This Week In History: October 15-21


This week in history: Marie-Antoinette is beheaded after four years of prison and a-Ha’s “Take On Me” music video hits top US charts. Read more below and dive deeper with The Great Courses Plus.

October 16, 1793 – Marie-Antoinette Beheaded

The palace at Versailles

On October 5, 1789, the women of Paris took to the streets and marched the 13 miles to Versailles. They were protesting the scarcity of bread due to economic turmoil and the callous approach the royal family seemed to have as they continued to live lavish lifestyles while their citizens suffered. After relatively violent confrontation at the palace, the Royal family was forcibly escorted back to Paris.

Four years later, both King Louis XVI and his Queen, Marie-Antoinette were to be disposed of. Before their deaths, they languished in prison.

Image of Marie Antoinette before her execution
Marie Antoinette before her public execution by guillotine on Place de la Révolution, on 16 October 1793

They attempted escape once to Austria, but were foiled and rearrested. On October 16, 1793, nine months after Louis was executed, Marie-Antoinette was led to the guillotine and condemned for treason. She was beheaded as crowds watched the end of the french monarchy.

Learn more about the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution on The Great Courses Plus

October 19, 1985 – “Take On Me” music video hits top US charts 

The catchy, synth-pop song “Take On Me” by a-Ha inspires head bobbing, horn swings, and bad karaoke. Its illustrated music video, however, utilized decades-old method called Rotoscoping and propelled the song to #1 on US music charts on October 19, 1985. The video portrays a handsome motorcycle racer wooing a young woman while being pursued by a gang of pipe-wrench wielding men. The video also won not only the hearts of millions but also a record of eight wins at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards.

Learn more about drawing and art in How To Draw on The Great Courses Plus