Throughout history, a countless number of historical figures have had their lives overshadowed by the myths and legends that surround them to the extent that their legacy comes to define them. In French history, this is truer of Marie Antoinette than just about everyone else. Nearly 220 years after she was put to the guillotine, Marie Antoinette is more famous than ever, fairly or unfairly coming to epitomize royalty and everything that was wrong with it.
As the youngest daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor, 14-year-old Marie's marriage to the eventual Louis XVI made her Dauphine, and it initially seemed like a good fit. The charming and beautiful young girl pleased the French, but she had the misfortune of being queen at a time when the French were beginning to sour on their royalty and aristocratic classes. On top of that, France's participation in the American Revolution had left the nation broke, which only angered those who watched the King and Queen spend millions of livres for their own comfort at the expense of the state. Though Marie Antoinette was hardly the only French royal who liked to live lavishly, the French were particularly scornful of her, possibly due to her Austrian ancestry.