Life has its ups and downs. And that’s just as true for the great and the good as it is for normal folk. Indeed, history is littered with examples of the mighty and powerful falling spectacularly from grace. Even kings and queens haven’t been immune, with several starting off their lives in the lap of luxury but ending them at the bottom of the pile.
In some cases, such falls from grace are fully deserved. Sadly, only a small proportion of history’s bad guys ever got their comeuppance. So, when a few of them did, it’s especially satisfying. At other times, however, such a loss of power, prestige and respect seems less just. In fact, several notable individuals from history fell due to the social, religious or political mores of their time.
So, here we present just 20 fascinating cases where historical figures went from hero to zero, often in the blink of an eye. From Hollywood superstars to English kings and even ancient philosophers, it’s proof that you don’t always know how good you have it until it’s gone:
1. Marie Antoinette went from being one of the most privileged people in the world to having her headless body tossed in an unmarked grave.
From being among the most privileged people in the whole world to being held up as an enemy of the people and executed in front of a baying mob, the fall of Marie Antoinette was as spectacular as it was rapid.
Nothing in her background suggested that Marie Antoinette would enjoy anything but a life of comfort and power. Born in Vienna in 1755, she was the Archduchess of Austria and the most eligible young lady in all of Europe. It was the French heir apparent who won her hand in marriage so, when he became King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette became Queen of France, with all the luxurious trappings that came with the title. The royal couple lived a life of complete splendour at the Palace of Versailles. Just a few miles away, however, the people of Paris were starving. Their queen’s decadent lifestyle soon made Marie Antoinette many enemies – and they were only too ready to take their revenge when the French Revolution erupted in 1789.
Marie Antoinette was found guilty of high treason by the Revolutionary Tribunal. She was executed by guillotine on October 16, 1793. What’s remarkable is how many people came out to watch her demise. By all accounts, she was jeered on her hour-long journey to the guillotine. Then, when the deed was done, her headless body was tossed into an unmarked grave. Considering how popular she was when she first arrived in France as the prince’s bride, her fall was massive, and even today she’s largely remembered for her apparent cruelty and lack of regard for the suffering of her people.