by Boots Hart, CAP

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Marie Antionette: A Head of State, Lost

 The Dauphin of France's Coat of Arms


Once upon a time, a little girl was born in Austria. 

And because mommy was Maria Teresa, Empress of Austria, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia and ruler of all the Hapsburg dominions ...

 Emperess Maria Teresa in 1727 (at age 10) 
by Andreas Moelier

...and because daddy was Francis Stephen I,  Holy Roman Emperor of Austria and Grand Duke of Tuscany...

 Francis I of Austria in 1745 (at age 37)
as painted by Martin van Meytens

....that meant that this little baby girl was a princess!

Her name was Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna, Archduchess of Austria, and she was born on November 2, 1755.

Marie Antoinette

And from the moment she was born, she was hardly ever alone! Back then, half the court was allowed into the Royal Bedchamber to watch the Empress give birth. It was something Empress Marie Teresa really didn't like. So in inimitable Empress style, she did away with it - the minute she would go into labor everyone would show up in her royal apartments and she would start having them royally shown the door. 

This wasn't actually the only thing this royal couple changed about Austria. Not particularly fond of pomp and circumstance and the hoidy-toidy of courtiers, when official things needed to be official they stayed official. But when situations didn't demand it, this Francis and wife Marie Teresa liked to dress more casually. They liked to have 'regular' folks around - not just titled members of aristocracy.

But that isn't to say they really 'mixed' with the outside world. Nor did it mean Francis and Marie Teresa weren't seriously into the business of monarchy. Francis was serious about keeping things basically pretty kingly and royal. And Marie Teresa? Of no mind to wait a couple of centuries for woman's lib and female equality, Marie Teresa went about building alliances and occasionally ticking off other countries royally - maybe just so she'd have more alliances to build and cement. It's hard to know with some monarchs.

And all that concreting of alliances - how did she do that? 

She did it in the time-honored manner of her day: by having children and finding "suitable" (politically advantageous) partners to marry. In other words, one big reason for having little princes and princesses was so she could marry them off and use them as living treaties and tokens of alliance with other nations.

How motherly, right?

And so ambitious was dear mamma that by the time Maria Antonia was born, she had lots of brothers and sisters...she was the fifteenth of sixteen children.

And though no one surely knew it then...she would, in the end, be by far the most famous of them all. If yes, for all the wrong reasons.

The story is rather fascinating. And it's actually very sad. It's about a time when rulers of countries didn't care about much about their people. If the people were okay enough to pay their taxes, that was in many (if not most) cases, good enough for 18th century royals.

The story is about a way of life where parents thinking of children as political tools and chattel was common and totally accepted. Did some think of their kids as the sweet, precious treasures we think of them today? Of course! Some people are simply born to be great parents.

But even those parents lived in a day when marriages were arranged. When it was common to think of the simplest forms of education as totally unnecessary. When parents could be commanded to turn over a child to a monarch who might in passing see them and decide they would make a handsome groom or maid.

Into this world Maria Antonia was born. And when she was born she was by all accounts healthy and cute - you know, your normal adorable baby!

From which cradled spot she grew up to be Marie Antoinette, Queen of France. Ill-equipped to understand the world around her, she lost her way and in the end, lost her head - the hard way.

It got cut off.

Marie Antoinette in French court dress
painting by Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun

 The story actually starts off in a very nice place - Castle Schoenbrunn, family seat of the Hapsburgs. This was the residence most favored by Francis, Marie Teresa and the sprawling family and court.

Castle Schoenbrunn - the Palace of the Hapsburgs 
where Marie Antoinette grew up

Yet even in such beautiful surroundings, life was far from perfect. For one, Maria Antonia's mother - the Queen - had little personal interest in her little one; her daughter would grow up to describe her relationship with her mother as one of "awe-inspired fear" with the accent on the 'fear' part.

Mother was far more interested in one of Maria Antonia's older sisters - Archduchess Maria Christina, who in sharing mom's birthday evidently got the typical astrological benefit most of us would think of as regal mom and royal daughter 'having some things in common.'

All this - the non-motherly mother part in particular - is etched in Maria Antonia's chart by an interception in her 10th house at the top of the chart...the 10th more and more being come to be seen by astrologers as the house of the mother, since mom is the one who generally sets the 'how we are to act in daily life' (Saturn-Capricorn) rules and standards for most kids.

Dad and 'the family' as a unit are 4th house...and with Maria Antonia, one's pretty much as bad as the other. Why? Because to have an interception in the 10th automatically means the other half of the interception will be in the 4th.

It's pretty much why bad parents come in pairs. Even if one's totally the monster and the other is co-dependent, they're still a pair. And to the child... even if they get married, figure out they can't STAND each other and divorce - to their children they are still (and eternally) mom and dad. In the child's chart, there are two bio-parents and that's that. 

