Marie Antoinette (1938)
Director: W. A. Van Dyke II.
Starring: Norma Shearer (Marie Antoinette), Tyrone Power (Count Axel de Fersen), John Barrymore King Louis XV), Robert Morley (Louis XVI), Anita Louise (Princess de Lambella), Joseph Schildkraut (Duke d'Orlťans), Gladys George Mme. du Barry), Henry Stephenson (Count de Mercey), Cora Witherspoon (Countess de Noailles), Barnett Parker (Prince de Rohan), Reginald Gardiner (Comte d'Artois), Henry Daniell (La Motte), Leonard Penn (Toulan), Albert Dekker (Comte de Provence), Alma Kruger (Empress Maria Theresa).
MGM costume drama based on the life of the Queen of France.
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Marie is awoken in the night to come to see her mother. She asks Feldy what could her mother want of her at this time of night? Feldy says she must not tell, but Marie keeps working on her until she tells her that she is going to get married.
Marie enters the room. The queen calls Marie Toni. She tells her daughter she will marry the future King of France. Marie thinks the news is just great. Her, the queen of France. Just think of it.
Marie arrive at Versailles. The brothers of the dauphin, Provence and Artois, meet Marie in front of the palace.
Marie comes in and curtsies to the king and to her cousin the Duke of Orleans. The king calls forward Louis-Auguste, dauphin of France. He is overweight, has a plain face and looks insipid. The dauphin tries to deliver a prepared speech, but can't do it at all well. Clumsily, the dauphin kisses Marie on both cheeks.
The wedding takes place. The king goes to the bedroom to wish them well along with many others from the court. The king has to control himself as he almost starts laughing at the thought of what can his grandson do with Marie. Madame Labelle just stands thee staring at the couple until an older woman tells her to come out of the room.
Marie is a good talker, but not Louie. She asks him what he likes to do? She knows he likes to hunt. Louie says he likes to make locks with the blacksmith and mend clocks. He has 20 clocks in his workshop. But he doesn't like to dance. The dauphin is very constrained around him. When the fireworks begin, Marie wants to watch them with her husband, but he tells her that he doesn't usually talk with women, because they like to make fun of him, especially that Du Barry woman. The king says he hasn't any friends. Marie says she would like to be his friend and he says the same to her. She says her mother had 16 children. Louie tells her: "I like to be alone all the time." He says he is leaving and will see Marie in the morning. This really upsets Marie and she almost begs him to stay with her. He tells her to leave him alone and go back to where she came from. Marie says she will leave him alone. She also says that she had not idea how rude the dauphin could be.
Louie tells her that his parents want an heir to the throne, but that will never happen, he says: "Because of me." Louie asks her why isn't she laughing at him? He says anyone would. He drops into a chair and starts crying. Marie is very kind and solicitous of her husband. He has her promise not to say anything about what has happened to the king or his mistress Du Barry. She does so willingly and he says that she is a very good person and now admits: "I'm afraid I was rude. I always say the wrong thing." He says he hopes Marie will be happy here. Marie starts crying and asks her husband to leave. Alone, Marie cries on her bed.
May 16, 1772. The second wedding anniversary of the dauphin and the dauphine. Madame Du Barry and the king talk about the wedding anniversary. Du Barry says it's the "Austrian's" anniversary. She criticizes Marie for not having a child by now, saying: "The creature's nothing more than a sob in a wig." Orleans comes in late. Madame du Barry does not like the man. She accuses him of being the author of a rather nasty poem directed at her. Orleans denies it, but du Barry says she knows either he wrote it or one of his writers wrote it. Orleans strikes back at her by saying he is very tried of having to praise du Barry's overblown charms. He says she's just one of the ladies that rule over their king. As son as Orleans leaves, everyone starts laughing at him.
The Duke of Orleans pays a visit to the dauphine. Marie is thrilled to have a visitor. Marie tries to put a brave face on, but soon admits that nobody comes to see her, except her husband. She asks why Orleans why does du Barry hate her so? He says because Marie is so beautiful. Her cousin now asks her if he has her permission to hold a ball in honor of the Dauphine of France. He tells her: "Conquer Paris, and you'll conquer Madame du Barry." She has to say: "I dare not." Orleans takes his leave of her. Her husband tells her is doesn't like this Philippe.
