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Who was Accused of Ruining France’s Finances?

Marie Antoinette, the teen queen, was loved and adored by the French in her younger years. It has been said that Parisians would flock to her when she made appearances in public. But did you know that her extravagance affected France’s economy?

Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France, gained the moniker Madame Déficit as she was accused of single-handedly ruining the country’s finances. It was known that she spent extravagant amounts on luxury.

Who was Marie Antoinette?

Marie-Antoinette-Josèphe-Jeanne d’Autriche-Lorraine was born on November 2, 1755 in Vienna, Austria. She was the eleventh child of Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and Maria Theresa. When Antoinette was two, the Treaty of Versailles was signed. This treaty helped shape her future as her mother used her diplomatic affairs. (Source: Britannica)

At fourteen, Antoinette was married to the firstborn grandson of the king of France, King Louis XVI. Antoinette and Louis XVI were married on May 16, 1770. She discovered that her soon-to-be king husband was inattentive and timid. By the time she became queen when Louis had ascended in 1774, she had already surrounded herself with a circle of politically vulnerable companions.

The king and queen of France only consummated their marriage in 1777. They had a daughter, Marie Thérèse Charlotte, but Antoinette knew that the king and the people wanted a son. Their daughter died on November 29, 1780. (Source: History of Royal Women)

Antoinette became pregnant shortly after Charlotte’s death and gave birth to a dauphin, or firstborn boy child, on October 22, 1781. Then they had another son and another daughter after. Unfortunately, their dauphin was sick most of the time and passed on June 4, 1789.

Everyone was aware that the queen was not interested in politics except to secure favors for her close friends. There were also numerous rumors that Antoinette had extramarital affairs due to her husband’s inability to consummate their marriage.

But during the crises of 1789 and the years to follow, the queen proved to be more capable than her husband in terms of political prowess despite many aspersions thrown at her. At the time, the Revolutionary National Assembly had already set its goals on abolishing feudalism and restricting monarchy.

She formed several political relationships to deflect the Assembly’s wishes and return power to the royal families and maintained her relations with the Austrians despite France declaring war with Austria in 1792. This added to the hatred Frenchmen had towards Antoinette. 

The monarchy was overthrown, and they were sent to prison. King Louis XVI was executed in January 1793, and the queen was guillotined on October 16, 1793. (Source: Britannica)

Spending the Country’s Money

Queen Marie Antoinette suffered many slanderous attacks during her time on the throne. She was accused of having extramarital affairs. She was thought of as a callous queen with the famous myth that she said let them eat cake during France’s bread shortage. She was even accused of sexual abuse and incest during the trial that led to her execution.

But there was one accusation that earned her the moniker Madame Déficit. Throughout history, it was believed that the queen single-handedly caused the bankruptcy of France. It was known that Antoinette overspent on clothes, diamonds and later took on gambling as a hobby.

On her 21st birthday, the queen participated in a three-day-long gambling party. She also spent a lot of money remodeling the Le Petit Trianon, the small chateau she usually spent her time in within the palace grounds.

The queen’s lavishness was used against her even though France was already on the verge of bankruptcy when they took over the throne. The long series of wars of previous kings Louis XIV and XV left the country with the highest national debt. To add to that, the French population was undertaxed. (Source: New World Encyclopedia)

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