So back to the mom/10th house thing. In this overbearing mother/10th house department we have an intercepted South Node. Given that the South Node is always 'the easy thing to do,' intercepted we have a picture of a child who not only is inclined to cooperate (as opposed to face possible consequences) but a child who pretty much has no other options. Whatever they are handed, they accept - good, bad, poor...or in this case royally rich and entitled, a status which set Maria Antonia apart from her world. That 'different' sort of life is her Uranus in 10, but again, it's intercepted - which makes sense. After all, she got born into a family which was already royal.

Last item in this Sedna, the symbol of our need for maturation, our struggle with becoming our own person regardless of what we are told by our parents, what our upbringing is/was - and in Maria Antonia's case, despite her having grown up in a family which didn't care about her first and last as a person, since obviously (at least to her mother) she was in part an asset to be used by the Royal State (her parents) as a means by which politics of the day could be advanced  and/or operated. 

With interceptions meaning 'there's no getting out of it' Maria Antonia had no way out of what she was born into and what she was born to be and become. She would never learn what the 'regular' world was about - which left her open to the criticisms of people dealing with life struggles Maria Antonia would never face or really understand.

Bottom line, Sedna in the 10th, here conjunct Uranus (her life "separate" from the real world) in an uncomfortable inconjunct with fanciful Neptune in the 3rd house of mentality gives us a picture of a Royal child...and in time, woman...who was charming yes. But realistic? No. Fully informed? Not hardly. Yet she was a royal female of her what she need with maturity?

Some people still think that way. For them, we have articles - like this ARTICLE ON SEDNA.

In the end, Sedna will prove emblematic of Maria Antonia's downfall - and with the 10th and top house of the horoscope being our most 'public' house, well it should. We see her through a prism of history, through a kaleidoscope of our own feelings about privilege, isolation and a distant past we think of romantically and yet with some disdain.

But meanwhile, there was Empress Mom, a woman who thought so little (or infrequently) of or about her little princess that by the time she was 12 (and getting betrothed to the future King of France) Maria Antonia could barely read or write properly in German, her native language. She was evidently some better with French though - that being because French (not German) as the language of the Austrian court.

What she did learn were manners and things thought useful to women of the time...her carriage was graceful and she was an excellent dancer, her style much admired and praised. She was also quite  talented with the playing of the harpsichord and was often prevailed upon to play for others, who took great delight in the young princesses musical abilities, all of which were such positive manifestations of her Neptune in 3 - the ability of the mind to suspend conscious ego in the freeing of artistry and talent.

 Thought to be either of German or Austrian of mid-17th century
make, the harpsichord shown above is probably much like
that played by Marie Antoinette
(displayed in the Courtauld Gallery)

But all this was to change. 1761 and 1762 were both marred by the death of siblings by smallpox timed out in detail with oppositions by Jupiter and Uranus to Maria Antonia's 5th house Libra Jupiter (emblem of her well-heeled childhood and all her fun times as a child). With natal Jupiter conjunct Sabine, she had been both captivated in her captivity and forced into isolation from others - that being the Libra part. 

Smallpox put and end to that, and that the overarching transits here were Pluto (emotional transformations) sextiling her Midheaven (view of life) and opposing Maria Antonia's ill-placed Eris-Medea was the onset of reality.

And once reality began imposing its chilling effects on her life, life would never be the same - which is exactly what Pluto does in astrological terms: the emotional experiences we undergo during Pluto transits change us, forevermore.

Smallpox would plague the family from 1761 through 1767, killing two of Maria Antonia's siblings and afflicting the formerly robust health of her mother.

Even more important than all this however, was the death of her father. Francis, Holy Roman Emperor of Austria, dies in 1765 when his daughter Maria Antonia is only 12 years old.

Astrologically, this is again Jupiter, which would have reached its first return point when Maria Antonia was 11.6 years old. That's the end of the first major period of human grown - self realization, we might call it.

That this loss was her father and that it was an enormous blow to the still young girl is told to us by the Solar eclipse of that summer hitting the bottommost point in her chart - the IC or Nadir. Her inner, foundational world had been blown apart. Neptune sextiling her Ascendant tells us she felt helpless and confused.

And that Eris (discord) was also trining a natal Vesta, signature of service, which is in this little girl's chart positioned right close to that IC/Nadir if on the 'I need to think in these terms' side? 

It all made perfect sense as mom took the reins of state into her imperial, Empress hands.

 Empress Marie Teresa of Austria in 1759 (at age 38)
as pained by Martin van Meylens

In a world of politics forged by marriage and with mom needing to cement alliances with Russia, Naples, Parma and Austria's enemy France in the wake of the Seven Years' War, the timing was perfect. For those times, Maria was all the woman she needed to be to be profitable (Jupiter) to others (Libra) by who she could be made to swear to serve both at a national and familial level (Vesta/IC).  

So it was that as a Lunar Eclipse hit Maria Antonia's Sedna (her maturity point) and Uranus (sudden changes) - both of which are 'captured' (intercepted) in her 10th house of marriage and all worldly, social doings, the mom so emblematic both of Austria as a sovereign state and so much in charge of Maria Antonia's rather 'intercepted' made all the arrangements: Maria Antonia would be married off to her second-cousin-once-removed, Dauphin Louis Auguste of France. 

