Marie Antoinette - Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen (2016)

Marie Antoinette

Born an Austrian princess in a turbulent time, Marie Antoinette (1755-1792) was married to Louis XVI of France at the age of fourteen to end hostilities between Austria and France. When she first arrived in France, she was received like a teen idol. Her peaches-and-cream complexion and innovative fashion sense—including wearing a miniature replica of a battleship in her hair at a palace party—earned her the favor of the style-loving French. Politically, Marie Antoinette held little influence over her husband and mainly served as a pawn for her mother, the empress of Austria. So instead she worked her influence to modernize the French court, which garnered great criticism from court elders. For example, when she was painted in a portrait wearing a casual muslin dress, this was viewed as improper for a queen; she also hired a female portrait painter, which was unheard of at the time.

As the French Revolution gained force, Marie Antoinette was scapegoated as “Madame Deficit,” as her extravagant displays of style, for which she was so loved by some, became the personification of aristocratic excess. While we all know her miserable fate, she must be exonerated from ever saying “Let them eat cake”—that statement first appeared in a text by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, describing a Spanish princess long before Marie Antoinette was even born. It should be noted, she was ever the gentlewoman. Her actual last words were “Pardon me sir, I meant not to do it,” after she accidentally stepped on the foot of her executioner.

The fallen teen idol queen