The Prince of Rohan requests an audience with His Majesty. Louie doesn't want to see the man, but says have the man come in. The prince brings with him a gift. Marie opens it, but it's only an empty baby cradle. For du Barry, it's a way of criticizing Marie for being unable to have children. Marie is stunned and hurt. The prince leaves saying he had no idea of what was in the box. Now Marie asks the dauphin to stand with her and show people that he likes her at least. Louie says he can only be who he is. So Marie decides that she is going to have to mark of her own on the court alone, but do it she will try.
The Duke of Orleans presents Marie at the party. All the people at court bow to her. Later the people even clap for Marie. The dauphine starts going to all the society balls in Paris. At one party the Duke of Orleans tries to kiss her, but she won't let him. He objects that he is the only man who she will not let kiss her. Marie slaps him for this remark, but then grabs him and kisses him passionately.
A count from Sweden walks by a window and the dauphine from a second story window asks him to help her. His companion advises him to walk away with him as he was speaking to the Dauphine of France. But the Swedish count decides to stay and help the dauphine. Marie is impressed by the handsome Count Axel Fersen of Sweden. She says she has been losing at gambling and will lose everything if he doesn't pretend to be a Russian for her. So the count agrees to pretend to be a Russian. The men are suspicious of this Ivan Ivanovitch, supposedly of Russia, and are a bit jealous of and nasty toward the count. Ivan strikes back and soon the men are pulling out their swords. The dauphine tells them all to stop it. She then invites the count to go with her to another party, but he declines and then leaves. The dauphine is furious as the men all laugh at her. She tells everyone to be quiet.
She starts to leave, but one of the men wagers with her that she will not be able to get the handsome count to go to the party with her. Marie accepts the wager and she goes downstairs to speak with the Swede. He declines her invitation feeling that he will only be the butt of more jokes, but Marie kisses him passionately. And he still refuses her. He walks out. As she lost the wager, she has to give up her necklace to the gambler.
Count Mercey requests a private audience with the dapuphine. He tells her that he has been told about a necklace costing 200,000 livres which she lost tonight on a wager. The Count says: "You must be out of your senses, madame." He asks her why she engages in this "mad pursuit of pleasure". The king will be coming to her party and he demands that the dauphine publicly recognize his mistress du Barry. Marie says she would rather die that be humiliated like this. Count Mercey says that means he must resign. Marie doesn't want him to resign so she agrees to speak with Madame Du Barry.
It's the night of the big ball. The Duke of Orleans dances with Marie. Louie watches from an upper floor. The king arrives and comes in with lots of fanfare as everybody bows or curtsies to him. Du Barry is now announced and Marie steels herself to receive her. Marie is very gracious, but Du Barry uses the opportunity to slam her opponent's childlessness and that she has to use the Duke of Orleans as a substitute husband at these affairs. So Marie can't help herself and answers back in similar kind. The king and du Barry get insulted and leave the ball.
After the couple leaves, Maries tells everyone to continue the dance. But she can't herself continue, because the king has called her to speak with him. After a long time, Marie returns. She tells the Duke that after four years of marriage, her marriage is to be annulled and she is to be sent back to Austria. Marie asks the Duke to take her to see Count Mercey so she can explain what happened. The Duke has to tell her no, because he would be ruined if he was to go out with her tonight. Marie tells him that he never loved her. He was only interested in the future queen of France. The Duke just says: "Yes." She asks him to leave and he leaves. Marie gets a carriage to go to the Austrian embassy.
Louis goes in to tell his grandfather that he does not want his wife sent back to Austria. Grandpa tries to tell him to get out, but this time Louis fights back. He says he will go, but he will come back after grandfather is dead. And then he will put du Barry in the Bastille. Louis goes on to say he will get his wife back and he will have children. Grandpa tries to get up, but Louis pushes him back down. He then catches himself and apologizes for touching the king. He leaves.
