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Silver medal of the Execution of Marie Antoinette, by Conrad Heinrich Küchler
London, England, AD 1794
'If I was not Queen, one would say that I had an insolent air'
An Austrian princess, Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) was never popular with the French public. She was often accused of putting Austrian interests ahead of those of her husband's kingdom. Her unpopularity was increased by her extravagant spending, which was often unfairly connected with the grave financial difficulties that beset France in the 1780s. This uncertain position put her in danger in the revolutionary period. This was not helped by her uncompromising stance to even the more moderate revolutionaries and her attempts at collusion with other European powers to try to suppress the insurgents. After a failed escape bid by the royal family in 1791, and the abolition of the monarchy in 1792, Louis XVI was tried for treason and executed in January 1793. The former queen was tried by the National Assembly and executed on 16 October 1793.
Conrad Heinrich Küchler (died 1810), in partnership with the famous entrepreneur Matthew Boulton, produced this medal as a commercial speculation. Küchler came to work in London in March 1793, producing medals on the fate of Louis XVI, and expanded the cycle of subjects as they occurred. The British public, fascinated by the events in France, eagerly consumed revolutionary memorabilia. The medal was begun in October 1793, presumably days after the event, and issued in March 1794. The obverse (front) bears a portrait of the executed queen, while on the reverse is the dramatic scene of the queen borne through the crowds towards the guillotine. It bears the date and legend 'Altera Venit Victima' ('the next one becomes a victim); in many ways a victim of the outmoded form of absolutist rule which she represented.
D. Bindman, The shadow of the guillotine: (London, The British Museum Press, 1989)