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 The Life of Axel von Fersen 
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It is very easy indeed to find excuses for Fersen when you do him wrong, Pimprenelle. He was not at all bad and I feel when you find sentences in his diary that you think are somewhat bad (I don't, he is not snobbish in the sentences you quoted, I think) you are doing the same as you accuse people of doing when they try hard to find evidence of Fersen and Antoinette as lovers. You want him to be bad, I fear, and I am not trying to find excuses for Fersen but you are trying to find him selfish and snobbish.

About Fersen being a man of his time I feel that is quite wrong actually, true in one sense but seriously wrong in another. Fersen was very old-fashioned and he would have fit in more perfectly in the late 17th century or early 18th century, sadly for himself.

About Fersen being hopeful he was not at all stupid. He, among others, thought that the allied could (and would) win over France. He fought for that and they had so many plans... If you read Fersen's diary you can see that if people would have done what Fersen thought must be done it is possible Antoinette and Louis XVI would have survived the revolution. He and Mercy had some common thoughts about things that had to be done, but unfortunately the regents of Europe wanted other things. When Louis XVI died Fersen was of course not that hopeful anymore and obviously very afraid, but he kept on fighting for Antoinette. I do not think Fersen recalls this time as the greatest of his life.

And when he wrote about himself and Sullivan in your quote he did not know that three days later the queen would be dead. He was in despair and lived for recieving news about her verdict though. On the day of her death he does not even know she has been sentenced to death. So if he writes in his diary about other things than Antoinette (whom he also writes a lot about) that does not make him selfish and snobbish.

I do agree with you that if people read his diaries it would destroy some of the supposed love affair between him and the queen, especially about Fersen ever having sex with the queen. People would see that Fersen thought very highly of Antoinette, that they (with the king included too) had a great relationship and that Fersen thought highly of them as a married loving royal couple.


Mon Oct 29, 2007 12:51 am
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Haven't you a too idealistic vision of the man ? How can you consider intelligent the politic that led to Brunswick manifesto ? For all French historians, this is the very cause of the fall of the monarchy. And Fersen was behind the scene, maybe he wrote it himself, as he flattered himself in a letter to Marie Antoinette.

On travaille au manifeste, j'en ai fait faire un par Monsieur de Limon qu'il a donné à Monsieur de Mercy sans qu'il sache qu'il est de moi.
(We are working on the manifesto, I had one made by Monsieur de Limon which he gave to Monsieur de Mercy without him knowing it came from me).

This Swedish gentleman had an extremely bad opinion of the French people, he considered they were stupid and changing. He was completely reactionary and gave Marie Antoinette terrible advises.

And... indeed, he was snobbish à l'excès ! It is obvious from his own diary. Each time he met any queen, any king, any count or any other VIP, he srupulously noted in his precious diary how they looked at him, how they recognized him. All that mattered to him was to be known.

Let's take this tripp he made to Brussels after Varennes. We are a few days only after the king and queen had been arrested. Do you find under Fersen's quill expressions of despair ? No, many people came and questioned me, he wrote. Later, he met Marie Christine, the unfortunate queen's sister, but all that mattered was that she was very good to me and very touched. And among Artois' courtiers, they told me about the departure, they knew this was me and they looked at me very much at court.

Isn't it shallow and quite snobbish ? Well, is does not matter, after all. The man is representative of his time, he is just like any courtier full of money, pride and ambition. He thinks of his carreer and his image, by collecting honours and ladies.

Hans Axel von Fersen is just as interesting as a Lauzun or a Besenval. The mistake many writers and film directors made is to transform him into a hero. Which this fragile and hypochondriac little man was at no level... or maybe in his imagination... ? :shock:

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I do agree with you that if people read his diaries it would destroy some of the supposed love affair between him and the queen, especially about Fersen ever having sex with the queen. People would see that Fersen thought very highly of Antoinette, that they (with the king included too) had a great relationship and that Fersen thought highly of them as a married loving royal couple.

