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Background :: Crime, Scandal, Spectacle


Marie Antoinette was born in Vienna, Austria in November of 1755 (Goodman 16). She was married to the future Louis XVI of France at the age of 14, in 1770, as a political move by her mother, Maria Theresa of Austria, to solidify the Franco-Austrian Alliance. She became Queen of France just four years later after the death of Louis XV (Goodman 16).

The reign of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI was defined by many obstacles, the first of which was sorting out the scandal of the previous reign, in which King Louis XV had an affair with the scandalous and influential Comtesse Du Barry.

The new Queen’s sympathy for Austria conflicted with the views of the French people, who still harbored negative feelings for her homeland. Antoinette deepened this distrust of the French people, as the foreign Queen tried to mediate between Prussia and Austria, stretching the boundaries of her role as a French monarch.

It was also significant that Louis was impotent for the first 7 years of their marriage, resulting in the disappointment and anger of the French court and commoners alike, who were looking for a male heir to the throne. The pressure felt by Marie Antoinette in this case was a constant weight on her mind. The need for an heir coupled with Louis’ impotency began the circulation of rumors concerning the Queens possible sexual deviance. When she finally became a mother in 1778, the frustration only grew when it was discovered that her first child, Marie Theresa, was a girl.

Although she eventually had two sons capable of succeeding the throne, the long wait was not concurrent with the ideal Frenchwoman at the time. Motherhood was the ultimate role for a woman, and religious inclination forbade the idea of an alternate lover to reach this end.

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