As a little token of same, a miniature was painted of the future bride and sent off to the prospective hubby...

 The miniature portrait of the barely-teenaged Maria Antonia
which was sent to Louis to show him his future bride
- painting by Joseph Ducreaux

What young Louis August said when he saw the tiny painting of his future wife isn't recorded (or at least admitted to). There is in fact, every chance that he didn't even pay much attention to it, being far more interested in hunting, lock-smithing  and playing with model trains.

Whatever the case there however, as the North Node (that we have to do) came into position to sextile (interact with) Maria Antonia's learning-what-I-like-to-do Jupiter, obligation (North Node) won out and Maria Antonia obliged by allowing (sextile) herself to be married (by proxy) to Louis - who was physically still in France.

It must have been an interesting affair. Maria had just finished three months of oral surgery. Given there was no such thing as anesthesia as we know it in that day, she must have been happy to turn up and get the nod of approval from French representatives - the French having required this dental repair as part of the marriage deal, proving that France was ever a place where good looks were not only in fashion, but pretty much de rigure.

Thus with a 'beautiful and straight' smile, Maria Antonia went into a the Church of the Augustine Friars and, with brother Ferdinand standing in for the far-away Louis Auguste, she was married.

And thus she became Marie Antonette, Dauphine of France. 

Delivery to the French was made in early May under a shower Uranus transits showing Marie Antonette to be nervous, curious, being made to deal with strangers and probably above all, being made to leave all she had known.

Already married to him, Marie meets Louis on May 14th...

 Louis Auguste, Dauphin of France in 1776 at age 20
- painting by Joseph Siffred Duplessis

 ...and from there they proceed to a grand ceremonial wedding at Versailles...

 A modern panoramic picture of the central palace
which is Versailles - photo credit: Samuli Suomi

....after which off they go to the Royal Bedchamber, where the marriage is (of course!) supposed to be consummated.

Signified by 'this is what I was brought up to be' Vesta/IC conjunct a reluctant Cancer Mars, Marie probably wasn't enthralled with the prospect of sex with her new husband. And considering that as many a report would bear out he was less tickled than most with the idea of sex in general, it isn't surprising that the couple failed to...rise to the occasion in setting about their 'royal duty' to begin making heirs.

And that's where much of the troublesome rumors which would in time spout, grow and flourish all  started.

But for a time, the French populace was at least pretty happy with their new Dauphine. When Marie made her first royal appearance at the Tuileries in Paris, even royal watchers nodded in approval. With the occasion marked on her chart by a Lunar Eclipse conjunct Pluto, Eris, Tantalus and Medea, Marie herself probably thought it all a bit much, if something she knew she had to endure with as much grace, charm and enthusiasm as could be mustered.

And yet...that same set of symbols - the intense surge of sudden adoration (Pluto/Eris), enchanted admiration and love (Tantalus/Medea) - all that the  public suddenly felt for their new princess, those were exactly the qualities which would eventually turn on her. In the end, Pluto/Eris would be the violent loathing of the crowd, demanding her execution. Tantalus/Medea would accuse Marie of terrible crimes - everything from siphoning money off to her homeland of Austria to threesomes with ladies of the French court and even incest with her son, the one charge Marie Antoinette respond to by refusing to respond directly saying: "If I have not replied it is because Nature itself refuses to respond to such a charge laid against a mother."

But all that was still years away. In the meantime, there was the French court to deal with. Though she wasn't herself fond of the current king's powerful mistress Madame du Barry and though the King's own daughters hated daddy's mistress, Marie Antoinette knew that she had best be courteous.

Madame du Barry, mistress of King Louis XV
- portrait by Francois-Hubert Drouais

So as Pallas squared her Sun on New Year's Day 1772 she knew (Pallas) that she needed (square) to say something and be polite if merely to preserve herself (Sun).

And though the polite remark 'there are a lot of people at Versailles today' was certainly begrudged, it broke the ice. Du Barry was placated, the King calmed down and in time, Marie figured out that not all powerful women were as bad as her mother.

Another form of Pallas square Sun, yes: we face the challenge and through the challenge learn better.

Yet there was still the problem of no royal intimacy. To ease her feelings of rejection - and with a Sagittarius Juno in the 6th conjunct the critical 29 Sagittarius 7th house cusp we may assume one of Marie's problems (at least to begin with) was sheer sexual ignorance (Sedna intercepted in 10 as her mother having failed to properly educate her daughter in 'womanly matters') - to ease her feelings, Marie Antoinette took to gaming and gambling...and increasingly to indulging herself in pretty clothes and a 'pretend' land where she could have what she imagined a 'normal' life.

The pretty clothes matter has long been expected of royal women...and when they are loved, all eyes devour such beauty with rapturous pleasure! But when things get bad? Then every royal woman in history has been accused of excess. It's just the way things work and this double edged sword in Marie Antoinette's chart is perfectly pictured by her intense (critical degree) Gemini Ascendant - specifically that it's ruled primarily by a Sagittarian Mercury in the 6th, if also colored by Neptune fantasies from the mental 3rd.

