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John RudesheimWorld History Since 1500TR 12:30Marie AntoinetteAs the last Queen of France, Marie Antoinette’s legacy is one tainted with ridicule and wrongful accusations in her tenure as one of the most notorious positions in Europe. A deeper look, however, leaves a portrait of a misunderstood and never quite accepted young woman who wanted nothing more than to please the Crown, but whose lack of political prowess cost her the ultimate price. This paper will examine the life of this curious young woman surrounded by speculation, and who the real party is to blame for the collapse of one of the most storied monarchies in history.Early LifeOn the second of November 1755, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria gave birth to her fifteenth and final child, archduchess Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna. The birth of Antonia (as she was known to her family) came during a crucial time in the Austrian empire’s history, as the Seven Years’ War began and an unlikely alliance between Austria and France took shape, temporarily uniting the two traditional enemies. It is this point in history, and this particular alliance, that would eventually come to define Antonia’s life, and change the course of European history in its wake.Childhood for young Antonia was rather relaxed and carefree, mostly due to the laidback court life atmosphere set in place by the Habsburgs before her, where normal ‘protocol’ was often passed over for a more progressive approach towards life1. Her 1 Bicknell, A. (1897). 1
John RudesheimWorld History Since 1500TR 12:30education was typical for that of a young royal lady of the time, focusing most on religion and moral principles, rather than the more intense academic subjects that young men in the court were more accustomed to be instructed. It was this lack of rigorous training that can account for her several scholarly faults, like her handwriting appearing to be “sprawling and careless in form”, or her stilted lingual skills that proved to be “undeniably poor”2. Antonia did excel, however, in the arts, with her dancing and musicianship making up for whatever academic disappointments she may have carried.With the death of her father (Holy Roman Emperor Francis 1) and the culmination of the Seven Years’ War occurring in quick succession, it was Antonia’s mother who was left to co-rule the empire and ultimately make the decision to cement the complex alliance between the Austrians and the French through marriage. When the smallpox outbreak of 1767 hit the Austrian court, a twelve-year old Maria Antonia was left as the only potential bride for fourteen-year old Louis Auguste, and the final hope for lasting peace between the two rival countries.