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CC via 2.0 // Wikimedia Commons
CC via 2.0 // Wikimedia Commons

What Happened to Marie Antoinette's Children?

CC via 2.0 // Wikimedia Commons
CC via 2.0 // Wikimedia Commons

The tragic tale of Marie Antoinette's death during the French Revolution is the stuff of legend. But while the story of Marie Antoinette ends with her beheading in 1793, the tragedy of her family continued to unfold long after her death.

Marie Antoinette and her husband, the Dauphin, were married for seven years before consummating their marriage -- much to the chagrin of Marie's family, particularly her critical mother, the Empress Maria Teresa of the Holy Roman Empire. Marie's place in the royal household of France and Franco-Austrian relations absolutely depended on her producing a male heir, even before her husband became the King of France in 1774. Despite the rocky start, Marie and Louis XVI would have four children -- only one of whom lived to adulthood.

Marie Antoinette's first child was a girl, named Marie Thérèse after Marie's mother. When she was born on December 9, 1778, Marie Antoinette suffered a convulsive fit and collapsed, not surprising after 12 hours of labor in her stuffy room and the possibly dangerous incompetence of her doctor. The Queen wasn't informed the sex of the child until hours later. But when she woke, she reportedly said, "Poor little girl, you are 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." There certainly would have been witnesses to the episode: Court custom at the time dictated that queens gave birth in full view of their courtiers.

Louis Joseph, the King's male heir and the next Dauphin of France, was born three years later, followed by Louis Charles in March of 1785 and Sophie in July of 1786. But Sophie, who was born premature, died just a month shy of her first birthday, and Louis Joseph, who'd been a delicate child most of his life, died two years later, at the age of 7, likely from tuberculosis.

Revolution

While Marie was fulfilling her wifely duties and setting fashion trends in the court at Versailles, France was starving. While Louis XVI continued to send money abroad to support the Americans in the American Revolution, France's national debt exploded; taxes grew, settling most unfairly on the poor; and rampant unemployment combined with poor crops meant that by the late 1780s, France was a powder keg of dissension, anger and resentment. And Marie, with her courtly ways, detached Austrian air, and unfortunate proclivity for spending masses of money, became the scapegoat.

On July 14, 1789, the fuse was lit with the storming of the Bastille; by October, Marie, her husband and her two surviving children were removed from Versailles and moved to the Tuileries in Paris, placed under house arrest. In 1792, the King was deposed and the family was imprisoned in the Temple in Marais.

Louis XVI was executed on January 21, 1793; Marie followed 10 months later, on October 16. On June 8, 1795, their son, the Dauphin and the boy royalists had named Louis XVII, died at the age of 10, most likely of tuberculosis exacerbated by his brutal prison conditions.

Marie Thérèse: The Survivor

Now Marie Thérèse, the oldest of Marie Antoinette's children, was a true orphan. Her parents killed, her brothers and sisters all dead, she was left for a time alone in the Temple prison, before being released at the age of 17 in December of 1795. Soon after, she was married to the Duc d'Angoulême, nephew to the new King, the self-styled Louis XVIII, and now heir to the throne of France. As the Duchesse d'Angoulême, however, her life did not improve: Her marriage was an unhappy one and never consummated, the tragic circumstances of her early life had left her bitter and angry, and she was to spend most of her life exiled from France. She had not inherited her mother's famed beauty -- she suffered from bad teeth, a red face, and a rather masculine build -- or her grace, though for a time, as her husband's claim on the throne became even more assured, she bore her mother's title: Madame la Dauphine.

In 1830, Marie Thérèse technically did achieve the title of Queen of France — for about 20 minutes, long enough for her husband the Duc to sign the abdication papers. She died in October 1851, at the age 72, still in exile. In her last testament, she forgave those who'd made her life so miserable, following, she said, the example of her parents.

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Scientists Reveal Long-Hidden Text in Alexander Hamilton Letter
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Age, deterioration, and water damage are just a few of the reasons historians can be short on information that was once readily available on paper. Sometimes, it’s simply a case of missing pages. Other times, researchers can see “lost” text right under their noses.

One example: a letter written by Alexander Hamilton to his future wife, Elizabeth Schuyler, on September 6, 1780. On the surface, it looked very much like a rant about a Revolutionary War skirmish in Camden, South Carolina. But Hamilton scholars were excited by the 14 lines of writing in the first paragraph that had been crossed out. If they could be read, they might reveal some new dimension to one of the better-known Founding Fathers.

Using the practice of multispectral imaging—sometimes called hyperspectral imaging—conservationists at the Library of Congress were recently able to shine a new light on what someone had attempted to scrub out. In multispectral imaging, different wavelengths of light are “bounced” off the paper to reveal (or hide) different ink pigments. By examining a document through these different wavelengths, investigators can tune in to faded or obscured handwriting and make it visible to the naked eye.

A hyperspectral image of Alexander Hamilton's handwriting
Hyperspectral imaging of Hamilton's handwriting, from being obscured (top) to isolated and revealed (bottom).
Library of Congress

The text revealed a more emotional and romantic side to Hamilton, who had used the lines to woo Elizabeth. Technicians uncovered most of what he had written, with words in brackets still obscured and inferred:

Do you know my sensations when I see the
sweet characters from your hand? Yes you do,
by comparing [them] with your [own]
for my Betsey [loves] me and is [acquainted]
with all the joys of fondness. [Would] you
[exchange] them my dear for any other worthy
blessings? Is there any thing you would put
in competition[,] with one glowing [kiss] of
[unreadable], anticipate the delights we [unreadable]
in the unrestrained intercourses of wedded love,
and bet your heart joins mine in [fervent]
[wishes] to heaven that [all obstacles] and [interruptions]
May [be] speedily [removed].

Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler married on December 14, 1780. So why did Hamilton try and hide such romantic words during or after their courtship? He probably didn’t. Historians believe that his son, John Church Hamilton, crossed them out before publishing the letter as a part of a book of his father’s correspondence. He may have considered the passage a little too sexy for mass consumption.

[h/t Library of Congress]

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7 of History’s Most Unusual Riots
Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Some sociologists theorize that most rioters only join a crowd because the crowd is big enough to justify joining. But there’s always that one person who sparks the violence, and sometimes the reason for doing so can seem pretty baffling. Maybe a work of art scandalizes its audience, like the famous premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Or maybe it’s simply a notable act of disrespect, like history’s first recorded mooning (in Jerusalem in the first century CE). From balloonists to brown dogs to daylight saving time, here are seven weird reasons things just got out of hand.

1. THE MELBOURNE DART RIOT

The Darts Invitational Challenge, an international tournament held in Melbourne, attracted international gawking in January 2015 during the finals match between Michael "Mighty Mike" van Gerwen and Simon "The Wizard" Whitlock. The dart players weren’t making a scene, though: Rather, hundreds of spectators, many of them drunk and in costume, began throwing plastic chairs as they watched (pictured above). The reasons for the fight remain unclear; footage and photos show police trying to control adults dressed as Oompa-Loompas, numerous superheroes, and, in one instance, in a ghillie suit (heavy camouflage meant to resemble foliage).

2. THE LEICESTER BALLOON RIOT

In 1864, balloonists were the great daredevils of their time, and a major draw for eager audiences. That summer, Henry Coxwell, a famous professional aeronaut, was set to make an appearance for 50,000 paying ticketholders in Leicester, England. Unfortunately, a rumor spread that he hadn’t brought his biggest and best balloon to the event. After heckling from the crowd, Coxwell deflated his balloon, and attendees rushed it, ripping it to shreds, setting it on fire, and threatening to visit the same fate on Coxwell. Rioters even paraded the remains of the balloon through the streets of town, which briefly brought residents a new nickname: Balloonatics.

3. THE TORONTO CLOWN AND FIREFIGHTER RIOT

Toronto was still a pretty rough place in the 1850s, but not so rough that the circus wouldn’t come to town. As it turns out, circus entertainers were also a tough lot back then, so when a group of off-duty clowns spent an evening at a brothel popular with the city’s firefighters on July 12, 1855, tensions came to a head. Accounts differ as to who started the fight, but after one firefighter knocked the hat off a clown things escalated into a full-on rabble intent on chasing the circus out of town. Only the mayor calling in the militia put an end to the uproar, an incident Torontonians credit with kicking off much-needed local police reforms.

4. THE BELGIAN NIGHT AT THE OPERA RIOT

A painting by Charles Soubre of the Belgian Revolution
Charles Soubre, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Not many nations can claim their independence started with an aria, but for 19th-century Belgians sick of living under Dutch rule, an opera was just the right fuse for a revolution. To honor the birthday of King William I of the Netherlands, a theater in Brussels put on La Muette de Portici, about an uprising in Naples against Spanish rule. One song, "Amour Sacre de la Patrie" ("Sacred Love of the Fatherland"), aroused nationalistic passions so much that after the opera ended, the crowd began destroying factories and occupying government buildings. That was August 25, 1830; Belgium declared independence on October 4.

5. THE NEW YORK DOCTORS' RIOT

Hamilton fans, take note: Everyone’s favorite Founding Father once tried to quiet a mob bent on burning corpses. For centuries, anatomists and medical students relied on gruesome means to learn about the human body. Cadavers for dissection class often came from grave robbers, since the corpses of executed criminals were the only legal source—and they were in limited supply. In New York in 1788, rumors abounded that medical students were digging up paupers’ graves and black cemeteries. When one mob came after the doctors responsible, Alexander Hamilton tried, and failed, to restore the peace. The crowd swelled to about 5000 before militiamen intervened, leading to up to about 20 deaths.

6. THE BROWN DOG RIOTS

Photo of an anti-vivisection demonstration in Trafalgar Square, London, to protest the removal from Battersea Park of the Brown Dog statue
The Anti-Vivisection Review, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Riots against the dissection of dead human bodies were not rare in the United States at one time. But on December 10, 1907, a thousand Britons marched in support of vivisection, or surgery on live animals. At the center of the controversy was a small terrier allegedly vivisected without anesthetic in 1903 during a class at London’s University College. Animal rights activists erected a statue to the dog in 1906, which enraged area medical students, and protesters tried to destroy the statue using crowbars and hammers. For the 1907 march, 400 mounted police were deployed to contain marchers. The statue became such a flashpoint (and an expense to local authorities) that in 1910, it was removed and melted down.

7. THE EEL-PULLING RIOT

Palingtrekken (eel-pulling) was once a popular contest in Amsterdam, in which a writhing eel was suspended over a canal and hopefuls on boats would leap to snatch it as they passed beneath (usually landing in the water instead). However, “eel-pulling” was also illegal—the government deemed it a “cruel popular entertainment”—and in July 1886, police intervened at a particularly large gathering in the city’s Jordaan district. Civilians threw stones and bricks at police, and when some nearby socialist protestors joined them, a riot broke out that lasted for several days. The army finally intervened and opened fire on the protestors. All in all, 26 people died and 136 were wounded, but somehow, the eel itself at the center of the riots was allegedly saved and auctioned off in 1913.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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