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Horace Walpole: Regency Author, Historian, Antiquarian and Politician

Horace Walpole by Joshua Reynolds, 1756
Horace Walpole by Joshua Reynolds, 1756
Horace Walpole by Joshua Reynolds, 1756

Horatio Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford (24 September 1717 – 2 March 1797) was an English art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and Whig politician.

He is now largely remembered for Strawberry Hill, the home he built in Twickenham, south-west London where he revived the Gothic style some decades before his Victorian successors, and for his Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto. Along with this book, his literary reputation rests on his Letters, which are of significant social and political interest.

Walpole was born in London, the youngest son of British Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole and his wife Catherine. Like his father, he received early education in Bexley he was also educated at Eton College and King’s College, Cambridge.

Walpole’s first friends were probably his cousins Francis and Henry Conway, to whom Walpole became strongly attached, especially Henry. At Eton he formed with Charles Lyttelton and George Montagu the “Triumvirate”, a schoolboy confederacy. More important were another group of friends dubbed the “Quadruple Alliance”: Walpole, Thomas Gray, Richard West and Thomas Ashton.

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Pierre Dupont de l’Étang: Regency Duellist

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dupontPierre-Antoine, comte Dupont de l’Étang (4 July 1765 – 9 March 1840) was a French general of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, as well as a political figure of the Bourbon Restoration. His exploits, encountered during a 19 year long conflict with brother officer François Fournier-Sarlovèze, are the stuff of legends.

Born in Chabanais, Charente, Pierre first saw active service during the French Revolutionary Wars, as a member of Maillebois legion in the Netherlands, and in 1791 was on the staff of the Army of the North under General Theobald Dillon. He distinguished himself in the Battle of Valmy, and in the fighting around Menen in the campaign of 1793 he forced an Austrian regiment to surrender. Promoted Brigadier General for this accomplishment, he soon received further advancement from Lazare Carnot, who recognized his abilities. In 1797 he became Général de Division.

The rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, whom he supported in the 18 Brumaire Coup (November 1799), brought him further opportunities under the Consulate and Empire. In the campaign of 1800 he was chief of staff to Louis Alexandre Berthier, the nominal commander of the Army of Peierve of the Ains which won the Battle of Marengo. After the battle he sustained a successful combat, against greatly superior forces, at Pozzolo.

In the campaign on the Danube in 1805, as the leader of one of Michel Ney’s divisions, he earned further distinction, especially in the Battle of Haslach-Jungingen (Albeck), in which he prevented the escape of the Austrians from Ulm, and so contributed most effectively to the isolation and subsequent capture of Freiherr Mack von Leiberich and his whole army. He also distinguished himself in the Battle of Friedland. Continue reading Pierre Dupont de l’Étang: Regency Duellist

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The Game of Graces

Graces

When I had reached my eighteenth Year, I was recalled by my Parents to my paternal roof in Wales. Our mansion was situated in one of the most romantic parts of the Vale of Uske. Tho’ my Charms are now considerably softened and somewhat impaired by the Misfortunes I have undergone, I was once beautiful. But lovely as I was, the Graces of my Person were the least of my Perfections. Of every accomplishment accustomary to my sex, I was Mistress. When in the Convent, my progress had always exceeded my instructions, my Acquirements had been wonderfull for my age, and I had shortly surpassed my Masters.
Love and Freindship
Jane Austen

The Game of Graces was a popular activity for young girls during the early 1800s. The game was invented in France during the first quarter of the 19th century and called there le jeu des Graces. The Game of Graces was considered a proper game benefiting young ladies and, supposedly, tailored to make them more graceful. Graces was hardly ever played by boys, and never played by two boys at the same time, either two girls, or a boy and a girl.

In 1838, Lydia Marie Child (American abolitionist, women’s rights activist and author of such works as Hobomok and A Boy’s Thanksgiving, which begins, “Over the River and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go…”) published The Girl’s Own Book, a volume full of entertainments for girls of all ages.  In it, she describes the game of Graces, thus:

This is a new game, common in Germany, but introduced to this country from France. It derives its name from the graceful attitudes which it occasions. Two sticks are held in the hands, across each other, like open scissors: the object is to throw and catch a small hoop upon these sticks. The hoop to be bound with silk, or ribbon, according to fancy.

The game is played by two persons. The sticks are held straight, about four inches apart, when trying to catch the hoop; and when the hoop is thrown, they are crossed like a pair of scissors. In this country it is called The Graces or The Flying Circle.
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The Elephant of the Bastille

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“Mr. Worthing. I must confess that I feel somewhat bewildered by what you have just told me. To be born, or at any rate bred in a handbag, whether it have handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life which reminds one of the worst excesses of the French revolution, and I presume you know what that unfortunate movement led to…”
Lady Bracknell, The Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde

Elephant of the Bastille

The Elephant of the Bastille was a monument in Paris which existed between 1813 and 1846. Originally conceived in 1808 by Napoleon, the colossal statue was intended to be created out of bronze and placed in the Place de la Bastille, but only a plaster full-scale model was built. At 24 m (78 ft) in height the model itself became a recognisable construction and was immortalised by Victor Hugo in his novel Les Misérables (1862) in which it is used as a shelter by the street urchin Gavroche. It was built at the site of the Bastille and although part of the original construction remains, the elephant itself was replaced a few years after the construction of the July Column (1835-40) on the same spot.

 Elephant of the Bastille

When the Bastille fell in July 1789, there was some debate as to what should replace it, or indeed if it should remain as a monument to the past. Pierre-François Palloy secured the contract to demolish the building, with the dimension stones being reused for the construction of the Pont de la Concorde and other parts sold by Palloy as souvenirs. Most of the building was removed over the subsequent months by up to 1,000 workers. In 1792 the area was turned into the Place de la Bastille with only traces of the fortress that had once dominated the area remaining.

 Elephant of the Bastille
Prise de la Bastille, by Jean-Pierre-Louis-Laurent Houel

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Lavender Shortbread

lavender-shortbread

Lavender has been traced back to ancient times, and while it was known by many names (including the Biblical “Spikenard”) it was the Romans, who used the flower to scent their baths, who first called it “Lavender” from the Roman (Italian) word lavare, which means, “to wash”. Used in jellies and other foods, as a perfume, aphrodisiac (Cleopatra is said to have used its scent in seducing both Caesar and Mark Anthony) and insect repellent, it is a plant that traveled with the most civilized societies, from the Egyptians, to the Romans to the French and English, eventually finding it’s way to the new world. Today most commonly associated with southern France (i.e. Herbes de Provence) and English country gardens, its sweet fragrance evokes a sunny summer day in a simpler time.

