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 Simone Bertiere wrote to me! 
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Post Simone Bertiere wrote to me!
I guess I never told you that Simone Bertiere wrote to me some time ago.
She responded to a comment on Fraser's book I had inserted in an Italian online bookstore:

Here's what she wrote in two e-mails:

Monsieur,
Je ne sais pas qui vous êtes. En me promenant sur Internet, j'ai trouvé par hasard votre commentaire sur la biographie de Marie-Antoinette par Antonia Fraser, et l'ai vu l'appréciation que vous portiez sur la mienne. Je vous envoie ce mail tout simplement pour vous dire qu'elle m'a fait grand plaisir. Je regrette bien sûr que mon livre ne soit pas traduit en italien. La maison qui me publie est petite et n'a pas les moyens des grosses entreprises anglo-saxonnes. Et je ne suis pas l'épouse d'un prix Nobel ! Lorsque mon éditeur l'a proposé à son confrère italien (PIEMME), qui avait traduit mes Femmes du Roi-Soleil, on lui a répondu qu'il y avait déjà une autre biographie en traduction, celle d'A.Fraser, et les choses en sont restées là. Mais je sais qu'il y a encore des Italiens capables de lire le français et que certains ont aimé mon livre. À travers vous, c'est à eux tous que j'adresse mes remerciements.
Simone Bertière

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Cher Monsieur,
Excusez-moi de n'avoir pas répondu aussitôt à votre envoi. Je voulais vous parler du film de S.Coppola. Je l'ai vu en avant première quinze jours avant sa sortie, mais à ce moment-là, j'étais uniquement préoccupée de l'exactitude historique, parce que je devais ensuite en discuter avec des journalistes. J'avais l'intention de le voir à nouveau en spectatrice ordinaire. La longueur de la file d'attente m'a fait reculer. J'en reste donc à ma première impression : soulagement et déception. Soulagement parce que les faits et les mots historiques sont respectés et le film reste relativement discret sur la liaison de Marie-Antoinette avec Fersen, à part un certain plan avec éventail qui a fait jaser. Mais déception, parce que toutes les aspérités sont gommées, les difficultés éludées, que Marie-Antoinette y apparaît comme une gentille teenager assez insignifiante. C'est plutôt un film sur Versailles au temps de Louis XVI (les images sont superbes), avec une suite de flashes discontinus entre lesquels le spectateur ne peut faire aucun lien. Un jeune journaliste (qui m'a créé bénévolement un site sur Internet et qui est devenu un ami), m'a dit qu'il s'était ennuyé, lui et sa compagne, et qu'il avait trouvé le film très plat. Il a beaucoup ri quand je lui ai dit que vous aviez comparé le livre d'A.Fraser à un soap opera. Eh bien, le film de S. Coppola est encore plus soap que le livre.


J'ai lu avec beaucoup de plaisir le texte que vous m'avez envoyé. Je sais que Benedetta Craveri est une personnalité en Italie (je l'ai entendue ici faire une conférence au Collège de France). Je suis ravie qu'elle partage entièrement mon jugement sur deux points essentiels : les relations conjugales du couple royal et le fait que Louis XVI encourageait la frénésie de divertissements de sa femme, non pour se faire pardonner ses défaillances intimes, mais pour l'empêcher de s'occuper de politique. Tant pis si mon livre n'est jamais traduit en italien, l'essentiel est que l'image de Louis XVI et de Marie-Antoinette soit redressée. Je suis une vieille dame (dotée d'une retraite de l'Éducation nationale) et je ne cours ni après la notoriété, ni après l'argent. Mais depuis que je publie des livres, un des plus grands plaisirs qui m'aient été donnés est la rencontre avec des lecteurs de toutes origines. Sur Internet, c'est une première : soyez en tout spécialement remercié.
Bien à vous, Simone Bertière


A very nice lady!

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Thu Oct 12, 2006 10:19 am
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Oh, York ! These messages are just wonderful ! This lady is a true scholar, in the way Seneque intended them, when he wrote that all that matters is the progress of human knowledge ! Mme Bertiere wrote it to you, dear York, and she said this to us, when we congratulated her after her lecture last Saterday. We told her that we are numerous to considere her biography the best one, and she simply answered that it is always possible to go further ! I deeply admire this lady !

Thank for sharing this correspondence with us, York ! Your are a true friend ! Always posting fascinating informations and comments !

Kisses,
Pimprenelle

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Thu Oct 12, 2006 10:46 am
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Merci, York! C'est absolument fantastique! S. Bertiere est aussi ma favorite..quel attitude professionnelle!


Thu Oct 12, 2006 12:29 pm
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Très beau!


Thu Oct 12, 2006 2:36 pm
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What a true scholar and a great lady, with true humility! Thank you, York, and please tell her that we wish that her book could be translated into English as well as Italian.

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Thu Oct 12, 2006 4:20 pm
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Simone Bertière is definitely a great professional!

Not only she's very qualified and gifted, but in more she's very accessible and very nice! :D

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Thu Oct 12, 2006 4:31 pm
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I've never read her book but from what I read of the letter she sounds very nice. Its too bad her book isn't in English!

