Marie Antoinette: A Biography

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Family life in Vienna, the wedding at Versailles, the French court, boredom, hypocrisy, loneliness, allies, enemies, extravagant entertainment, scandal, intrigue, sex, birth and bereavement, lovers, peasant riots, the fall of the Bastille, the attack on Versailles, confinement in the Tuileries, escape and capture, mob rule in Paris, imprisonment, the guillotine...

In Marie Antoinette Evelyne Lever tells the ...

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Overview

Family life in Vienna, the wedding at Versailles, the French court, boredom, hypocrisy, loneliness, allies, enemies, extravagant entertainment, scandal, intrigue, sex, birth and bereavement, lovers, peasant riots, the fall of the Bastille, the attack on Versailles, confinement in the Tuileries, escape and capture, mob rule in Paris, imprisonment, the guillotine...

In Marie Antoinette Evelyne Lever tells the sumptuous story of the last--and the most infamous--queen of France. Married off at fourteen by her ruthless mother for political purposes to the unprepossessing Dauphin, the future Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette was immature, brazenly self-indulgent, impetuous and wholly unprepared for the role history cast for her. Her sad attempts to consummate her marriage read like bedroom farce, and she did little to quell the rumors of her increasingly dangerous liaisons. Bolstered by the staged receptions that she mistook for popular approval, she was willfully out of touch with the nation's dire economic troubles, the seething social and political climate of prerevolutionary France, and eventually retreated--from both her husband and the public--behind a wall of courtiers and into a world of opulent fantasy--until it was too late.

Based on diaries, letters, court documents and memoirs, Marie Antoinette paints vivid portraits of the Queen, her inner circle and the lavish court life at Versailles. Here are the formidable Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, using her daughter Antonia, as Maria Antoinette was called, to realize her own ambitions for the Habsburg empire; the legendary Madame du Barry, lover of Louis XV, whom Marie Antoinette vowed never to address; the dashing Count Axel Fersen, heir to one of the most powerful Swedish families and the grand passion of Marie Antoinette's life; and the inept and hapless Dauphin, a ruler incapable of action even as he watched the monarchy collapse around him.

From Marie Antoinette's birth in Vienna in 1755 through her turbulent, unhappy marriage, the bloody turmoil of the French Revolution, her trial for high treason (during which she was accused of incest) and her final beheading. Lever weaves a tragic hale of power and its abuse, and an unforgettable tapestry of life in eighteenth-century France.

