Marie Antoinette had always loved children and the pressure to conceive royal heirs came from so many angles, so the stress from this put strain on the couple’s relationship. Sources vary on the reason why the delay (some say lack of sexual education, other historians claim Louis-Auguste had a problem with his equipment), but the couple finally consummated the relationship around 1777, seven years after the wedding.
She and Louis-Auguste had their first child, Marie Thérèse, in December 1778. A son (Louis Joseph) followed in 1781, but he died at the age of seven. Louis-Charles was born in 1785 and a second daughter, Sophie Hélène Béatrice, in 1786 but she died at 11 months. The family portrait that features Antoinette with the children and an empty cradle exists because Princess Sophie was painted out of it.
As the economic situation in France got even worse, Antoinette was nicknamed Madame Déficit and blamed for many of the country’s problems. The fact that she was from Austria only made her an easier target for the blame.
As Antoinette got a little older, she spent as much time as she could in her private estate separate from the main Palace, the Petit Trianon. She held private parties there with her friends and even held concerts and acted in plays.
Close by, she had a village built to give her a place to go to experience what she imagined a commoner’s life would be like. She dressed in more simple garments as well, leading to the debacle of a most scandalous portrait (I wrote a blog post about that over here).
Gossip about Antoinette’s lavish lifestyle, possible infidelities (including accusations of lesbian affairs with her friends) and a scandal related to a diamond necklace (that the queen didn’t even want or order!) all lead up to a dramatic night in October 1789.
A mob of hungry/angry/hangry women marched all the way from Paris with weapons and a canon, demanding the royal couple leave the palace and go to Paris. Many called for the death of the queen. In the wee hours of the morning on the 6th, an unguarded gate was discovered by some of the women and many entered the palace in search of the queen. Antoinette was able to escape through a secret passageway with the children but her bedchamber was shredded by the protestors. One of them was shot and killed by a guard. At least two guards were beheaded that night. That afternoon, Marie Antoinette, King Louis and their children were moved from Versailles to a smaller, simpler castle in Paris. They would never see Versailles again.
The royal couple lived at Tuileries Palace in Paris under house arrest, but they did not remain royal for much longer. The French Revolution was just beginning but in order for it to truly begin, the monarchy would have to be abolished. The King was forced to relinquish his title and power in September 1792. But this did not go far enough for many of the Revolutionaries. Louis-Auguste, known as Louis Capet at this point, was guillotined on January 21, 1793. (You can learn more about the guillotine over here.)
Marie Antoinette would remain a prisoner in Tuileries Palace for several months after that. Her official trial took place in October of that year and she was found guilty of high treason. She was executed via guillotine on October 16, 1793 at the Place de la Révolution in Paris. She wouldn’t be officially buried until 1815.
Antoinette’s surviving son, Louis-Charles, kind of became Louis XVII upon his father’s death, but he did not exactly get the royal treatment. He was kept in prison and eventually died of tuberculosis at age 10. After the Revolution ended, many imposters came forward, claiming to be the Bourbon heir.
Marie Thérès, Antoinette and Louis-Auguste’s oldest child, managed to survive the Revolution, unlike so many, and lived until the ripe old age of 72. After her parents were executed, she was kept imprisoned until December 1795. Upon her release, she went to Vienna. She married her first cousin (gross), Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême, in 1799. They didn’t have children.
Links of interest:
Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser – probably one of the best biographies available
Marie Antoinette’s Gossip Guide to the 18th Century – a fantastic blog
Marie Antoinette (2006) – Yes, the film has some interesting music and casting choices but it’s like a cupcake for your eyeballs. I love it.