Curiosity filled the air at the court of Versailles as King Louis XV and his grandson, the Dauphin, awaited the arrival of their future queen.
This painting depicts the presentation of Maria Antonia's portrait at the court of Versailles.
King Louis XV is the one seated, and the Dauphin is standing to his to his left.
Below is the portrait that they are looking at. They see a beautifull young women.
Beauty mattered little though; the marriage served a higher purpose: improve the relations between France and Austria. The Seven Years' War had recently ended, leaving both France and Austria exhausted and in need of a strong alliance that could offer some stability and deflect attention from internal problems.
Archduchess Maria Antonia at the age of 14 by Joseph Ducreux, 1769
The Early Life of Marie Antoinette
Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna was born on 2 November 1755 as the youngest daughter of Emperor Francis I and Empress Maria Theresa.
She was one of 16 children who grew up at the Hofburg
Palace in Vienna.
She had a carefree childhood with her siblings, with whom she was very close, especially her sister Maria Carolina, who was around the same age.
Their mother, the Empress, loved her children and treated them with affection, making it a habit to write them once a week after they left the Hofburg.
Yet, behind the affection lurked a political motive. The Empress, ever the strategist, saw her children as pawns in a game to forge alliances across Europe, often disregarding their personal desires.
Unlike her older sister, Maria Christina, who was granted the freedom to choose her husband, the other children were sent off to marry someone they had never met.
Marie Antoinette was no exception. At 15, she was married to Louis XVI, Dauphin of France, in a lavish ceremony at the Palace of Versailles. This opulent farewell marked the end of her carefree days and the beginning of a life forever separated from her mother and homeland.
Marie Antoinette's childhood was both idyllic and bittersweet. She was surrounded by love and affection, but she also knew that her life was not her own. Marie Antoinette, though pampered and cherished, was not truly free. From a young age, she understood that her life was not her own. She was, in essence, a pawn in her mother, Empress Maria Theresa's, grand political chessboard. Her future, her marriage, even her very purpose were predetermined, leaving little room for personal choice.
It's striking to think that despite being groomed to be a queen, she had a remarkably inadequate upbringing. She lacked the knowledge and skills necessary to co-rule a country.
Her formal education focused on etiquette, languages (French, German, and some Italian), and basic religious instruction. She received lessons in music and dance, skills considered important for a future queen. A broader education might have equipped her with a better understanding of French politics and social issues, potentially influencing her behavior and public image.
Hard to say if this would have changed the outcome though, as she faced criticism mainly for her perceived extravagance, aloofness, and foreign origins, not her lack of academic knowledge.
Despite the challenges she faced, Marie Antoinette remained a cheerful and optimistic person. She possessed an infectious optimism and a zest for life. Her passion for fashion, music, and theater added a touch of vibrancy and Austrian exuberance to the staid French court. This youthful spirit, however, would soon face the harsh realities of her predetermined fate.