"sufficiently grand for Marie Antoinette"
Marie Antoinette in her Coronation Robes (1775) by Jean-Baptiste Gautier Dagoty
Public DomainMarie Antoinette in her Coronation Robes (1775) by Jean-Baptiste Gautier Dagoty - Credit: French Ministry of Culture

 Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) was an Archduchess of Austria and Queen of France. She married Louis XVI of France and became Queen upon his ascension in 1774. Famously beautiful and charming, she quickly lost popularity amongst the French as the Revolution took hold and was accused of being vapid, promiscuous and harbouring sympathy with the enemy. By the end of her life, Marie Antoinette had come to symbolise all that was corrupt and unfair in the social class system of pre-revolutionary France.

Forced to flee with her family in 1792, she attempted to secure help from her relatives in Austria, but in an escape attempt the royal family were detained and imprisoned at Temple Prison. Marie Antoinette was tried and executed by guillotine in 1793, nine months after her husband met the same fate.

She remains a popular cultural figure, and her name is a byword for all that is luxurious and slightly frivolent. She is supposed to have said, on hearing about the plight of the poverty-stricken Parisians who had no bread to eat, ‘Let them eat cake.’ It is however unlikely that these words were actually uttered by her. A cultural revival has taken place of late in which Marie Antoinette has been portrayed as a victim, assumed to be spoiled and stupid because of her looks and privileged upbringing. Marie Antoinette, the 2006 Sofia Coppola film, is loosely based on her life.