Evelyne Lever is a leading French historian and the author of seven books, including, most recently, Madam de Pompadour. Marie Antoinette is her first book to be published in the United States. She lives in Paris with her husband, Maurice Lever, the author of Sade.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This romantic portrait of the queen who was reviled--and eventually executed--by the French revolutionaries transforms the woman who supposedly said "Let them eat cake" from a symbol of the cruelty of class politics into a quaint sovereign. Lever, a French historian who has written biographies of Madame de Pompadour and other figures of the French court, sees Marie Antoinette as a fashionable and frivolous victim of salacious rumors. While she admits that her subject had a "complete lack of insight into the aspirations of the majority of the French people," Lever portrays Antoinette as the novelistic heroine she always wanted to be--not an actor on the political stage. Her "voluptuous bosom," "fleshy mouth" and "supple neck," Lever writes, were unspoiled by her "slightly protruding blue eyes," and she "knew better than any other sovereign how to bring to perfection the aristocratic art of living of prerevolutionary France." Although a compelling narrative, the book doesn't do justice to the weighty moral and political themes Marie Antoinette's life and death raise. The queen, it is clear, was a political disaster, managing to alienate both a sizeable section of the courtly aristocracy and the starving masses. Her extravagance and counter-revolutionary impulses provoked "incredibly venomous" lampoons (and, of course, her death). But Lever never takes up these components of her life. Rather, she repeatedly ascribes acts of revolutionary violence to "madness" perpetrated by "madmen." Energetically researched in Paris, Vienna, even Sweden (the home of the queen's dark, handsome beau, who also "looked exactly like the hero of a novel"), the book is evocative, but romance, rather than historical analysis, takes precedence here. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (July) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Lever is a noted French historian who has written several biographies on major players in the turbulent events of late 18th-century France, and this is her first book to be translated into English. She shines a penetrating light on the opulent Versailles subculture and the queen whose royal excesses served as a major catalyst for the revolutionary upheaval of 1789. Through the skillful use of memoirs and other primary documents, Lever creates an empathic picture of Louis XVI's headstrong wife. Marie Antoinette never grasped the nuances of French court politics. Her haughty manner, extramarital romances, and extravagant spending habits served as grist for the palace rumor mill and for the pamphleteers bent on destroying the monarchy. Yet Marie Antoinette also displayed courageous devotion to her family and the Royalist cause--even as the guillotine blade dropped on her royal neck. This is an absorbing work of meticulous scholarship and easily supplants any recent biographies of the tragic queen (e.g., Carolly Erickson's To the Scaffold, LJ 3/1/91). Recommended for academic and public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/00.]--Jim Doyle, Sara Hightower Regional Lib., Rome, GA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
John Rogister
Evocative...The most important contribution to the subject since the studies of Pierre de Nolhac in the early part of this century... Lever's qualities as a biographer, already shown in her Lives of Louis XVI and XVIII, are again evident here in her deft treatment of narrative, and her gift for the apt quotation.
The Times Literary Supplement
E. F. Matthys
This biography, not at all romanticized, is very well written and provides a good description of the characters and setting of a tragedy that has remained engraved in the memory of history. With this portrait, Evelyne Lever proposes a true 'de-caricature' of Marie Antoinette to her readers. It was long due.
La Libre Belgique
The New Yorker
[A] fine new biography...Lever is particularly skilled at describing the highly charged dynastic expectations that attended Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette's marriage...a fabulous read...
Joan Riviere
Lively and fully informed... No Queen of France has been more written about than Marie Antoinette and... Evelyne Lever's book is a valuable addition.
The Eighteenth Century
Bruno de Cessole
Drawn from little-explored sources -- such as the Austrian and Swedish archives and the correspondence of foreign ambassadors to Paris -- the work of Ms. Lever restores the political dimension that has often been lacking in the biographies of the last queen of France.
Figaro Madame
Paul Moriceau
This political Marie Antoinette completes the body of impressive work that has earned Evelyne Lever a reputation for talent and erudition... The author paints a psychological portrait that leaves no room for ambiguity.
Ouest France
Megan Harlan
This spicy, unsparing chronicle reads as both a brainy bodice ripper and a fascinating morality tale.
Entertainment Weekly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374199388
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 7/1/2000
  • Pages: 357
  • Product dimensions: 6.41 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 1.17 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Vienna, November 2, 1755. Her windows wide open, as was her habit, regardless of the rigors of the season, the Empress Maria Theresa worked without respite. She was busy annotating reports, signing decrees, dictating her orders when the first pains suddenly made her wince. The thirty-eight-year-old sovereign, ruler of an empire, was to give birth for the fifteenth time in her life. Nature had reclaimed her rights and the female head of state could do nothing but stoically await her deliverance. But since Maria Theresa hated wasting time, she took advantage of the momentary inconvenience to have a decayed tooth extracted. Once that operation was disposed of, she settled, following German custom, into the low armchair where she would give birth to her child. Word was rushed to her husband, Francis of Lorraine, that the birth was imminent. The Prince was attending the All Souls' Day mass with his son Joseph at the Augustinian church. After arranging for the young man to be escorted back to his apartment lest he hear "improper things," he ran to his wife's bedside. It was a difficult labor, but at around seven-thirty in the evening, a perfectly formed infant girl came into the world. On the following day, she was baptized Maria Antonia Josephina Johanna. Since all the archduchesses were given the first name of Maria, they were usually addressed by their second name. Maria Theresa would refer to her youngest daughter as Antonia. It was the French who would call her Marie Antoinette.