When cooking with lavender it’s important to use only organically grown herbs, or those purchased specifically for cooking, from a reputable market or health food store.

lavender shortbread
Find Kelley Epstein’s recipe for these gorgeous shortbread cookies on her blog, www.mountainmamacooks.com

Kelly Epstein writes for the food blog,  www.mountainmamacooks.com. Click the link below to find her fabulous Lemon and Lavender Shortbread recipe:

Printable Lavender Shortbread Recipe

Enjoy these delicious cookies with a cup of tea or glass of milk…or pair them with our Lavender Marmalades and Jams.

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Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte wearing a double strand pearl choker.

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, by Quinçon

“She possessed the pure Grecian contour; her head was exquisitely formed, her forehead fair and shapely, her eyes large and dark, with an expression of tenderness that did not belong to her character; and the delicate loveliness of her mouth and chin, the soft bloom of her complexion, together with her beautifully rounded shoulders and tapering arms, combined to form one of the loveliest of women.”
-quote about Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, by an unknown admirer

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte was born Baltimore, Maryland,  February 6 1785, the eldest of 13 children .  Known as “Betsy”,  she was the daughter of a Baltimore, Maryland merchant, the first wife of Jérôme Bonaparte, and sister-in-law of Emperor Napoleon I of France.

Elizabeth’s father, William Patterson, had been born in Ireland and came to North America prior to the American Revolutionary War. He was a Catholic, and the wealthiest man in Maryland after Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence. Elizabeth’s brother, Robert, married Carroll’s granddaughter, Marianne Caton (but more on her later…)

How they met is a mystery,  but Elizabeth and Jérôme Bonaparte (at the time 18 and 20, respectively) were married on December 24, 1803, at a ceremony presided over by John Carroll, the Archbishop of Baltimore. Betsy quickly became known for her “risqué” taste in fashion, starting with her wedding dress.


Elizabeth Patterson's Wedding Dress, described as a dress so small that it “would fit easily into a gentleman’s pocket.” Image courtesy of MET

Jérôme’s brother Napoleon ordered him back to France and demanded that the marriage be annulled. Jérôme ignored Napoleon’s initial demand that he return to France without his wife. When Napoleon threatened to imprison him, Elizabeth’s brother rushed to France to intervene, but nothing would change the mind of the French dictator who had far grander plans for his brother than some American socialite.

When James Madison and even Tallyrand could do nothing about the situation, Jérôme and a pregnant Betsy attempted to travel to France. It was the fall of 1804 and they hoped to arrive in time for Napoleon’s coronation, but a number of false starts delayed them. When they finally arrived, Elizabeth was denied permission to set foot in continental Europe by order of Napoleon. Jérôme traveled to Italy in an attempt to reason with his brother, writing to his wife,

“My good wife, have faith in your husband. The worst that could happen now would be for us to have to live quietly in some foreing country….My dearest Elisa, I will do everything that must be done.”

After remaining in limbo, unable to disembark in either France or the Netherlands, Betsy made her way to England, where she gave birth to a son on July 7, 1805, at 95 Camberwell Grove, Camberwell, London.

She would never see her husband again. Jérôme, threatened with loss of rank and title, and being forced to account for his staggering debt, gave in to his brother, returned to the French Navy, and was created 1st Prince of Montfort and King of Westphalia, which he ruled from 1807 until 1813. The Pope had refused to allow a divorce or annul his marriage to Elizabeth, but that did not stop Napoleon– the man who crowned himself emperor–from dissolving it himself, and forcing his young brother to marry a German princess Catharina of Württemberg.


Jérôme Bonaparte, King of Westphalia and Queen Catharina

Once king of Westphalia, his lavish lifestyle and constant philandering brought censure and as Napoleon’s hold on the empire fragmented, Jérôme’s fortunes fell as well. Eventually, he had two more children with his German wife, before marrying an Italian widow. His final placement came as governor of Les Invalides, Paris, the burial place of his lauded brother.

As King of Westphalia, Jérôme offered Elizabeth a home within his dominions, with the title of Princess of Smalcalden and a pension of two hundred thousand francs per year. In regard to the former, she replied that Westphalia was a large kingdom, but not quite large enough for two queens, and with regard to the pension, having already accepted Napoleon’s annuity of sixty thousand francs, she made the oft-quoted response that she preferred “being sheltered under the wing of an eagle to being suspended from the bill of a goose.” Famous American Belles of the Nineteenth Century, Virginia Tatnall Peacock, K. B. Lippincott Company, 1901

Betsy returned to Baltimore with her son, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, called “Bo” by his mother, and lived with her father while she continued to flaunt her royal connection and skimpy attire. After the Battle of Waterloo, she returned to Europe, She styled herself “Madame Bonaparte”. Here, she was well received in the most exclusive circles and much admired for her beauty and wit.

In 1815, by special Act of the Legislature of Maryland, she at last secured a divorce. Her last years were spent in Baltimore in the management of her estate, the value of which she increased to $1.5 million. Betsy died in the midst of a court battle over whether the state of Maryland could tax her out of state bonds. The case reached the Supreme Court (Bonaparte v. Tax Court, 104 U.S. 592) where the Court decided in favor of Maryland.  She is buried in the Greenmount Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland.

Her grandson, Charles Joseph Bonaparte, served as United States Secretary of the Navy and United States Attorney General. He founded the precursor of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1908.


Marianne Caton and Richard Wellesley, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, at Dublin Castle, 1826.

Ironically, Betsy’s brother’s widow, Marianne (Caton) Patterson, married Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, older brother of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. The Caton sisters, born to the wealthiest man in Maryland (and the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, who built what he claimed was “the most English house in America” ) were social climbers in the extreme. Of this six marriages made by the four sisters (Marianne, Bess, Louisa and Emily) three of them were to titled English nobility. Like the Irish Lennox sisters, a generation before, these heiresses, to quote a Carroll cousin, had the privilege ,  “[Had] the liberty of refusing those we don’t like, but not of selecting those we do.” Obviously, they, like so many American heiresses to come, liked titles and land, however entailed the estate might be.

That two women, so closely related to an orchestrator of the American Revolution should marry a Bonaparte and a Wellesley– that their respective brothers-in-law should be arch enemies and international heroes, seems beyond believing , but as they say, “truth is stranger than fiction”. The stories of these amazing ladies have been told both in print and on film. Biographies include, Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte: An American Aristocrat in the Early Republic and  Sisters of Fortune: America’s Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad.   The story of Elizabeth and Jérôme’s marriage and annulment is the basis for the 1908 play Glorious Betsy by Rida Johnson Young and the two film adaptations, Glorious Betsy (1928) and Hearts Divided (1936). She was portrayed by Dolores Costello in the former and by Marion Davies in the latter. The episode “Duty” of the Hornblower television series features Elizabeth and Jérôme trying to land in France and the diplomatic difficulties.

