The two biggest scandals of Marie Antoinette's life were the diamond necklace incident of 1785, which irrevocably damaged her reputation, and the issue of her famous words, "Let them eat cake!" Though there are rumors of other scandals, including an affair and a gambling addiction, many of them have never been historically substantiated.Continue Reading
The famous "Diamond Necklace Affair" was actually an elaborate scam in which Marie Antoinette was purportedly an unknowing victim. A countess scammed the Cardinal of France into giving her a diamond necklace that she said the queen wanted to buy. The cardinal, who was eager to join the queen's intimate circle of friends, took this as a sign that the queen was interested in integrating him. The countess did not take the necklace to the queen, however. She instead took the necklace to London and sold the diamonds. The scam was elevated to the next level, however, when the countess disguised a street prostitute as Marie Antoinette and introduced her to the Cardinal. When the real Marie Antoinette was confronted by the Cardinal at a party soon after, she was irate. Although Marie Antoinette was exonerated in her involvement to scam the necklace, her reputation never recovered. Prior to this incident, Marie Antoinette had actually been quite popular among the people. Afterward, however, she was forever vilified.
The next big scandal was her infamous words about eating cake. The country was on the verge of revolution, and there were many reforms taking place throughout the French government in response to a bankrupt treasury and a starving population. Marie Antoinette did not support the reforms, however. When advised that the people were starving, her reply was, "Let them eat cake!" Scholars believe that these words were more an indication of Marie Antoinette's ignorance about the true dire condition of the country's economy than an insult. Quite simply, she may simply not have known that people could not afford to eat cake. Not long after these words, Marie Antoinette and her husband were imprisoned and eventually executed.Learn more about French Revolution