Antonia was brought to the wing in the Hofburg palace reserved for the imperial couple's children. There she joined her young brothers and sisters: Johanna, who was barely five years old, Josephina, who was four, the two-year-old Carolina, and Ferdinand, who had just celebrated his first birthday. Her older siblings lived on other floors: the frail Maria Anna, who was already seventeen, and Joseph, who was fourteen. Maria Christina and Elisabeth, born in 1742 and 1743, were nearly young ladies. Their marriages were already being thought about. As for Charles Joseph, Amalia and Leopold, they had reached the age of reason and fully enjoyed their carefree childhood. Maria Theresa was very proud of this fine progeny, her "henhouse" as she sometimes liked to call it. In a time when infant mortality took a grievous toll on all families, the imperial couple was exceptional in having lost only three children in early childhood. And the Empress would still have another son in 1756, Maximilian Francis, the future Archbishop of Cologne. Meytens, official painter of the Viennese court, showed the brood of archdukes and archduchesses between the husband and wife, who are seated on sumptuous armchairs and dressed in ceremonial regalia. The painting was retouched regularly; the artist would add the newcomers and take account of the elders' changing appearance.

Since succeeding her father, the Habsburg Emperor Charles VI, in 1740, Maria Theresa had done her best to reconcile the exercise of government with her duties as a wife and mother. In 1736, at nineteen, she had married Francis of Lorraine, a prince who had been educated at the Viennese court and was considered one of the handsomest men of his day. His full face and regular features bespoke of a well-balanced personality and an even temper which he never betrayed. Amiable, frank, devoid of ambition and authority, he had known how to attract this princess, who both loved and dominated him. Wishing him never to feel inferior to her, she behaved with him as a submissive wife. She never put up the slightest resistance to his amorous ardor, even if this meant getting pregnant regularly for nearly twenty years.

She had known from earliest childhood that she was destined for the highest function. Disregarding every tradition, her father the Emperor had decided by the Pragmatic Sanction that his daughter would succeed him (he had no son). He had managed, not without difficulty, to get this act recognized by his own states and the foreign powers. However, when he died, the people did not hail Maria Theresa's accession as they might have hailed a prince; they were deeply troubled to be governed by a woman. As for the European sovereigns, they forgot their promises. They each coveted some segment of the empire that had been given over to the young, inexperienced twenty-three-year-old, who was incapable, they felt, of ruling over the destinies of a portion of Central Europe. Populated with nationalities speaking different languages and governed by dissimilar laws, her states were indeed spread far and wide: they included what constitutes present-day Austria, Bohemia (Prague), Hungary (Budapest), part of northern Italy (Milan, Mantua, Florence) and present-day Belgium, which was called the Austrian Netherlands. Far from letting herself be discouraged by such unfavorable circumstances, Maria Theresa took power with the title Queen of Bohemia and Hungary. She made her husband coregent but, convinced of the legitimacy of her rights as an absolute sovereign, she accorded him only the semblance of monarchical power.

Two months after her accession to the throne, she had to face the invasion of one of her provinces and confront a European coalition. "I am but a poor queen but I have the heart of a king," she cried out. With indomitable energy, a sharp sense of reality, unintimidated, unshaken and never discouraged, she succeeded in rallying her subjects to her cause. She raised armies, negotiated alliances and set her enemies at odds with one another. After eight years of war, her legitimacy was no longer challenged. The Pragmatic Sanction was universally recognized. Maria Theresa then pretended to give way to her husband. She let Francis be crowned and given the tide of Emperor, but continued to govern alone with the counselors of her own choosing. She then devoted herself entirely to ensuring her empire's independence and security.