 

 


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Louis XVI: Last King of France

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Louis XVI, born Louis-Auguste de France (23 August 1754 – 21 January 1793) ruled as King of France and Navarre from 1774 until 1791, and then as King of the French from 1791 to 1792. Suspended and arrested during the Insurrection of 10 August 1792, he was tried by the National Convention, found guilty of treason, and executed on 21 January 1793. His execution signaled the end of absolute monarchy in France and would eventually bring about the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Although he was beloved at first, his indecisiveness and conservatism led some elements of the people of France to eventually hate him as a symbol of the perceived tyranny of the Ancien Régime. After the abolition of the monarchy in 1792, the new republican government gave him the surname Capet (a reference to the nickname of Hugh Capet, founder of the Capetian dynasty, which the Revolutionaries wrongly interpreted as a family name), and forced him to be called Louis Capet in an attempt to discredit his status as king. He was also informally nicknamed Louis le Dernier (Louis the Last), a derisive use of the traditional nicknaming of French kings. Today, historians and Frenchmen in general have a more nuanced view of Louis XVI, who is seen as an honest man with good intentions but who was probably unfit for the Herculean task of reforming the monarchy, and who was used as a scapegoat by the Revolutionaries.

Early Life

The future king Louis XVI was born Louis-Auguste at the Palace of Versailles on 23 August 1754 to the heir to the French throne, the dauphin Louis (1729–65), who was the only son of the King Louis XV and his consort, Queen Maria Leszczynska. Louis-Auguste’s father died at the age of thirty-five and never ascended the French throne. Louis-Auguste’s mother was Marie-Josèphe of Saxony, the Dauphin’s second wife, and the daughter of Frederick Augustus II of Saxony, Prince-Elector of Saxony and King of Poland.

Louis-Auguste was the oldest surviving son out of eight children, three of whom died young. He had a difficult childhood because his parents for the most part neglected him, favoring his older brother Louis Duc de Bourgogne, who died at the age of ten in 1761. This caused his parents to turn their back on Louis-Auguste even more. A strong and healthy boy, despite being very shy, Louis-Auguste excelled in the school room and had a strong taste for English history and astronomy. He enjoyed working on locks and hunting with his grandfather King Louis XV and playing with his younger brothers Louis-Stanislas, Comte de Provence (the future King Louis XVIII) and Charles-Philip, Comte d’Artois (the future King Charles X). The boys’ father died on 20 December 1765, which dealt their mother, Marie-Josèphe, a devastating blow from which she never recovered, sinking into a deep depression for the rest of her life. With his father dead, eleven-year-old Louis-Auguste was now the Dauphin of France and next-in-line to the French throne, which at the time was known as the “Finest” kingdom in Europe; but it was a job his grandfather, Louis XV, failed to prepare him for, a job which he himself did not feel capable of doing. Louis Auguste’s mother died two years after his father on 13 March 1767, leaving young Louis-Auguste and his younger siblings orphans. For the first year after the death of his mother he was cared for by his grandmother, Queen Maria Leszczynska, who died the next year, in 1768; and after that he was taken into the care of his spinster aunts Adélaïde, Victoire, Sophie, and Louise-Marie, known collectively as Mesdames Tantes.


Family Life

On 16 May 1770, at the age of fifteen, Louis-Auguste married the fourteen-year-old Habsburg Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria (better known by the French form of her name, Marie Antoinette), the youngest daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and his wife, the formidable Empress Maria Theresa. The marriage was initially amiable but distant – Louis-Auguste’s shyness meant that he failed to consummate the union, much to his wife’s distress, whilst his fear of being manipulated by her for Imperial purposes caused him to behave coldly towards her in public. Over time, the couple became closer, and the marriage was consummated in July 1773.Subsequently, the Royal couple had four children:

  • Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte (19 December 1778 – 19 October 1851)
  • Louis-Joseph-Xavier-François (22 October 1781 – 4 June 1789)
  • Louis-Charles (the future titular King Louis XVII of France) (27 March 1785 – 8 June 1795)
  • Sophie-Hélène-Béatrix (9 July 1786 – 19 June 1787)

Personality
Louis XVI was characterized for a long time as a little simpleton, handled by his advisers, with crazes for iron work and hunting. This image is partly due to his attitude towards the court.

The “thoughtlessness” that was sometimes attributed to him is explained partly by a strong myopia which isolated him from the world, and in particular, enabled him only with difficulty to recognize his interlocutors. Louis XVI was a studious prince and scholar. In addition to his known passion for iron work, he was set on history, geography, navy and sciences. He made the navy a priority of France’s foreign politics, and was anxious to thwart the British projections overseas, and to take revenge for the disastrous Treaty of Paris. This powerful navy strongly contributed to the success of the American Revolutionary War. He had moreover a theoretical knowledge of the navy so pointed that he was likely, when he saw the sea for the first time, to make remarks whose relevance astounded his interlocutors.

Since Louis XIV, the nobility had been “mainly domesticated” by the structure of the royal court. The configuration of the court governed the life of the nobles by making the king the center of a very strict and complex set of ceremonies in which he was attended by the nobles in a way regimented by rigid etiquette. By constructing this system, Louis XIV aimed to eliminate the effect of the often rebellious, and always threatening, nobility toward the royal power. Within the court, the nobility saw its participation in the life of the king organized as if in a vase, enclosed in a subtle system of dependencies, hierarchies, and rewards, so that its inclinations for autonomy with respect to the royal authority definitely became much reduced.

Louis XVI inherited this system: nobility was seen as being in service to the king, and nobles judged their status upon the rewards and honours derived from him. Even if the majority of the nobility did not have the means of living at the court, the texts show an attachment of provincial noblemen to the role of the court, and the importance with which they attached a “presentation” at court.

Like Louis XV, Louis XVI entered this system with great sadness. This was not for lack of education: he was the first French monarch who spoke fluent English, and nourished philosophers of the Enlightenment. He sought to divorce himself from the royally authoritarian image of Louis XIV. To do this, he tried to develop an image for himself as a simple man, an image more in keeping with that of the “enlightened despots” of Europe, like Frederick II of Prussia.

Louis’s refusal to fully immerse himself in the court system explains the bad reputation that he eventually gained with the nobles. By depriving the nobility of its ceremonial role, the king deprived it of its accepted social role and protections. Initially created to control the nobility, the court system gradually ended up controlling the king as well.

Gradually, the image of the king during Louis’s reign became degraded. Poor management by Louis of the royal court, the refusal of the parlements (where the nobility and a part of the upper middle classes expressed themselves) to pass any meaningful reforms, and the often frivolous and capricious image of the Queen combined to tarnish the image of the king and monarchy. Many lampooners ridiculing Louis came from a part of the nobility that had a lot to lose, describing him not as “simply the king”, but as a “simpleton king.”


Absolute Monarch of France: 1774-1789

When Louis XVI succeeded to the throne in 1774 he was 20, as his father, the son of the previous king, Louis XV, had died in 1765. He had an enormous responsibility, as the government was deeply in debt, and resentment towards ‘despotic’ monarchy was on the rise. Louis therefore appointed an experienced advisor, Jean-Frédéric Phélypeaux, comte de Maurepas who, until his death in 1781 would take charge on many important ministerial decisions.