Mercury is highly functional in the 6th, if very hasty and 'over-the-top' in Sagittarius. So when things were good for Marie Antoinette, she was the darling of the court and populace. But once people turned against her...?

This is all made worse by her Mercury being conjunct Ixion. So yes, excess will be required of Marie Antoinette, and yes, that helpers, servants and the court egged her on? Mercury as symbol of communication in the 6th house of helpers, service people and subordinates  would be the court supporting her...and gossiping behind her back, too! Throw in Ixion and we get the image of someone who was taught from birth that was actually part of her job to look better than the rest (thanks, mom).

And having had the French literally have this drilled into her with all that dental work prior to the marriage probably didn't help. The 6th being the house of health and Mercury/Ixion thus also the critique of her natural teeth would have hurt Marie Antoinette's confidence. Even once her teeth were fixed that sense that she could at any moment become the object of criticism...and that she had been sent from where she was accepted into this land of critique to do the job of being married to Louis?

It all had to be a terrible emotional stew from which came desperate (Mercury-in-Sag) efforts to 'fit in' and 'measure up' and of course the inborn sense of entitlement that her 'job' (station in life) gave her the right to dress in finery and so as she pleased.

Which was all well and good...until it wasn't, that is. And once it wasn't, then the gifts of office became the Queen's arrogance, sense of entitlement and  extravagance with the public treasury.

It all would have been made vaguer, grander, more lustrously beautiful and ultimately more obscene for her, for all who beheld her and for those who simply loathed her with Neptune - the ideal against the disappointment - in the mental 3rd. What had begun as her mother's neglect to teach Marie Antoinette to be intelligent instead of immature (Sedna) and fanciful (Neptune) became the combination; an immature inability to cope with life's realities.

For more on Ixion, CLICK HERE. We all have one, after all.

This was also the time when Marie Antoinette developed her own retinue - her "posse," in today's terms. Given that platonic relationships are very much symbolized by ego-denying Neptune, to have Neptune in the 3rd would also suggest a whole cadre of friends which filled her hours, says and thoughts.

Unfortunately however, such friendships in a land of suspicion could also be taken otherwise - which they were. Later, the very friendships with women of the court who helped Marie Antoinette learn French ways and wile away the hours in the absence of anything real to do would turn into wild accusations of lesbianism.

Was she bisexual? That would see a hard thing to think, considering Marie's in-built fear of women (starting with her mother) and the Scorpio Venus ruling her house of fantasies.

Conjunct her Sun, Medusa (the fearful truth) and Kallisto (carnal cravings) in the 5th house of childhood, it's to be imagined that every part of Marie Antoinette wanted to be anything but her mother. Mother had been to her nothing if not a dominant female and mistress of abandonment edged mightily in control over Marie Antoinette's youngest years. Men? Men she probably mistrusted as well but then again, if you had to pick one, with Marie Antoinette men were probably the far, far preferred gender.

A whole other way to look at the layout of Marie's chart would be to use it to see her mother's life. And if looked at in that light, the chart of Marie Antoinette suggests that her mother (the Empress) was herself was emotionally compromised in the sexual arena. Perhaps dominated if not out-and-out brutalized by her husband? Perhaps. But that would mean the great Empress loathed and feared the man to whom she delivered sixteen children!

Could that be? Actually, yes. And if you ask why, one very large reason for acquiescing would be because of a threat coming from the religious realm. Question: as Holy Roman Emperor, did Francis  threaten to excommunicate and damn Marie Teresa's very soul?

We'll probably never know. But Marie Antoinette's chart says it could have been so.

What we do know is that as summer 1775 was coming into flower and the societal/social Lunar Nodes were  returning to where they were when Marie Antoinette was originally born, Louis XV fell ill. He died in May and on June 11, 1775, Marie Antoinette's husband was made King.

This didn't make much difference to the marriage, however. And Louis seemed perfectly okay with things as they were, gifting his wife with the Petit Trianon - a little present from the husband King, as it were...

 The gates of Versailles' Petit Trianon, where Marie Antoinette
would try to recreate the magical surroundings of her youth

Was this love or trying to keep his wife out of the way on Louis' part? Maybe a bit of both. Marie Antoinette certainly humored Louis' 'who me, bed you?' stances. and no matter what the French tabloids said about "l'Autrichienne" (that Austrian woman!) Louis was quite adept at avoiding anyone his wife suggested might be suitably appointed to just about any post you can name.

And about that nickname from the press? When things got bad it (probably predictably) morphed into something a wee bit harsher: l'Autruchiennenne - with the change of one vowel (the middle 'i' to a 'u') 'that Austrian woman' became ostrich (autruche) + bitch (as in female dog: chienne).

Never let it be said the French aren't artful about and with their language!

As for the child(less) situation, that became more problematic when in 1775 a sister-in-law gave birth to a widdle tiny baby duke - who, unless Louis and Marie got busy might well become the next King of France.