During those troubled years, Francis had hardly ever left Maria Theresa's side. Despite the vicissitudes of war, their family life had developed harmoniously. The Empress had given birth to six children, among whom were the future emperors Joseph II and Leopold II. In that time, the imperial couple had adopted the lifestyle which would be theirs until the Emperor's death. The Empress rose very early every morning: six o'clock in the winter, four in the summer. Although her high functions absorbed her, she did not neglect her family. Compelled to delegate her maternal authority to tutors and governesses who looked after the legion of archdukes and archduchesses, she left nothing to chance. She maintained a daily, punctilious correspondence with their teachers. Nothing concerning her children was to be concealed from her. Furthermore, she demanded to be summoned should any serious incident arise concerning any of them--or any incident that might be construed as such. Interested in scientific progress, she had engaged in her service one of the most reputed physicians in Europe, Dr. van Swieten. He alone, in their parents' absence, had the right to make decisions concerning the young princes. Maria Theresa ordered his subordinates to follow his prescribed treatments and diets with the utmost diligence. Like his Swiss colleague, the renowned Tronchin, van Swieten advocated a healthy, outdoor life; physical exercise, such as walking and riding, were an important part of his program. He also tried to impose on his illustrious patients a nutrition that was far from standard at the time. The imperial children were to eat soup, eggs, vegetables and fruit. They ate very little high game and stew. They usually ate their meals in private, as did the Emperor and Empress, who tended to neglect van Swieten's advice when it came to themselves. The honest doctor warned them several times that an overly rich diet might be detrimental to their physical well-being. Maria Theresa probably felt that her life was sufficiently difficult without having to sacrifice the innocent pleasures of the table. Graced with robust good health, she allowed herself a few hours of relaxation in all seasons, and rode to the outskirts of Vienna. She went either to one of her many residences or to see some of the great servants of the crown, who were very flattered by her visit.

The imperial family liked the simple joys of intimacy. A somewhat naïve gouache painted by the Archduchess Maria Christina takes us into the home on Saint Nicholas' day, 1762, when the children receive gifts. Nothing about it recalls the Meytens painting described above. In a small drawing room with light-colored walls and polished wood furniture, the kind of room that could belong to a good middle-class family, the Emperor is reading in front of a blazing fire. He is seated at a table, wearing a dressing gown, nightcap and slippers, and is being served hot chocolate (or tea) by his wife, who is standing behind him looking resplendent in a simple sky-blue wool dress. Four children are making merry by their side, two girls and two boys. Maximilian, the youngest of the archdukes, is eating sweetmeats and playing with a cavalryman mounted on a boiled cardboard steed; Ferdinand, who has found only birch rods in his shoe, is crying his eyes out, while his older sister, Maria Christina, who almost looks like a young mother, is holding out a plate of cakes to console him. Finally, behind Maria Theresa's skirts, a beaming, proud little girl is holding up a magnificent doll--it is little Antonia! She is barely seven years old.

Maria Theresa had had comfortable apartments built in the ancient Hofburg palace, which still looked a bit like a medieval fortress. But when the summer season came, the Empress preferred to move to Schönbrunn Castle with her entire family. This palace, built a few miles away from Vienna, was modeled on Versailles, which had fascinated European sovereigns for half a century. As of 1749, the Empress stayed more and more frequently in this pleasant, relatively small residence, which she enjoyed altering according to her taste--a very reliable, very feminine taste. She chose panel decorations in the rarest woods, commissioned artists to paint bright landscapes filled with flowers and birds and wanted the allegories illustrating her reign to be done with more grace than grandeur. She also liked creating many precious exhibition rooms, a Chinese room, a room of lacquerware, a porcelain room ... The imperial family lived in brightly colored rooms decked with baroque mirrors endlessly reflecting delicately shaded pastels.

