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On this day in 1755 Marie Antoinette was born, 15th child of the Holy Roman Emperor, Francis I and future Queen of France. Married at the age of 14 to the Dauphin of France, the future King Louis XVI, her future appeared enviable.
Though initially popular in France, she was soon perceived as a spendthrift, promiscuous and too sympathetic to France’s enemies, especially Austria (her country of origin). Soon she was being called Madame Deficit (because of her spending), and worse, ‘L’Autrichienne’ (literally ‘the Austrian woman’) but also suggesting in its ending, the French word ‘chienne’ (bitch).
Marie Antoinette syndrome is the condition where the sufferer’s hair turns white as the result of a traumatic incident. This reportedly happened to her after the royal family’s unsuccessful attempt to escape France, and their flight to Varennes, in 1791.
Marie Antoinette was executed by guillotine on 16 October 1793. Her last words were “I am sorry sir, I did not mean to put it there” (she had trodden on the executioner’s foot). Her extraordinary story of hubris and nemesis does not tell us what she was really like – we can only guess. I see her as a girl who made mistakes but one who loved her family, her friends and her children.
Marie Antoinette was 38 when she was executed.
For today’s poem, I offer the last verse of Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat by Thomas Gray which ends:
From hence, ye beauties, undeceiv’d
Know, one false step is ne’er retriev’d,
And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
Nor all, that glisters, gold.
Today I ask that I will be able to translate my good intentions into deeds.