With Saturn (life's requirements) square (challenging) Marie Antoinette's Chiron (things I know I need to do that I don't quite know how to get done) and Jupiter (childhood) opposing (facing) natal Eris in 6 (discord in one's responsibilities), Marie plainly knew The Deed needed doing. But how to entice a husband more fond of trains than French lingerie to her bed?

On his side, Louis had his own 'headaches.' Not only was France still reeling under war debt from that Seven Years' War (with Austria) which his wife's mother had decided to tar-paper over in part by marrying France's son to Austria's daughter, but then there was this pesky thing going on with Great Britain's north American colonies. Given a long-standing animosity between Britain and France it was a no-brainer - France was going to side with the colonists, future Americans though they may be. France was good at holding off on critiquing other countries for everything from fashion to bad cooking and they could wait where the colonies were concerned too.

So France was a busy place and already much wracked with national debt by the time the latest Austrian Holy Roman Emperor (Marie's brother Joseph) shows up for a visit in April 1777.

Emperor Joseph II of Austria
painting by Anton von Maron

And who knows what got said, too. But with Jupiter (knowledge) connecting with Marie Antoinette's North Node (what needs to be done) and Ceres (what we must do to bring in the harvest) and necessity-provoking Chiron both in a face-off opposition to her Moon (womanhood and/or money and/or family), something about this visit got the ball(s) rolling, as come May of 1778 the Ceres harvest was on Marie's agenda and her Ascendant - she was confirmed as being pregnant.

The first child was a daughter: Marie Therese Charlotte. And with a solar eclipse on Marie Antoinette's Ascendant at the December 1778 birth (thus on her daughter's Sun-as-life) point, it's not to be shocked that the daughter would go on to get caught up in the French Revolution, nor that during birth Marie Antoinette collapsed in (yes) one of those packed 'standing room only' boudoirs full of people wanting to see the Royal Birth even though the mother was hemorrhaging at the moment.

Solar eclipses having a record for unfolding as lengthy, three year transits, it's unfortunate if not surprising to hear that Marie then miscarried in 1779, lost her own mother in 1780 and in October 1781 finally gave birth to the long-desired son: Louis Joseph Xavier Francois.

Everyone heaved a big sigh - a son...a future king had been born! And yet, you'd think someone would have asked (or listened to) some court astrologer: the birth of this son - like that of Marie Therese - had been marked by an eclipse. This being a Lunar Eclipse cross-collateralized little Louis' chart about as distinctly as the Solar Eclipse had marked his sisters chart. Maybe even more so, since he was the child marked to be King and the Moon is always the sign of populace and homeland - and it would be Louis' homeland and populace which came to hate him so, though still a child he was when all finally went up in flames.

And there is the point that with the Moon representing the body's absorption processes, a Lunar Eclipse around the time of birth often signals problems with a little one's health. This would be seen with Louis Joseph, who was never a very sturdy child.

Mom meanwhile, must have been missing home, since she started doing what her own parents had done: de-formalizing the court. Marie Antoinette wanted out of the heavy make-up and was done with the big hoop-skirted gowns, favoring something more of the countrified look she'd seen growing up.

 Marie Antoinette wearing a "plain muslin dress"  critics considered highly 'improper' for any queen to be wearing - painting by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun

Marie Antoinette in the garden wearing another
'informal' dress, flanked by her children Marie-Therese
Charlotte and the Dauphin, Louis Joseph
- painting by Adolf Ulrich Wertmuller

Apart from the 'plus' of having given the nation an heir and the 'minus' of her departures from approved fashion, Marie Antoinette had other troubles too. Brother Joseph, for instance, had provided some sort of assist in the 'get on with the having kids' thing only to then go off and stir up military trouble against French interests.

And in a world where gossip was caloric intake, that wasn't good for his sister Marie Antoinette - to say nothing of what was actually going on (as evidently demonstrated in correspondence) between Imperial Bro of Austria and Queenly Sis of France. Joseph accused Marie of being politically inactive and therefore highly ineffective - for his purposes, of course. And she replied that she was not privy to the King's political views, nor was it advisable to be seen as being influential: "Would it be wise of me to have scenes with his (Louis') ministers over matters on which it is practically certain the King would not support me?" 

No, Marie Antoinette saw her role as being more about raising her children, seeing to their education and when she could, retreating to her little hameau - a real village hamlet created amidst the gardens of the Petit Trianon complete with a mill and a dozen cottages.

  Belvedere, one of the hamlet 'cottages' set amidst
the gardens of the Petit Trianon

When she wasn't busy watching village bread being baked and overseeing her children's lessons, the Queen was reading historical novels and indulging her 'scientific interest' in hot air balloons. She was fascinated by the philosophy of Rousseau and Inca  culture, sought out tutors in English and even began a pen-pal sort of correspondence with the Duchess of Devonshire - no doubt discussing the making of good cheeses and such.