Though the Empress liked finding respite from the obligations of government in the simplicity of family life, she did not disdain splendor. In Vienna she presided over a brilliant court whose entertainments remained legendary. Antonia made her first official appearance on the occasion of the Emperor's name day, on October 5, 1759. Swathed in a low-cut court dress, she sang several couplets in French, Ferdinand beat the drum, Maximilian recited a compliment in Italian, Joseph played the cello, Charles the violin, Maria Anna and Maria Christina the piano. The following year, in spite of her very tender years, the little Archduchess attended the celebrations of Joseph's marriage to Isabella of Parrna. A huge painting kept at the Kunsthis torisches Museum in Vienna portrays a concert given in honor of the young married couple. Sitting quietly in the first row on each side of their parents, the imperial children, in gala attire, are listening to the music. Several of them are still so small that their feet do not touch the floor. Watched over discreetly by her governess, Antonia, her hair powdered and well groomed, is sitting erect and gracious in her dress à paniers.

Music held an important place among the august family's entertainments. Maria Theresa's father, Charles VI, was an excellent harpsichordist and did not consider it beneath his dignity to conduct the court orchestra. Maria Theresa enjoyed singing; Francis liked her warm contralto voice. The imperial family encouraged musicians. Wagenseil was the court music master, but the works of Haydn and Gluck were preferred over his. When word came to them about a certain Mozart, a child prodigy from Salzburg, who was coming through Vienna in 1762, Maria Theresa invited him to the Hofburg. Surrounded by their progeny, Maria Theresa and Francis listened to the little Mozart and his sister for three hours. They then questioned them at length about their art. The princes showed themselves to be particularly affable. "We were received with so many marks of favor by Their Majesties that if I told you about it in detail, my account would be taken for a fairy tale," Mozart's father would write to one of his friends. In the artist's family, they told the story of how the little prodigy had slipped and fallen on the well-polished drawing-room floor, and how Antonia, the youngest of the archduchesses, who was exactly his age, rushed to help him up and kissed him. "You are kind, I would like to marry you," he said to her. "Out of gratitude," he replied to the Empress when she laughed and asked why he wanted to marry her daughter. The anecdote has been told many times, and though it cannot be authenticated, it is perfectly plausible. In Vienna, it was possible to deviate from protocol and the archdukes' education did not crush their spontaneity.

Antonia led the most carefree life imaginable. The lenient Countess of Brandeiss, who was in charge of her education, was content to merely instill in her the religious and moral principles that every archduchess had to possess. To please her charming pupil, she shortened the hours devoted to reading and writing. Antonia preferred racing around madly in the park grounds or riding by sleigh in winter with her older sister Carolina and the Princesses of Hesse and Mecklenburg. Her mind was only on amusing herself. Her mother gave very little thought to her education, and her father, though he was very attentive to his sons' education, was far less demanding as far as his daughters were concerned. So long as they were virtuous and proficient in the female arts such as music, tapestry work and watercolors, they would know enough to make accomplished wives. What more could be asked of them? When he was in the prime of life, the Emperor wrote a kind of spiritual testament for his children. Inspired by the principles of the Catholic religion, which the imperial household observed devoutly, he reminded them that their illustrious birth should not lead them to forget that they were on earth to earn their salvation. Moreover, this debonair Epicurean warned them against all worldly vanities and implored them to be wary of flatterers and false friends.

The year 1765 marked a turning point in the life of the imperial family. Early that year the court celebrated Archduke Joseph's second marriage, to Josephine of Bavaria--in sadness, for the Prince still mourned his first wife, who had died of smallpox in 1762. Then other preparations were underway for Leopold's marriage to one of the daughters of the King of Spain, much to the Empress's delight. At the beginning of August, the imperial couple and their children went to Innsbruck to celebrate this union. But everything took a rapid turn for the worse. Leopold fell sick with inexplicable malaises which made them fear for his life. Several days were spent in anguish. On August 17, the Prince seemed fully recovered and Maria Theresa decided to go to the theater with the entire family. Feeling unwell during the performance, the Emperor left his box without saying a word. Joseph left with him. When he arrived in his apartment, he collapsed in his son's arms. Attempts were made to revive him, but in vain. He was dead.

