“Let them eat cake!”
Marie Antoinette is known for living in the lap of luxury and for her extraordinary spending habits. The last Queen of France before the French Revolution, the story of Antoinette’s rise from a young girl in Austria to French fashion icon is one the historians and the media love to embellish upon. However, what was Antoinette’s life really like?
Much of what is written about Marie Antoinette is based on the anti-royal propaganda that was spread prior to the French Revolution. She was believed to be someone who overspent on all the luxuries of life, while her people suffered yet this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Here at FunnyAnd, we wanted to separate the fact from fiction and provide you with 40 incredible and ravishing facts about Marie Antoinette. We have to warn you though…some may be quite shocking!
40. Made Donkey Riding a Trend
Upon first arriving in Paris, Marie Antoinette wanted to ride horses. However, the royal family objected due to the fact she could harm herself while riding. Not taking “no” for an answer, Antoinette compromised with the family and chose to ride donkeys. This trend soon took off with not only her entourage of ladies riding donkeys but Louis XV’s daughters as well. Soon, most French noblewomen preferred to ride donkeys over horses.
39. Only A Child When Wed
Marie Antoinette was just a blossoming teenager when she wed Louis XVI who was only fifteen at the time (she was only fourteen). The marriage used Marie as a political pawn in an effort to craft an alliance between France and Austria who had long been enemies. The wedding took place only a day after the agreement was drafted with both Marie and Louis XVI thrust into a partnership they were not to keen on participating in.
38. Consummation Interruptus
It was custom after the wedding ceremony for the newlyweds to be taken to their bedchamber, blessed and then left to begin producing a royal heir. Both teenagers at the time, Marie Antoinette nor Louis XVI had any interest in consummating their marriage that evening. In fact, it would be seven years before the couple finally did the deed. Rumor has it that Louis XVI had a physiological disorder, which is why it took so long, while other historians believed he was simply shy and that Marie had no real interest in sex.
37. Grooms Are Overrated
The marriage of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI took place on April 19, 1770, in Vienna. However, Louis was not there at the time. Marie’s older brother, Archduke Ferdinand stood in as a proxy before she left for France. It would be on May 16, 1770, that Marie and Louis would have their official ceremony in the Chapel Royal in Versailles. It seems the royal families weren’t even trying to hide the fact this marriage was all about political gain.
36. Marie Antoinette And Shoes
History books love to tout that Marie Antoinette had a plethora of shoes and would change them on a whim. However, this is propaganda that was spread by the anti-royal movement around the time of the French Revolution. In fact, Marie’s entourage and the Royal family spent way more on clothing than she did. Her brother-in-law owned enough shoes to have a different pair every single day of the year. Talk about a shoe addiction, he’d put Carrie Bradshaw to shame.
35. The Royal Entourage
When Marie Antoinette arrived in France her entourage was unprecedented at the time. She was accompanied by 57 carriages, 117 footman and 376 horses. The celebration after the wedding was also a decadent affair, where Marie was showered with jewels and gifts. This would set the stage for Marie Antoinette’s expensive tastes and living in the lap of luxury.
Unfortunately, this habit would ultimately lead to her undoing when the anti-royal movement began.
34. Dress Designer Extraordinaire
During the French Revolution, women wore white dresses that were sort of like an unofficial uniform. These dresses were designed and worn by Marie Antoinette originally in an effort to prove she wasn’t addicted to expensive gowns. She hoped by downgrading her attire she would look like a “woman of the people,” but the plan didn’t work as she intended. In fact, the public was enraged that someone of her stature would wear such a plain and downtrodden outfit.
33. A Captivating Figure
Marie Antoinette could be considered a “rock star” of her time. Before she ascended to the throne as queen, she captivated the French public with her charm, wit, and charisma. In fact, when she made her first public appearance in the French capital over 50,000 people showed up. Sadly, over 30 were killed by being trampled to death.
