maria antonia josepha johanna

Guillotine chic


Veronica Horwell has a rummage around Marie Antoinette’s wardrobe courtesy of Caroline Weber’s Queen of Fashion

The only arresting portrait is reproduced in monochrome among the text, and it’s hard to guess the subject’s identity. A cap of fine linen supports a black veil. The dress is dark, its neck filled in with a fichu. The date is 1793, so the emphasis on a heightened waist is le denier cri, as is the cap shape. All so plain, though. Whose were these frail features? A friend of Charlotte Corday’s mother?

She was the Widow Capet, formerly Marie Antoinette. After her husband, Louis XVI, had been executed, her jailers granted her plea for the proper gear of bereavement and permitted its purchase from the boutique of her “minister of fashion” Rose Bertin, which would explain the cap’s crisp pleats. Although the artist painted the portrait from memory after a snatched visit to prison, it’s a most composed image, and the composure is the queen’s. Considering her dire circumstances, she has retained command over self-presentation.

That’s Caroline Weber’s theme: Marie Antoinette’s control over her image through the simulation of autonomy that is fashion. She regards the queen’s life as “a story … that can be read as a series of costumed events”. Her book had the same genesis in Antonia Fraser’s biography as did Sofia Coppola’s giggle of a movie, and Weber covers the same scenes, beginning with the ceremonial stripping of the affianced teen princess on the border between empires. (Though Weber usually describes stills, single images she can decode: nobody talks.) Once the Austrian import had been reclad à la française and wed to, but not bedded by, the heir to the throne, she had to construct an alternative public identity to maintain her celebrity at Versailles until her husband impregnated her with a brood.

The Dauphine’s first act of defiance, a 15-year-old’s strop, was her refusal to wear the grand corps, the rigid corset permitted only to the court elite. Her second was to learn to ride, and don not only male-style upper-body garments (nothing novel about that, female royals and courtiers had galloped about in similar equine fig since the 1660s), but to wear, and be painted in, breeches, while astride the saddle. Hunting Frenchwomen hid “culottes” under skirts; only the awesome Catherine the Great of Russia and comic actresses flaunted their lower limbs in breeches.

The marriage was at last consummated when Marie Antoinette was 18, and the couple crowned when she was 19; but she still was not a mother and was blocked from political influence, so, according to Weber’s reading, she resorted to the Queen of Hearts approach. Rather than get on with the job of wife, she dressed, spent and partied like a king’s maîtresse en titre. But she lacked the original identity for it, the rococo cool of Pompadour or the earthiness of Du Barry. She looks more like the lifesized doll of herself, with a trunk of the latest Paris modes, that toured Europe’s capitals. In all portraits except that prison image of grief, she has the vestigial features of a fashion plate. Her clothes matter so much more than the woman in them.

They were mostly designed by Bertin and were almost couture in a modern sense. Although Weber is gushingly starstruck by Marie Antoinette, from the princess diaries debut to the death (which Weber overwrites as a sartorial martyrdom), the most charismatic character in her book turns out to be Bertin. As a single, plump, vulgar milliner aged 24, she opened a Rue St Honoré emporium, the Grand Mogol, evading restrictive laws by stocking fabrics, luxury accessories and lace and passementerie trimmings. What she really sold was her genius in putting these together: Bertin combined the shock chic of Schiaparelli with Chanel’s appropriation of lower-class cuts and cloths. She didn’t merely execute court orders, she proposed modes: to avoid the stately robing rituals of Versailles, Marie Antoinette closeted herself daily for hours with Bertin and her hairdresser, Léonard.

Between them, they repositioned the queen as a flashier brand, in light short skirts and high, heavy hair: the pouf do - a plinth for plumes, puffed caps and preposterous set-pieces. The extreme exaggeration of that mode was then collapsed into the simplicity of the gaulle, Bertin’s adaptation of Caribbean and Louisiana colonial dress - a voluminous chemise and not a lot else - in harmony with Rousseau-esque sentiment. Just the garb for A-list rusticity at the Petit Trianon, where mirror shutters were cranked over windows so that its façade was as arrogantly blank as Victoria Beckham in outsize RayBans. Whatever happened personally or politically, Bertin could be relied upon: for coronation robes; diamonds under pale fur with a wheat-starch powdered coiffure during a famine winter; a revival of elitist whalebone once the queen’s bust expanded to 44 inches after she delivered a dauphin and two more babes.

