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Old July 4th, 2013, 12:24 PM   #1

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How much power did Marie Antoinette really have?


From what I understand of France circa the French Revolution, just about everyone and their puppy wanted to blame the Queen Marie Antoinette for just about anything that went wrong.

Granted, life for the common French citizen wasn't easy at all, and I can understand why they would vent their hatred out on the monarchy as a whole, and I get that they would associate her with monarchy since, obviously, she's the queen, but I wonder about something...

Just how much power did Marie Antoinette really have as queen? Was there any responsibilities she tended to, or was she there just to be the pretty face of the monarchy while her husband did all the work? Now, I understand that the French subjects of that time wouldn't give a damned whether or not she could do anything; as far as they were concerned, she was just as guilty as her husband for their hardship, but just out of curiosity of how the French monarchy worked, did she have any responsibilities around the court?
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Old July 4th, 2013, 12:33 PM   #2

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she had no real power other than her influence over Louis. she was constantly urged, nagged in fact, first by her mother and later by her brother, to use her influence to advance Austria's interests, and she did her best to oblige them, but actual power she had none.

She and Louis were both, by the standards of their time, quite concerned about the poor. they gave generously in times of hardship, and Louis was the first to insist that the trees in the royal forest should be cut down for firewood in a hard winter.
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Old July 4th, 2013, 12:35 PM   #3

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Marie Antoinette had no real power in politics. Like Louise C said, her main power was her influence over her husband.
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Old July 4th, 2013, 12:41 PM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Louise C View Post
she had no real power other than her influence over Louis. she was constantly urged, nagged in fact, first by her mother and later by her brother, to use her influence to advance Austria's interests, and she did her best to oblige them, but actual power she had none.

She and Louis were both, by the standards of their time, quite concerned about the poor. they gave generously in times of hardship, and Louis was the first to insist that the trees in the royal forest should be cut down for firewood in a hard winter.
Ah, I see.

So no real power outside basically whispering words into Louis' ear, encourage him to do things. Her Austrian family pressed her to whisper pro-Austrian words into his ear.

And that's what I've heard, they tried their best to assist the poor and needy, and if I remember correctly, France hated Austria at the time. No wonder they hated her for her Austrian heritage.

Did she also try to seek out the best interests of France, in addition to obliging to her Austrian mother and brother?
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Old July 4th, 2013, 12:50 PM   #5

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Marie Antoinette wielded considerable power most of which she did not exercise personally but rather through her husband who yielded to her wishes on important matters which increased over time. In the early years of their reign, 1774 to 1785, the most important act she took was her opposition to the reforms of Turgot and getting Louis to fire him in 1776. Also in those years, Louis gave her title to the Petit Trianon - which was unheard of for a queen to hold title to a palace of her own. Also in those years, the king allowed Marie Antoinette free reign in her spending, finery, jewels, entertainments, positions and titles for her friends. The first firing of Necker in 1781 may have been ascribed to her. In the early years she also tried to influence French foreign policy in favor of Austria which Louis resisted. In last years before Revolution, her political influence only increased, especially in 1787-88 when Louis may have a nervous breakdown. Calonne and de Brienne who became chief ministers in those years were men promoted by the Queen, and their failures laid to her doorstep. During the Revolution, Marie Antoinette also wielded great influence over Louis' action - Louis did not heed her advice to leave Versailles in October 1789 but he did accept her advice and allowed her close friend (some say lover) Fersen to organize their flight from Paris in 1791.
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Old July 4th, 2013, 12:54 PM   #6

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Austrian by birth Marie Antoinette`s sympathies were well known, but she kept out of politics aware of strong anti Austrian feeling ay court and only occasionaly tried to influence events without success. When Emperor Joseph claimed the throne of Bavaria based upon his second marriage to Maria Josepha of Bavaria Marie Antoinette pleaded with her husband for the French to help intercede on Austria behalf, but the king and his anti Austrian ministers adamantly refused.
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Old July 4th, 2013, 01:21 PM   #7

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Originally Posted by Axel View Post
Marie Antoinette wielded considerable power most of which she did not exercise personally but rather through her husband who yielded to her wishes on important matters which increased over time. In the early years of their reign, 1774 to 1785, the most important act she took was her opposition to the reforms of Turgot and getting Louis to fire him in 1776. Also in those years, Louis gave her title to the Petit Trianon - which was unheard of for a queen to hold title to a palace of her own. Also in those years, the king allowed Marie Antoinette free reign in her spending, finery, jewels, entertainments, positions and titles for her friends. The first firing of Necker in 1781 may have been ascribed to her. In the early years she also tried to influence French foreign policy in favor of Austria which Louis resisted. In last years before Revolution, her political influence only increased, especially in 1787-88 when Louis may have a nervous breakdown. Calonne and de Brienne who became chief ministers in those years were men promoted by the Queen, and their failures laid to her doorstep. During the Revolution, Marie Antoinette also wielded great influence over Louis' action - Louis did not heed her advice to leave Versailles in October 1789 but he did accept her advice and allowed her close friend (some say lover) Fersen to organize their flight from Paris in 1791.
Interesting. Interesting.

I wonder if her increase of influence and her spending helped destroy her image to the French people despite her attempts to help them? I imagine the attempts to oblige her Austrian family did wonders to damage her reputation.

Couldn't she have severed ties politically with her Austrian family? Would that have helped her in the long run?

I'm confused on the above post. She keeps out of politics, yet she gets greater and greater influence. How does that work? I would think keeping out of politics means she basically vanishes from the public eye.
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Old July 4th, 2013, 02:31 PM   #8
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Yeah, she had no legal power, but to say she had no actual power would be incorrect.
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Old July 4th, 2013, 02:41 PM   #9

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I agree with Funakison that Marie Antoinette generally kept out of politics in the matter of foreign affairs except for the well known incident where she tried to get Louis to intercede for her brother Joseph which Louis would not do. Yet this effort of her on behalf of her brother was well known and perhaps it fed the rumors that she was working on Austria's behalf. At her trial in 1793, among the many false accusations against the former queen was that she had been sending millions of livres of treasury money to Austria,

But while Marie Antoinette (despite prodding from the Austrian court) largely stayed out of politics in foreign affairs, she did meddle in French domestic politics when it came to potential reform of the system and finances and potentially curbing her spending and privileges of herself and her favorites. The Queen's interventions with a series of chief ministers mentioned in my earlier post were quite significant and gave rise to the general belief that she exerted great power by her influence over King Louis in domestic affairs.
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