Marie Antoinette, Queen Consort of France 1774 – 1792
Louis XVI’s marriage to Marie Antoinette, daughter to the Austrian Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and Maria Theresa, had been planned as a means of halting the long-term enmity between France and the Habsburg Austrians. But the pamphleteers exploited the schism that existed within France for many still considering Austria as an enemy.
The marriage had little love in it, following the ceremony in Versailles it had not been consummated – for seven years! Louis appeared more interested in hunting and other pursuits. The lack of any children gave the pamphleteers the opportunity to ridicule the king’s impotence and to suggest that Marie Antoinette sought solace with others, male and female.
She had grown used to a lavish life style and wore flamboyant wigs which alienated her from the general populace while the Dauphine, still yet to become Queen. She became known as l’Autrechienne, which did literally mean the Austrian woman, but the word contains ‘chienne’ meaning female dog or bitch. It was also changed to l’Autruchienne, the single letter change now implying both an ostrich (autruche) and a bitch.
As the political turmoil unfolded around her husband she came under regular attack by the pamphleteers, initially regurgitating the same accusations that had been levelled against Mme du Barry earlier.
This criticism simply directed her attentions more towards fashion than politics and she became a prolific gambler. She also spent a great deal of time on redecorating the small château, the Petit Trianon, and its gardens, within the Versailles grounds. This had originally been built for Madame La Pompadour, another Louis XV mistress, but now given over to her to do with as she wished.
When the royal couple did begin a proper relationship Marie Antoinette tried to present herself as the caring mother to her developing brood. But the Dauphin died at seven years of age as the political storm really hit.