Born: November 2, 1755 in Vienna, Austria Died: October 16, 1793 in Paris, France
Marie Antoinette was the last queen of France and helped provoke the popular unrest that led to the French Revolution and the monarchy being overthrown in August 1792.
She was born Maria Antonia Josepha Joanna to Maria Theresa, empress of Austria, and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I in 1755. She was their 15th and youngest child.
Aged just 14, she married King Louis XVI. She was said to be very different in character from her husband, while he was introverted and shy, she was a social butterfly who loved gambling, partying and extravagant fashions.
Her marriage to the future king of France, himself just 15 years old, was used to seal the newfound alliance between Austria and France after the Seven Years’ War. It is believed the couple didn’t consummate their marriage for seven years.
During her teenage years she was popular in France and when she made her first appearance in Paris a crowd of 50,000 came out to see her. It is thought at least 30 people were trampled to death in the crush to see her.
But her popularity swiftly fell over her reign and she became a symbol of the excesses of the monarchy. She is often credited with the famous quote ‘Let them eat cake’ – but there is no evidence she actually said it. Anecdotes say upon hearing French people had no bread to eat she said ‘qu’ils mangent de la brioche’ (let them eat brioche).
However, historians agree that it is unlikely she would have made such a comment, as she was known for her charity and compassion, despite her hedonistic lifestyle. The comment however may have been made by Marie-Thérèse, a Spanish princess who married King Louis XIV in 1660.
Nine months after the execution of her husband, she was executed by the guillotine order of the Revolutionary tribunal, aged just 37.
There were many trumped up charges against the former Queen including high treason, sexual promiscuity and incestuous relations with her son Louis-Charles, who was forced to testify that his mother had molested him.
Following her beheading, her body was placed in an unmarked grave but in 1815 it was exhumed and she given a funeral at the Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis.
Sources: Biography.com and Britannica