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Fri Oct 13, 2006 1:09 am
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Bertiere's official website:
http://simonebertiere.free.fr/index.htm

The page dedicated to the press reviews for her Antoinette bio is very interesting: http://simonebertiere.free.fr/pressema.htm#

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Last edited by york74 on Fri Oct 13, 2006 1:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.



Fri Oct 13, 2006 1:25 pm
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Thanks, York!!

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Fri Oct 13, 2006 1:27 pm
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English article on Bertiere's work:

Size did matter to Marie-Antoinette

Marriage myths of a foppish Louis XVI and his Austrian queen are shattered by new research

Paul Webster, Paris
Sunday August 4, 2002
The Observer

One of the underlying causes of the French Revolution, the disastrous marriage between Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, has been brought down to size by a meticulous investigation into the royal couple's sexual incompatibility. Put simply, the king was endowed with a ' bracquemart assez considérable' - a rather large penis - and Marie-Antoinette suffered from a condition known in the court as ' l'étroitesse du chemin', a narrow vagina, that made her frigid.
The research by Simone Bertière, a specialist in the lives of France's seventeenth and eighteenth-century queens, shatters the myth of a semi-impotent, foppish king, and a sluttish queen, favourite targets of scurrilous pamphlets that inflamed the mobs of 1789. It also undermines the most influential biography of Marie-Antoinette, written by Stefan Zweig in Vienna in 1932 after he discovered uncensored correspondence between the queen and her domineering mother, the Empress Marie-Theresa.

'Since then, the presumed impotence of Louis and his cowardice in refusing an operation to correct a small physical malformation have been accepted as a matter of fact, sufficient to explain the queen's neurotic instability,' Bertière said, commenting on her 700-page biography, Marie-Antoinette, l'insoumise (the rebel). 'But Zweig did not compare these letters with those sent by the Hapsburg ambassador to the empress which leave no doubt at all that Louis XVI did not suffer from malformation.'

It was not until seven years after marrying Louis XV's orphaned grandson, then the Dauphin, at Versailles in 1770 that Marie-Antoinette, 'a little girl paralysed by terror', lost her virginity. From the first fruitless night the physiological realities which, according to Bertière, nineteenth and twentieth-century historians glossed over, were the object of intense court records, letters and diplomatic exchanges that described their sexual characteristics in detail. But despite the opinion of surgeons that the couple dodged conjugal activity because it was too painful for both of them, Louis's mother-in-law empress insisted that the problem lay wholly with her son-in-law's inadequate penis.

'I refuse to believe that it is my daughter's fault,' the empress wrote to her ambassador at Versailles, maintaining demands for an operation on the king even after several intimate inspections by doctors. They repeatedly said there was no evidence of phimosis, a narrowing of the preputial orifice, a theory that Zweig insisted on after reading nagging letters from the imperial mother-in-law replying to misleading correspondence from her daughter.

Concern at the failure to consummate a marriage, essential for a military alliance between the Bourbons and Hapsburgs, was a matter of recorded clinical analysis from the first weeks. By 1772, Louis XV, notorious for his love life and generous genitalia, tackled his grandson, a virgin at marriage, about his barren union. Louis, then 18, told him that he had tried several times to deflower his wife 'but was always stopped by painful sensations'.

A year later, Louis achieved what was called a 'demi-succès', telling his grandfather that Marie-Antoinette was now 'my wife' after a rare night in the same bed. But she was still considered a virgin in 1777 when Austria's Joseph II, the queen's older brother, questioned the couple about their failure to produce an heir. The Austrian ruler then wrote to his brother Leopold to say that the French king, who succeeded to the throne in 1774, 'had well-conditioned, strong erections and introduced his member, stayed there for two minutes without moving, withdrew without ejaculation, and then, still erect, wished [his wife] good evening. He should be whipped like a donkey to make him discharge in anger'.

Bertiere said that for both king and queen, sex was an 'abominable task' for which the only possible explanation was the physical disparity between them. It was only after more strong words from Joseph II that the unhappy pair conceived a child, a daughter born in 1778, the first of four births, including the future Louis XVII who died as a prisoner in the Temple after his parents were executed in 1793.

Bertière said it would be wrong to blame Marie-Antoinette for sparking off the revolution but 'by her flightiness she hastened the monarchy's discredit'.

'Her conjugal failures, abundantly spread in public, added ridicule to the real virtues of Louis XVI while his complacent attitude towards her completed his reputation for weakness,' the author added.

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Fri Oct 13, 2006 1:33 pm
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Thanks, again.

I am so glad someone finally posted this article. We have discussed all of this before but having the author's exact words really helps. I am so glad that it tells how the marriage was partially consummated as early as 1773, which proves that Louis was trying; he was not sexually indifferent as so many authors claim.

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Fri Oct 13, 2006 1:42 pm
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Merci pour la information et les lettres!! :D


Fri Oct 13, 2006 3:14 pm
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Thanks for posting that! Very interesting! I want to read this bio now! :(

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I was a queen, and you took away my crown; a wife, and you killed my husband; a mother, and you deprived me of my children. My blood alone remains: take it, but do not make me suffer long.


Fri Oct 13, 2006 10:19 pm
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