Did Marie Antoinette Have Children?

Marie Antoinette gave birth to four children, two boys and two girls, before her untimely death during the French Revolution.

Aug 9, 2023By Rosie Lesso, MA Contemporary Art Theory, BA Fine Art

marie antoinette with children


The famed French Queen consort Marie Antoinette led a complex and multifaceted life before being overthrown by revolutionaries. Nonetheless, she had four biological children with her notoriously weak husband King Louis XVI, before facing her execution in 1793. They were: Marie Thérèse Charlotte, born on December 9, 1778, Louis Joseph Xavier François, born in 1781, Louis XVII, born in March 1785, and Sophie Hélène Béatrix, born in July 1786. Tragically she was separated from her children during the French Revolution, and only one of them eventually survived to tell the tale of her family history. Below we take a closer look at who her children were in more detail.


Marie Thérèse Charlotte

Portrait of Marie Antoinette Adolf Ulrich Wertmuller 1786
Portrait of Marie Therese Charlotte, first daughter of Marie Antoinette, by Adolf Ulrich Wertmuller, 1786


Marie Thérèse Charlotte was the first and eldest child of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI, and was born in 1778. Also known as Madame Royale, she was raised in the French court at Versailles. Following the French Revolution, she was the only surviving child in her family, and one of only a handful of royal children to make it out of the conflict alive. Revolutionaries had originally sentenced her to death, but she narrowly escaped this fate when her sentence was reduced to a permanent exile. In 1824, she became the Dauphine de France, following marriage to her cousin, Louis Antoine, Duke of Angouleme. 


Louis Joseph Xavier François

Portrait of Louis Joseph Xavier Francois, by Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller, 1784
Portrait of Louis Joseph Xavier Francois, first son of Marie Antoinette, by Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller, 1784


Louis Joseph Xavier François was the second child of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, born in 1781. As the first boy to be born into his family, he became next in line to the throne, before his elder sister Marie, as was customary at the time. Born and raised in the palace of Versailles, he was a fragile child from the age of 3 onwards who suffered a series of illnesses, including regular high fevers. His family sent him to live in the Chateau de la Muette for a year in 1784, where the air was reportedly beneficial to one’s health and he began to show signs of improvement. On his return to the palace of Versailles, however, his health took another downward turn – following a series of particularly high, aggressive fevers, he died of tuberculosis in 1789. 


Louis XVII 

Louis XVII of France, by Alexander Kucharsky, 1792
Louis XVII of France, second son of Marie Antoinette, by Alexander Kucharsky, 1792

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The younger brother of Marie and Louis Joseph, Louis XVII was born in 1785 and spent his early years in the palace of Versailles alongside his siblings. In 1792, he was locked up by revolutionaries in the Temple prison as the French Revolution took hold. By this point he was the successor to the throne, following the death of his older brother in 1789.


Tragically Louis was never released from prison; he died of tuberculosis while locked away in 1795 at the mere age of 10, most likely due to the harsh conditions of life in imprisonment. Because of the secrecy surrounding his death, rumors spread that he was in fact still alive and had gone into hiding, while various individuals claiming to be the future King Louis came forward. It wasn’t until 1999, following extensive research on Louis’ remains, that his death in the Temple Prison in 1795 was confirmed. 


Sophie Hélène Béatrix

A possible sketch portrait of Sophie Helene Beatrix by Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun, 18th century
A possible sketch portrait of Sophie Helene Beatrix by Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun, 18th century


Sophie Hélène Béatrix was the youngest child of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, born in 1786. Following her birth, she was legally titled Her Royal Highness, but became known in her short life as Madame Sophie. Sadly, Sophie’s life was cut short at the age of just 11 months old, following complications after contracting tuberculosis, much like her two older brothers. Marie Antoinette’s foster brother Joseph Weber tried to comfort her following Sophie’s death by claiming the young baby would not yet have formed a close attachment to her mother, to which Marie Antoinette replied,” Don’t forget that she would have been my friend.”

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By Rosie LessoMA Contemporary Art Theory, BA Fine ArtRosie is a contributing writer and artist based in Scotland. She has produced writing for a wide range of arts organizations including Tate Modern, The National Galleries of Scotland, Art Monthly, and Scottish Art News, with a focus on modern and contemporary art. She holds an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from the University of Edinburgh and a BA in Fine Art from Edinburgh College of Art. Previously she has worked in both curatorial and educational roles, discovering how stories and history can really enrich our experience of art.