When it comes to iconic monarchs that ought to be discussed on a blog specifically about the dramatic lives of monarchs, it almost feels wrong not to mention the woman who is known for one phrase: “Let them eat cake!”
As many of us most likely know (through a variety of pointless YouTube listicles and trivia questions), there is no actual proof that Marie Antoinette actually said that famous line. There is actual proof, however, that her life wasn’t a “piece of cake.” On this episode of Royal Tea, we will talk about the the unrealistically romanticized but nonetheless scandalous life of Marie Antoinette.
Marie Antoinette, born in Vienna, Austria in 1755, married Louis XVI by proxy when she was only 15 years old. Proxy weddings were common amongst inexplicably wealthy (and busy) European families and occured when neither the bride nor groom were present and were instead represented by other individuals on their wedding day.
Despite an earlier proxy wedding, the couple debuted to the French public on May 16, 1770, with more than 5,000 guests watching. Marie Antoinette’s excessively luxurious wedding would only be a tiny glimpse of her frivolous spending: her new life as the wife of the future king held very few royal duties aside from being the official babymaker, and she often found herself bored.
She was so bored (and creative, might I add), that she ordered a model farm to be built on the palace grounds so she could play dress-up with her ladies-in-waiting in extravagant and expensive fashion. Marie Antoinette herself once wrote,“I am terrified of being bored,” in one of her letters.
But perhaps, Marie Antoinette’s boredom and raging materialism had something to do with the fact that her and Louis didn’t really do much of anything. And by anything, I’m most definitely poking fun at Louis’ alleged impotency and their incompatible personalities, which resulted in them not consummating their marriage for seven years. Fortunately for the heir-hungry fanatics of the palace, after Louis got his things sorted out (perhaps by surgery or by some…er, outside encouragement), the couple had their first child together in 1778.
Despite the fact that Marie Antoinette was hated for extravagant spending amidst a country whose people were starving, the financial downfall of the French bourgeoisie had little to do with any of her leisure activities. France’s aid to the American Revolution led to massive debt as a result of extreme spending on the war, leaving much of the French economy in shambles.
The juxtaposition of imported dresses and expensive hair ornaments combined with a delicious rat stew for dinner left Marie Antoinette as a popular scapegoat.With the French Revolution gaining momentum, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were almost guaranteed death. (I mean, when one of your best friends, Princesse de Lamballe, is brutally dismembered and her head is paraded around the streets like a state football trophy in the halls of an underdog high school, you must be distressed!) Following the death of Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette’s young son accused his mother of sexual assault and incest, leading to her arrest. Poor Marie’s stress and intense fear was so strong that an observer noted that her strawberry blonde hair turned snow white practically overnight. In October of 1793, Marie Antoinette, died via the famous and rampantly used guillotine, never having said “Let them eat cake!” and never having said “Let them cut off my head!” either.