Was Marie Antoinette an innocent victim?
There’s been a few comments and replies regarding how much Marie Antionette deserved her fate under the latest DicKtionary episode https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxXz0LjB5yw We thought it would be fair to set the record straight a bit.
She was 15 years old when she was forced to marry the future king, Louis -Auguste who himself was 16 years old. She was Austrian, the youngest daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor. The court of the King of France was an elaborate system of representation, ostentatious display, and complex relationship mongering. Full of nepotism, corruption and inequality it was mighty unpopular with the subjects of the crown. Not only because it was an absolute system without jurisprudence, but especially as they had come to suffer financially from France’s war debts, and the inefficient, corrupt system of aristocratic rule.
But let’s get back to Marie-Antionette; born into the highest echelons of European aristocracy she knew what was expected of her, namely two things: keep up the representative position of the crown and have babies. She did a pretty good job at both, entertaining the court as lavishly as she should (below her allotted budget btw.) and having four children.
But… she was also Austrian, pretty, and a teenager. The last bits resulted in some weird behaviour that by today’s standards would be considered somewhat perverted, or at least sexually eccentric, (such as maintaining a play farm, with animals, young hunky farm hands, pretty milk maidens and all, where she and her friends went to pretend to be farmers in a romantic make-believe world full of orgies and omni sexual behaviour) but… First of all this was the world she had been born into, and she was as stated a teenager – there was no YouPorn back then to vicariously live out your teenage fantasies and… if you can, you can. Second of all this had little, if any effect on the king’s overall finances.
What was really ruining France was corruption, and the staggering debts incurred during the Seven Years’ War and The American Revolution (which France supported and financed). Marie-Antionette had nothing to do with either of the two and had no power to influence it. A spendthrift beyond the requirements of her “job” she was not, political power she had hardly any.
Last, but not least she was Austrian – although The Holy Roman Empire (Austria) had been an ally in the Seven Years’ War, it was viewed as an enemy of the crown’s interests amongst the subjects of the crown.
As dissatisfaction with the aristocratic system came to a boiling point, Marie Antionette was made into a symbol of everything that was seen as being wrong; spend-thriftiness, nepotism, corruption, inequality, and relations with other powers that were not seen as friends (much thanks to the affair with the necklace). In other words; she was a bloody foreigner, who was too pretty, and spent too much on dresses and parties – hardly the source of France’s woes, nor a reason to go to the guillotine.
But the revolutionaries wanted to set a symbolic example (and end the bloodline of the Bourbons once and for all). Somewhat ironic that they themselves brought about Napoleon – literally the Emperor of corruption, nepotism, wasteful wars, bad alliances, ostentatious state spending, and inequality.
Before we go we should point out that the causes of the French Revolution were much, much more complex than the financial state of the French Crown and hating the royals – the actual reasons for the revolution is still a hotly debated matter in academic circles.