As the queen consort of King Louis XVI of France, Marie Antoinette, b. Nov. 2, 1755, d. Oct. 16, 1793, aroused hostile passions that helped lead to the French Revolution and the abolition of the French monarchy in August 1792. The daughter of Maria Theresa of Austria and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, she married Louis in 1770. By 1774, when her husband became king, however, the beautiful, spirited Marie Antoinette had withdrawn from the restraints of French court etiquette and from her timid, aloof husband to a life of innocent but frivolous pleasure. She enchanted her small circle of friends but created the image of an untrustworthy foreigner and prodigal spendthrift opposed to the reforms proposed by the king's ministers. Her life became temporarily more dignified after the birth of her first son, Louis Joseph, in 1778, but her reputation worsened with the Affair of the Diamond Necklace (178586).

Popular hatred of her in 1789 obscured the fact that she advocated royal compromise with the revolutionary States-General she disliked so intensely. Bravely suffering her family's forced move to Paris and virtual imprisonment in the Tuileries from October 1789, she played little part in her weaker husband's losing cause until initiating their abortive attempt to flee the country in 1791 (the Flight to Varennes). Having secretly aided Austria's counterrevolutionary invasion of France, Marie Antoinette was executed by guillotine for treason.

Moote, A. Lloyd. "Marie Antoinette." Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Grolier Online, 2012. Web. 3 Jan. 2012.