Radical financial reforms by Turgot and Malesherbes disaffected the nobles and were blocked by the parlements who insisted that the King did not have the legal right to levy new taxes. So Turgot was dismissed in 1776 and Malesherbes resigned in 1776 to be replaced by Jacques Necker. Necker supported the American Revolution, and progressed upon a policy of taking out large international loans instead of raising taxes. This, Louis hoped, would reduce France’s deficit and fund the American Revolutionary War, in which France participated from 1778 onward. When this policy failed miserably, Louis dismissed him, and replaced him with Charles Alexandre de Calonne, in 1783, who increased public spending to ‘buy’ the country’s way out of debt. Again this failed, so Louis convoked the Assembly of Notables in 1787 to discuss a revolutionary new fiscal reform of Calonne’s. When the nobles were told the extent of the debt, they were shocked into rejecting the plan. This signalled that Louis had lost his legitimacy to rule as an absolute monarch, and he fell into depression.

As power drifted from him, there were increasingly loud calls for him to convoke the Estates-General, and in May 1789 he did so, bringing it together for the first time since 1614 in a last-ditch attempt to get new monetary reforms approved. This convocation was one of the events that transformed the general economic and political malaise of the country into the French Revolution, which began in June 1789, when the Third Estate declared itself the National Assembly; Louis’ attempts to control it resulted in the Tennis Court Oath (serment du jeu de paume, 20 June), and the declaration of the National Constituent Assembly on 9 July. Hence, the legitimate power of King Louis had been undermined and became transferred to the elected representatives of the people’s nation. The storming of the Bastille on 14 July symbolised the victory of democratic constitutional monarchy over King Louis XVI’s absolute power.

Revolutionary Constitutional Reign: 1789-1792

On 5 October 1789, an angry mob of women from the Parisian underclass who had been incited by revolutionaries marched on the Palace of Versailles, where the royal family lived. During the night, they infiltrated the palace and attempted to kill the Queen, who was associated with a frivolous lifestyle that symbolized much that was despised about the Ancient Regime. After the situation had been diffused, the King and his family were brought back by the crowd to Paris to live in the Tuileries Palace.

Initially, after the removal of the royal family to Paris, Louis maintained a high popularity and was obliging to the social, political, and economic reforms of the Revolution. Unbeknownst to the public, however, recent scholarship has concluded that Louis began to suffer at the time from severe bouts of clinical depression, which left him prone to paralyzing indecisiveness. During these indecisive moments, his wife, the unpopular Queen, was essentially forced into assuming the role of decision-maker for the Crown.

The Revolution’s principles of popular sovereignty, though central to democratic principles of later eras, marked a decisive break from the absolute monarchical principle of throne and altar that was at the heart of traditional French government. As a result, the Revolution was opposed by many of the rural people of France and by practically all the governments of France’s neighbors. As the Revolution became more radical, several leading figures in the initial revolutionary movement themselves eventually began questioning the principles of popular control of government. Some, notably Honoré Mirabeau, secretly plotted to restore the power of the Crown in a new constitutional form.

However, Mirabeau’s sudden death, and Louis’s depression, fatally weakened developments in that area. Louis was nowhere near as reactionary as his right-wing brothers, the Comte de Provence and the Comte d’Artois, and he sent repeated messages publicly and privately calling on them to halt their attempts to launch counter-coups (often through his secretly nominated regent, former minister de Brienne). However, he was alienated from the new democratic government both by its negative reaction to the traditional role of the monarch and in its treatment of him and his family. He was particularly irked by being kept essentially as a prisoner in the Tuileries, where his wife was forced humiliatingly to have revolutionary soldiers in her private bedroom watching her as she slept, and by the refusal of the new regime to allow him to have Catholic confessors and priests of his choice rather than ‘constitutional priests’ created by the Revolution.

On 21 June 1791, Louis attempted to flee secretly with his family from Paris to the royalist fortress town of Montmédy on the northeastern border of France in the hope of forcing a more moderate swing in the Revolution than was deemed possible in radical Paris. However, flaws in the escape plan caused sufficient delays to enable the royal refugees to be recognized and captured along the way at Varennes. Supposedly Louis was captured while trying to make a purchase at a store, where the clerk recognized him. According to the legend, Louis was recognized because the coin used as payment featured an accurate portrait of him. He was returned to Paris, where he remained indubitably as constitutional king, though under effective house-arrest.

The other monarchies of Europe looked with concern at the developments in France, and considered whether they should intervene, either in support of Louis or to take advantage of the chaos in France. The key figure was Marie Antoinette’s brother, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II, who had initially looked on the Revolution with equanimity, but became more and more disturbed as the Revolution became more radical, although he still hoped to avoid war. On 27 August, Leopold and King Frederick William II of Prussia, in consultation with émigré French nobles, issued the Declaration of Pilnitz, which declared the interest of the monarchs of Europe in the well-being of Louis and his family, and threatened vague but severe consequences if anything should befall them. Although Leopold saw the Pillnitz Declaration as a way of taking action that would enable him to avoid actually doing anything about France, at least for the moment, it was seen in France as a serious threat and was denounced by the revolutionary leaders.

In addition to the ideological differences between France and the monarchical powers of Europe, there were continuing disputes over the status of Austrian estates in Alsace, and the concern of members of the National Constituent Assembly about the agitation of emigré nobles abroad, especially in the Austrian Netherlands and the minor states of Germany.

In the end, the Legislative Assembly, supported by Louis, declared war on the Holy Roman Empire first, voting for war on 20 April 1792, after a long list of grievances were presented to it by the foreign minister, Charles François Dumouriez. Dumouriez prepared an immediate invasion of the Austrian Netherlands, where he expected the local population to rise against Austrian rule. However, the Revolution had thoroughly disorganized the army, and the forces raised were insufficient for the invasion. The soldiers fled at the first sign of battle, deserting en masse and in one case, murdering their general.

While the revolutionary government frantically raised fresh troops and reorganized its armies, a mostly Prussian allied army under Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick assembled at Koblenz on the Rhine. In July, the invasion commenced, with Brunswick’s army easily taking the fortresses of Longwy and Verdun. Brunswick then issued on 25 July a proclamation, written by Louis’ émigré cousin, the Prince of Condé, declaring the intent of the Austrians and Prussians to restore the King to his full powers and to treat any person or town who opposed them as rebels to be condemned to death by martial-law.

Contrary to its intended purpose of strengthening the position of the King against the revolutionaries, the Brunswick Manifesto had the opposite effect of greatly undermining Louis’ already highly tenuous position in Paris. It was taken by many to be the final proof of a collusion between Louis and foreign powers in a conspiracy against his own country. The anger of the populace boiled over on 10 August when a mob — with the backing of a new municipal government of Paris that came to be known as the “insurrectionary” Paris Commune — besieged the Tuileries Palace. The King and the royal family took shelter with the Legislative Assembly.