Marie goes in to see the ambassador, but he is busy with a state dinner. The Swedish count comes into the room and finds Marie crying. He tells her that his life is at her service. Marie can't believe it and asks him: "You want to be my friend in my disgrace?" Yes. The count tells Marie that he has known her for a long time. Her governess used to tell him stories about what of interest the princess would do. When the governess left her service, she became his sister's governess and she told the stories to his sister and him. He says he fell in love with the princess. The count now seems to understand her position: He tells her: "You have made pleasure a shield against loneliness and slander, but you could never change so deep a heart, so eager to be loved." Marie starts getting upset and tells him that no one has hurt her like he has with his critical remarks of her. She explains that she knew something had happened when she first met the count. Marie adds: "Perhaps the great loves come with tears."
Marie and the count stay together until the dawning. They kiss and part. When she gets back to the palaces, she is informed that the king is dying of smallpox. Marie will now be Queen of France.
She goes in to see Louis. He tells her that he didn't like the marriage at first, but he grew to like her. Marie starts to broach the topic of the count when the king dies. She looks at him in amazement and says: "You are king of France." People come in to shout: "Long live the king." And "Long live the queen."
The queen goes to see the count. They kiss. She tells him that now that she is queen, she shall never let him go. She tells the count: ". . . because of you, I am strong and certain and radiant." He tells her: "Marie, I couldn't share your destiny except to your own hurt. And that, I cannot do." He says he will go to America tonight. She cries: "No, no. Not tonight." She says: "I couldn't live." He reassures her that whenever she really needs him, he will come to her. They embrace. She says goodbye and they kiss. The count hurries away.
Marie Antoinette is giving birth. Dr. Benjamin Franklin from the United States of America is shocked how the entire birthing room is filled with people. The queen is behind screens, but the atmosphere is of people attending a play. This birth will be her second child. She gave birth to a girl named Therese. The king comes in and is congratulated by everyone. He sits on a throne and then the screens are removed. Marie gives birth to Louis Charles, dauphin of France and of Bourbon, duke of Normandy, prince of Navarre, count of Burgundy, etc.
The situation for many French citizens is very bad and discontent is rising. On a carriage ride with her two children, Marie has to explain to them why people throw stones at them. When Marie sees the king again she complains about the stone and the hurled insults at her and the children. She has been truly shaken and is still trembling about those French faces so full of hatred for her. And she complains that much of the blame for this very negatives is due to the opposition of the duke of Orleans. Marie says they are just little people facing a huge task.
The king must now give a speech to the council. (The speech was written for him by Marie.) Before he leaves, he gives to Marie an account of the Battle of Yorktown by Count Fersen who served as an interpreter. Louie thought she might like to have it. Marie asks her husband if he has always known about her and the count and he nods his head yes.
Marie is shown a huge diamond necklace made by some jewelers of France. A man named Boehmer offers to sell the piece of jewelry to the queen at cost, but Marie says that with people starving it is hardly time to purchase such jewelry. One of the women at court, De La Motte, sees an opportunity to make a lot of money by fraud. She makes up a false document with the queen's forged signature saying that the queen will pay the costs of the necklace and to proceed with the purchase. With this document, she sells the jewelry to a wealthy man trying to win influence with the queen.
A meeting is set up between the wealthy man and a fake queen. The wealthy victim gives the jewelry over to, as he thinks, the queen. Then other confederates whisk the man away before he wizens up to what is really happening.
The crime is exposed when Boehmer goes to the king and queen begging for his first payment for the million and a half francs necklace. He says if he doesn't get the first payment, he will be ruined. The king and queen can hardly believe what has happened. Marie say any document signed by her about this matter is a forgery. Boehmer says he gave the necklace to the Prince of Rohan, who in turn, gave it to the queen. Marie tells the prince personally that she hasn't spoken to him in eight years, so why would she employ him in a purchase of a necklace? Louie doesn't grasp the seriousness of the situation. Marie explains that the necklace has fallen into the hands of thieves and forgers. And Marie now wants De La Motte and de Rohan sent to the Bastille. All are afraid that this may turn into a scandal that could destroy the monarchy.
