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In the Eighteenth century, Empress Marie Therese of Austria tells her daughter, Marie Antoinette, that a marriage has been arranged between her and the Dauphin Louis XVI, heir to the throne of France. Marie expects a life of grandeur, but is confused by her future husband, an extremely shy and introverted man whose only joy in life seems to be derived from his skill as a locksmith. Abandoned by Louis on their wedding night, Marie follows the malicious advice of the power-hungry Duke d'Orleans to find solace in revels and gambling. One day, she meets Count Axel de Fersen, and is stung when he refuses to indulge her imperious whims. Two years after Marie's marriage, Madame du Barry, the mistress of King Louis XV, the Dauphin's grandfather, sends Marie an empty miniature cradle as an anniversary gift, a pointed reminder that Marie has not yet produced an heir. After a confrontation at a ball to conciliate Madame du Barry and Marie, Louis XV decides that the marriage between his grandson and Marie should be annulled. This proposal drives Louis XVI to anger at last, and he defends his wife, but the king remains adamant. Marie, meanwhile, is cruelly discarded by d'Orleans, who stayed at her side only while she enjoyed favor. Marie is consoled by seeing Axel, who reminds her of their childhood friendship and declares his love for her. Plans for an annulment are cancelled when the King unexpectedly dies, and Marie's hopes for a romance with Axel end when he realizes that he cannot conduct a love affair with a queen. He then leaves after vowing his eternal love. The dauphin, now King Louis XVI, becomes an affectionate husband, and soon fathers a daughter and then a son by Marie. Though he tries to be a just ruler, he is unable to stem the tide of mounting social unrest. Marie's extravagances, especially her unwitting purchase of an expensive diamond necklace, exposes the French peoples' hatred for their Austrian queen, and this, along with oppression and the political machinations of d'Orleans, lead to a revolution. By now, the ineffectual king has lost influence over the military, and after the mob storms the palace, the royal family is imprisoned. Immediately after their imprisonment, their friend and companion, Princesse de Lamballe, is taken from them and executed. Hope briefly comes when Axel, whose love for Marie is known by Louis, arranges for an escape by bribing a guard, but the family is soon recaptured. Condemned by the assembly, including the treacherous d'Orleans, the royal couple and their children share one last dinner. The next day the King is executed, and Marie and her son are separated. The boy is forced to testify against his mother at the assembly and they are both sentenced to death. Axel comes to the now prematurely aged and worn queen one more time before she is led to the guillotine.