But her children remained Marie Antoinette's greatest focus. As 1784 rolled through, the health of her son the Dauphin was hardly robust and Pluto squaring Marie's Sun told a tale of her concerns for his health. And, if truth probably be told, her health if he didn't survive, which considering the times was a very real consideration.

So she and King Louis got busy again, and as March 1785 was just about to end, son Louis Charles was born, probably to great joint parental elation. With Sedna square Eris (immaturity challenging discord) Marie cooed over her new little one and the wrong ears heard: questions began to fly as to exactly who the father of this new little royal actually was.

The other side of Sedna - that of feeling separate and separated from the life you really want - is probably all about Marie Antoinette's happiness at her second son, a far healthier boy than the first. She may have also longed for a big family like that she grew up in. Manifesting oftentimes as the wishes and hopes we cling to without really realizing how to achieve them, Marie Antoinette spent most of her fairly short life trying to find or construct somewhere she felt 'at home.'

She probably never did, never could and didn't know how to even get there. Virtually confined by royal privilege from birth, hers was probably the quintessential life in which happiness could not be really felt because she had no toil or basic challenges to use as a baseline. So when Louis Charles was born she celebrated by buying a chateau, intending to give it to her children.

The French public took note - for all the wrong reasons. The country was in debt and the Queen was buying a chateau to give to baby children?

Then of course came the infamous 'Diamond Necklace Affair' - a little debacle which had everyone buzzing that the Queen was trying to defraud the crown jewelers, regular Frenchmen just trying to do an honest job. True or not true, the image of Marie Antoinette was souring; that she was even part of the French royal scene was becoming more and more of an irritation to the people.

 The Jebuton reproduction of the famous 'diamond necklace'
which so contributed to the marring of Marie
Antoinette's reputation with the French people.

After the necklace affair, things got no better. In 1786 a daughter - Sophie Helen Beatrice - was born, and died within the year. 

The French monarchy was dying too. Between internal strife, external politics and an inability to pass fiscal reforms the very ship of French state looked ripe to sink.

All this was happening as yet another Solar Eclipse was hitting Marie Antoinette's chart. This time positioned at her Ascendant, it did was Solar Eclipses do, brought about a 'breakdown.' And on the Ascendant, this would be a breakdown of all she would try to be and do - and a breakdown of everything she got involved in.

Could that be a good thing? Possibly yes. If your chart is well formed and the Ascendant is well ruled and well aspected, we might think you were going to do a great deed. Even cure some rancid disease. But this just wasn't the case in Marie Antoinette's case: with a critical degree 29 Gemini Ascendant ruled by an  overblown Sagittarius Mercury sitting with the entitlement 'limited vision' of Ixion in the 6th house of responsibility? The natal position/rulership combination is a bomb. Then along comes the solar eclipse, which inserts a fuse into said bomb.

Then we add in Eris (discord) opposing Marie Antoinette's Part of Fortune: everything happening to disrupt (Eris) what she has to do in the moment (Part of Fortune). PLUS Neptune was trining her Eris - a signal of Neptunian veils as situations (or mindsets) which made it nigh unto impossible for Marie Antoinette to recognize the full and nasty scope of what was going on - or how she was making things worse for herself. That Eris, goddess of discord was also in this moment in trining league with the Queen's calculated Lilith - the emblem of societal disapproval? AND that Saturn (responsibility, government, one's times and time in life) were peaking, hitting the most public place in Marie Antoinette's chart?

This is the match being struck and applied to the fuse shoved deep into the bomb. It was only a sizzling matter of time before the blast would come.

And come, it did. On July 14, 1789 the French people rebelled. A mob stormed the Bastille.

 The Storming of the Bastille
- painting by Jean Pierre Houel

Did Marie Antoinette know her time had pretty much come? Pluto (emotional transformation) was squaring Marie Antoinette's calculated Lilith - the Black Moon of negative public opinion. Pallas (knowing) was united Eris (discord) - as was Ceres, the symbol of what we have sown, so do we reap.

 Maybe she saw herself as one of the causes of the revolt. More likely she saw herself as exactly what she was - a product of excessive times for some and impoverished privileges for others which had finally run its course.

On October 5th, the mob descended on Versailles. The King and Queen were escorted to Paris and locked up in the Tuileries. And there they stayed while the country raged and virtually tore itself apart fro two long years until in June 1791, the family tried to escape.

It didn't work. Vesta opposition Pluto on Marie Antoinette suggests she either was or felt betrayed by those sworn to serve her - and within 24 hours the Royals were back in custody. Political opponents called for the end of the monarchy in France, insisting that people so cowardly as to run should hold no power.

The Revolution surged on. A new constitution was adopted on September 3, 1791 - with Marie Antoinette hoping it would fail. All she knew was the rights and life of royalty; she thought democracy unworkable. Maybe, she thought...just maybe it was all going to be okay. Her brother Leopold II was now Emperor of Austria. Maybe he would find some way to quash those nasty revolutionaries!