Arrest and Execution: 1792-1793

Louis was officially arrested on 13 August and sent to the Temple, an ancient Paris fortress used as a prison. On 21 September, the National Convention declared France to be a republic.

Louis was tried (from 11 December 1792) and convicted of high treason before the National Convention. He was sentenced to death (21 January 1793) by guillotine by a very tight vote of 361 to 360, of which 72 effective abstentions.

Stripped of all titles and honorifics by the egalitarian, republican government, Citizen Louis Capet was guillotined in front of a cheering crowd on 21 January 1793. Executioner Charles Henri Sanson testified that the former King had bravely met his fate.

Historical information supplied by Wikipedia.

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Marie Antoinette: Last Queen of France

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Born at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Maria Antonia was the daughter of Francis Stephen and Empress Maria Theresa; she was described as “a small, but completely healthy Archduchess.” Known at court as “Madame Antoine”, a French variation of her name, she was the fifteenth child, and the last daughter, born in the family.

The laxity of Vienese court life was compounded by the “private” life which was developed by the Habsburgs, which centered around certain castles (mainly Schönbrunn Palace) that were almost entirely off-limits to the rest of the court. In their “private” life, the family could dress in bourgeois attire with no reproach, played games with “normal” (non-royal) children, had their schooling, and were treated to gardens and menageries. Marie would later attempt to “re-create” this atmosphere through her renovation of the Petit Trianon.

Marriage to Louis Auguste; 1767-1770

The events leading to her eventual betrothal to the Dauphin of France began in 1765, when Francis I died of a stroke in August of that year, leaving Maria Theresa to co-rule with her son and heir, Emperor Joseph. By that time, marriage arrangements for several of Marie Antoinette’s sisters had been started, with Archduchess Maria Josepha to King Ferdinand of Naples, and Don Ferdinand of Parma was to tentatively marry one of the remaining eligible females. This was done to begin the cementing of various complex alliances that Maria Theresa had entered into in the 1750s, climaxing with the Seven Years’ War, which included Parma, Naples, Russia, and more importantly Austria’s traditional enemy, France. (Maria Christina, who had successfully lobbied with her mother for a love match, had married Prince Albert of Saxony by this time; the eldest surviving daughter, Archduchess Maria Anna was crippled and considered unsuitable for marriage.)

Then, in 1767, a smallpox outbreak hit the family; Antoine was one of the few who were immune due to already having it at a young age. Emperor Joseph’s wife, Josephe, died first; Maria Theresa herself caught it and nearly died. Maria Josepha then caught it from her sister-in-law’s improperly-sealed tomb , dying quickly afterwards; Archduchess Maria Elisabeth, another older sister, caught it, and though she did not die her looks were destroyed and she was rendered ineligible for marriage. To compensate for the loss, Maria Theresa replaced Maria Josepha in the Naples marriage with another daughter, Marie Caroline. Archduchess Maria Amalia, the eldest remaining candidate for marriage, was then married to Don Ferdinand of Parma.

This ultimately left twelve-year-old Antoine as the potential bride for the fourteen-year-old Dauphin of France, Louis Auguste. Working painstakingly to process the marriage between the respective governments of France and Austria, the dowry was set at 200,000 crowns; portraits and rings were eventually exchanged as was custom. Finally, Antoine was married by proxy on April 19, 1770, in the Church of the Augustine Friars; her brother Ferdinand stood in as the bridegroom. She was also officially restyled as Marie Antoinette, Dauphine of France. Before leaving Maria Theresa reminded her of her duty to her home country; that she shouldn’t forget she was Austrian, and thus had to promote the interests of Austria even as she was to be the future Queen of France.

The ceremonial wedding of the Dauphin and Dauphine took place on May 16, 1770, in the palace of Versailles.

Life as Dauphine: 1770-1774

The inital reaction concerning the marriage between Marie Antoinette and Louis Auguste was decidedly mixed. On the one hand, the Dauphine herself was popular among the people at large; her first official appearance in Paris on June 8, 1773 at Tuileries was considered by many royal watchers a resounding success, with a reported 50,000 people crying out to see her. A visit to the opera for a court performance was also reported a success, with the Dauphine herself leading the applause. She was also widely commemorated for her acts of charity; in one incident, she personally attended to a dying man and arranged for his family to receive an income in his wake.

In the court, however, the match was not so popular, due to the long-standing tensions between Austria and France, which had only so recently been mollified. Many courtiers had promoted a match with various Saxon princesses; while others accused her of trying to sway the king to Austria’s thrall, destroying long-standing traditions (such as appointing people to posts due to friendship and not to peerage) and laughing at the influence of older women in court. Many other courtiers, such as the Comtesse du Barry, had a more or less tenuous relationship with the Dauphine.

Marie Antoinette also still had to contend with her mother, who wrote to her daughter regularly and who received secret reports from the Mercy d’Argenteau on her daughter’s behavior. The Dauphine was constantly criticized for her inability to “inspire passion” in her husband, who rarely slept with her and had no interest in doing so, and was told again to promote the interests of Austria and the House of Lorraine, which Marie Antoinette was a member of through her late father. The Empress also criticized the Dauphine’s pastime of horseback riding, though paradoxically the Empress’s favorite portrait of her daughter was one of her in riding garb. The Empress would even go so far as to insult her daughter directly, telling her she was no longer pretty and had no talent, and was thus a failure.

To make up for the lack of affection from her husband and the endless criticism of her mother, Marie Antoinette began to spend more on gambling, with cards and horse-betting, as well as trips to the city and new clothing, shoes, pomade and rouge; the purchase of which, while extravagant (causing her to go into debt) and somewhat neglectful of her royal duties (a portion of the Dauphine’s allowance was supposed to go to charities), was not as much as critics accused her of spending. She was also expected by tradition to spend money on her attire, so as to outshine other women in the court, being the leading example of fashion in Versailles (the previous queen, Maria Leszczyska, having died several years prior to Antoinette’s arrival).

Marie Antoinette also began to form deep friendships with various ladies in her retinue. Most noted were the sensitive and “pure” widow Princesse de Lamballe, whom she appointed as Superintendent of the Household, and the fun-loving Gabrielle, Comtesse de Polignac, who would eventually form the cornerstone of the Queen’s Private Society (Société Particulière de la Reine). Polignac later became the Royal Governess, and was liked as a friend by Louis Auguste. Others taken into her confidence at this time included the Comte d’Artois; a younger sister of Louis Auguste, Madame Elisabeth; the Comtesse de Provence; and Christoph Willibald Gluck, her former music teacher, who fell under her patronage upon his arrival in France and supported his new work.

It was a week after the première of Gluck’s opera, Iphigénie en Aulide, which had secured the Dauphine’s position as a patron of the arts, that Louis XV began to fall ill on April 27, 1774. After several days of sickness, he sent Comtesse du Barry to a castle in Rueil on May 4; on May 10, at 3 pm, the king died of smallpox at the age of sixty-four.

