MARIE Antoinette is a name that's gone down in history.
But not for the right reasons – by the time of her death in 1793, Marie had become the most reviled woman in France – and here's why.
Who was Marie Antoinette?
Born an archduchess in Vienna, Austria, in 1755, Marie Antoinette was the penultimate child and youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Francis I.
She married the future French King Louis XVI when she was just 15 years old.
On May 20, 1774, her husband ascended the throne as Louis XVI and she became queen.
She was the last Queen of France before the French Revolution abolished the monarchy in 1972.
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How many children did Marie Antoinette have?
Marie Antoinette was a doting mother to four biological children – Marie Thérèse Charlotte, born on December 9, 1778, Louis Joseph Xavier François (born 1781), Louis XVII of France (born March 1785), and Sophie Hélène Béatrix (born July 1786).
Four years after she became Queen, Marie's first child Marie Thérèse was born – although she was not the much-hoped for son.
In 1781, Marie gave birth to Louis Joseph, who became his father’s heir, a role known as the “dauphin.”
In 1785, Marie welcomed her second son Louis Charles into the world.
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The following year, she gave birth to her last child, daughter Sophie.
However, tragedy struck less than a year later when Sophie, who had been born prematurely, died.
The royal parents were left devasted once more when the heir to the throne Louis Joseph died of TB at the tender age of seven.
The new heir Louis Charles, was captured with his parents, older sister Marie Thérèse, and aunt Elisabeth.
Monarchists declared him as King XVII after his father was executed.
However he was separated from his family and died in solitary confinement aged ten.
The only child to survive the revolution was Marie Thérèse.
She died in 1851.
Aside from her biological offspring, Marie extended her maternal love and adopted four other children during her time as Queen.
What was Marie Antoinette accused of?
Marie Antoinette became the subject of intense national hatred due to a number of accusations during her time in the French Court.
After throwing herself into the role of royalty and the spirt of the French Court — gambling, partying, and purchasing – Marie was accused of lavishly spending while the people of France suffered in poverty due to a poor economy.
These indulgences earned her the nickname “Madame Déficit”.
Furthermore, Marie Antoinette was accused of opposing the social and financial reforms of Anne Turgot and Genevan banker Jacques Necker.
And matters were only made worse in 1785 – when the Queen was intensely scrutinised regarding the ''Diamond necklace affair''.
This scandal saw Marie falsely accused of acquiring an expensive diamond necklace that she then refused to pay forcausing further frustration among her country's people in their time of need.
The final blow is reportedly set to have happened when she supposedly replied with the line “Let them eat cake!” after being informed that starving peasants could not afford bread.
After growing tired of the monarchy, in October 1789 the people of France marched on the royal palace at Versailles and the French Revolution began.
In June 1791, opposition to the royal pair had become so fierce that the two were forced to flee to Austria after the government had placed them under house arrest.
One year later, in 1792, the royal couple were arrested by the sans-culottes and imprisoned – as a result, the monarchy was abolished.
Why did Marie Antoinette face the death penalty?
The former French Queen faced the death penalty – also known as being sent to the guillotine – after she was convicted of treason by a tribunal.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines treason as: "The crime of betraying one's country, especially by attempting to kill or overthrow the sovereign or government."
It was the most serious offence and was punishable by hanging, drawing and quartering until the 19th century.
Her husband, the former King Louis XVI of France, had been found guilty of the same offence nine months prior and was condemned to death as a result.
On October 16, 1793, Marie Antoinette suffered the same fate as her husband and was sent to the guillotine.
She was just 37 years old.
It has been reported that on climbing the steps to the guillotine – an apparatus designed for efficiently carrying out executions by beheading – she trod on the foot of her executioner and apologised saying: “I did not do it on purpose.”
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