 Leopold II, Emperor of Austria, with his family
- painting by Johann Zoffany

 Holy Roman Emperor Francis II (son of Leopold II),
who succeeded his father in March 1792, just in
time to receive France's declaration of war
- painting by Ludwig Streitenfeld

Alas, no. An aggressive politician in his own right (never mind what so often proves true when it comes down to family affection versus historical power), Leopold was more interested in how to possibly use French unrest to his (national) advantage rather than anything else.

To make things more complicated, Leopold dies just as hostilities are whipping into a froth. So it's his son - Francis II - the latest Holy Roman Emperor of Austria who is sitting in the royal hot seat when in
April 1792 France declares war on Marie Antoinette's native country.

Marie Antoinette, by now, is well vested in being French - the reasons for which were like as not still clustered about her feet reading books and playing with their expensive, royal toys. But her image suffers nonetheless. The French see her at that Austrian woman and with France now at war with Austria, she's one of THEM. 

To make things worse, Louis is still (of course!) fighting for his royal rights (not to mention his Royal Life)...during that summer, as French troops are getting their French fannies handed to them by blisteringly feisty Austrians, Louis vetoes several measures which might have helped the army - but which would have done so at cost to royal power.

Saturn - restrictions, governance, punishments, earning what you get (good or bad) and the reality of Reality - was at that point squaring Marie Antoinette's natal 8th house Saturn. Always a symbol of her difficulties with others, now it manifested in the public blaming her for her husband's choices as Parisians (and others) start calling her 'Madame Veto.'

On June 20th of that same year came the next literal blow - a terrifying mob breaks into the Tuileries. Louis is able to appease them, but just barely and only temporarily. The mob returns less than a fortnight later and forces the family to seek refuge at the Legislative Assembly. That sanctuary lasts barely an hour an a half - the Swiss Guards are massacred and the family is removed from what has been  relatively genteel house arrest in the Tuileries to the unpleasant realities of harsh confinement.

Trining Marie Antoinette's Midheaven - her image of the world - Neptune's famously awful power to symbolize the dissolving and dissolution of things we think so real marks this terrible time.

A week later, with cries of the Queens selfish lack of consideration for everything French being shouted in the streets, the family's attendants are taken away for interrogation, forcing Marie Antoinette to - for perhaps the first time in her whole life - take care of herself and her family. Sedna is at Marie Antoinette's South Node: her having had an 'easy time' hits home with a literal vengeance as she learns her dear friends and faithful household companions have been killed. Their heads are impaled on pikes and paraded outside the prison windows.

On September 21st, the end of the French monarchy has arrived. Pallas (wisdom) conjuncts Marie Antoinette's Sedna (our unwillingness or incapacity to grow up). Was she scared? Yes - very. But like as not, she also didn't yet conceive of what others could think of doing to her.

She soon learned. Separated from his family, Louis was charged with undermining the First French Republic and found guilty. He would be executed in January, 1793 at age 38 - guilty of having been born the son of a King.

Eris - discord - conjuncted Marie Antoinette's reality (Saturn) the day her husband was killed. It was also the day when the North Node would once again conjunct it's natal position...the same signal which had marked Louis' coronation.

Did she love him? Servile Vesta, positioned at Marie Antoinette's foundational IC, on that day merged with Venus - all which is brought to us and made real in our life. He had become her world...and now Louis was gone.

Once King Louis was dead, there was a debate about what to do about his wife and children. Ultimately, eight-year-old Louis Charles was taken from his mother and given into the care of a cobbler. Neptune trining Marie Antoinette's Ascendant was the disappearance of her love, her connection with hope, and probably her faith in life itself.

On August 1st she was taken from the tower and assigned to the Concierge as Prisoner Number 280. Uranus inconjuncted Saturn...change was rejected for resignation. The Queen was done fighting.

The Revolutionary Tribunal of October 14 was greatly a joke. Conducted by misogynistic Jacobians, it was mostly a moment to accuse Marie Antoinette of everything from sending money to Austria to plotting the death of a rival Duke to orchestrating the massacre of the Swiss Guards to incest with her son.

There was some protest - and some unexpected support from commonplace women who in the end recognized that Marie Antoinette was simply a woman...not some royal ghoul.

But the cards had been dealt, the trial's outcome rather surely pre-determined. On October 16th, after only two days of proceedings Marie Antoinette was declared guilty. Her keepers arrived and cut off all her hair, she was put in an open cart and driven across the city and at 12:15pm, Marie Antoinette was publicly executed in the Place de la Revolution - today's Place de la Concord.

An odd statement a word, 'revolution' is a very long way from 'concord.' The former is violent and bloody, the latter intellectual and peaceful.

But then, if there's anything mankind doesn't like to think about, it's just how inhumane humans can be to other humans in the name of goodness and equality.   

 Today's Place de la Concorde...then,
Place de la Revolution (Paris, France)


Marie Antonette's first son - the presumed Dauphin of the discarded monarchy - died in prison at age 14. He was guilty of nothing except having been born a royal son.

Marie-Therese Charlotte, Marie Antoinette's daughter, was finally turned over to Austria in a prisoner exchange. She married and died childless in 1851.

