When Marie Antoinette married Louis-Auguste, Dauphin of France in 1770, who later became King Louis XVI of France, was she considered as a fully legitimate bride or was there some sort of political compromise involved? On the one hand, her mother was the Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa, but on the other I don't recall any French Kings who had married Habsburg princesses at any earlier times.

Did the members of the House of Bourbon look down on the Habsburgs or the inverse (or both) for heraldic reasons? Were there any explicit house rules by which French royals had to obey in such matters and at that time? (If memory serves, the Habsburgs would later list approx. two dozen families whose daughters they considered legitimate matches.)

  • Another strange downvote on this site. I would delete this question but cannot as it already has received an answer. Bye ... – Drux Jul 14 '14 at 10:10
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    was not me, but I would've upvoted if you elaborate on the "fully legitimate bride" concept you're speaking of here. The thing is the closest I can think of is marrying someone from a non-royal house. That of course did not apply to Marie Antoniette, and was not a French concept anyhow (French kings having habitually married wealthy French heirlesses to consolidate their kingdom). – Semaphore Jul 14 '14 at 10:23
  • @Semaphore Here is an example that involved a later Habsburg and his non-eligible (by some standards) bride. – Drux Jul 14 '14 at 10:38
  • Well yes, that's what I had mentioned earlier: a morganatic marriage. Sophia Chotek von Chotkow und Wognin was a countess marrying a royal prince. See my last comment on why it didn't apply here. – Semaphore Jul 14 '14 at 10:49
  • What do you mean by "legitimate", or "fully legitimate"? I don't understand the context of the question. – Mark C. Wallace Jul 14 '14 at 11:08

As a bride, Marie Antoniette might have been disliked by some due to the longstanding conflict between the two dynasties. But in terms of legitimacy, I'm not sure what could be illegitimate about being an Archduchess of Austria. Indeed, I'm not sure how one could ask for a more legitimate bride than a princess of Europe's most prestigious royal house.

In fact Kings of France had been marrying Habsburg princesses long before Louis XVI:

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    Where's the evidence for the Habsburgs being the most prestigious European royal house in the 18th century? +1 for the concrete list of names, as there are some who traveled West to France (i.e. not from Spain), which I was not aware of. – Drux Jul 14 '14 at 10:08
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    @Well, they were an Imperial family, after all, and Emperors are even higher than Kings, theoretically. – Felix Goldberg Jul 14 '14 at 10:53
  • @FelixGoldberg Theoretically. In practice the fact that theirs was also a Catholic royal house was perhaps even more key. But without better evidence I'm still not convinced that the French court would would normally have considered Vienna (first) when choosing a heir's bride in the late 18th century. – Drux Jul 14 '14 at 11:06
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    @Drux Whoa, hold on, I don't think anyone said a Habsburg was France's "first" choice. Marriage alliances were conducted for geopolitical and strategic reasons. In Marie Antoniette's case, it was to cement Austria's alliance in the Seven Years War All I'm saying is the a Habsburg Princess was quite qualified (in terms of status) to become Queen of France. – Semaphore Jul 14 '14 at 11:15
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    @Semaphore Now we are getting somewhere. This is what I am interested in (but was asking in a somewhat oblique way, as I now realize.) Anyway, spending more effort does not seem worthwhile. – Drux Jul 14 '14 at 11:24

The striking thing was that France and Austria had been political rivals going back to the time of Francis I (France) and Charles V (Austria). Until the mid 18th century.

After winning the 100 Years' War, France became the strongest power in western Europe. Spain and Austria (counting the Holy Roman Empire) were two and three, and when Princess Juana of Spain married Prince Philip of Austria to produce (Holy Roman) Emperor Charles V, the combination of the "next two" became stronger than number one.

Fast forward to the 18th century. After two centuries of mutual antagonism, France and Austria were pushed into an uneasy alliance against a combination of two new "upstart" powers. England had about one-third the population of France, and Prussia about one third of the population of Austria-Hungary, but both of them "punched above their weight," to the point of "stalemating" France and Austria-Hungary (Russia switched from the Franco-Austrian to Anglo-Prussian side at the end of the Seven Years' War.)

The marriage of Austria's Marie Antoinette and France's Louis XVI cemented the alliance of two "legitimate" great powers against the two "upstarts."

It's also noteworthy that Maria Theresa herself was married to Francis, Duke of Lorraine (then a part of France). If the Austrian Court was willing to marry the heiress to the throne to a French duke, it certainly wouldn't object to a non-heiress princess marrying a Dauphin.

  • +1 Thrilling short summary of several centuries of history. Can you recommend any book with a similar scope and argument? – Drux Jul 14 '14 at 15:46
  • @Drux: That book probably doesn't exist, at least until I write it. – Tom Au Jul 14 '14 at 21:02
  • Tom Au - Lorraine was not a part of France, nor was Francis a French duke, when Francis and Marie Theresa were engaged, although due to losing a war he did have to agree to cede Lorraine to France for the marriage to go through. Francis was a pro Imperial and ANTI-French duke politically since the kingdom of France had already stolen Lorraine from his family from 1641-1648, and from 1670-1697. Lorraine had been part of the Holy Roman Empire since 972, and part of the Kingdom of Germany for even longer. – MAGolding May 27 '16 at 3:51

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