True, after the Bastille fell, the queen ordered tricolour cockades from Bertin’s rival, Madame Eloffe, in the rose and sky-blue colourway favoured by aristos. But when Marie Antoinette planned a family escape in 1791, she returned to Bertin. The two dallied for months devising a magnificent trousseau for an exile the Bourbons failed to reach. (“A queen of France will be able to get the dresses she requires where ever she may find herself,” her wisest attendant advised; but the queen wanted her Bertins.) The queen’s death-day white outfit, improvised from quality underwear and a housecoat a supporter had sent her in prison, was probably by Bertin. The last cap is dignified even in Jacques-Louis David’s brutal sketch of its wearer en route to the guillotine. (Bertin, by the way, fled France; after her return she assembled a few ensembles for Napoleon’s Josephine.)

Weber isn’t interested in the frocks as frocks: she’s an academic, pernickety over the semiotics of their perceived meaning, but her wardrobe vocabulary is as lax as glossy-mag captions - “fashion statements”, “opulent”, “furbelows” and even lazier imprecisions. She has no space for the clothing currents that affected Bertin and the queen, whose chemise-dresses and coat-dresses came out of a Europe-wide, all-classes drift to plainer garb; and she provides no textile context - it’s page 206 before cotton gets a mention, although its semi-industrial production in France was a revolution that prefigured political shifts. She doesn’t care - doesn’t know? - how the things were made, describing both silk stockings and lace as being “woven”. Weber’s adoration of Marie Antoinette made me dislike more the greedy silly, who charged the millions in credit that she spent like a demented mall-rat to a nation in debt and decline, and didn’t deliver minimum service to the state in exchange. Shop until the blade drops, cherie, and I’ll knit as I watch it fall.

(Mine’s the American version and looks like this. - Caitlin)



(modern ladies): Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna von Habsburg-Lothringen,ditte Marie-Antoinette d’ Autriche ; Archduchess of Austria, Queen Consort of France and Navarre

The fifteenth and penultimate child of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor and Empress Maria Theresa, upon her marriage  to Louis-Auguste became the Dauphine of France; and 4 years later, when her husband ascended the throne as Louis XVI,she became Queen of France and Navarre. Despite her initial popularity, a growing number of the population eventually came to dislike her, accusing L'Autrichienne, “the Austrian woman”, of being profligate, promiscuous,and of harbouring sympathies for France’s enemies, particularly her native Austria. Life as a public figure was not easy for Marie Antoinette. Her marriage was difficult and, as she had very few official duties, she spent most of her time socializing and indulging her extravagant tastes. The young couple soon came to symbolize all of the excesses of the reviled French monarchy and aristocracy, and Marie Antoinette herself became the target of a great deal of vicious gossip.

(feat. Kirsten Dunst)


The honor of your presence is requested at the marriage of Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna Hapsburg-Lorraine and Louis-Auguste Bourbon.

Open your heart to me, baby
I hold the lock and you hold the key…

Courage! I have shown it for years; think you I shall lose it at the moment when my sufferings are to end?

- Responding to the priest who had accompanied her to the foot of the guillotine, who had whispered, “This is the moment, Madame, to arm yourself with courage.”

- Marie Antoinette by Joseph Ducreaux

‘We had a beautiful dream and that was all … I could not have any pleasure in the world if I abandoned my children.… I do not even have any regrets’ - Marie Antoinette to the Chevalier Jarjayes on his persuading her to escape alone from the Tower.

Christmas Charities of Marie Antoinette

With Advent beginning and Christmas less than a month away, it is helpful to see the example of the Queen, who made the needs of the poor a priority, especially in the cold of winter. For Marie-Antoinette, this was nothing extraordinary, but the basic duty of a Christian. While surfing the internet, it is all too common to see Marie-Antoinette characterized as someone who ignored the plight of the poor. Nothing could be further from the truth. Her charities were quite extensive and are a matter of public record. She also took great care to instill a love of the needy in her children. At Christmastime, during a particularly brutal winter, the queen had them renounce their Christmas gifts in order to buy food and blankets for the destitute. As Maxime de La Rocheterie relates:

One year, on the approach of the 1st of January, she had the most beautiful playthings brought from Paris to Versailles; she showed them to her children, and when they had looked at them and admired them, said to them that they were without doubt very beautiful, but that it was still more beautiful to distribute alms; and the price of these presents was sent to the poor.

