How did bad public opinion of Marie Antoinette contribute to the French Revolution?

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Public opinion of Marie Antoinette was a substantial factor in the French Revolution. Marie was Austrian by birth, a fact which did not endear her to the French people. There was also the common belief that both she and her husband, Louis XIV cared little about the welfare of the common people. The often quoted "let them eat cake" phrase is a prime example. There is no evidence that Marie made such a callous statement; however the French peasants, already angry about their plight, were ready to believe it. Marie was believed to lead a frivolous lifestyle and to have engaged in morally questionable behavior at times, and so any rumor of misconduct or cruelty was fuel for the fire. Marie's situation was not helped when Austria planned to invade France to restore the monarchy. To the French people, this was not so much an attempt to restore the institution of the monarchy as it was to restore Marie herself. This was a substantial factor leading to her execution on the guillotine.