Originally tossed into unmarked graves, the bodies of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were exhumed on January 18, 1815 and given a fitting Christian burial at the Basilica of St. Denis.

 Originally a Benedictine monastery, the Cathedral of
Saint-Denis became the final resting place for
Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI during the 
Bourbon Restoration. 
photo credit - Beckstet/2005


Two last pieces of business before we close here. One is the famous 'let them eat cake' comment attributed to Marie Antoinette. Often quoted as an 'example' of how foolishly silly and uncaring she was, this seems an odd judgment considering Marie Antoinette probably had little idea (if any) of what it meant to live hand to mouth or count your pennies.

Beyond that, there appears to be no real evidence that she ever said such a thing. The original statement is this - it comes from the writing of Rousseau: 'Enfin je me rappelai le pis-alle d'une grande princess a qui l'on disait que les paysans n'avent pas de pain, et qui repondit: Qu'ils mangent de la brioche.'

Even if you don't speak French, it's easy enough to see that while there is a reference to 'princess,' no 'princess' is actually named. With Rousseau (like many philosophers) being prone to fanciful scenarios we are left to wonder. 

But cake? 'Qu'ils mangent de la brioche' does not mean 'let them eat cake' - brioche is a bread (and yes, I speak French).

  Et voila - brioche!

The very last thing...a perhaps sobering concept: the story of Marie Antoinette revolves in her personal chart greatly around the symbol of Eris Discord. And this is more than apropos when one thinks of the French Revolution - it was bloody discordant indeed!

Don't know enough about Eris? CLICK HERE.

And if we look to the dotted line between Marie Antoinette and the Revolution, what we see is France: a nation which had expended so much on war that it couldn't afford to exist. In the end, the government imploded not because France the nation was conquered from without, but because it became  undermined from within, collapsing under its own overextended weight.

That's in the end how Eris works. Eris is not about what others do to us or who they are and whether we like them, believe them or believe as they do, it's about our ability to be either rational and not discordant - or the very embodiment of rationally discordance: the person willing to risk personal discord in the name of social/societal equanimity and equality.

Eris has an orbital period of 557.438 years. Granting this is a global transit, it seems worth contemplating that a quarter Eris cycle after America won its independence was when the world went into WWI. And that one quarter Eris cycle after the French Revolution brings us to the date of America's Great Depression - an event which like the recent economic downturn  was felt around the world. And how a quarter Eris cycle after Civil War and the United States launched its assault on Iraq.

Granted - the world is a naturally erratic place. But it seems just as obvious that Eris and its cycles matter.  Are we all pawns...? Or are we willing to accept that (to paraphrase the Bard...) the discord lies not in our stars, but in ourselves?

As this blog's November 2, 2010, the 255th anniversary of Marie Antoinette's birth. She probably wouldn't want us to lose our head over anything - so let's not.

Instead, let's wish her well and thank her for having left us the legacy of a life story which, in teaching us something, perhaps makes us all her children of spirit...which might be a gift to her as in the end it seems obvious that Marie Antoinette did very much want to be the good and caring mother her own mother wasn't to her.

And the lesson? There may be much to think about, but maybe the most important point is how privilege matters not at all if we have no idea what privilege really means.

Or is.


  1. Fascinating story, and how it is all bound up with Eris.

  2. Vive la Monarchie Française! Les Bourbon sont très magnifique et très grand!

  3. I have a question about interceptions. Why does the fact that there is no cusp in the sign effect planets in the sign, when you often have planets inside a house from the previous sign, and the next cusp doesn't seem to effect them at all?

    I had my progressed ascendant move from Pisces to Aries, making my Saturn in the 12th in Pisces intercepted, the 12th cusp is still in Aquarius, so why does it matter that the next house cusp has moved?

    1. Great question - the answer to which is found in the old astrological rule "the good or bad which comes out of the house" (meaning, the planets in that house) "is determined by the state of the ruler of the sign on the cusp of that house." What this means is that the plus or minus of any planet in any house is, to a great degree, read (determined) through examining the ruler of the sign on the cusp - which in turn means any sign(s) which don't have a cusp to call their own will have a hard/harder time finding their 'voice' in that person's life.

      This can point to frustrations. Then again, intercepted signs (and the planets contained within them) also tend to describe 'inner understandings' of a sort which the person with the interception often uses to 'power' or 'empower' matters pertaining to the house in which the interception falls, so as with all else, there are good parts and bad parts to such a placement.

      A personal point of observation I can add: paying attention to aspects being cast by intercepted planets is important. Often the intercepted planet will 'find its voice' through such aspects with non-intercepted planets in non-intercepted houses - and in such cases, the positive or negative there will be read by looking at the state or status of the planet ruling the sign on that secondary house.

      As for applying any of this through transit theory as opposed to the theory of progressions, in my experience transits refer to real time, worldly events, and the effect such events have on us where progressions tend to be more personal and private - call them part of our 'maturation' or growth process rather than 'of the moment' successes, failures or encounters.

      Does that help?