Maria Antonia Josephina Johanna, 1755-93

07 Dec
Alexander Kucharski, La Reine Marie Antoinette, (1790)

La Reine Marie Antoinette, portrait by Alexander Kucharski, (1790)

Marie Antoinette never said, “Let them eat cake”. In fact most of the rumours about her such as being a child molester, lesbian, political manipulator, compulsive gambler, spend thrift, plunderer of the national purse and Austrian secret agent, as well as sobriquets including Madame debit, Madame veto and Madame dildo, though indicative of her catastrophic public image, were never-the-less false.

She was 13 years old when her portrait was sent to France to insure her suitability as bride for the future Louis XVI. She was 19 when crowned Queen of France and the mother of 4 when she was guillotined just days short of her 38th birthday.

My wife and I visited Marie’s last place of confinement where she  was designated Prisoner 280. The death of her husband was a severe shock and her health deteriorated. Marie Antoinette was suffering from tuberculosis and because of her frequent hemorrhages, probably uterine cancer.

In the early morning of 16 October she was declared guilty of treason by the committee of Public Safety and returned to her cell where her hair was cut. On the same day she was put in an open cart and driven to the Place de la Révolution (present-day Place de la Concorde). At 12:15 pm, after apologizing for stepping on a foot of her executioner, she was decapitated.

Mrie Antoinette being driven to hereexecution. Sketch by Jacques-Louis David, 16 October, 1793.

Mrarie Antoinette being driven to her eexecution. Sketch by Jacques-Louis David, 16 October, 1793.

The enclosure where Marie Antoinette spent her last days under guard.

The conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette was jailed.

The enclosure in the Cociergerie where Marie Antoinette spent her last days under guard.

The enclosure in the Conciergerie where Marie Antoinette spent her last days under guard.

Our tickrts to the exquisite St. Chapelle gave us entry to the Conciergerie, a Medieval castle, the remains of which during the French Revolution had been used as a prison. Georges Danton and Maximilien de Robespierre awaited their fate in this gloomy room. Somehow our visit to the Conciergerie gave flesh to Marie Antoinette.

After a life time among the splenders of  Versailles and the Louvre, one can only imagine the chilling effect the Conciergerie had on Marie. As a public exhibit it is a sobering example of the Reign of Terror.

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Posted by on December 7, 2012 in Articles, History


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