I agree with that. As an officious ambassador from Gustav III to Louis XVI, Fersen failed, but he did all he could. As an adviser to queen Marie Antoinette, he was terrible, but according to his opinions. As a royalist, he was extremely respectful.

It is because he believed in these dynastical principles so firmly that it would be impossible that he had sex with a queen of France.

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Mon Oct 29, 2007 9:35 am
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Pimprenelle wrote:
"How can you consider intelligent the politic that led to Brunswick manifesto ?"


If they would have done what Fersen wanted to do the Brunswick Manifesto would have never been written. That was among the last things they did, after the regents of Europe had done so many bad things already (or they did not enough, only thinking and waiting). If the regents would have done something for the king and queen of France, and if they would not have thought but only of themselves, then Antoinette might have survived the revolution. I agree the Brunswick Manifesto might have led to the turning-point that later led to the death of the king and the queen. That is very unfortunate, but at that time Fersen had tried a lot, and was fed up with the regent's inabilities to make decisions.

Pimprenelle wrote:
"Let's take this tripp he made to Brussels after Varennes. We are a few days only after the king and queen had been arrested. Do you find under Fersen's quill expressions of despair ?"


On the 23 June 1791 Fersen gets the information that the king and queen have been arrested, he does not write that much in his diary about it (or anything else) because he says that nobody knew any details. On the 24 June he writes: "All are sad that the king has been captured. I was deeply sorrowful. All of Luxemburg was in despair that the king had been arrested. How changed is not everything!" The things you "quoted"/talked about are out of context, he says much more than that, why don't you read it all. When he says everybody looked at him he doesn't say that in a sense like 'I'm so happy everybody is watching' me but more like he just establish the fact that everyone knows that he helped the king and queen. He also speaks about how badly the kings brothers handle the whole thing and when he gets more news about the king and queen he is very unhappy.


Mon Oct 29, 2007 1:51 pm
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Quote:
The things you "quoted"/talked about are out of context, he says much more than that, why don't you read it all.

I did post a link to the complete discussion we had on these passages :
http://maria-antonia.justgoo.com/ses-re ... 44-120.htm

Here you have it again ! :D

And I did not mean Fersen was happy. I simply was struck when reading these by the importance he put on being noticed and being recognized. Even in a so sad moment, the man paid a great attention to his reputation. It is the same after Antoinette's death :

Lundi 21. Beau, frais. Je me promenai un peu à cheval. Tous ceux que je rencontrai furent à merveille pour moi; on ne me disait rien, mais on avait l'air de me plaindre.
(Monday [October] 21st. Beautiful, fresh [weather]. I rode a bit. All those I met were wonderful to me; they did not say anything to me, but they seemed to pity me).

It may be just me, but I am shocked by this attitude. Even in the sadest moments, Fersen thinks of his reputation, he pays attention on how people look at him. But maybe I am too sensitive and too romantic ! :D

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If they would have done what Fersen wanted to do the Brunswick Manifesto would have never been written


I could uneasily get in a deep debate about politics of those times, for I sincerely don't know what could have been a wize way by then for the sovereigns.

Many French historians blame Fersen for his too radical advises, many consider Marie Antoinette should have listened to Barnave more seriously. Some even say that Fersen and Marie Antoinette made Louis XVI's politics impossible, for the king wanted to respect the constitution and that, without them both, he would succeed in this kind of constitutional monarchy he was on his way to.

I frankly don't know. It whole looks like an uchronia to me. Altough, deep inside, I must admit I do not trust the revolutionaries either.

However, your explanation relies too much on European courts, doesn't it ? This seems to me unrealistic. Of course, England was happy to see her old enemy in peins and waited for her revenge. Of course, Prussia and the others hoped and waited till they could share dead France and take their parts of it. It is not fair but external politics never are.

To me, the only wize advise Fersen gave to the king was in February 1792, when he tried to have them out once again. To fly away was indeed the only solution to remain alive. Though, later, Fersen told Marie Antoinette to stay in France, and that was another mistake.

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Mon Oct 29, 2007 4:15 pm
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Pimprenelle wrote:
I did post a link to the complete discussion we had on these passages


Did you? Where? In this thread?

