Have you ever eaten a fruit cake

"If you don't have bread, then you should eat cake!"

Now that there was a child, Marie Antoinette found herself relieved of a heavy burden. She began to escape the ceremonial sterility of court life, where she was not allowed any private life. Her refuge became the Petit Trianon, an elegant little palace in Versailles Park, where she surrounded herself with an exclusive community of confidants. The traditional elites of the court and even the king had only exceptional access here. The symbol of the eccentric lifestyle of the queen became the "Hameau de la Reine", an artificially created hamlet of farmhouses. Marie Antoinette created a rural fantasy world, where an artificial village idyll should replace the stiffness at court. The search for naturalness was entirely in the spirit of the time of the beginning romanticism.

During this time Marie Antoinette also got to know the Swedish nobleman Axel von Fersen. The nature of their connection has not yet been fully clarified, but a love affair cannot be ruled out.

By staying away from the court, she snubbed the influential court society. The accusation of neglecting her duties as queen, wife and mother made the rounds and was carried into the wider public by her numerous opponents at court. The increasingly open criticism of the Queen was reinforced by the tight financial situation, as France supported the American War of Independence against Great Britain with enormous resources. However, the people saw the queen's extravagance as the reason for the misery. For Marie Antoinette the nickname "Madame Deficit" became common. The hatred of the queen also increased due to a flood of diatribes and leaflets full of - mostly obscene - slander against the frivolous lifestyle of the extravagant society of the Petit Trianon. The queen was accused of sexual debauchery, the king was portrayed as incompetent.

Marie Antoinette ignored the growing hatred and did not realize the scope of the polemics against her. The low point was reached when the so-called collar affair became public in 1785. It was about an extremely valuable diamond necklace that disappeared under the fraudulent use of the Queen's name without her knowledge. Although the Queen's innocence could be proven, the cause suffered an enormous loss of popularity. Just the fact that she was generally trusted to participate in the affair shows how deep Marie Antoinette's reputation had already sunk.

Only now did she realize the seriousness of the situation. Attempts to rebut the criticism, however, were unsuccessful. The political and financial situation in the kingdom was tense and King Louis XVI. hopelessly overwhelmed. Marie Antoinette then got involved: she took part in the meetings of the Royal Council and, following the example of Maria Theresa, acted as the active mother of the country. But she lacked political instinct. Inexperienced and naive, her intervention made the situation worse.

In 1789, the pressure to reform required the convening of the Estates General: the representatives of the nobility, the church and the “third estate” (ie the urban bourgeoisie) from all parts of the kingdom came together to form a kind of parliament. The demand for a constitution that was supposed to curtail absolute royal power came ever more to the fore. Louis XVI reacted indecisively, so that now Marie Antoinette took the initiative. She pushed for a military solution: troops loyal to the king should dissolve the assembly of estates in a coup. With her active intervention she made herself the mouthpiece of the royal power. If she had previously only been denigrated as an immoral creature of luxury, Marie Antoinette now became the general enemy of the revolutionary forces, the embodiment of the hated regime.

Martin Mutschlechner