Maria Antonia Josephina Johanna, or more commonly known as Marie Antoinette, would be history’s favorite villainess if history could have favorite villainesses. Portrayed in today’s society as a lover of all things pink, fluffy, edible, and expensive (sounds a lot like the majority of us…) she became France’s leading female antagonist because she acted so spoiled. Merely a young teenager when she was engaged to the heir of the French throne, people had no idea how she would do inside the lux walls of the palace of Versailles. Right away, all odds were against her, having little to no experience in court, and living on the eve of the French Rebellion. The Dauphine of France’s life was not solely decadent and lavish as many scenes from Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film portray, but Marie spent many years inside Versailles living unhappy and unloved.
And we know what happens when adolescents go without attention. Anything, no matter how absurd, insane, or ridiculous it might sound, could be used as a mechanism to gain the limelight we believe we deserve. Antoinette was a prima donna, and she needed it all. I said above that her life was not solely decadent and lavish, but solely is a key word. Her life was mostly decadent and lavish.
Only a few years before Louis XVI took the throne, Louis XIV had Versailles built exclusively to escape dirty Paris and the grimy population that inhabited it. The palace, which could house 10,000 people at any given time, is the epitome of baroque. With gardens just as impressive as the palace itself, and a house that Marie could escape to when she did not want to confront her demons, Antoinette materially had it all.
She was spoiled rotten. And the people hated her for it.
Instead of attending to her duties as Queen of France, she threw herself parties (ah, if only I could do that with school work!) Her and her ladies and waiting spent full days swathing themselves in ornate apparel, gingerly swallowing succulent pastries, and amusing themselves in any other means they could find.
To anyone outside of Versailles, it seemed as if life was impeccable for the young Marie Antoinette. How could life as queen, living la dolce vita, ever be bad in any way?
The most well known song on the album Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends by Coldplay is the title track: Viva la Vida. Within the song, the narrator tells his story about his fall from grace as king. In the second verse, Chris Martin tells us how life as royalty was nothing but hell, singing “just a puppet on a lonely string/oh who would ever want to be king”
And if life as king is so egregious? How can life as queen be much better?
No historians have ever truly been able to trace the famous quote “let them eat bread” back to her (and if she did say it, it would be something more along the lines of “let them eat brioche”), but if those words ever actually did escape her lips, they were not concerned words. They were confused, shallow ones, that only highlighted how overindulged she was.
She rebelled and mocked the French court through her excessive lifestyle. She was loved by many, and hated by many more. Her carefree, indifferent attitude makes her hard not to love (or want as a best friend).
Because of her sulky, callous, and indifferent attitude inside the palace and towards the general population, many historians interpret her to be one of the causes of the French Revolution, and possibly even the eventual decline and fall of the French monarchy. King Louis XVI, the husband of Antoinette, was seen as ineffective, and Marie’s extravagant affairs and spoiled behavior only made the people even more vexed. As many people say, Marie was a product of her times, and unfortunately ultimately a victim to them.
If one young girl can do all that, God only knows what we girls are capable of.
Written by Zoe Allen.
Zoe Allen www.instagram.com/eoz.allen
Zoe Allen is a freelance arts and culture writer that hails from Dallas, Texas. She enjoys 18th century France, attractive boys, obscure music, and Scandinavian clothing stores. You can find more of her work over at Written Citizen (www.writtencitizen.com) or the Pulp Zine (www.thepulpzine.com)