Originally produced by BBC, the three-episode-long series airing on PBS aims to debunk the falsehoods overshadowing their achievements. Take, for instance, the episode titled “The Doomed Queen,” which interrogates whether Marie Antoinette really insisted on a life of luxury at all cost. We investigate: What happened to her children?
So, what happened to Marie Antoinette’s children?
Marie Antoinette married Louis-Auguste de France, the grandson of Louis XV, on May 16, 1770. The French nobleman was just 15, while Marie Antoinette — one of the youngest daughters of Austrian Empress Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. — was just 14. Louis-Auguste was crowned as the King of France in 1774 at the age of 19.
The young couple faced mounting pressures to start a family — but their plans to do so didn’t come to fruition until several years after their wedding ceremony. According to Biography, the notoriously nosy members of the royal court were busy concocting vicious rumors about their inability to conceive — which only came to an end once their first daughter, Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte, was born in 1778.
She was followed by Louis Joseph Xavier, who was born in 1781. Their second son, Louis-Charles, was born in 1785. Their second daughter, Sophie, was born in 1786.
The first tragedy struck in 1786, when their youngest daughter, Sophie, died of tuberculosis. The second came three years later, when the royal couple lost their oldest son, Louis Joseph Xavier as well.
But Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had to face up to difficulties far greater than the tragic death of their beloved children. The summer of 1786 marked a turbulent time for French politics.
Increasingly dissatisfied with the unashamedly exuberant lifestyle of their leaders, the French lower-classes demanded more rights. The Storming of the Bastille was among the first events to pose a serious threat to the very existence of the royals.
Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, their children, and the King’s sister, Elisabeth, were locked up inside the Temple on August 10, 1792.
They stayed there for the next two months, with the Queen teaching Louis-Charles about the work of Corneille and Racine, and giving Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte history lessons. The King was executed a few months later, on Jan. 21, 1793, The Smithsonian reveals.
The Queen’s trial began on Oct. 14, 1793. During the 32-hour-long ordeal, she was accused of sexually abusing her son — a falsehood that was likely made up by one of the jail guards serving at the Temple. She was executed on Oct. 16, 1793.
Louis-Charles died from tuberculosis in June 1795. Dozens of imposters stepped forward in the years following his death, with many pretending to be the French royal, The Smithsonian reveals. As some claimed, the real Louis-Charles was smuggled out of the country in 1795. It was believed that the dead body buried at Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis was merely a dummy.
It was only in 2000 that a team of medical researchers successfully proved that the body found in the grave was genetically related to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Biography reveals.
Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte was the only one to survive the conflict-ridden period. She was even crowned the Queen of France for 20 minutes in 1830. She died in 1851.