In the family of Marie-Antoinette there were some members who were masons, including her father Emperor Francis I. Her mother, Empress Maria Theresa, was vehemently against masonry. The Empress sent the police to raid one of the lodges while her husband the Emperor was at a meeting, and he had to escape by a back staircase.
While there is no evidence that Marie-Antoinette was herself ever initiated into a lodge, she went through a time when she was favorable to freemasonry. Her close friend, the virtuous Madame de Lamballe, presided over the Lodge of the Social Contract, one of the ladies' lodges or loges d'adoption. In 1781, Madame de Lamballe became Grand Mistress of all of the Lodges of Adoption in France. That same year, Marie-Antoinette wrote to a friend, praising the good works of the masonic sisterhood, and how they provided dowries for poor girls and were very pious. She also praised them in a letter to her sister Marie-Christine, saying: "It is only a society of benevolence and pleasure." (see Nesta Webster's Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette Before the Revolution, p. 237-238) She and Louis XVI both saw the masons as a means of charitable works to benefit society, and they both may have at one point visited certain lodges, so that to this day, some masonic groups claim them as their own.
There is also evidence that Marie-Antoinette's best friend Madame de Polignac was a member of a ladies' lodge, although not to the extent that Madame de Lamballe was involved; it was considered the fashionable thing to do. Nesta Webster, who blames the masons for practically everything, said that the Lodges of Adoption were harmless enough ladies' clubs. They were probably one step away from the Mopses, but still, in my opinion, Catholics should not have joined, since masonry was forbidden by the Church.
As for Louis XVI, there has long been a debate as to if he was ever formally initiated into a lodge as his brothers probably were. When he ascended the throne, Louis XVI was quite liberal and progressive; like all young progressives at the time he saw the masons not only as harmless, but as a group who would benefit society by active good works. Some of this explains his initial acquiescence to certain measures in the beginning of the Revolution which were damaging to the Church, especially the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. He admits as much in the Vow to the Sacred Heart which he made under house arrest in the Tuileries in 1791.
It is true that many monarchists were masons and many revolutionaries were not masons. However, in the years preceding the Revolution of 1789, masonic lodges formed a network that fomented discord, spread propaganda against the King and especially against the Queen. The lodges were used by a core of aristocrats and politicians who wanted to secularize society, and destroy the Church, or at least enervate it, by destroying or by seizing the crown.
Marie-Antoinette came to see this quite clearly. In August of 179o she wrote to her brother Emperor Leopold of Austria: "Be well on your guard where you are with regard to all associations of Freemasons. You must already have been warned that it is by this means that all monsters here count on attaining the same end in every country. Oh, God, preserve my Fatherland and you from such misfortunes." ( Lettres de Marie-Antoinette, edited by Maxime de la Rocheterie, 2 vol., 1895) For Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI, the warnings had not been heeded, until it was too late. Share