1. Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette, the wife of King Louis XVI, came to represent to the people the excesses of the French monarchy. She was known for her expensive tastes and lavish parties, while the people of France languished in the streets and were dying of hunger. This mindset is characterized by the famous words, “Let them eat cake!” However, there is no evidence that Marie Antoinette said this, and she was known to actually be very concerned about France’s poor.
On July 14, 1789 – now known as “Bastille Day” – a mob stormed the Bastille prison to take the arms and ammunition that would fuel their revolution against the monarchy. On October 6 of that year, they entered Versailles and the royal family was taken into Paris, where they lived virtually under house arrest. In 1792, the monarchy was officially abolished, and the French Republic declared.
The following year, in 1793, Marie Antoinette was put on trial for treason and various other crimes, including inflating the French national debt with her expensive lifestyle. She was found guilty by the jury and lived her final days in a deplorable prison, which was deemed to be too fancy for the queen. She met her end at the guillotine on October 16, 1793, four years after being taken to Paris.