What were Marie Antoinette's accomplishments?

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It's fair to say that Marie Antoinette's accomplishments don't exactly leap out of the pages of the history books. Although it's unlikely that she did actually say "Let them eat cake" about the starving peasants begging for food outside Versailles, she's gained a reputation as the epitome of all that was wrong with the upper classes in pre-Revolutionary France: vain, idle, shallow, and materialistic.

Having said all that, I'd venture to suggest that Marie Antoinette achieved some measure of dignity and nobility by her brave conduct during her trial at the hands of the Revolutionary Tribunal. A list of trumped-up charges was leveled at the former Queen of France, including the patently false accusation that she'd sexually abused her own son. Despite such an outrageous slur, Marie Antoinette deported herself with an air of sullen defiance, showing her utter contempt for this travesty of a trial without losing control of herself.

Both the man who made this scurrilous accusation against her and the judge presiding at her trial ended up suffering the exact same fate as Marie Antoinette herself. And by all accounts, neither man conducted himself with anything like the level of dignity and quiet courage displayed by the deposed queen in her last days on earth.

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Marie Antonia Josepha Johanna aka Marie Antoinette (1755– 1793), the Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Navarre, became the Queen of France when her husband, Louis-Auguste, ascended to the throne as King Louis XVI. She was a popular figure with the French people during her early years, thanks to her beauty and winning personality, but she soon became an object of scorn to the French people. After Louis was ousted as king and executed, Marie followed him to the guillotine on October 16, 1793.

To be sure, Marie's accomplishments were few. Among them were:

  • Her renovation of a home at Versailles, the Petit Trianon, in which she planted gardens and inside "plastered the walls with gold and diamonds." She later supervised the building of Hameau de la reine, a group of cottages in the gardens which are still part of Versailles today.
  • Instituting segregated dining spaces at court.
  • Instituting more rustic and simple dress styles at court, and the reduction of make-up.
  • The appointment of Etienne Charles de Brienne, the archbishop of Toulouse, who, as the nation's finance minister, attempted to reduce France's expenditures.
  • Her part in the reinstitution of the popular Jacques Necker as finance minister.
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