(The Life of Marie Antoinette by Maxime de La Rocheterie, 1893)

 Another biographer Charles Duke Yonge discusses how the queen’s generosity was well-known by her contemporaries, in spite of her efforts to be discreet, and the efforts of her enemies to portray her as a decadent spendthrift. 

By the beginning of December the Seine was frozen over, and the whole adjacent country was buried in deep snow. Wolves from the neighboring forests, desperate with hunger, were said to have made their way into the suburbs, and to have attacked people in the streets. Food of every kind became scarce, and of the poorer classes many were believed to have died of actual starvation….

Not only were Louis and Marie Antoinette conspicuous for the unstinting liberality with which they devoted their own funds to to supply of the necessities of the destitute, but the queen, in many cases of unusual or pressing suffering that were reported to her in Versailles and the neighboring villages, sent trustworthy persons to investigate them, and in numerous instances went herself to the cottages, making personal inquiries into the condition of the occupants, and showing not only a feeling heart, but a considerate and active kindness, which doubled the value of her benefactions by the gracious, thoughtful manner in which they were bestowed.

She would willingly have done the good she did in secret, partly from her constant feeling that charity was not charity if it were boasted of, partly from a fear that those ready to misconstrue all her acts would find pretexts for evil and calumny even in her bounty. One of her good deeds struck Necker as of so remarkable a character that he pressed her to allow him to make it known. “Be sure, on the contrary,” she replied, “that you never mention it. What good could it do? they would not believe you;” but in this she was mistaken. Her charities were too widely spread to escape the knowledge even of those who did not profit by them; and they had their reward, though it was but a short-lived one.

Though the majority of her acts of personal kindness were performed in Versailles rather than in Paris, the Parisians were as vehement in their gratitude as the Versaillese; and it found a somewhat fantastic vent in the erection of pyramids and obelisks of snow in different quarters of the city, all bearing inscriptions testifying the citizens’ sense of her benevolence. One, which far exceeded all its fellows in size–the chief beauty of works of that sort–since it was fifteen feet high, and each of the four faces was twelve feet wide at the base, was decorated with a medallion of the royal pair, and bore a poetical inscription commemorating the cause of its erection: 

“Reine, dont la beaute surpasse les appas 
Pres d'un roi bienfaisant occupe ici la place. 
Si ce monument frele est de neige et de glace, 
Nos coeurs pour toi ne le sont pas. 

De ce monument sans exemple, 
Couple auguste, l'aspect bien doux pur votre coeur 
Sans doute vous plaira plus qu'un palais, qu'un temple 
Que vous eleverait un peuple adulateur.[10]”

(Life of Marie-Antoinette by Charles Duke Yonge, 1876)


Queen, whose beauty surpasses charms

Near a benevolent king occupies here instead.

If this frail monument of snow and ice,

Our hearts you are not.

This monument unexampled

Torque august appearance very sweet pure your heart

No doubt you will enjoy more than a palace, a temple

You would raise a people adulatory

(I looked up the translation on Google Translate - ctlnbrrws1214)

Sunday Sweets: C'est Bon!

Bonjour, mon amis! Today’s sweets are mostly inspired by Marie Antoinette, so you know what that means: Prepare your eyeballs for an over-the-top feast of excessiveness!

(And no, we won’t be having any gruesome headless sweets commemorating Marie’s rather gruesome end. Sheesh. Get your mind out of the guillotine.)

Yep, it’s all decadence and girliness from here on out! And yay for that, because have I mentioned I’ve been helping my husband Matt at football camp all week? Yes, I’ve been sharing a house with 25 teenage boys for the last five days. I could use a little girliness up in here.


Fortunately this first beauty is a sight for my pink-deprived eyes:

by Cakes by Tess

And how appropriate that it includes a fabulous fondant fan, because I’m already feeling the need to fan myself!

[Swoon!] Such loveliness!

