No. She never returned to Austria after her marriage.
A few of her siblings did visit her in Versailles, however–the Archduke Maximilian Francis (in 1775); the Emperor Joseph II (in 1777 and 1781); the Archduke Ferdinand (in 1786); and her sister, the Duchess Maria Christina (also in 1786).
In her biography of Marie-Antoinette, Antonia Fraser writes of Joseph’s first visit to Versailles:
and of Ferdinand’s visit:
–Marie Antoinette: The Journey (New York: Anchor Books, 2002), pp153 and 242.
What percentage of the population at the time had a better life? I mean, not returning to your homeplace would suck for some, I guess, but it certainly beats not being able to put bread on the table at the end of the day.
Marie-Antoinette was hardly fortunate. In addition to rarely seeing her family, almost everyone in her new country hated her, and eventually her head got chopped off. There are many
ways to have a crappy life.
She lived a life of material privilege, but of substantial emotional deprivation, and we know which contributes more to happiness. (Hint: it’s not the money.) And of course it all ended in squalor and horror - insulted, abused, widowed, her children forcibly separated from her, a travesty of a show trial, public humiliation, execution.
Her situation was not enviable. Even if we disregard how it ended, her situation was not enviable.
Not really, though. She had plenty of friends she used to play little Alpine shepherdess with (with lavish props) in her own, pristinely manicured garden fairy-tale retreat - many of which would have been Austrian ladies-in-waiting who’d have made the trip with her.
She had food, shelter, heat for most of her life. Also pillows and an endless supply of shoes (which I gather are of some interest to some women :)). That’s better than most French folks could count on on a daily basis at the time. As for young teenage girls of Versailles who also had that, they led a life of permanent stress and quasi-prostitution which Marie-Antoinette never had to deal with.
Wrong. All her existing servants were dismissed at the French border and thereafter she was allowed only to employ French servants, all of whom were chosen for her. This was a deliberate ploy to isolate her from Austrian influence. That was why the one Austrian who did have access to her, the imperial ambassador, the Comte de Mercy-Argenteau, had such sway over her.
Oddly enough, all her sisters who married did go back to Austria at some point, but that was only because political upheavals after 1789 forced them into exile. Most would previously have taken it for granted that they would never return.
Documentaries tend to present a positive depiction of her (actually most historical TV documentaries do, regardless of the person), and movies even more so. But maybe there were some valid reasons for her to be hated. It’s not like her worries about the well being of the population was leading her to trim down her lavish lifestyle. And still, I’d rather spend decades being hated while enjoying games and festivities than having to break my back in the fields from sunset to sundown for a pound of bread.
Regarding her being executed, many others lost their head for much less at the time. Remember that she was essentially guilty of high treason. And besides the executions, dozens of thousands were dying at the same time in the revolution wars, fighting the very people she wanted to join against France so that she could resume enjoying her privileges. It’s not like she was the only “victim” of the revolution, or the most innocent.
So, no, definitely not someone I would shed a tear for. Not at least before I shed some for millions of her contemporaries.
Hint : at this time, no money meant you would starve.
We’re living a life of abundance and luxury that even the royalty of past eras wouldn’t have dreamed of. Maybe we can afford to pretend that emotional well-being is more important than money. But people at the time definitely couldn’t.
[trivia] Regarding her emotional well-being, it so happens that it has just been definitely shown that she had an affair with the count Fersen, something believed to be true for a very long time, but proven only now by a physical analysis of inks on letters that the latter’s heirs had censored. [/trivia]
The life of privilege (then and now) has its own set of costs. Just ask the current British royal family. Similarly, gender had its own set of downsides. I suppose the difference is there are a lot more people today who are relatively well off without the previous centuries’ obligations, such as marriages for convenience, risk of assassination, court intrigues, executions and torture, etc. But yes, given a choice between Versailles and the Paris slums, the former does sound like a better life.
I often wondered - when the queen or some other important female “carries on” with someone, how did they avoid the fairly inevitable result of pregnancy? Was that much really known about contraception and/or timing? Certainly kings and other important men produced a number of bastard children and nobody seemed to object (was allowed to object?) if their wife or daughter got knocked up by someone much higher up the ladder.
(There’s a really cute scene in the BBC series “The Prince Regent” where Caroline mentions on the way to London to marry George, how much fun she could have at court; and her face falls when the ambassador tells her anyone who so much as looks at her wrong would be executed for treason.)