I wouldn’t call it shock, we all knew this was coming.
Maybe a twisted sense of relief. Relief that the wait is finally over. That the blade hanging over my neck has finally dropped.
I know what’s coming. I’ve seen what they write about me; how I plunged the nation into poverty, how I have no understanding of the real issues the people face. They see me as a monster, some kind of beast whose only goal is to ruin the lives of my countrymen. They turn those who wronged me into heroes and those who helped into demons. It seems they want nothing more than for this country to fall into ruin, as long as it is at my hands.
Who blames the naive king when there is an evil queen?
I am told Louis is trying his best to calm the mob. He has invited some of those desperate enough to march on the palace to negotiate, meanwhile – much like the rest of my life – I am kept in a bedchamber and told to look wait and pray for the best. Just like a butterfly, I always thought, admired for its beauty but caught, killed and displayed if the chance arises.
What these revolutionaries fail to see is that I tried to help, but I am always dismissed. Louis doesn’t acknowledge my solutions, in fact, he doesn’t acknowledge me much either, I think he’d rather have married a lock and key than me. After all, he’s always made it clear his only true passion is locksmithing. Sometimes it seems I spend more time fretting over the economic crisis than he does. I tried so hard to be the perfect wife, but instead of praise my efforts were met with rumours of affairs and scandal, and there was a time I had to accept my tastes are not those of the king.
It takes me a moment to realise that the noise is coming from the door rather than outside.
The children. The thought I’ve been trying to ignore for the past however-many-hours comes before I can stop it. I see my knuckles whiten as my fist tightens around the door handle.
“Now is not the time for rage, Maria” I tell myself softly, “It is not just your life that depends on it.” And with that, I reluctantly open the door.
I breathe a sigh of relief when I am met with the timid face of a servant rather than one of those grotesquely distorted by rage banging on the palace walls.
“Sorry to disturb Mademoiselle, but the King requests that you ensure you are proper in case your presence is needed,” she said. Of course, even in the face of death, the King does not trust me to handle myself.
“Merci, there is no need to continue. You can be assured that I need no one’s guidance in anything concerning propriety.” I watch as she scurries away, clearly relieved to no longer be addressing me, and that never stops being painful. I turn around and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Louis was correct. If I am to appear, even for my death, I must look proper and now I look anything but it.
Something people don’t understand about being a queen, dressing is a difficult task. Of course, I usually have people to help but I think being alone is the best thing for everyone right now. I look past my most extravagant wigs; now isn’t the time, the people will be angered enough by my presence alone, they don’t need any more fuel for their hate. It may sound ridiculous but knowing what to wear isn’t easy, you have to balance showing no weakness; your allies and enemies can’t see us as any weaker, but dressing lavishly will make the poor hate us. It seems everything I do as Queen is unnecessarily complicated. It’s certainly not what I had in mind when I was told at 12 that I was going to be whisked off to France to marry some prince. It sounded like a fairy tale: too good to be true and quite obviously it was.
I decide on a rather simple pouf style, something more humble while still showing a sense of power. Looking for a necklace, I reach out for a larger diamond one, but I think better of it. It was only a few years ago the ordeal now referred to as the affair of the diamond necklace took place, while some may think nothing of it I have been told the woman who masqueraded as my friend has been turned into somewhat of a hero. It’s utterly ridiculous, that swindler is being praised for breaking laws while I am made into some sort of puppet master of the crimes.
Now I can hear the hustle from outside the palace walls, it appears that this is indeed the end of this fateful facade of power which has been rather pitiful of late. That seems to be a common theme in my life recently, everything around me decaying while we simply watch, doing nothing to stop the now-recurring pattern of a rich man’s disregard leaving destruction and dolour in his path. Often it feels as if no matter how many homes for mothers I open or royal property I sell to help the poor there will always be a rich man, emblazoned by a life of privilege, willing to send men to their deaths and empty our treasury rather than bruising his already undeserved ego.
Now I can hear footsteps coming down the hall. I edge slightly closer to the door to listen for any clues to my fate. There are voices. Even from a distance, I can tell they don’t belong to the servants.
Instead of panicking, I do what I must. I must be a queen. I return to my seat and wait. It’s rather poetic is it not, the people were made to wait to gain their power, and now I must wait to lose it.
I watch the door handle as it is pushed down, such a mundane thing turned into a death sentence, the reality that there is no escape. The man swings it open and says two words. The two words that have haunted me for the past twenty years.
The words which marked the end of my life in Austria.
The words which now mark the end of my life in France. “Marie Antionette.”