. The monarchs were in big trouble because of the financial situation that seemed to be getting out of control in France. The citizens were breaking out in protest and battle to fight against those in power, trying to unseat them because of their perceived irresponsible spending. The royal family was overthrown because Louis would not command his troops to fire against the citizens. His humanitarian nature did nothing to protect the throne from those who were fighting for their lives.
In the night, the mobs found an entrance to the palace that was not guarded. They snuck in and found Marie's chambers. Two guards who were fighting to save the queen were killed in the altercation. As the battle continued Louis and Marie, along with their children, were taken to Paris where they disguised themselves as common citizens and escaped. They would have been able to get away with it had they not chosen to still travel with their fineries. They had many horses and carts to carry their wares. The extra pack animals slowed their trek out of France considerably. The biggest give-away, however was that Marie, dressed as a maid, was giving orders to others. An astute rebellion member reported the behavior and they were found out.
They were re-captured. When they were brought back to be tried, the country had already held elections that determined that their country would no longer be a monarchy, but be a free country. The King and Queen of France lost their titles and all the riches that came with royal status. The riches were given back to the country and helped to pay off the debts they had acquired over the past fifty years. They spent their lives in jail, being considered criminals against the freedom of France. Along with the royal family were many of the aristocrats and lower level royals that held tight to the belief that they were of a higher standard than common citizens. "The Reign of Terror" lasted until December 1792, when the King was convicted of treason and put to death. He lost his head to the guillotine. The next year, in October, Marie was awakened in the night, put before a tribunal, found guilty, and beheaded.