Historical Loves: King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

As a young girl, Marie Antoinette loved riding horses, being outside, and laughing. She tended to put her studies off, hardly practicing her writing or her other languages. It wasn’t until she learned she would marry Prince Louis that she began to put more efforts into her studies. She was intelligent, but preferred to have fun outside.

It was an arranged marriage, like all other royal marriages at the time. The two hardly knew each other and were far too young. When Antoinette left Austria for France she gave up everything, including her little pug. She was stripped bare of anything Austrian, scrubbed from head to toe and placed into all new French clothes.

She wasn’t particularly attracted to Louis and neither was he to her. He would rather be out hunting or playing with locks than socializing with her. It was a marriage for a much needed alliance, but one that would ruin the country.

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When the two wed, Marie Antoinette was only 15 years-old, and when she became Queen, only 19 years-old. The two were young and naive to the inner workings of a monarch. When they ascended the crown, the two had yet to conceive a child despite 4 years of marriage.

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The two cared for each other and knew the significance of their political alliance. The need to bear an heir was of dire importance. It wasn’t from lack of effort on Antoinette’s part. In fact, she had a sexual appetite that would later be quenched and spread through scandalous rumors.

For years, Marie Antoinette attempted to sleep with her husband. Their marriage was on rocky territory without a consummation. Every time she advanced upon him, Louis would turn away feigning ill or tired for the night. The couple went to doctors to find if there was an issue or not. The two were found completely healthy and at their peak.

Antoinette knew there was something else going on. She understood that maybe his interests lied elsewhere, not in any woman… but maybe men. He was often secluded and never dined to flirt or show interest in any woman. Antoinette decided to take a new stance, she bargained with him that they have to consummate for their marriage, safety, and countries. Louis saw the imposition he placed her in. Over the numerous sexless nights, the two had grown close. They talked of likes and dislikes and of court life.

Finally, Louis and Antoinette consummated their marriage. It wasn’t until 1778 that they had their first child, Marie Thérèse de Charlotte. Together, the couple had 4 children, one of them dying while still a baby. The country wasn’t pleased that the first born was a daughter, but Antoinette said that she would be all hers. Antoinette wasn’t the only one who fell in love with their daughter. Growing up, Marie Thérèse spent countless hours with her father in his room looking over locks.

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The original portrait pictured a baby in the crib.
When it died, the baby was painted out, but the crib still remains.

Marie Antoinette and Louis began falling for each other more. They understood their similarities and differences. Louis wasn’t outgoing or playful like her, but she learned to love him for who he was.

Since the two were new to being king and queen, they relied heavily on each other. Marie Antoinette surprisingly gave him sound advice quite a few times and eased political situations in favor of him. But what they both didn’t realize, was the gravity of situations occurring outside the palace. They were used to the luxurious life, and now that they ruled they believed everything was at their fingertips. It’s what every normal child would do, spend money, party, sleep, fornicate, and gamble. Life was a party for them.

They stood by each other through the good and bad times. Louis realized he wasn’t fulfilling his wife’s every need and understood when she took up the affair but acted oblivious to it. In fact, he was relieved since he didn’t have to occupy her bed every night. They were free to be friends who dearly loved each other.

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While Antoinette’s affair became something much more, it did not deter her from her duty to her husband. She continued to produce children with him for their country and stood next to him when the palace was under attack. There were several times she was urged to leave her husband during the Baker’s Rebellion, but she refused everyone and sat next to her husband and family as their people stormed the palace and called for her head outside.

She accompanied him to the several prisons, tried to help him when possible, and was the truest companion. The two cherished each other. It may not have been a passionate love, but they did love each other despite everything against them.

Marie Antoinette stayed next to Louis until the day he was beheaded. Soon after, she met the same fate.

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Their love isn’t one which captivates many audiences. It’s not passionate, nor intriguing. Their marriage was for political alliances. They worked with what they were forced to do, and found a compassion for each other that went beyond friendship. It’s not the life either one exactly wanted, but they did what they could and what they thought was right. They were young and naive, too young to rule a country properly which ended in their downfall, but to this day, you can say that the two made the best of situations.

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