Adored by some, hated by many, Marie-Antoinette is one of the most well-known figures in world history. Married to King Louis XVI, the Queen’s excessive lifestyle was thought by many to have fueled the French Revolution and altered the course of French history.
There is a selection of historic sites across France and Paris that were of significance to Marie-Antoinette and which can still be visited today, including the Palace of Versailles, Conciergerie, and Place de la Concorde.
Check out these 10 interesting facts you’ll learn about Marie-Antoinette as you follow her historical trail.
10 She Wasn’t Actually French
This one tends to surprise people the most! Marie-Antoinette is one of history’s most well-known figures. It’s common knowledge that she was part of the French monarchy prior to the French revolution, so most people expect her to be French. But in reality, she was Austrian.
Born Maria Antonia Josepha Joanna von Österreich-Lothringen, Marie-Antoinette was born in Vienna, Austria on November 2, 1755. She was born an Archduchess, the daughter of the Empress of the Habsburg Empire and the Holy Roman Emperor. Just in case that lineage isn’t impressive enough, her godparents were the King and Queen of Portugal.
9 She Was Only A Teenager When She Arrived In France
So how did an Austrian archduchess come to be the Queen of France? By marrying the heir to the French Throne, Louis XVI. She arrived in her new home and married her betrothed while she was still a teenager. That’s a lot to deal with when you’re still in your angsty teens!
According to the Palace of Versailles official website, Marie-Antoinette was not yet 20 when her husband inherited the throne, meaning she was still technically a teenager when she became Queen of France. Initially, she found it difficult to get used to the way of life in the French Court.
8 Her Parents Had 16 Children
In the 18thcentury, it was common for royalty and nobility to have large families comprised of many more children than the typical family has today. Marie-Antoinette was one of 16 children, and the youngest daughter to Empress Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I.
Not all of her siblings survived to adulthood and she wasn’t close to all of them. According to History Extra, she was closest to her elder sister Maria Carolina as the two shared a governess. Before she left Austria, Marie-Antoinette and her siblings would sometimes perform for their parents at court.
7 She Took Control Of Her Own Fashion Choices
Today Marie-Antoinette is remembered for her extravagance. Some of the grand gowns she wore seem absurd by modern tastes but were at the height of fashion at the time. And unlike other royal women, Marie-Antoinette took control of her own wardrobe.
Although her mother disapproved, Marie-Antoinette always wanted to have a say in what she wore and how she wore her hair. She would often ignore her ladies-in-waiting, who were tasked with the role of styling and dressing her. Her fashion choices influenced the style of the time and paved the way for the rising of Parisian haute couture.
6 She Really Did Love Parties
Marie-Antoinette is often portrayed as someone who enjoyed being entertained, and according to numerous historical sources, that reputation is well-earned. She loved entertainment and often chose the shows which were put on in the French Court. She also loved attending the typical parties of the time, which were court balls.
The queens that came before her weren’t given the opportunity to choose the court entertainment or encourage artists in any way. Marie-Antoinette was given these privileges by her husband. Costume balls are still held today at the Palace of Versailles in Marie-Antoinette’s honor.
5 Musicians Played For Her, But She Was Also A Musician
The Queen loved bringing in musicians to entertain her, but she could also play herself. Part of education as a young female royal was learning the harp and the harpsichord. She was also something of a singer, and in her youth, often put on shows for her parents with her siblings in Vienna.
Marie-Antoinette was known for supporting the artists and musicians she liked. She was said to especially appreciate the talent of composers such as Antonio Sacchini and Christoph Willibald Gluck. Later, she also became a patron for the painter Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun.
4 She Was Known To Gamble
The historical records show that Marie-Antoinette also loved to play games such as billiards and cards. She would also place bets while playing and was known to both win and lose large sums of money. Not one to do things in halves, the Queen often bet large amounts on her games, which led her husband to step in and put a stop the practice.
She was taught to gamble as a child and had developed an addiction by the time she’d reached adulthood. When she started to pile up debts, the King banned games of chance from Versailles.
3 She Was An Adoring Mother
We often hear about the extravagant and party-animal side of Marie-Antoinette, but less common is mention of her role as a mother. She gave birth to her first child in 1778, eight years after her wedding to Louis. Marie-Thérèse was her first daughter, followed by Louis Joseph Xavier-Francois, Louis-Charles, and Sophie-Béatrice.
Sadly, Sophie-Béatrice did not survive infancy. Her first son, Louis Joseph, also passed away before Marie-Antoinette herself, causing her a lot of pain. She was a caring mother in private and was close to all of her children.
2 She May Not Have Ever Told Them To “Eat Cake”
The single thing that Marie-Antoinette is the most famous for is the line “let them eat cake” which she is said to have uttered when told that the French people could not afford bread. But many historians today believe that it’s unlikely that the Queen ever said this. In fact, it’s generally accepted that the revolutionists credited this quote to her as part of their propaganda against the monarchy.
The propaganda campaign at the time was designed to turn loyalists against the monarchy and portray the King and Queen as unsympathetic and arrogant.
1 Initially, She Was Buried In An Unmarked Grave
In 1793, at the age of 37, Marie-Antoinette was put to death via guillotine after being convicted of treason. After her public execution, her body was put into an unmarked grave in a cemetery in Paris. It would have been a horribly mundane end for a woman who’d led a life like Marie-Antoinette’s.
As it turns out, it wasn’t really the end. In the early 19thcentury, the bodies of both Louis and Marie-Antoinette were discovered and properly reburied. She now lies at the Basilica of St. Denis in Paris.