Marie Antoinette’s childhood

12 Nov

Marie Antoinette was born as Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna on 2. November 1755.

1767. Marie Antoinette

Her life as the Queen of France is something that everybody know about, but her childhood, family and the environment she grew up in are usually less interesting and less explored part of her life.

Marie Antoinette was one of sixteen children and eleventh daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. At the time of her birth only twelve children were alive (including her younger brother Maximilian who was born the following year.)

She grew up in relaxed ambience of the court of Schonbrunn, where it was possible to derive from protocol. She later tried to recreate this atmosphere at Petit Trianon. Protocol on Schonbrunn was also rigid but not nearly as much as on Versailles. She had many brothers and sisters but she loved her sister Maria Carolina, later Queen of Naples, the most. The two sisters who were born only three years apart shared the same governesses and the same rooms.

1760. marie Antoinette

Marie Antonia’s education was extremely poor. At the age of twelve she could barely write her native German, so you can only imagine her knowledge of French and Italian. Although the imperial family and the Viennese society were multilingual, she was the fifteenth child and her education was neglected. Except languages, she studied Austrian and French history and she also showed talent in singing and playing harp and clavichord.  Her music teacher was Gluck himself.

She was extremely good at dancing, showing the talent from the early age. Horace Walpole once said “vera incessu patuit dea” (she was in truth revealed to be a goddess her step). He was actually quoting Virgil.

Marie Antonia loved dolls very much and she was very exited when the fashion dolls called Pandoras were sent to Schonbrunn from Versailles to show the newest fashion. The painting bellow, actually painted by her sister Maria Christina,  shows five year old Maria Antonia holding a doll on the Saint Nicholas day.

1760. marie antoinette holding a doll

Maria Antonia had simple, yet short childhood. When you think about it; she married at the age of fourteen, but Maria Theresa started preparing her for the marriage years earlier. She didn’t have many years to be carefree and be a typical child spending her days playing with brothers and sisters.

Now that you know her background, you can fully understand why she wasn’t prepared for the pompous and rigid life at Versailles. She just had to find her escape in the word of fashion and little Hameau de la Reine that was created just for her pleasure.

1762. Marie Antoinette

What a poor little girl, sent to such a distant and snobby court and never saw her mother and most of her siblings (except Maria Christina, Joseph II. and Maximilian) again. What a cruel destiny, when you think about it, but unfortunately that was the destiny of many other Princesses.

I’m her age and I couldn’t imagine leaving my family and my land; everything I have, for marrying someone I don’t even know. She was quite brave, indeed.

2 Responses to “Marie Antoinette’s childhood”

  1. DianaC 8th Dec 2013 at 8:56 am #

    Well it was the custom of the time, and she did not actually have a say in it. So I do not necessarily see her marrying at that age necessarily as a proof of courage, but rather of obeying the customs of the time. What really shows her courage and dignity in my opinion is the way in which she died, holding her head high and not showing fright at all.
    Thank you for enlightening me on her childhood, I have to say I knew almost nothing about her life before France. Really thorough description, lovely post!
    By the way, I also had no idea that Maria Christina was able to paint like that!


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