The French revolution
During her years at Versailles the popularity of the Austrian Princess declined rapidly. Due to the rising costs of financing the war in America and the unfair tax rules of France ( where church and nobility did not pay any taxes) the financial situation of France was deteriorating. The people were poor and the unpopularity of the king and queen was growing, leading to the storming of the Bastille and the start of the French Revolution on 14 July 1789.
In Versailles court life continued as if nothing had changed, although more and more courtiers made their escape abroad whenever they had the change. (A beautiful book and movie about this strange and frightening period is Farewell, My Queen by Chantal Thomas). Marie Antoinette was told to flee, but she did not want to leave her husband alone.
Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and their Children listening to the angry mob outside Versailles Palace, October 6, 1789. Painted by Gyula Benczur
On 5 October 1789 and angry mob of mostly women from Paris marched to Versailles Palace and tried to invade the royal appartments. Their goal was to kill Marie Antoinette. They did not succeed, but when things calmed down the did force the royal family to quit court life at Versailles and come to Paris.
They were moved to the Tuilerien Palace where they would live under constant supervision until 13 August 1792.
During their stay at the Tuilerien the power of the monarchy declined.
Arrest of Louis XVI and his family in Varennes, 1791
On 21 June 1791 the royal family attempted to escape Paris. In the middle of the night they, one by one, sneaked out of their apartement and met at a carriage that was governed by Count Fersen.
The party consisted of the King and Queen, their two children, the dauphin's governess and the sister of the King Madame Élisabeth.
They made it out of Paris, but due to various errors in the plan they were captured in the town of Vareness. They were taken back to Paris and locked into the Tuilerien again. Any credibility the King had until this atempt to escape would increase quickly.
Marie Antoinette imprisoned at the Temple
On 10 August the Tuilerien Palace was stormed by the enemies of the monarchy, and the Swiss guard was slaughtered. The royal family had fled to the Assembly.
After this they were imprisoned in the Temple tower, were they would stay until their execution. Louis XVI was found guilty of treason and he was beheaded by the guillotine on 21 January 1793.
On 3 July the little Dauphin was separated from the women in the tower, Marie Antoinette was not allowed to see him again.
The Widow Capet as she was called after the dead of her husband was taken to the Conciergerie as Prisoner No. 280 on 1 August. She would spend the last six weeks of her life there. She had to leave her children behind. Here you can read what became of them.
Replica of Marie Antoinette's Cell at Conciergerie