Marie calls in the Duke of Orleans to get him to stop bribing the judges in the trials of De La Motte and de Rohan. The duke offers his own solution to the problem. The king can resign and the young dauphin could rule under a regency, with the duke as the regent. Marie and the king refuse the deal, even though the duke says the scandal will bring down the monarchy. Marie tells the duke to be careful for if the king and queen fall, so too will many other noblemen.
Marie tries to change her image by giving charity balls and operas, but she is informed that it would not be wise for her to go to her own charity opera for fear of the mass crowds that have gathered around the courthouse to hear the verdict on Prince de Rohan. Marie goes to the opera anyway. A man rushes in to say that the Prince de Rohan is honorably acquitted. Maries is absolutely shocked at the verdict. If the prince has been acquitted, then the people must feel that the queen is the guilty party.
The mobs grow extremely hateful toward Marie. There is talk of tearing the Bastille down. Louie gives the order for the legislative assembly to close down immediately. The assembly stands defiant against the king. At night the mob drags a cannon through the streets of Paris.
The king now realizes that his ministers were dead wrong in telling him to close down the assembly. And now the French troops are siding with the mobs. Marie urges Louie to speak with the troops to regain their loyalty. Louie says: "I'll try!" Louie, however, makes a terrible speech. It seems like he is clumsily begging his troops to protect him from the mob. One of the soldiers even openly laughs at the king. He then digs his grave deeper by trying to blame his wife for the decision to talk to the troops and for looking feeble-minded. Now all the troops start laughing at him and calling him names. Marie is very upset at this disaster.
The king's brothers decide to get out of town. Marie worries about her children and the mob. The governess of the children tells Marie she will stay with the queen and the children. Marie is so touched by her stand that she starts crying. The sounds of the mob grow stronger and stronger. The soldiers don't fire at the mob, so the mob easily brushes them aside. The axe down the door to rush in to grab the king and queen.
Danton tries to calm things down in the assembly, but the Duke of Orleans sends his agent in to try to shout the man down. It doesn't work, because Danton keeps on speaking and calling for calm. He wants the king and queen to be protected and held as hostages. Meanwhile, Louie and Marie are being harassed and bullied by the nasty mob. Troops are now being sent to the palace to guard the king and queen.
The royal family stays in the Tuileries Palace, which the "people" have declared a prison.
The Swedish count comes to see Marie. A guard take her to him. He is much more formal toward her now. The count says he has come to help her plan an escape. In fact, he has already written a very detailed plan of escape for Marie to read, master and then burn. The date set is June 20. The count says he would gladly die for the woman he worships. She tells the count that she loves her husband and is glad she did not fail him, but nothing has changed, or ever will, since the last night they saw each other.
June 20. The Swedish count is ready. The governess takes the children out, followed by the king, but Marie still hasn't changed her clothes yet. (She had to deal with a suspicious servant.) The guard comes in to tell the queen to hurry because they are now doubling the guard around the palace. Marie hurriedly gets dressed, but it still take a lot of time. A new guard is put on post. Toulon gets the drop on the other guard with his bayonet pointed at his heart. Marie comes out and runs to the carriage.
A guard checks their passports. He seems to think Louie's face looks familiar, but he lets them pass on. Count Fersen now takes his leave of the royal family. Marie tells him: "Goodbye, my friend. We shall meet again."
Troops set to receive the royal family at 10 in the morning, see that time pass by them with no sit of their carriage.
Another man checks on the carriage passengers. He does not recognize anyone and they are allowed to proceed on their way. A little later, however, he realizes that the king was one of the passengers. He and a co-worker chase after the carriage. By taking a short-cut, they catch up with them. They see the escort waiting for the carriage arrival. So they ride up to the officer in charge and tell him that the royal family has been recognized and detained. The co-worker now leads the escort in the wrong direction.
The carriage arrives at the meeting place, but the soldiers have gone. Louie tells the driver to ride on. They come into the town, but all the residents of the town seem to be there. They have been warned by the station master that chased after the royal carriage. The make Louie get out of the coach so the people can see him. A priest who knows Louie is brought in to see the male passenger. As soon as the priest sees the king, he takes off his hat and says: "Sire." Marie is crushed and the governess tries to soothe her pain.
