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 The political role of Marie-Antoinette during the revolution 
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Post The political role of Marie-Antoinette during the revolution
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Fri Mar 16, 2007 10:54 pm
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Post Marie Antoinette - who's voice?
Ok, I asked to add this thread because while reading Ruth Scurr's new biography of Robespierre, "Fatal Purity", she keeps making references to Marie Antoinette's role in the 1789 events, depicting her as the voice of the extreme right, and as someone pushing the king to escalate the conflict with the third estate (gather troops around paris in late june/july 1789, advocating against reconciliation).
This raised for me the question that keeps coming up in other thread - what was MA's role in the revolution? was she, as Pim quotes Felix, her husband's passive voice? was she, as De Batz seems to be suggesting, a crafty opponent fighting for what she held dearest? or was she, as Scurr suggests, the voice of the conservative party at the king's ear?
I would expect her role to change over time, but am curious as to your thoughts.


Fri Mar 16, 2007 11:11 pm
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I think that Louis and Antoinette worked as a team. We need to understand that as a woman of her time, Antoinette would let Louis make the final decision. He was her husband and her king. But that did not mean that she did not voice her opinion and use her initiative. Louis knew to make use of Antoinette's charm and brains in dealing with people, making enemies into friends. There were many people, such as Barnave, whom she won over to her side. It was the effectiveness of the royal couple's team effort that kept the royal family alive for four years. Otherwise, they would have been killed (or exiled) in 1789.

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Sat Mar 17, 2007 2:12 pm
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Post Marie Antoinette created mistrust between king and assembly
I don't think it was a success story - in 1789, some parts of the mob were after the king and queen's blood, but no one in the assembly was and the political elite was still more monarchist than not. they wanted a constitutional monarchy.
many things caused radicalisation, but I want to emphasize the two over which Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had, in my view, an impact - the war and the loss of trust for the king. I think Marie Antoinette had a negative role in both.
Understandably, as De Batz points out, Marie Antoinette was against a change in the king's status that would result in a constitutional monarchy. in the days of the estates general, she strongly advocated resistance to the third estate's rebellion. she was a conservative voice. her suggestions exacerbated an already tense situation. One of the problems was that very early on the assembly saw the king as double dealing - and listening to MA's views, who were those of the arch conservatives, made him seem more so.
Marie Antoinette's advice was always aimed at going back. she never truly wanted to adhere to the constitution - but the way this translated into political activities was clumsy; it didn't really decieve anyone and made the royal couple look untrustworthy.
As to the war, Louis XVI declared it with tears in his eyes; but the evidence is that Marie Antoinette was for it. that certainly did not help the royal couple.


Sun Mar 18, 2007 4:53 pm
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Of course, Marie-Antoinette was a conservative voice. How could she, the Daughter of the Caesars, have been anything else?

Staying alive for four extra years in a success story for anyone, considering what they were up against.

Yes, the queen was hoping that the Austrians would deliver her and her family from the hands of their enemies (who she viewed as the TRUE enemies of France.) But I think Louis had more insight into what would really happen. He wept.

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Sun Mar 18, 2007 5:09 pm
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I think that MA was simply unprepared to face the situation in hand. I get the impression from reading Doritmi's posts that she considers MA should have been a more astute politician. However if I remember rightly from various biographies, most of them concur that Louis XVI always tried to keep her away from the political side of his dealings, which at first annoyed her, until she got more taken up with being a mother. Look at all the times Mercy urges her to intercede for Austrain interests and she fails each time! She finishes basically by telling Mercy that she is Queen of France, not Austria, and there is no more she can do. I agree with Thérèse that given her poor preparation she didn't do too badly to hold out as long as she did. After all she was a foreigner specifically brought to France to be a Queen, and found herself in the midst of the most important political upheaval Europe had seen for a long time. She lived in a relative cocoon, as far as I know she never travelled anywhere, she knew Versailles, l'Ile de France and Paris, in other words she never really learnt much about the French populace outside the Court. She was the living embodiment of a system, the only one she had ever known, and found herself fighting a new political system, which even if more just, wanted to destroy everything she stood for, including most importantly her religious faith! And its not as if the opposition planned to do things calmly, the shock of the violence of the 6th October 1789 coloured all her dealings with the republicans. She lost confidence that night. I don't think that one can argue as some have done in the past that Louis XVI would have been better off without her (i.e. divorcing her or her being sent to a nunnery). The Queen as the mother of his children had become indissociable from him, even though it is true that by her "early" mistakes she had brought more reprobation on the royal family than he ever did.

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Sun Mar 18, 2007 9:34 pm
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That is true, M-A had been deliberately kept out of politics by her husband most of her life.

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Sun Mar 18, 2007 10:04 pm
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At the beginning of his reign, Louis XVI was wary of Marie-Antoinette in policy, La Vauguyon having prevented him about Austria.
And Louis XVI understood well that his wife was not very gifted in policy. But during the revolution, he was hesitant, depressed, and Marie-Antoinette was much more adult and qualified in this field, he was thus obliged to let her intervene in policy… it is her who negotiated with Necker, it is her who spoke with Mirabeau… :D

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Sun Mar 18, 2007 10:16 pm
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Louis-Charles wrote:
At the beginning of his reign, Louis XVI was wary of Marie-Antoinette in policy, La Vauguyon having prevented him about Austria.
And Louis XVI understood well that his wife was not very gifted in policy. But during the revolution, he was hesitant, depressed, and Marie-Antoinette was much more adult and qualified in this field, he was thus obliged to let her intervene in policy… it is her who negotiated with Necker, it is her who spoke with Mirabeau… :D


Very true!!

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Sun Mar 18, 2007 10:17 pm
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I once read...that "She was the King's Best Man"

MA wasn't a gifted politican but I do not think she was awful at either. She was brillant at Charming people, she charmed the French several times. Including when she swallowed her pride and wore the Tricolour for the Bastille Day Celebrations. She always had an agenda against the Revolution but who could blame her? I would never condone a cause that advocates killing people and putting their heads on pikes :shock:

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Tue Mar 20, 2007 2:15 am
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Post people's heads on pikes
that wasn't why MA was against the revolution; she was against it before the first day of mob violence, the capture of the bastille; she advocated strong measures when the third estate declared itself the national assembly. As de Batz pointed out, she was hostile to the revolution because it threatened her status and even more, her son's rights when he became king. she fought against it; she lost.


Tue Mar 20, 2007 2:21 am
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baron de batz wrote:
Look at all the times Mercy urges her to intercede for Austrain interests and she fails each time! She finishes basically by telling Mercy that she is Queen of France, not Austria, and there is no more she can do.


Maria-Theresa told Antoinette to be French yet she also said to "be a good German."


Wed Mar 21, 2007 1:02 am
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