Coronation and Reign: 1775-1793

Louis Auguste (re-styled Louis XVI) was officially crowned on June 11, 1775 at Rheims Cathedral. Marie Antoinette was not crowned alongside him, instead merely accompanying him during the coronation.

1775-1778: The Early Years From the outset, despite how she was portrayed by contemporary libellistes, the new queen had very little political influence with her husband. Louis, who had been influenced as a child by anti-Austrian sentiments in the court, blocked many of her candidates, including the Duc de Choiseul, from taking important positions, aided and abetted by his two most important ministers, Chief Minister Jean-Frédéric Phélypeaux, Count of Maurepas and Foreign Minister Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes. All three were anti-Austrian, and were wary of the potential repercussions of allowing the queen – and, through her, the Austrian empire – to have any say in French policy.

Marie Antoinette’s situation became more precarious when, on August 6, 1775, her sister-in-law, Marie Thérèse, the wife of the Comte d’Artois, gave birth to a son, Louis Antoine, immediately titled the Duc d’Angoulême. He would be the heir to the French throne for seven years. This caused the queen to plunge further into the costly diversions of buying her dresses from Rose Bertin and gambling, simply to enjoy herself. On one famed occasion, she played for three days straight with players from Paris, straight up until her 21st birthday. She also began to attract various male admirers whom she accepted into her inner circles, including the Baron de Besenval, the Duc de Choigny, and Count Valentin Esterhazy.

She was given free reign to renovate the Petit Trianon, which was given to her as a gift by Louis XVI on August 27 1775; she concentrated mainly on horticulture, redesigning the garden in the English mode. Though the castle was built in Louis XV’s reign, the Petit Trianon became associated with Marie Antoinette’s perceived extravagance; rumors circulated that she plastered the walls with gold and diamonds.[

Though the queen was criticized for her expenditures, in truth, her spending amounted to little in comparison to the debt incurred by France during the Seven Years’ War, still unpaid. It would be further exacerbated by Vergennes’ prodding Louis XVI to get involved in Great Britain’s war with its North American colonies, due to France’s traditional hatred of England.

In the midst of preparations for sending aid to France, and in the atmosphere of first wave of libelles, Emperor Joseph came to call on his sister and brother-in-law on April 18, 1777, the subsequent six-week visit a part of the attempt to figure out why their marriage had not been consummated. It was due to Joseph’s intervention that on August 30, 1777, that the marriage was officially consummated. Eight months later, in April, it was suspected that the queen was finally pregnant; this was confirmed on May 16, 1778.

Motherhood and Modes: 1778-1781

In the middle of her pregnancy, two events which would mark the queen’s later life occurred; the return of the Swedish ladykiller and the Queen’s eventual reputed lover, Count Axel von Fersen to Versailles for the subsequent two years, and the disgrace of the Duc de Chartres in the wake of his questionable conduct during the Battle of Ouessant against the British.

The emperor Joseph also began to make succession claims for Bavaria through his late second wife, and Marie Antoinette’s pleading for the French to help intercede on behalf of Austria was rebuffed by the king and his ministers. The Peace of Teschen, signed on May 13, 1779, would later end the brief conflict, but the incident once more showed the limited influence that the queen had in politics.

Marie Antoinette’s daughter, Marie Thérèse Charlotte, known affectionately as “Madame Royale” (Madame Fille du Roi) was finally born at Versailles after a particularly difficult labor on December 19, 1778, followed by an ordeal in the afterbirth where the Queen literally collapsed from suffocation and hemorrhaging; the room was packed with courtiers watching the birth and the doctor aiding her supposedly caused the excessive bleeding by accident. The windows had to be torn out to revive her; just as it had been forbidden at the Austrian court, the queen banned most courtiers from entering her bedchamber for subsequent labors.

The baby’s paternity was contested in the libelles and most notably by the Comte de Provence, who had always been open about his desire to become King through various means; however, it was never contested by the king himself, who was close to his daughter. However, the pressure to have a male heir continued to be applied, and Antoinette wrote about her worrisome health, which might have contributed to a miscarriage in the summer of 1779.

Meanwhile, the queen began to institute changes in the modes of court, with the approval of the king. Some changes, such as the abolition of segregated dining spaces, had already been instituted for some time and had been met with disapproval from the older generation; more importantly was the abandonment of the wide-hooped panniers and heavy make-up for less make-up and plainer clothing, such as polonaises and, more famously, the muslin dresses which were captured by a 1783 Lebrun portrait of the queen. She also began to participate in amateur theatrics, starting in 1780, in a theatre built for her and other courtiers who wished to indulge in singing and acting.

Later that year, Empress Maria Theresa’s health began to give way due to dropsy and an unnamed respiratory problem; she died on November 29, 1780, aged sixty-three in Vienna; she was mourned throughout Europe. Though Marie Antoinette was worried that the death of her mother would jeopardize the Franco-Austrian alliance (as well as, ultimately, herself), Emperor Joseph reassured her through his own letters (as the empress had not stopped writing to Marie Antoinette until shortly before her death) that he had no intention of breaking the alliance.

Three months after the empress’ death, it was rumored that Marie Antoinette was pregnant again, which was confirmed in March of 1781. Another royal visit from Joseph II in July, partially to reaffirm the Franco-Austrian alliance and also a means of seeing his sister again, was tainted with rumors that Marie Antoinette was siphoning treasury money off to him, which were false.

The queen would give birth to Louis Joseph Xavier François, titled the Duc de Bretagne, on October 22, 1781. The reaction to finally giving birth to an heir was best summed up by the words of Louis XVI himself, as he wrote them down in his hunting journal: “Madame, you have fulfilled our wishes and those of France, you are the mother of Dauphin”. He would, according to courtiers, try to frame sentences to put in the phrase “my son the Dauphin” in the weeks to come. It also helped that, three days before the birth, the fighting in the conflict in America had been concluded with the surrender of General Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown.

Declining Popularity: 1782-1785

Despite the general celebration over the birth of the Dauphin, Marie Antoinette’s political influence, such as it was, did not increase to the benefit of Austria, as it had been hoped. When accused of being a “dupe” by her brother for her supposed inactivity, Marie Antoinette responded that she had little power; the king rarely talked to her about policy, and his anti-Austrian-tinted education as a child fortified his refusals in allowing his wife any participation in his cabals; as a result, she had to pretend he told her in order to get information from his ministers, and so that the public believed she had more power than she did. As she wrote,”Would it be wise of me to have scenes with his (Louis XVI’s) ministers over matters on which it is practically certain the King would not support me?”.

Marie Antoinette’s temperament was more suited to her children, whose education and upbringing she personally saw to. This was against the mode of Versailles, where the queen usually had little say over the “Children of France”, as royal children were called, and they were instead handed over to various courtiers who fought over the privilege. In particular, after the Royal Governess at the time of the Dauphin’s birth, the Princesse de Rohan-Guéméné, went bankrupt and was forced to resign, and Marie Antoinette appointed the Duchess de Polignac to replace her. This met with disapproval from the court, as the duchess was considered to be of too “immodest” a birth to occupy the position; on the other hand, both the king and queen trusted her entirely, and the duchess had children of her own to whom the queen had become attached.