The royal family is taken to prison, this one a real prison. They take the governess to another prison, which deeply upsets Marie. The royal family are thrown into a cell. They suddenly hear a woman screaming in great fear. Louie goes up to look and is horrified at what he see. He tells the queen not to look, but she goes to the window. She too is horrified by the sight. Marie faints. In the assembly the people call for the death of the king and queen. Robespierre gets up and calls for death. The former Duke of Orleans calls for death.
Louie is allowed to join his wife and children in their cell for dinner. Marie is so happy to see him and happy that the whole family is back together again. Louie says very little and suddenly Marie realizes that something dreadful has happened. Louie tells her not to make a fuss for the sake of the children. The sentence is to be carried out early tomorrow. Marie cries. In a touching scene, Louie thanks his wife for loving him and standing with him. He tells her he has been brought very low, but tomorrow he won't be humbled before the crowd.
The children come in for dinner. They are so happy to see their father. They both bring their chairs next to their father's chair to be as close to him as possible.
In the morning, the king is executed by being guillotined. The queen sees it from her cell window and collapses, but she bucks up so as not to scare the children. But now men come in to tell the queen that they will take her son from her. She pleads for them not to be merciless. Marie fights to protect her son. She fights so hard that the men step back to regroup. One of the men tells her: "Come, Madame, all this is useless. We won't harm the child. Why won't you be sensible and let him go quietly, since he must go?" Marie agrees, but pleads: "But not today. . . . Just not today. Give me a little time. I'll be braver then." The man tells her that she is unnecessarily distressing her child and advises her to be calm for the sake of the child.
Marie summons her fortitude and tries to calm the boy. She says they will be together again. She has the boy say goodbye to his sister and then she lets the men take him away. Marie goes back to crying.
Count Ferzen pretends to be a journalist from Marseilles. He is allowed in. The count hurries to see the Austrian ambassador. He still plans an escape. The ambassador says it's impossible. Everyone is filled with fear. The Duke of Orleans is to go to the scaffold, followed by Danton. The leaders are at each others' throats. It's nothing but chaos. And they forced Marie's little boy to accuse his mother of pedophilia. Marie has been convicted and condemned. She dies tomorrow morning.
The count tries to get in to see Marie in exchange for his life. His wish is granted. Marie can't believe her eyes. She slowly gets up and starts crying. The count holds her in his arms as she cries on his chest. She cries about her son being forced to say those vicious lies. Marie tells Count Fersen that she doesn't think she will be scared. The drum roll starts.
The queen is brought to the scaffold in a wagon. The crowd is better behaved this day. Marie almost missteps coming up the steps to the guillotine. The sentence is carried out (not shown). the last scene is of Count Fersen looking at the ring Marie gave with the saying: "Everything leads me to you."
Wow! I just finished the movie. It's the best film on Marie Antoinette I have seen and I've seen quite a few films involving the woman. It helped that the movie was a long one. They had time to really tell the story of Marie of Austria. She really was more a victim than an evil, uncaring and unfeeling person. And what an acting job by Norma Shearer! She was terrific. (I don't believe I have seen a better actor at doing crying scenes and believe me she has to cry a lot..) I do warn you that the film will move those with a caring heart and might be a bit sad, but it is worth it. Also, Robert Morley as King Louis XVI was just terrific. He played the part of a partial simpleton, but didn't take it over the top. The king also appears more as victim than monster. Most of the times, events are beyond our control and,. therefore, inevitable. The king and queen had no idea what powerful social and political forces they were up against. Otherwise, they would have behaved differently. There are two love stories in the film. One between Louie and Marie and another between Count Fersen and Marie. It's a morally awkward position to be in, but the character of Marie did the best of what she could do given the bad situation.
Patrick L. Cooney, Ph. D.
Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793), queen consort (1774-1792) of Louis XVI of France; her unpopularity helped discredit the monarchy in the period before the French Revolution.