32. Hairdos That Reached the Sky
Leonard Autie was Marie Antoinette’s personal hairdresser and was known for crafting elaborate hairstyles that certainly made a lasting impression. Some of Marie’s hairstyles reached as high as four feet and would be adorned with feathers, jewels and even models of ships and iconic locations. We can’t imagine what it was like trying to balance all of that on top of your head.
On a side note, the hairstyles often took so long to create they were left in for weeks. The women would use jeweled sticks to itch their scalps due to the fact roaches and other insects sometimes took up residence in the wigs.
31. Expensive Tastes
With very little to do in terms of royal duties, Marie Antoinette spent most of her days socializing at the palace with her friends and entourage. Since she had so much free time, she developed very expensive tastes, with clothes being her one weakness. Marie also developed a gambling habit, which was brought to the attention of her mother. In fact, her mom wrote her a stern letter to cut the shenanigans if she knew what was good for her.
30. Did Not Adjust Well
When Marie Antoinette first moved to France she struggled with married life and adjusting to life in the palace. Being of such a young age, it was reasonable she would have a hard time being away from everyone she had known and loved. In her letters to her mother, Marie revealed how homesick she was and that she had an extreme dislike for daily rituals.
29. Provided for those Less Fortunate
The broad historical view of Marie Antoinette paints her as a cold, monster who spent lavishly and had no care for her people, but that actually was not true. There was a kind and giving side to Marie and she did quite a bit of charity work. Not only did she found a home for unwed mothers, but during the famine of 1787 she sold off the royal flatware to buy grain for the poor families in need. One instance had her helping a man who had been hit by her carriage, paying for his medical expenses and taking care of his family until he was well.
28. Lavish Spending Did Not Trigger the French Revolution
It’s widely believed that Marie Antoinette’s spending habits and expensive tests were to blame for the French Revolution, but the truth is the country’s economic troubles had been brewing for quite some time. When Marie and Louis XVI ascended to the throne, France was already deep in debt. Louis XVI’s monetary policies he would then put into place failed when he sent large sums of funds to support the American Revolution. With the propaganda aimed at Marie Antoinette, she was painted way more extravagant than she was. Though, it’s important to point out she did have VERY expensive tastes.
27. “Let Them Eat Cake”
Due to the success of the anti-royal propaganda at that time, we still believe to this day that Marie Antoinette’s response to the French’s poverty was “let them eat cake.” The truth is there is absolutely no record of her ever saying such a thing. Although, at the time it was common for out of touch royals to suggest pastries when bread was not available. Regardless, it’s very unlikely that Marie Antoinette was so flippant to the plight of her people.
26. She Lacked Common Decency At Times
While Marie Antoinette did have a kinder side, she also lacked decency in her extravagance at times. One such tasteless action was having a replica of a peasant farmyard built at Versailles so she and her friends could dress up as shepherdesses and pretend to be poor farmhands. According to records, the area looked like a real farm except the interior was decorated lavishly for the Queen and her entourage.
25. Almost Escaped Execution
After her husband, Louis XVI was executed, Marie Antoinette was visited by her friend Alexandre Gonsse de Rougeville who slipped her a note on a carnation that he was bribing the guards to help her escape. Unfortunately, on the eve of the escape, the plan was foiled by one of the bribed guards. As Marie Antoinette was brought down to meet her friend, the guard pocketed the bribe money and sent her back to her cell.
24. One of the Boys
While it may come as a surprise to some, Marie Antoinette was quite the tomboy as a child. She loved to ride horses, hunt and play with the commoner’s children. This led to her mother constantly having to remind her to wear clean clothes and brush her hair. Funny enough, Marie Antoinette’s mother continued to remind her of these things long after she was married.
23. A Horrible Student
Despite her intelligence, Marie Antoinette was very hard to school and was considered hard to teach by her tutor. In fact, he claimed she had the most atrocious handwriting he’d ever seen. Although she wasn’t the model pupil, Marie’s smarts did shine through on how she handled the royal court as Queen and her political prowess was quite impressive.