In 1784, the queen was occupied with the creation of a “model village” of twelve cottages and a mill at the Petit Trianon (nine cottages of which still stand today); this caused another uproar, and the actual price of the hameau were once again inflated by her critics. In truth, it was copied from another, far grander “model village” from the Prince de Condé; the Comtesse de Provence’s version even included windmills and a marble dairyhouse. She became an avid reader of historical novels, was also a witness to the launching of hot air balloons, and briefly had in her confidence various personages such as William Pitt and the Duke of Dorset.

Despite the many things which she did in her time, the primary concern at the time was the health of the Dauphin, which was beginning to fail. The possibility of the Dauphin not lasting through his childhood was commonly accepted, and it was rumored that the king and queen were attempting to have another child as a result. During this time, also, The Marriage of Figaro was premiered in Paris; after having banned it due to its portrayal of the nobility, it was ironically allowed because of its overwhelming popularity in secret readings with the nobility.[48]

On March 27, 1785, Marie Antoinette gave birth to a second son, Louis Charles, who was created the Duc de Normandie. He was noticeably stronger in constitution, even at birth, in comparison with the sickly Dauphin, and was affectionately nicknamed the queen’s chou d’amour. This naturally led to suspicions of illegitimacy once more, and this time – due to the combination of years of continued publications of the libelles, court intrigues, the actions of Joseph II in the unresolved “Scheldt Affair”, and the purchase of St. Cloud – the queen’s enemies were beginning to shape popular opinion towards the queen, and the image of a licentious, spendthrift, empty-headed Habsburg queen who ruled France was emerging in the French psyche.

Real Political Influence: 1786-June 1789

The continuing dissipation of the financial situation in France, though cutbacks in the royal retinue had been made, ultimately forced the king, in collaboration with his current Minister of Finance, Charles Alexandre Calonne, to call the Assembly of Notables, after an absence of 160 years, to try and pass some of the reforms needed to alleviate the situation when the Parlements refused to cooperate. The first meeting of the Assembly took place on February 22, 1787, at which Marie Antoinette was not present and was afterwards accused of trying to undermine the process.

However, the Assembly was a failure with or without the queen, as they did not pass any reforms and instead fell into a pattern of defying the king, demanding other reforms and for the acquicence of the Parlements. As a result, the king to dismiss Calonne on April 8, 1787; Vergennes died on February 13 and the king, once more ignoring the queen’s pro-Austrian candidate (which she had half-heartedly endorsed) appointing a childhood friend, the Comte de Montmorin, to replace him as Foreign Minister.

The Assembly of Notables was then dissolved on May 25 because of their inability to get things done. The lack of solutions, as a result, would cause the blame of the entire situation – which was really a result of successive wars, a too-large royal family who were given astronomical allowances (as every individual royal had their own household, and some, for example the Comte de Provence and Mesdames Tantes, spent far more frivolously than the queen ever had), and the unwillingness of ministers and other non-royal nobles to help defray the costs – to fall on the queen. She would earn her famous nickname of “Madame Deficit” in the summer of 1787 as a result of her perceived destroying of the French government.

The queen attempted to fight back with her own propaganda that portrayed her as the mother of the Children of France, most notably with the portrait of her and her children done by Vigée-Lebrun, which was to premiere at the Royal Académie Salon de Paris in August 1787. It was eventually dropped, however, due to the death of Sophie, the youngest child, due to convulsions from her baby teeth coming in, and also due to the unpopularity of the queen.

The political situation in 1787 began to worsen when Parlement was exiled and culminated on November 11, when the king used a lit de justice to try and force legislation through. He was unexpectedly challenged by the Louis Philippe Joseph, Duc de Chartres, now the Duc d’Orléans, who publicly protested the move, and was subsequently exiled. The May Edicts issued on May 8, 1788, also a lit de justice, were also opposed by the public. Finally, on July 8 and August 8, the king announced a preliminary hearing, and then his official intentions, respectively, to bring back the Estates General, an elected government body that had not been convened since 1614.

The queen was not directly involved with the exile of Parlement, the May Edicts or with the announcement regarding the Estates General. Her primary concern of late 1787 and 1788 was the betterment of Louis Joseph, who suffered from tuberculosis, which in his case twisted and curved his spinal column severely. He was sent to the castle at Meudon in hopes that he would be able to recover; unfortunately, the move did little to alleviate the Dauphin’s condition, which gradually continued to deteriorate. She was, however, present with Madame Royalle, when Tippu Sahib of Mysore visited Versailles for help against the British; more importantly she was the reason for the recall of Jacques Necker as Finance Minister on August 26, a popular move, even though she herself was worried that the recall would again go against her if Necker was unsuccessful.

Her prediction began to come true when the bread prices began to rise due to the severe 1788-1789 winter. The Dauphin’s condition worsened even more, riots broke out in Paris in April, and on March 26, Louis XVI himself almost died from a fall off the roof. “Come, Léonard, dress my hair, I must go like an actress, exhibit myself to a public that may hiss me” was her line to her hairdresser when she was preparing for the Mass celebrating the return of the Estates General on May 4, 1789 in which the Duc d’Orleans, flaunting that he had given money and bread to the people during the winter, was popularly acclaimed by the crowd. The Estates General convened the next day.

During the month of May, as the Estates General began to fissure between the more radical Third Estate comprised of the bourgeois and radical nobility) and the nobility of the Second Estate, while the king’s brothers began to become more hardline and the queen’s influence once more gave way to nothing. Instead, she turned to the care of the dying Dauphin, who finally passed at Meudon, with the queen at his side, on June 4, aged seven. His death, which would have normally been nationally mourned, was virtually ignored by the French people, who were instead preparing for the next meeting of the Estates General and the solution to the bread prices. As the Third Estate declared itself a National Assembly and took the Tennis Court Oath, and others listened to rumors that their queen wished to bathe in their blood, as she went into mourning.

The French Revolution: July 1789-1792

The situation began to escalate violently in July as the National Assembly began to demand more rights and Louis XVI began to lean back towards the nobility’s demands to suppress the Third Estate. Then, on July 11, Necker was dismissed. Paris was besieged by riots at the news, which culminated in the famous Storming of the Bastille on July 14.

In the weeks that followed, many of the influential conservative aristocrats, including the Comte d’Artois and the Duchesse de Polignac (who had briefly returned to France several months prior), fled France. Marie Antoinette, who was probably most in danger and plagued with threats of immurement and the exclusion of her as the Queen Regent should her husband die, stayed behind in order to help the king promote stability, even as his power was gradually taken away by the National Assembly, who now ruled Paris, and were conscripting men to serve in the National Guard.

