Maria Antonia, the daughter of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, became the Dauphine of France when she married Louis Auguste, grandson of Louis XV, in 1770. The marriage was intended to cement an alliance between Austria and France and was somewhat unpopular at the French court. Though Antoinette was sweet and charming, her new husband was shy and somewhat reserved. Despite their striking differences—Louis was tall, bookish, and introverted while Antoinette was petite, fun-loving and personable—they eventually became close friends.
In 1774, Louis Auguste was crowned Louis XVI after his grandfather died. Though the new king and queen’s relationship was an affectionate one, it would still be nearly three years before the marriage was finally consummated. In 1778, Antoinette gave birth to their first child, a daughter they named Marie-Therese Charlotte. They went on to have three more children—two sons, Louis Joseph and Louis Charles, and a short-lived daughter, Sophie-Helene Beatrice. Both Louis and Antoinette were devoted parents. Though Antoinette’s sex life was the source of much gossip and speculation, most evidence suggests that she and Louis were loving, faithful partners.
In the summer of 1789, the Dauphin Louis Joseph died shortly before the storming of the Bastille. Though his parents were devastated, they were now in the midst of revolution. That fall, the royal family was forced to move from Versailles to Paris. Desperate to regain control of the country, they attempted to flee to Austria in 1791, but were stopped in Varennes near the border. The remaining goodwill of their people dissolved. What remained of Louis’ royal power also dissolved over the course of the next year and a half, leaving his family veritable prisoners in Paris.
The National Convention declared an end to the monarchy in the fall of 1792. Shortly thereafter, he taken from from his wife and children and put on trial for treason. He was found guilty and executed by guillotine in January the following year. Antoinette, whose health was failing and who was now called the “Widow Capet,” was devastated by his death. Her children were separated from her during the summer of 1793, and in October, she was also put on trial for treason. She, like her husband, was executed just days after the trial.