And here’s the lady of the hour herself…

by CakeCentral member Lindasuus

…sweetly putting to shame every Barbie-torso-stuffed-in-a-cake ever made.

This one is so absolutely flawless and stunning, I’m convinced it doesn’t really exist.


by Cake Coquette

We’ve all just collectively dreamed it or something. (We have excellent imaginary taste, you and I!)

Now here’s a solution to that pesky problem of how to hide plastic cake pillars: Simply pipe a decorative cage of icing between the tiers for an elaborate camouflaging exoskeleton of awesomeness!

by Edible Art by Kate

Er, on second thought, you might want to just leave that to the pros.

I thought this Fabergé Egg cake was a winner on its own … (Seriously, doesn’t it look like a 1st place trophy to you? Or is that the football camp talking?)

…but then I scrolled down and realized the egg was only one quarter of the whole cake!

by Fire and Icing

Wow. The layers look like carved marble or porcelain, and I love those unique shapes, too. It’s hard to believe the tiers wouldn’t shatter when you went to cut a slice!

I think more food should be adorned with edible pink tassels, don’t you?

by Deborah Hwang Cakes 

I love this color scheme so much; fun, flirty, and fit for a queen. I bet ol’ M.A. would lose her head over it!

Oooh, sorry Marie. Too soon?

Submitted by Anne Marie B. and made by Rosey Confectionary Sugar Art 

Oh, don’t stare at me with that doleful expression. Turn your attention instead to the amazing miniature dessert table in your boudoir. And hey, is that rug edible too? Incredible.

Here comes another amazing egg cake. I’m not really sure if fancy eggs are a Marie Antoinette thing, but they’re both similarly lavish, so it works for me.

by Cakes Du Soleil

Just gorgeous. If I was serving this cake, I don’t think I'd let them eat it, youknowwhatI'msayin? 
(Like “Let them eat cake?” Marie’s famous line? You know? Yes? Never mind.)

This is probably my favorite cake today:

Submitted by Devon C; by Cake Opera Co.

I thought it was Marie masquerading as a… um… masquerader, while holding a kangaroo for fun, but the website informs me that this is actually an 18th century French figurine, masked to conceal her illicit rendezvous, and juxtaposed by the fawn in her arms meant to represent birth and innocence.

So, I was close. 

All of these fanciful confections make me want to host a Marie Antoinette party! How about you? Here’s a checklist of everything we need:

by Cakes by Erin

Powdered wigs, macarons, frilly shoes, masks, more fancy eggs (I guess they really are a thing) tiny top hats, (pretty sure that’s NOT a thing, but I’ll go with it), and of course, cake!

Does this cake remind you of a hot-air balloon, too?

Submitted by Promise W. and made by Ganache Patisserie

And did you know that the first manned hot-air balloon ride took place in front of Marie Antoinette and the French court? And that it was “manned” by a sheep, a rooster, and a duck?

True story.

Here’s another one: this cake is fantastic! Do you see the little movie-scene applique? Too cool.

I’m not sure how inspired by Marie Antoinette this final cake is, but it’s incredible. At over three feet tall and almost two feet wide, I’m pretty sure this is the cake they serve you when you die and go to heaven:

by Sweet Thing Black Orchid

Oh, wait. Actually this is the signature cake for the Hilton Hotel in Silver Spring. Which, after a week at football camp, sounds enough like heaven to me.

Mozart & Marie Antoinette

On his 1762 visit to Schonbrunn, the Austrian royal palace, Mozart, playing with the young princesses, slipped on a polished floor. Bursting into tears, he was picked up and comforted by a seven-year-old Marie Antoinette. Mozart then kissed the future queen of France: “You are nice,” he declared. “I will marry you.”


On January 12th, 1740, Archduchess Maria Carolina of Austria was born. Her full name was Maria Carolina Ernestina Antonia Johanna Josepha, and she was the third child and third daughter born to Maria Theresa and Francis I.

Sadly, the little Archduchess did not live very long, becoming gravely ill and dying just  over a year after her birth. She was buried in tomb 53 in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna.

Two younger sisters were named in her memory. One died tragically the day of her birth, and one would go on to become Queen of Naples and Sicily, and be the longest lived of all of Maria Theresa’s children.