Marie-Antoinette (Dictionary of World Biography: The 17th and 18th Centuries)
Article abstract: Marie-Antoinette, through her exaggerated public image as a frivolous and extravagant woman, did much to undermine popular respect for the French monarchy. As queen of France, she opposed the revolutionary movement at every turn.
Marie-Antoinette-Josèphe-Jeanne D’Autriche-Lorraine (original German name Maria Antonia Josepha Joanna von Österreich-Lothringen) was born in Vienna to Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. She was the eleventh child in a family of three boys and eight girls; the last child in the family, Maximilian, would be born a year later. Her mother, the intelligent, strong-willed ruler of the widespread Habsburg possessions since 1740, combined statecraft and childbearing with great efficiency. Her father, Emperor Francis of the House of Lorraine, was a pleasant, easygoing man, successful in business ventures. He was an adored though profligate husband and a kind father to his numerous children. His imperial title conferred no power.
Like her siblings, Marie-Antoinette enjoyed a lively musical environment. She played the harp and formed small musical groups with her brothers and sisters to entertain the family. Her education, entrusted to tutors, was mediocre. She learned fluent French but, to the end of her life, spoke it with a German accent. A dainty, pretty child, with blond hair and blue eyes, she was spontaneous and charming. Her mother...
(The entire section is 2062 words.)
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