Pimprenelle wrote:
It may be just me, but I am shocked by this attitude.


I am not at all shocked. Fersen always wrote about weather and other things you might not feel are that interesting. And him mentioning how people did or did not look at him I do not think is strange at all, because he is just pointing out how people thought if him; if they were rude (he always took notice of that) or if they with their body language expressed certain feelings, it was not always about him though... But you can of course have comments about his style of writing, but there is nothing evil or weird about what he writes.

Pimprenelle wrote:
I could uneasily get in a deep debate about politics of those times...


It is hard to know how things would have been if, if, if... Could have, should have, would have. You can blame many people for many things during the revolution, but that's a whole other discussion. Fersen certainly had the wrong idea of the revolutionists, but I do think that he could have saved the royal family, but maybe not the crown, at least not in the end... But I guess we'll never know now, will we?


Mon Oct 29, 2007 11:10 pm
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Quote:
I am not at all shocked. Fersen always wrote about weather and other things you might not feel are that interesting. And him mentioning how people did or did not look at him I do not think is strange at all, because he is just pointing out how people thought if him; if they were rude (he always took notice of that) or if they with their body language expressed certain feelings, it was not always about him though... But you can of course have comments about his style of writing, but there is nothing evil or weird about what he writes.

Of course, there is nothing evil about writing these ! But it is just selfish, shallow and quite uninteresting, isn't it ?

Or maybe it is because of this image we get about Fersen. When you read books on Marie Antoinette and on their relationship, Fersen is always portraied a hero. There is thus a complete contradiction between this image of a hero and Fersen's own writings.

But, of course, there is nothing evil about being a XVIIIth century gentleman, quite libertine, ambitious, selfish and hypochondriac. I even guess her friend Marie Antoinette loved him just as he was, for she happened to write "I am certain you don't take care of your health, and you are wrong". And she helped him obtaining advantages just as she helped other people she loved, Madame de Lamballe or Madame de Polignac. She gave him advises for his private life just as she always did to people she loved, when she says that she hopes that the Craufurd would be there for Fersen needs a little bit of fun.

Fersen was just as he was, he was not a hero, he was not a white knight. He was but a man with his qualities and failures, like any of us.

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but I do think that he could have saved the royal family, but maybe not the crown, at least not in the end

No, we'll never know for sure, but I agree with that, that is my inner conviction that the royal family could be saved, but not the crown. However, Fersen was not the only one who tried so hard to save them. Rougeville, Jarjayes, Madame Atkins, princess von Hesse Darmstadt, de Batz, Madame de Jarjayes... they all did.

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Tue Oct 30, 2007 8:27 am
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Pimprenelle wrote:
Or maybe it is because of this image we get about Fersen. When you read books on Marie Antoinette and on their relationship, Fersen is always portraied a hero...


I think you're on to something... I read about Fersen because I am Swedish, I guess. He is very interesting, even though I don't believe in the whole Antoinette/Fersen-love story (because I have not seen any proof of it). If you did believe in that whole thing reading Fersen's diary might not be so interesting, maybe you would be astonished (in a bad way) even. His style is not that intreging, it's not written to be read and especially not written to be a best seller, simply notes. And if your interest is Marie Antoinette, reading Fersen's diary might horrify you a bit. But I think that is because you had the wrong impression beforehand. I think he is very exciting and when I read Fersen's diary (the whole thing, not only what he wrote during the revolution) I grew very fond of him. Not that I think he was some kind of hero, but I don't believe he was selfish or shallow either. Though I believe he was a proud man and a brave man.

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Tue Oct 30, 2007 5:03 pm
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I read large parts of Fersen's diary, which are quoted in two biographies, the one by Kunstler and the one by Kermina. Both of these authors give passages of the diary and not only concerning Antoinette or the revolution.

We must admit to disagree, dear Hans Axel. I did not really appreciate what I read. Especially being a woman. I found many of Fersen's comments about women quite contemptuous (this one is too small, this other one is not well dressed... ).