Utterly grief-stricken, for the first time in her life the Empress was at a loss what to do. She refused to see anyone for several hours. She thought of retiring to a convent and leaving the empire to Joseph. But she soon recovered her wits and resolved to pursue her work. Her children were too young to be entrusted to even the most devoted servants. And above all she could not leave the empire--one of her purposes in life--to Joseph, who was too inexperienced. She decided to include him in her government with the title of coregent. He thereby succeeded his father. It seemed reasonable to assume that this young man of twenty-four would not be as submissive as Francis. Assertive, innovative, educated for the exercise of supreme power, he would likely clash with his mother, whom he both revered and feared.

We don't know what feelings overcame the young Antonia at the death of her father, who treasured her as he did all his children. But her daily life certainly changed. There were fewer moments of family intimacy. She saw her mother less frequently, and suddenly she now seemed an imposing and distant elderly lady. The governing of her states claiming her attention more than ever, Maria Theresa took refuge in ostentatious mourning. Dressed entirely in black, her face hooded in a lace bonnet tied under the chin, she would not allow concerts or entertainments. For long months, a deathly silence was cast over the Hofburg and Schönbrunn. In 1766, however, the Empress wanted merry celebrations for the wedding of her daughter Maria Christina to Prince Albert of Sachsen-Teschen. It was the culmination of a true love story. But the joy was short-lived. An epidemic of smallpox soon decimated Vienna and the imperial family was not spared. Nor was it the first time the dreadful disease struck the Hofburg. It had already taken the lives of Archduke Charles Joseph, Archduchess Johanna and Joseph's first wife. Now the illness afflicted Maria Theresa, Josephina of Bavaria, Maria Christina and Albert of Sachsen-Teschen as well as Archduchess Elisabeth, all at the same time. Though his wife was in critical condition, the Emperor never left his mother's bedside. Maria Theresa recovered but her daughter-in-law died. No one lamented her passing. Maria Christina and Albert survived; Elisabeth pulled through but her beautiful face was irreparably pockmarked.

As soon as she had regained her strength the Empress had to set about preparing the marriage of her daughter Josephina to the King of Naples. This would be the fruit of skillful diplomatic schemes which the sovereign had carried out in a masterly manner. Before celebrating the ceremony by proxy, which was to be held in Vienna, the Empress demanded that her daughter meditate at the grave of her recently deceased sister-in-law, in the forbidding crypt of the Capuchin church. Overwhelmed by a dread presentiment, Josephina saw this command as a death sentence. Upon her return to the Hofburg, she began shivering: it was the onset of smallpox. Two weeks later, all the churches in Vienna tolled their bells. Josephine had passed away. She had just turned sixteen. Antonia would never forget this tragic death.

Josephine had barely joined her countless relations in the Habsburg necropolis when the King of Spain, "without hesitating, or losing a minute" asked Maria Theresa for another archduchess for his son, the King of Naples. Disregarding her own emotional state, the Empress let him choose between Amalia and Carolina. He chose Carolina, the youngest. Nothing could have brought greater sadness to Antonia. The two sisters were bound by deep affection. They were always whispering and laughing together, observing the failings or ridiculous ways of some of the people around them and making fun of them mercilessly. Maria Theresa had previously wanted to separate the two adolescents to avoid hurting feelings provoked by their attitude. But the two accomplices had continued their games. Carolina's departure for Naples, in April 1768, put an end to this close bond. Finding "a husband whose face was very ugly" and whose behavior was often peculiar, the new Queen of Naples's conjugal life had a distressing beginning. In her letters to her governess, Countess of Lerchenfeld, she always asked for news of Antonia, whom she said she "loved extraordinarily. When I think her fate may be like mine," she said, "I would like to write her entire volumes on the subject ... for I must say the agony suffered is all the greater in that one must always appear happy." In writing these lines, in August 1768, Carolina was fully aware that negotiations were progressing over Antonia's marriage to Louis XV's grandson.