1755 -- born in Vienna; the 15th child of Austrian Emperor Francis Stephan (also known by the title Holy Roman Emperor Francis I) and Empress Maria Theresa.
Some say that she had a very happy childhood and that she was always trying to get back to that wonderful place. Her childhood was very important to her. But how could it have been that happy when her mother, Maria Teresa, was a blackmailing, critical, hyper-scheming woman who ruined her childrenís lives. And at age 9 her father died.
Maria Teresa then took over. She continued the expansion of the Austrian Hapsburg empire by marrying off her daughters to other crown heads. But when smallpox carried off one sister and then disfigured another, Marie became the child her mother wanted to marry the future king of France.
But she was ill-prepared for such an event. Her education had been neglected since she was the 15th child.
Setting off for France, the 14 year old never saw her mother or her homeland again. She was officially handed over to the French and renamed Marie Antoinette; dressed in French clothes; and even her Austrian dog was taken away. She became French property.
Louie was the Dauphin of France. He was not meant to be there. His brother, who was supposed to be king, had died.
Marie was disappointed when she met him because he was extremely cold to her. They were both still children.
1770 May -- she arrives at Versailles. It was another world, reflecting all the glory and power of France. And part of the new world was the world of palace rumors. One of the great rituals was making fun of the royal consort when she showed up. They criticized her every move. Many saw her as a foreign spy. Court groups and factions found fault with her and they wanted the king to divorce her. Marie was not by nature manipulative and that was part of the problem. Louieís tutors told him to distrust Marie, that she would try to dominate him.
Her job was to produce a new heir, but nothing happened year after year to the enormous humiliation of Marie Antoinette. Her mother knew what was happening.
Louie was not very sexual. He had a low sexual drive. Marie needed solace and took refuge in pleasure: buying clothes and gambling excessively. She ran up debts with the king discreetly paying the bills.
There may have been a love affair (although there is no proof of this). The supposed love affair was with Swedish nobleman, Count Furzen. He met her when she was 18. He was handsome and sophisticated and a womanizer. But the romance did not flourish until later. He was to remain devoted to her for his whole life.
Louis XV died of smallpox. Now the honeymoon was over.
Marie had a penchant for favorites and disliked court etiquette. She appointed her best friends to plum jobs in the household. Her favorite was Yolande díPolonack(?). She was intrigued with her friend. In those days, a popular idea was Rousseauís idea of female friendship. Women were considered to have a communion of feeling that was alien to the nasty, horrible men. The two women were always kissing each other and telling secrets in corners.
Rumors began that the queen was a lesbian. It did great damage to her reputation. Malice and almost pornographic pamphlets accused her of bankrupting France, having sex with her dog, and passing money to her Austrian relatives.
After seven years of marriage there was still no heir. At public events they hissed the queen.
Her brother Joseph, now emperor Joseph II, was dispatched by Maria Teresa to save the royal marriage. He told Louie the facts of life. He took him into the bushes to tell him how it is done sexually. It seems to have worked. She got pregnant and, in all, gave birth to four children. She had been frivolous and even selfish, but now she was a mother and a good one.
A rumor circulated that she had said "Let them eat cake." She didnít say it. In fact, she was intensely compassionate by nature. She was caricatured as a harpy who hated the poor.
There was no real passion between Louie and Marie and she turned to Count Ferzen who had recently returned. He did not want anything from her for he was the son of the richest man in Sweden. (We canít prove there actually was a love affair between the two.)
1785 -- she is hurt further by her supposed connection with the so-called Diamond Necklace affair, a scandal involving the fraudulent purchase of some jewels.
The nasty rumors continued. She remarked to one of her maids that all this slander would one day kill her. Then came a scandal called the Affair of the Necklace. She did not like the diamond necklace a jeweler made for her. She thought it was too gaudy. She persistently refused it. That stuck the jewelers with the necklace. Then a con artist named Jeanne DíLamont found a way to steal the necklace. She led the jeweler to believe that the necklace was being bought on behalf of the queen and she would be paid for it, but took it for herself. Marie was innocent, but was still blamed for the theft. There was a stream of abuse directed toward her.
