Marie Antoinette (17561793)

Marie Antoinette, queen of France, fourth daughter of Maria Theresa; was married in 1770 to the dauphin of France, who in 1774 succeeded to the throne as Louis XVI.; was a beautiful woman, but indiscreet in her behaviour; had made herself unpopular and impotent for good when the Revolution broke out; when matters became serious the queenliness of her nature revealed itself, but it was in haughty defiance of the million-headed monster that was bellowing at her feet; the heroism she showed at this crisis the general mass of the people could not appreciate, though it won the homage of such men as Mirabeau and Barnave; all she wanted was a wise adviser, for she had courage to follow any course which she could be persuaded to see was right; in Mirabeau she had one who could have guided her, but by his death in 1791 she was left to herself, and the course she took was fatal to all the interests she had at heart; fatality followed fatality: first she saw her husband hurried off to the guillotine, and then she followed herself; hers, if any, was the most tragic of fates, and any one who has read that heart-moving apostrophe to her by Carlyle on the way to her doom must know and feel that it was her fate; she and her husband suffered as the representatives of the misgovernment of France for centuries before they were born, and were left a burden on their shoulders which they could not bear and under which they were crushed to death (17561793).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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