Not All Fun and Cake: An Alternative Interpretation of the Life of Queen Marie Antoinette


History depicts her as an irresponsible woman whose life was a vanity fair. In fact, she was another historical example of a woman who couldn’t live her life as she really wanted to.

Marie Antoinette was born on November 2, 1755, as a daughter of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor and Empress Maria Theresa. She was the youngest of fifteen children of the royal couple. Her education was focused on preparing her for her future role as queen. The young woman’s life was full of responsibilities, and she couldn’t do anything to change her fate. Being a princess, and later a queen, she still couldn’t decide much about her own life.

After centuries of repeating propaganda and lies, the most recent research about Marie Antoinette shows that she was not an evil and vain woman – but actually a humble daughter of a much disciplined court of Austria. Analysis of her own notes, memoirs of her friends, and other people who met her, prove that she was a woman who lived in the cage created by her roots. Apart from the history of Marie Antoinette as a political figure, there is a story of a girl who wanted a different life for herself.

Sadness in Versailles

When she married Louise-Auguste and became the Dauphine of France, she was only 14 years old. The first letter Marie Antoinette sent to her mother still shows the young lady’s tear drop. She studied French, but for the first time in her life she was in a place where she couldn’t speak her mother tongue, and she didn’t know most of the people around her. Four years after the wedding, on May 10, 1774, she became the Queen of France and Navarre.

Louis Auguste as Dauphin of France, by Louis-Michel Van Loo (1769). ( Public Domain )

Marie Antoinette was very unhappy in Versailles, but her personality didn’t allow her to cultivate a negative attitude. She became a supporter of the arts and she tried to enjoy her situation as much as possible. Her days were full of fun as she enjoyed creating theatrical plays. Moreover, as the queen, she could buy things which were out of reach of most of the people who lived in Europe. Some expensive jewels, clothes, and other possessions gave her a reputation as a queen who spent too much.

There is a significant amount of truth in this belief. The citizens of France faced a difficult life during her husband’s reign. However, Marie lived behind the wall. She was born in the palace, and spent all of her life as a person who was far from the normal ways of life.

The Story Behind Madame Deficit

Although her nickname on the streets of Paris was ”Madame Deficit”, she wasn’t as guilty of the financial crisis as politicians wanted the public to believe. She was against financial reform, but at the same time, Marie Antoinette was very interested in helping regular people or anyone in need.

Marie Antoinette in her living room, Jean-Baptiste André Gautier-Dagoty 1774.

Marie Antoinette in her living room, Jean-Baptiste André Gautier-Dagoty 1774. ( Public Domain )

According to her enemies, she was not an innocent girl, but a woman who betrayed the king. It was never confirmed, but anti-royal publications of her times tried to create as much evidence as possible that she was not suitable for her role. Her bad reputation was also connected with the fact that she bore her first child after 8 years of marriage.

Happiness in the Hamau de la Reine

Marie Antoinette believed that the palace of Versailles was hell, however she began to feel more at ease when she was able to stay in a small rustic house. The house was built in 1783 by Richard Mique, the Queen’s favorite architect. It was like a cottage with beautiful flowers all around it even though it was located near the palace.

Le hameau de la reine by the artificial lake in the gardens of the Petit Trianon.

Le hameau de la reine by the artificial lake in the gardens of the Petit Trianon. ( CC BY 3.0 )

The small house was good for the Queen, but also allowed her to feel like she traveled far away from the golden Versailles. It became her favorite place and she spent as much time there as possible. As a mother of four, she preferred to spend time in this pleasant environment far from the sight of her enemies. She was an amateur gardener and in the pleasant Parisian climate she received beautiful results for her efforts.

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