On this day in 1770, Louis-Auguste — just 15 years old — married Habsburg Archduchess Maria Antonia — just 14 years old. They would become king and queen of France, better known as Louis XVI of France and Marie Antoinette. And in 1793, they would both have their heads chopped off after the French Revolution. Should they have been put to death? Well obviously, I don’t think so. I don’t believe in the death penalty — even for Hitler or Pol Pot or that boy who bullied me in grammar school. But a better question is whether they were more deserving to die than the kings and queens who came before them. And the answer to that is certainly no.
That’s not to say that they were good people. They would ghastly. They were the kind of people that royalty have always been. As Dr Willis said in The Madness of King George, “Deferred to, agreed with, acquiesced in. Who can flourish on such a daily diet of compliance?” But the general portrayal of them as particularly horrible is wrong. They do, however, seem to have been of above average silliness without the will or ability to manage their finances. And Marie Antoinette did seem to have an understandable fondness for her mother country, Austria, which also created the understandable nationalist resentment of the French people.
But hell: they got a good two decades during which they got whatever they wanted. They lived to their late thirties. Many people at that time and place did not live as long and no one had it as good. I suspect that most people of that time would have swapped their potential long lives for four wonderful decades. So I’m not shedding any tears for them. They still shouldn’t have been killed. But there were much greater injustices done during the Reign of Terror.
Happy anniversary you kids!