Let Them Eat Cake
Washington and Lee University -- Honors in History
Marie Antoinette, Queen, consort of Louis XVI, King of France, 1755-1793
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Thesis; [FULL-TEXT FREELY AVAILABLE ONLINE]Kimberly Kennedy is a member of the Class of 2015 of Washington and Lee University.This thesis explores these four categories that emerge from popular representations of Marie Antoinette and how they have changed over time. For the theme of luxury, I describe how contemporary observers interpreted her lifestyle, how she used fashion to her own advantage, and how the perception of her luxurious lifestyle and fashion sense has developed since her lifetime. Marie Antoinette’s relationship with her husband and children was critical to her image during her lifetime when ideas about femininity and domesticity were firmly linked, and it remains a prominent defense for her today. In regards to her sexuality, I argue how it was used against her during her time as queen and was seen as corrupting, but today has turned into something to be celebrated. Finally, I discuss the events leading up to her death at the guillotine and how the image of her as the “headless queen” has survived into modern times and has become irrevocably associated with her. For each theme, I discuss how it is associated with her image in popular imagery first during the eighteenth century, then how that has evolved into the image we have of her in popular culture today.