Endnotes have been omitted.

Copyright © 2000 Evelyne Lever

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Table of Contents

1. Daughter of Maria Theresa 3
2. Great Expectations 11
3. A Royal Marriage 20
4. The Versailles Court 27
5. Madame la Dauphine 36
6. End of a Reign, End of an Era 46
7. A Happy Accession 54
8. "Little Twenty-Year-Old Queen" 61
9. The Coronation 69
10. The Queen's Circle 77
11. Venus and Vulcan 87
12. The Queen's Intrigues 95
13. The Brother's Visit 104
14. Motherhood 113
15. Fersen 122
16. Queen of Trianon 129
17. Birth of a Dauphin 138
18. Fersen's Return 147
19. Last Illusions 155
20. Scandal in the Air 163
21. The Diamond Necklace Affair 173
22. "Madame Deficit" 183
23. "MyFate Is to Bring Bad Luck" 191
24. "Do You Know a Woman More to Be Pitied Than Me?" 200
25. The Fall of the Bastille 208
26. The Last Summer at Versailles 216
27. The Tragedy of October 1789 223
28. The Tuileries 233
29. Escape Plans 242
30. The Varennes Drama 250
31. The Impasse 260
32. The Last Show of Strength 269
33. The Fall of the Monarchy 277
34. The Death of the King 285
35. The Conciergerie 292
36. Trial and Death of the Queen 299
Epilogue: What Became of Them? 306
Abbreviations 313
Notes 315
Bibliography 331
Index 345
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 12, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Tragic...,

    Palace suspicions had kept her at arms length from the main events in France. <BR/>Marie Antoinette, the daughter of Maria Theresa of Austria (Empress of the Habsburg dynasty), was the victim of gutter press and the intrigues of ambitious lackeys, consequently was to take part of the blame that followed. <BR/>For example recent literature revealed she had never said `let the people eat cake if they don't have bread' - during the height of a bread shortage in Paris. The alleged quotation was magnified in the press to her detriment when the time for the Revolution came. <BR/><BR/>Cardinal de Rohan, France's Envoy to Austria, whose ambition to become France's Prime Minister had been blocked several times by Marie Antoinette {because some of the Cardinal's letters were intercepted in which he said he `bedded half the royal court of Austria"}. The Cardinal worked hard to tarnish Antoinette's image. <BR/>de Rohan propagated that the queen secretly sought to buy a necklace for two million Livres, but such accusation was never true. <BR/>During the trial the Cardinal was acquitted, and the Queen was condemned. <BR/><BR/>She was accused of amassing fortunes, jewels, wardrobe filled with myriads of latest fashions - extremely expensive dresses and hundreds of `shoes' -. <BR/>Her husband, King Louis XVI, whose optimism with the future of France only days before the July 14th deluge, was extremely feted as much for her magnificent presence as for his known weakness of characters. <BR/><BR/>As daughter of Maria Theresa, her fondness for France was in direct proportion to her natural love for Austria. The Queen carried soil from Vienna in a jewelled box and planted seeds in her garden. But politics and greed were indeed cruel to this young queen who married the King `boy' when she was only 14.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2001

    Interesting

    I am finding this book very interesting...It protrays what life was like at the french court...It give you a feel of what Marie Antoinette's life was like..You can understand that this was a women who was not prepared to run a country..She seemed very insecure

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2000

    No new information

    Very disappointing. Had expected some new, unknown, and just found information but it was just the same ol' stuff. It felt like the book was just skimming the surface of her life; leaving out anything of substance. The political information was easy to understand, the how's and why's of the revolution, but as to how it directly impacted the royal family- very sketchy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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