French History Lesson: Marie Antoinette
Whether you know Marie Antoinette from highschool history class, from the 2006 movie Marie Antoinette with Kirsten Dunst, or from her famous sky-high hair, she is an icon. She is an important part of French history, being the final queen before the French Revolution. Marie Antoinette is such an interesting character, here are some fun facts that you probably did not know about her!
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1. Marie Antoinette was born an Austrian princess.
Photo Cred: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2016/10/marie-antoinette-facts-france-death-queen-anniversary/
Marie Antoinette was born in Vienna, Austria in 1755. Archduchess Marie Antoinette was the 15th child of Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and the powerful Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa. She was just 14 years old when she married the future Louis XVI. The two were wed to create an alliance between the Austrians and French, as the two kingdoms were longtime enemies. The day after Marie Antoinette met the 15-year-old future king of France, the two were wed in a lavish palace ceremony.
2. Her marriage celebration lasted for over two weeks!
Photo Cred: https://people.howstuffworks.com/why-was-marie-antoinette-wedding-dress-so-scandalous.htm
Because of the long-awaited alliance between their two families, the celebration was huge! There were festivities, dancing, music, feasts, and gifts. At the end of the 14 days, the finale was a grand firework display. During the show, sparks flew and landed on the on Place de la Concords, killing 132 people. Many believe that the tragic accident was a grim omen of a reign that would prove tragic.
3. She took fashion to another level…literally.
Photo Cred: https://www.cfgriffith.com/costumes/chemise-a-la-reine/
Marie Antionette’s personal hairdresser was Léonard Autié. He crafted gravity-defying hairdos, which often rose nearly four feet high (Dolly Parton is definitely jealous)! Autié accessorized the queen’s fantastical ‘dos with feathers, trinkets and on one occasion even an enormous model of a French warship. Additionally, Marie Antionette was a fashion icon. She began wearing simple white dresses with looser fitting called the chemise à la reine (or “chemise of the queen”). These dresses were made of thin muslin and were belted at the waist with a sash. At first, she was criticized for the fashion statement, but later it was taken up by the women of the french revolution. Fashionable women took to wearing them when they were lounging in the countryside in the spring.
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4. A fairy-tale village was built for her at Versailles.
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Missing home, Marie Antoinette commissioned a small village to be built within the palace walls that resembled Austria. She named the village Petit Hameau (small hamlet). It was filled with lakes, gardens, cottages, watermills, and a farmhouse! While peasants starved in villages throughout France, the queen and her ladies-in-waiting dressed up as peasants and pretended to be milkmaids and shepherdesses. This is one of the many reasons revolutionaries were infuriated by her elaborate spending and earned her the nickname “Madame Deficit.” Harsh but fitting.
5. She has a syndrome named after her
Photo Cred: https://daily.jstor.org/the-political-power-of-marie-antoinettes-hair/
Legend has it that the night before her execution, Marie Antoinette’s hair turned completely white due to shock and stress. This may or may not be true, but in modern times a condition was named after her. “Marie Antoinette Syndrome” is the loss of pigmentation in the hair, causing it to turn white. Following her execution, her body was placed in a coffin and then put into a common grave behind the Church of the Madeline. Later, her body was exhumed and given a proper burial inside the Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis where she lies to this very day.
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Photo Cred: https://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-marie-antoinette
Facts from: https://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-marie-antoinette and https://www.crfashionbook.com/celebrity/g26519708/marie-antoinette-facts/?slide=24