22. A Passion for Florals
One thing that Marie Antoinette loved above all else was flowers. This passion led to her decorating everything in floral motifs. Whether it was wallpaper or furniture, everything had to be covered in colorful flowers. The flower garden at Versailles was stunning and filled with flowers such as orange blossoms, jasmine, and iris. Marie Antoinette would even go on to have perfumes made for her from the garden.
21. Chocolate was her Vice
A deep love for chocolate was one of Marie Antoinette’s vices. She loved chocolate so much that she hired her own chocolatier at Versailles to make custom creations for her. One of her favorite things to do every morning was to drink warm liquid chocolate with fresh whipped cream. Sometimes she would even go as far as to have liquid chocolate with hints of orange blossom. At the time, chocolate was not available to the common folk, which made the people of France resent Marie Antoinette even more.
20. Blamed by the People
As the anti-royal movement grew prior to the French Revolution, the propaganda against Marie Antoinette grew. When her husband, Louis XVI proposed new reforms to help end excess and impose progressive taxation, the clergymen blocked all of the proposals. However, the press at the time blamed Marie Antoinette for blocking the new reforms, giving her the name “Madame Veto.”
19. Loved Children
Despite not having her own children until much later into her marriage, Marie Antoinette loved kids. She adopted the daughter of one of her maid’s and raised her as her own and even adopted the children of one of her ushers whom she put into a convent. One child, she took into her home would become the companion for her son Louis-Charles. Overall, Marie had a very kind heart and compassion for the people in her life.
18. Revelations of an Affair
Recently, historians have discovered secret letters between Marie Antoinette and a Swedish count named Axel von Fersen. The decoded letters are believed to prove that Marie had a passionate affair while married to Louis XVI. It is believed that two of her children were a product of the affair and not from her marriage. An excerpt from one of the letters reads: “I will end this letter but not without telling you, my dear and gentle friend, that I love you madly and that there is never a moment in which I do not adore you.”
17. Charged with Incest
After capture, Marie Antoinette faced accusations of incest at her trial by the prosecution. They even went as far as to coerce her youngest son to testify against her. Knowing there were mothers in the courtroom, Marie appealed to their nature, stating “Nature refuses to answer such a charge brought against a mother. I appeal in this matter to all the mothers present in court.”
According to the accounts, the testimony of Louis Charles broke Marie Antoinette’s heart and was more than she could bear.
16. A Hate Symbol
Sadly, during Marie Antoinette’s reign, she became a symbol of hate for those who wanted to overthrow the French Aristocracy. There was a huge divide in French society at the time and Marie was nicknamed, Madame Deficit thanks to her over-the-top spending habits. Many hated her for the refurbishments she implemented at Versailles and believed she was completely out of touch with reality and her people.
15. Total Opposites
There could not have been two more different people than Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Louis was introverted and liked to go to bed early, while Marie was a socialite who enjoyed extravagant late-night parties and spending time with her friends. It’s believed this was the reason the two took so long to consummate their marriage. Between the different schedules and lack of true interest in one another, the two simply weren’t the perfect match.
14. Refusal to Leave Her Children Behind
During her time imprisoned, Marie Antoinette had quite a few allies who wanted to help her escape. Unfortunately, these escape plans only included her. Marie refused to leave her children behind to face what would be an uncertain fate, and by doing so ended up sealing her own.
13. Louis XVI Doomed His Family
Before the royal family was captured, their allies plotted several different ways to get them out of France. Unfortunately, Louis XVI could not make up his mind about whether to leave or not. It was his lack of decision that would ultimately lead to their downfall. As the riots grew more violent, the window of opportunity grew smaller and smaller. When Louis XVI finally made up his mind, their escape did not go as planned.