Louie called in an Assembly to approve the raising of taxes. The Assembly refused to approve the reforms. It marked the beginning of the end for the monarchy.
Louie sinks into depression. He starts to have an enormous appetite and may have developed an alcohol problem. It robs him of his ability to make good decisions and this gives more power to Marie Antoinette. She had will power but no intellect. He had intellect, but no will power and the two could not bring their talents together in a good team.
The mob marched on the Bastille where they thought the government was storing gunpowder. While this was going on her eldest son was dying of tuberculosis.
1789 June 4 -- her son dies in great pain. The indifference of the French people to the death of her child seared her to the heart.
Weeks later several thousand protestors marched on Versailles. An armed gang broke into the palace itself. The mob searched upstairs looking for the queen. She was terrified. It was an assassination attempt. They slash her bed to pieces.
The mob gets pushed back to the marble court yard. The king comes to the balcony but the crowd asks for the queen to come to the balcony. She goes out holding her children. The mob shouted "No children! No children!" Many in the crowd leveled their muskets at her. She stood there for two minutes. Then they shouted "Long live the Queen!" Once inside, she collapsed.
The royal family was taken to Paris by an armed guard, surrounded by the decapitated heads of their own guards. Louie signed a new constitution that greatly reduced the monarchís power.
Marie-Antoinette refused to compromise with the moderate revolutionaries. The royal family were seen as traitors and liars. Marie worked to save the monarchy. Secretly, she started to write to foreign governments asking for armed intervention in France. Her enemies were convinced of her duplicity.
She was a rather straight forward, simple person. She wrote Furzen telling her of the terrible situation. She became good at dissimulation, which showed she had more grit and intellect than thought. She wanted her son to inherit the throne.
Even her family seemed to have abandoned her.
1792 Feb -- Furzen paid a private visit to Marie and Louie. Furzen wanted them to escape but Louie was not interested and the queen would not leave Louie behind.
The Paris mob invade their prison in the Tuilleries -- the family taken to the temple prison under tight security. For awhile they tried to live a normal family life. By the very end the king and queen were very tender to each other. There were moments she could have escaped, but she would not. She said it was her duty to die at the feat of the king.
Outside the prison the mob called for their deaths.
Louie was put on trial, found guilty and sentenced to death. He was given only a short time to say good bye to his family. The king said to the priest confessor "How loved I am!" He felt truly loved as he left for the scaffold.
His widow was only living for her son. But Louie Charles was seized as a hostage ad taken to another part of the prison. She could hear her sonís sobs and could see him through a crack when he would take his daily walks in the courtyard.
France declares war on Austria. She becomes an enemy alien. Transferred to the Congeries, a huge public prison where many inmates awaiting the guillotine. Her possessions were taken away from her. A young maid smuggled a mirror into her. These little acts of kindness kept her going.
1793 -- revolutionary tribunal. She goes on trail, being accused of plotting against France, helping the king to escape, and passing millions on to Austria.
The people were aghast when they saw her. She looked terrible. The trump card against her was the accusation that her son had accused her of a serious crime. They said he charged her with abuse, incest. They had gotten him drunk and beaten him to get him to make a statement against his mother.
When put to the test, she was extraordinary. They questioned her three times about the incest. They asked her why she did not answer and she finally stood up and said "Because nature itself refuses to answer such questions." And then she added "I appeal to all the mothers here."
She thought she would be saved because all the mothers in the room clapped. But she was found guilty on all counts. At age 37 she was to be executed, the next day.
She was always a pawn in the political game, both going into the marriage and leaving life.
She faces the guillotine on October 16. On the day of her execution, she writes a last letter, to her sister in law. In it she tells her children to love God and to forgive the people. She says on the outside life can seem to be about ambition and money, but the real life is the inner life, the life of God.
She was very ill and hemorrhaging badly. Her hair was cut. She was led out to the scaffold where a crowd of thousands awaited. She cried "My God, if weíve committed faults, we certainly have atoned for them." She was a person she might have always been, serene. She apologized to her executioner when she accidentally stepped on his foot.
Her life began with bad luck and ended up with even worse luck -- a woman in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Return To Main Page
Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)