Dauphine

Marie Antoinette about the time of her marriage

The wedding of the Louis and Marie Antoinette took place on May 16, 1770, in the Palace of Versailles. Following the wedding was a great feast. A fireworks display had been arranged, but did not take place due to bad weather. After the feasting was done, the courtly ritual or bedding the new couple was undertaken. It was assumed that the marriage would be consummated. However, it was eight long years until it was. Some suggest that the reason for this was that Louis suffered from a sexual dysfunction, probably phimosis. They suggest that he was eventually circumcised (the common cure for phimosis) to relieve the condition. The couple would eventually parent four children.

For the moment, however, the marriage was unconsummated. The couple were taunted for their infertility which caused a strain in the relationship.

Despite the fact that many at court opposed the marriage, Marie Antoinette was met by the public for the first time on June 8, 1773 with success. The public cheered her and seemed to be very fond of her. Back at court, Marie Antoinette began to run into problems with some of the nobility. The King’s daughters made fun of her behind her back, and the Madame du Berry, mistress of Louis XV, complained that Marie Antoinette would not speak to her. According to court rules, a woman of lower standing could not address a woman of higher standing without being invited to. Thus, as Dauphine, Marie Antoinette out ranked du Berry.

Madame du Berry

Thus, du Berry could not speak to Marie Antoinette without her first speaking. Marie Antoinette refused to speak to her because she found her position (as mistress) appalling. Being raised in a strict Catholic family had not prepared Marie Antoinette for the reality of French court life. It soon became a court spectacle to watch Marie Antoinette snub the mistress. This was not a good move on Marie Antoinette’s part, as Louis XV soon became angry that his mistress was not being received by his new granddaughter in law. Snubbing the mistress was the same as snubbing the King’s behavior. A strong letter from her mother eventually ratified the situation. Marie Antoinette finally broke down and said “There are a lot of people at Versailles today.” It was enough. du Berry and the King were pleased. The court was bored once more.

As with the du Berry “situation,” Maria Theresa constantly wrote to her daughter, complaining about her behavior and inability to “inspire passion,” in her husband. To escape from her problems, Marie Antoinette began spending more and more money on clothing and gambling. These problems would later plague her during her reign.

Despite all of her hardships, she began to make a few close friends. Marie Antoinette and the Princess Elisabeth, her sister-in-law, were close in age and became good friends. Later, Elisabeth was the only family member to stay through the Revolution, eventually going to the guillotine herself.

Yolande, Duchess de Polignac

Another of Marie Antoinette’s closest (who also stayed and perished during the revolution) was Marie Louise de Savoy, the Princess de Lamballe.

She also had an unhappy marriage and the two became fast friends. Another friend quickly made was Yolande, Duchess de Polignac. Polignac, unlike Lamballe, was quite frivolous and silly. She quickly grew in favor with Marie Antoinette due to her dazzling personality. However, many disliked the Duchess, who was extremely in debt. They resented her, jealous of the influence she had and the fact that Marie Antoinette settled her debts in order to keep her at Versailles.

Life at Versailles was pleasant and, despite her marital problems, relatively happy. However, this all came to a screeching halt on May 10, 1774 with the death of Louis XV. Louis was now King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette was Queen.

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