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History Cat Lessons: Creative and Engaging

Marie Antoinette

Marie spent more than $6 million dollars (in today's money) on her "peasant cottage" of La Petit Trianon
Madame Deficit

Marie Antoinette was a a young 14 year old girl when she became queen of France. An outgoing charmer, Marie loved to throw parties and show off the latest fashions. You'd think that she'd have hit it off in city like Paris, filled with fashionistas. But poor Marie didn't stand a chance for winning the hearts and minds of the French people.

 

When she came to France at the tender age of 14, she had no problem wowing the French people with her beauty and charm. However, all of that charm apparently didn't save her from becoming the center of court gossip.

 

The first strike against her was that she had the misfortune of being born in Austria- which until recently had been France's biggest enemy. The marriage between Louis and Marie was supposed to bring the two rivals closer. What actually happened was that Marie was treated like an outsider. Marie often wrote letters home to her mother- Empress Maria Therese who wrote back that she should just suck it up and try harder.



When Louis and Marie failed to have a child, Marie was blamed- even by her own mother. Court gossip made Marie out to be a heartless and out-of-touch foreigner. Pamphlets called libelle circulated rumors that the wallpaper of her bedroom was encrusted with diamonds. Others talked about how much the queen gambled. Then of course, there were the ridiculous hairdos. Marie was a trend setter, that's for sure.

One of her favorite things was inventing her trademark towering hairdos- complete with fruit, wooden ships, or entire model villages, woven in that took servants hours to put together. The thing that got the most attention was Marie's personal retreat at le petit trianon. Le petit trianon was a country estate where Marie and her closest friends wiled away their days playing milkmaid, complete with peasant costumes. However, this royal getaway was anything but a simple country cottage. With sprawling gardens, a working mill, and 12 “peasants” cottages, Marie could milk cows and drink tea in the lap of luxury.

The Diamond Necklace Affair

 

One of Marie's enemies, the countess de lamotte, seized her chance to embarrass Marie and make a little something extra for herself in the process. She convinced Bohmer that Marie wanted to buy the necklace, but in secret. The swindling countess took the necklace and then had it broken up and sold in London. When Bohmer approached the queen about payment the Queen refused to pay for something that she did not want. Libelle circulated around Paris about how the queen was not only spending a fortune on jewels, but now cheating poor jewelers out their due. Marie would never recover from the scandal caused by the Diamond Necklace Affair.



But as hard as Marie tried she couldn't seem to win over the people of France. They blamed her for single handedly bankrupting France; they even gave her a nickname- “Madame Deficit”. Poor Marie just couldn't seem to stop the libelle from coming, even when she was caught doing the right thing! Take for example the Diamond Necklace Affair. The royal jeweler, Charles Bohmer, created a necklace so spectacular that it helped to bring on a revolution. The necklace in question must have been a sight to see, 1,600 carats at a cost of 1,600,000 livre (about $100 million in today's money).



Of course, Bohmer did not create the necklace for the queen but for another courtier, Madame du Barry, the mistress of King Louis XV. But Louis XV was dead and du Barry was banished from court and Bohmer was left holding the bag. Bohmer tried to convince Marie to buy the necklace but she refused saying that it was too expensive to buy in times like these. That's when things got interesting.

 
The queen taught her daughter Madame Royale to wait upon peasant children, to sacrifice her Christmas gifts so as to by fuel and blankets for the destitute, and to bring baskets of food to the sick. Antoinette started a home for unwed mothers at the royal palace of Versailles. She adopted three poor children to be raised with her own, as well as overseeing the upbringing of several needy children, whose education she paid for, while caring for their families.

-www.teaattrianon.blogspot.com

"Let them eat cake.” With these words, Marie Antoinette showed how little the monarchy cared about the starving peasants and this phrase set off the revolution that brings the French monarchy down. The problem is that Marie was only 9 years old when these words were first written down. Another problem is that the word ‘brioche’ refers to thick bread and not cake. The biggest problem is that there is absolutely no evidence that the revolutionaries of France ever knew of this phrase.

Was Marie Heartless or a Humanitarian?
You Decide...

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