On this day in 1793, Marie Antoinette was guillotined for treason.
Marie Antoinette was the archduchess of Austria, and she married future king Louis XVI in a diplomatic marriage. She was well-liked at first, though her and Louis’ inability to consummate their marriage for eight years was criticized. She soon began to build up a reputation for her court’s opulence and her affairs with other men.
As a queen, the French hated her. She was accused of representing Austrian interests above French interests. Furthermore, Marie Antoinette became known as “Madame Deficit” for her reckless spending, and she was blamed for the country’s economic ruin. Her reputation was further tainted by stories such as her conspiring to steal a diamond necklace (false) and her declaring, “Let them eat cake!” when told that peasants were starving from lack of bread (also false).
The French Revolution began in 1789, and because Marie Antoinette was accused of forcing Louis XVI to refuse every revolutionary’s decision, she was nicknamed “Madame Veto” (apparently, the French only had one joke back then).
After a change of power, the National Convention was in control of France. King Louis XVI was executed in January of 1793. Marie Antoinette was tried on October 14 of the same year and found guilty of treason. She was executed by the guillotine on October 16.
It is said that Marie Antoinette faced her execution with dignity and poise. Her last words were supposedly, “Monsieur, I beg your pardon” after she stepped on the executioner’s foot.