12. Flight to Varennes
On June 21, 1791, the royal family disguised as servants of a wealthy Russian baroness escaped to Varennes in an effort to reach a royalist stronghold. Sadly, the entire escape was foiled and the family was arrested less than 24 hours later. They were swiftly brought back to Paris and when word of the escape reached the public it all but wiped out any remaining support that was left for the king.
11. Didn’t Expect to Be Executed
The trial of Marie Antoinette was swift and her counsel had little to no time to plan her defense. Although she was not guilty of the crimes that she was charged with, the court had already predetermined her fact. After only two days of deliberation, she was convicted and sentenced to death. Marie Antoinette and her counsel were shocked by the extreme punishment, believing she would only be sentenced to life in prison.
10. Taking Action
Since her husband refused to make any decisions before the fall of the monarchy, Marie Antoinette took matters into her own hands. She wrote to a variety of leaders requesting more military to handle the rebels and even took meetings to help strategize a way to prevent the fallout. Marie tried everything she could to save her family, but in the end, it wasn’t enough.
9. A Sad End for the Youngest
Marie Antoinette’s youngest son remained in prison for three years after her death. A primary cause for her execution since he testified against her claiming incest, he was in a pretty bad place before his death, although he was treated well and had many attendants. At the age of ten, he died of a lymph node infection on June 8, 1795.
8. A Final Testament
Before she was executed, Marie Antoinette insisted on being provided with a pen and paper in order to write down her final thoughts to her sister-in-law Elisabeth. In the letter she proclaimed her love and adoration for her friends and family, begging them to not seek any type of revenge or retribution for her death. After she completed the letter, it was given to the warden who ended up confiscating it. It was never delivered to Elisabeth and remains the final words of the Queen.
7. Polite to the End
Even though she was treated with disrespect and cruelty after her arrest, Marie Antoinette refused to turn her back on her upbringing as a lady. As she was being escorted to the execution platform, she accidentally stepped on the executioner’s foot. Marie promptly apologized, refusing to let her final moments be tainted by anger or bitterness.
6. Scandalizing Fashion
One of Marie Antoinette’s major accomplishments in life was her ability to be a trendsetter in the fashion world. The women of Versailles often struggled to keep up with her ever-changing tastes in fashion, with some of her designs considered to be quite inappropriate at the time. However, Marie didn’t care, living her life carefree and enjoying every moment.
5. A Place of Refuge
Marie Antoinette felt trapped at times in her life on the royal court and desired to escape it every so often. On the grounds of Versailles, she had her mini-chateau, the Petit Trianon that she would retire too when she needed an escape. No one was allowed to entire the chateau without her permission and she usually spent her time there with the ladies of her inner circle.
4. A Swath of Male Admirers
Due to her beauty and charisma, Marie Antoinette amassed quite a few male admirers over time. In 1774, she began to befriend several of them, assigning them places in her inner circle. She even took in her former music teacher, German opera composer Christoph Gluck. He remained in Versailles until 1779.
3. Suffering from a Miscarriage
Marie Antoinette’s second pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, something historians were able to conclude from letters between Marie and her mother. While some historians argue she was having an irregular menstrual cycle at the time that had been mistaken for a pregnancy, most still hold true that she lost a child at some point.
2. Advisor to Louis XVI
Due to her husband suffering from severe depression, Marie Antoinette ended up taking on the role of unofficial political advisor. With her new role in place, Marie ended up with increasing political power, although the deteriorating financial situation in France was almost insurmountable. During this time, Marie abandoned her lavish lifestyle to focus on educating her children and winning back the will of her people.
1. An Icon for the Ages
Even though Marie Antoinette’s life ended in tragedy, her legacy continues to live on to this day. Her love for fashion and extravagance has been depicted in the media many times and she’s continued to be an icon for that era. Although, it’s important to point out that history tends to follow the anti-royal propaganda version of Marie rather than who she actually was.