Well... I must admit I did not fall in love with Madame Vigée Lebrun either while reading her souvenirs. She also is not very fair to other people, sometimes. See how she speaks about Lady Hamilton ! Or even about Marie Antoinette's voice... :roll:

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Tue Oct 30, 2007 5:35 pm
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Pimprenelle wrote:
I found many of Fersen's comments about women quite contemptuous (this one is too small, this other one is not well dressed... ).


I think you read in too much in what he writes. First of all he does not only write in that way about women. He comments on everyone everywhere and he is very careful about his own appearance. But that is just his way of writing. He is raised as an aristocrat and certainly not democratic and not really understanding about different upbringings.

Also I think you fit in the category of those who adore Antoinette and as I wrote just now "...if your interest is Marie Antoinette, reading Fersen's diary might horrify you a bit. But I think that is because you had the wrong impression beforehand."

Still, I do agree with you that people (Fersen, Vigée Lebrun, etc.) do not owe the virtues we value today and they were often somewhat unfair in judging people, but I don't compare them with today - and as I said before I think Fersen was a bit old fashioned even (if you compare Louis XVI and Fersen's way of thinking about France, for instance).

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Tue Oct 30, 2007 6:36 pm
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I agree with everything you said. I know I must be careful when reading those memoirs and souvenirs, but it is true I often find the writers somewhat unfair !

It is even more serious with Fersen's writings, since they were supposed to remain unread ! :wink:

I admit I am in the categorie of those who adore Antoinette. I do, for years, and I am proud of it... and so happy ! :D

And, you know, I am making efforts with Fersen, I try to remember that he was a good musician, and quite sensitive, that he loved so refined things... Reading his writings still remains quite difficult for me, I have to admit it. You are perfectly right.

But, since you speak of him with such a passion, and you offer us such beautiful pictures, dear Hans Axel, maybe you'll finally get even me more appreciative of Fersen ! :wink:

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Tue Oct 30, 2007 8:22 pm
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Pimprenelle wrote:
But, since you speak of him with such a passion, and you offer us such beautiful pictures, dear Hans Axel, maybe you'll finally get even me more appreciative of Fersen ! :wink:


I hope so! :D

While I'm at it I thought I could show some pictures that has to do with Fersen. I don't know what you have or have not seen already, so I'll show a variation of pictures.

Image
His sister Sophie Piper (who also spoke passionately of Fersen) :wink:.

Image
Part of "Fersenska palatset", the Fersen Palace, in Stockholm, Sweden (as it is today).

Image
"Serafimerorden", an order he recieved in 1800. He has it on him in this next picture:

Image

Image
Ljung castle, one of the Fersen family's castles (it is no Versailles though).

Image
Ljung church, where Fersen lies buried.

Image
Löfstad castle.

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The memorial that Sophie raised to Fersen, it is located in Löfstad (above).

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Tue Oct 30, 2007 10:33 pm
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Thanks for the wonderful pictures, Hans Axel! :)

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Wed Oct 31, 2007 8:01 am
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Thanks for posting those photos. Do you know if you can tour those palaces?


Wed Oct 31, 2007 3:02 pm
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jadean wrote:
Thanks for posting those photos. Do you know if you can tour those palaces?


Yes, you can! They have guided tours on both castles, you can read all about it on their websites.

This is Löfstad's website: http://www.lofstad.nu/ It's avaliable in Swedish, English, French and German. Here you get more information about guided tours in English: http://www.lofstad.nu/sidor/engelska/EN ... mang1.html

Here is Ljung Castle's website: http://www.aerocom-int.com/ljungsslott/ It is avaliable in Swedish and English. You can get information about tours in English at this page: http://www.aerocom-int.com/ljungsslott/ ... nglish.htm

They also have some special events during the year on both castles, like on christmas and midsomer...

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Wed Oct 31, 2007 10:09 pm
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Thank you for the links Hans Axel.
I had no idea that he was killed by a mob, that's terrible. I really don't know much about him, except for his connection to Marie-Antoinette, your information has me interested in him now.


Wed Oct 31, 2007 10:51 pm
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