By the end of August, the Declaration of the Rights of Man (La Déclaration des droits de l’Homme et du citoyen) was adapted, which officially created the beginning of a constitutional monarchy in France. Despite this, the king was still required to perform court ceremonies, even as the situation in Paris started to worsen due to the bread shortage in September. In October, a dinner conducted for the royal bodyguards was turned into an orgy by revolutionary newspapers, and on October 5, on the beliefs that the king and queen were withholding bread, a bevy of market- women marched on Versailles to demand their voices be heard. The next day, they stormed the castle, killing several bodyguards in lieu of meeting the king, threatening Marie Antoinette’s life in the process.

The riot prompted the royal family – who also consisted of the Comte and Comtesse de Provence and the king’s sister Madame Elisabeth – to move to Paris under guard of the National Guard; they stayed at the Tuileries under a lax house arrest. After this Marie Antoinette conveyed to her friends that she did not intend to involve herself any further in French politics, as everything, whether or not she was involved, would inevitably be attributed to her anyway and she feared the repercussions of further involvement.

Despite the situation, Marie Antoinette was still required to perform charitable functions and certain religious ceremonies, which she did, though outside of this most of her time was dedicated to her children once more. Meanwhile, she was not privy to the creation of the French Constitution, which was further weakening the king’s authority, creating a constitutional monarchy. She nevertheless hoped for a future where her son would be able to rule, convinced that the violence would soon pass.

She was, however, subjected to several different confidences that involved her fleeing France on her own, which she rejected because she wished to stay with the king. Other attempts to rescue the king in the early days of their residence in the Tuileries were ultimately rejected by the king through his indeciciveness. The king’s indecisiveness also played an important role in the poor execution of an elaborate attempt to escape from Paris to the fortress town of Montmédy conducted in 1791 with the aide of Count von Fersen. Initially, the queen rejected the plan because it required her to leave with only her son. She wished instead for the rest of the royal family to accompany her. The king ended up blundering on the subject of accompaniment, the date of departure, and also the route of the escape. The escape ultimately occurred on June 21, 1791, and was a failure; the entire family was captured twenty-four hours later at Varennes and taken back to Paris within the week.

The result was a decline in popularity for both the king and queen, which correlated with the rise of the Jacobin party in French politics, who called for the end to all monarchy in France. Though the Constitution was accepted on September 14, Marie Antoinette hoped through the end of 1791 that the Constitution would prove unworkable and, also, that perhaps her brother, Leopold (who had succeeded Emperor Joseph upon his death from tuberculosis on February 20, 1790) would send an armed congress to liberate them, as opposed to the king’s brothers, who she felt would cause trouble. However, she was unaware that Leopold was more interested in taking advantage of France’s state of chaos for his own personal gain rather than help her or her family.

The result of Leopold’s aggressive tendencies – and those of his son Francis II, who succeeded him in March – was that war was declared between France and Austria on April 20, 1792. This caused the queen to be viewed as an enemy, even though she was personally against Austrian claims on French lands. The situation became compounded in the summer when French armies were continually defeated and the king vetoed several measures that would have restricted his power even further, which caused Marie Antoinette to receive the nickname “Madame Veto”. On June 20, a mob broke into the Tuileries and demanded the king wear the tricolor to show his loyalty to France. On July 31, the king’s unpopularity was so great that the National Assembly officially suspended his power with the words, “Louis XVI is no longer the King of the French”.

The vulnerability of the abolished king was exposed on August 10, when a clash between Swiss Guards and republican forces forced the royal family to take refuge with the Assembly; several hundred died in the standoff. The royal family was moved to the tower of the Marais Temple on August 13, which was considerably harsher than their previous conditions. A week later, many of the family’s attendants were taken in for interrogation by the Paris Commune; the Princesse de Lamballe was among them, and was found guilty and executed on September 2, her head affixed on a pike that was paraded around the city (Marie Antoinette did not see the head, but fainted upon learning what had happened). Then, on September 21, the monarchy was officially ended, and the National Convention was installed as the legal authority of France, and the royal family was re-styled as the non-royal “Capets”; preparations for trying the king also went underway.

Charged with undermining the republic, Louis was separated from his family and tried in December. He was found guilty by the Convention, lead by the Jacobins who rejected the idea of keeping him as a hostage. However, the sentence would not come until a month later, when he was condemned to execution by the guillotine.

“Widow Capet”; Death 1793

Louis was executed on January 21, 1793, aged thirty-eight. The result was that Antoinette Capet, as the former queen was called after the abolition of the monarchy, plunged into deep mourning; she refused to eat or take any exercise. Nor did she proclaim her son as Louis XVII, unlike the Comte de Provence, who in exile proclaimed himself regent for the boy. Her health rapidly deteriorated in the following months. By this time she suffered from tuberculosis and possibly uterine cancer, which caused her to hemorrhage frequently.

Despite her condition, the debate as to her fate was the central question of the National Convention after Louis’s death. There were those who had been advocating her death for some time, while some had the idea of exchanging her for French prisoners of war or for a ransom from the Holy Roman Emperor. Thomas Paine advocated exile to America. Starting in April, however, a Committee of Public Safety was formed, and men such as Jacques Hébert were beginning to call for Antoinette’s trial; by the end of May the Girondins had been chased out of power and arrested.Other calls were made to “retrain” the Dauphin, to make him more pliant to revolutionary ideas. This was carried out when Louis Charles was separated from Antoinette on July 3, and given to the care of a cobbler. On August 1, she herself was taken out of the Tower and entered into the Conciergerie as Prisoner No. 280. Despite various attempts to get her out, such as the Carnation Plot in September, Capet refused when the plots to free her were brought to her attention.

She was finally tried by revolutionary tribunal on October 14. Unlike the king, who had been given time to prepare a defense, the queen’s trial was far more of a sham, considering the time she was given (less than one day) and the Jacobin’s misogynistic view of women in general. Among the things she was accused of (most, if not all, the accusations were untrue and probably lifted from rumors began by libelles) included orchestrating orgies in Versailles, sending millions of livres of treasury money to Austria, plotting to kill the Duc d’Orleans, declaring her son to be the new King of France and orchestrating the massacre of the Swiss Guards in 1792.

The most serious charge, however, was that she had abused her son. This was according to Louis Charles, who, through his coaching by Hebert and his guardian, accused his mother. The accusation caused Antoinette to protest so emotionally that the females present in the courtroom – the market women who had stormed the palace for her entrails in 1789 – ironically also began to support her. However, in reality the outcome of the trial had already been decided by the Committee of Public Safety around the time the Carnation Plot was uncovered, and she was declared guilty in the early morning of October 16, after two days of proceedings. She was executed later that day, at 12:15 pm, two and a half weeks before her thirty-ninth birthday. Though initially buried in an unmarked grave in the rue d’Anjou, her body was recovered in 1815 and re-buried at St. Denis Cathedral.

From Wikipedia the online encyclopedia.