What It Was Like To Be Marie Antoinette's Child

Marie Antoinette had four children, but she wasn't nearly as fruitful at multiplying as her parents. Biography writes that Marie Antoinette was the 15th child of Austrian Empress Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. After a 14-year-old Antoinette tied the knot with 15-year-old Louis XVI of France in 1770, the couple didn't plant seeds together in the bedroom for several years. Their lack of intimacy spawned gossip and derision, and Antoinette's brother even visited to give Louis graphic instructions on how to impregnate his sister. One can only imagine how awkward it must have felt for Antoinette to know that her husband was learning to love her like a brother.

Unlike her first few years of marriage, Antoinette was almost royally screwed when she birthed her first child in 1778 at Versailles. As recounted in Marie Antoinette: The Journey, etiquette dictated that she deliver her child before a privileged audience, and "general pandemonium" erupted. Sightseers packed galleries and outer rooms while some rushed the inner rooms to get a clearer view. The packed gathering sucked all the air out of the room and ventilation was lacking. Antoinette fainted and hemorrhaged without anyone initially noticing. The lack of air was followed by a lack of heir. After about seven years of effort and another 12 hours of literal blood, sweat, and tears a baby girl, Marie-Thérèse, entered the world. Louis wanted a male successor.

Tragic childhoods

Per biographer Antonia Fraser, Marie Antoinette's first recorded words to her first child were, "Poor little girl, you were not what was desired, but you are no less dear to me on that account. A son would have been property of the state. You shall be mine; you shall have my undivided care; you will share all my happiness and you will alleviate my sufferings ..." There were a lot of sufferings to come. Antoinette gave birth her first son, Louis Joseph, in 1781. But as Biography details, he died at age 7, likely from tuberculosis of the spine. A few years earlier her fourth child, Sophie, died in infancy after a premature birth. 

The loss of Louis Joseph made Antoinette's third child, Louis-Charles the official heir. From that point forward, via History, the palace staff indulged the 4-year-old's every want. Antoinette was an extremely dedicated mother, but royal tradition prohibited her from being as involved as she would have liked. When she had the chance she traveled to a chateau to bond with her children. Her time with her children was cut even shorter by the French Revolution.

Louis-Charles was just an innocent child when his parents were executed but he was judged guilty of being the "son of a tyrant." He would be held prisoner, abused, and neglected before succumbing to tuberculosis at age 10. Marie's first child, Marie-Thérèse, survived imprisonment but would spend the rest of her life tortured by the mystery of her brother's death.