Partly based on the biography by Stefan Zweig, an Austrian princess becomes Queen of France until the revolution takes revenge.
Marie Antoinette (Norma Shearer) learns she is going to marry the next king of France. King Louis XV (John Barrymore) presents Marie to his grandson, the dauphin Louis (Robert Morley), and they are wed. Louis tells Marie he will have no heir. Madame du Barry (Gladys George) complains to Louis XV about the Duke of Orleans (Joseph Schildkraut), who urges Marie to rebel against Du Barry by conquering Paris. Marie is insulted by a gift from Du Barry.
Orleans presents Marie at a ball. At an artists' ball Marie kisses Orleans. Marie welcomes in Swedish Count Axel de Fersen (Tyrone Power) as a Russian to win at forfeits. Axel declines Marie's invitation, but she kisses him. Marie loses her necklace. Count de Mercey (Henry Stephenson) warns Marie about her extravagance and tells her to recognize Du Barry. At a ball Marie greets Louis XV but insults Du Barry. Marie tells Orleans her marriage is to be annulled, and he abandons her. Louis goes to Louis XV to plead for Marie to stay and says he will be king and keep her. Axel happens to meet Marie and offers to help. He says he learned of her from her governess and explains she filled her emptiness with pleasure. Marie and Axel realize they love each other; she gives him a ring, and they stay up all night. Marie learns that Louis XV is dying and that she will be queen. Louis XVI tells her he can be a husband now. Marie kisses Axel and tells him to come to her; but he says he is going to America.
In the palace Marie gives birth to a son. The voice of Orleans rouses people for liberty, equality, and fraternity. Marie tells Louis XVI that people threw stones. He gives her a document from Axel. Marie declines to buy an expensive necklace in hard times; but La Motte (Henry Daniell) arranges to buy it secretly. Marie denies she bought it and blames De Rohan. Orleans tells Louis XVI to abdicate to his regency. At a charity opera Marie and people learn that de Rohan was acquitted. Louis XVI decrees the assembly closed. Marie urges Louis to speak to troops, but they laugh. A mob breaks into the palace, while Danton argues in the assembly to protect the king and queen. The army keeps them imprisoned. Axel comes for Marie. On June 20, 1791 a guard helps Marie dress simply and escape to a carriage. Axel tries to sneak out the royal family; but a man realizes he saw the king and diverts the waiting escort. In Varennes the king is identified, and they are arrested. In the assembly Orleans votes for death with Marat and Robespierre. Louis promises to mend his son's toy soldier. Marie hears his execution, and her son is taken away. Axel uses an alias and goes to Count de Mercey, who says even Orleans was arrested. Mercey tells Axel that Marie was convicted. Axel confesses in order to see Marie, who cries in his arms. Marie is taken in a cart to the guillotine.
This personal drama skips over Marie Antoinette's political influence with her husband and efforts with Austria, but it reflects quite well the extravagant pre-revolutionary French court and the terror of the revolution.