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 Marie Antoinette's lover 
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Post Re: Marie Antoinette's lover
Indeed, Therese, you are right. On the contrary, Louis XVI was very happy Marie Antoinette befriended Madame de Polignac.

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Thu Apr 24, 2008 7:24 pm
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Post Re: Marie Antoinette's lover
Why are people so obsessed with this Fersen myth? :roll:

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Sat Apr 26, 2008 2:09 am
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Post Re: Marie Antoinette's lover
I often wonder about it, dear... I think this has to do with pure fantasies and sexual fantasms. It all began with this non consummation of the marriage. For so long, Marie Antoinette appeared a virgin, and she was so charming and beautiful that many courtiers would have given all they had to be the one who could fulfill her frustrated desires. What I mean is that her marital situation made the imaginations burn out, for sure. :roll:

Then came this man, preceeded by his reputation. Count Fersen, with his angel face, who drove so many women crazy. Let's add he was a Swede and that Sweden was extremely fashion at this moment. For the attendees, who had nothing to do but look and gossip, this was the encounter of a frustrated virgin and a wonderful seducer. She had to fall for him, it was written in gloden letters ! :lol:

One thing is certain : Marie Antoinette really befriended Fersen. She also befriended Besenval, Coigny, Esterhazy, Lauzun... and so on, and so on, and also many ladies. The difference is that Fersen kept loyal to Louis and Antoinette till the very end, so that he helped in this Varennes terrible adventure.

Another point is that we still have Fersen's writings, so that historians can study them. But I am afraid they don't always do their job very seriously ! On the contrary, they sometimes develop as much imagination as those courtiers ! Let's take Alma Söderjhelm, considered the specialist of Fersen and so often quoted... :roll: Come on ! There is nothing but speculations in her book ! :roll:

Let's add that now, with the distance, a real myth has been developed, acting a lonesome beautiful princess, a clumpsy fat king, and a handsome hero. People enjoy dreaming more than historical analysis. They want to offer this so unhappy, illfated princess some post mortem present, a wonderful love story. :roll:

Although, for those who are truely interested in Marie Antoinette, we soon discover that she did not need this romance ! She had a very full, a very interesting life, with her family, her children, her friends, her comedies, her songs, the arts and manufactures she protected... :D

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Sat Apr 26, 2008 9:47 am
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Post Re: Marie Antoinette's lover
Pimprenelle wrote:
Although, for those who are truely interested in Marie Antoinette, we soon discover that she did not need this romance ! She had a very full, a very interesting life, with her family, her children, her friends, her comedies, her songs, the arts and manufactures she protected... :D

Indeed! Most times reality is more interesting than romance

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Sat Apr 26, 2008 10:59 pm
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Post Re: Marie Antoinette's lover
Pimprenelle wrote:
I often wonder about it, dear... I think this has to do with pure fantasies and sexual fantasms. It all began with this non consummation of the marriage. For so long, Marie Antoinette appeared a virgin, and she was so charming and beautiful that many courtiers would have given all they had to be the one who could fulfill her frustrated desires. What I mean is that her marital situation made the imaginations burn out, for sure. :roll:

Then came this man, preceeded by his reputation. Count Fersen, with his angel face, who drove so many women crazy. Let's add he was a Swede and that Sweden was extremely fashion at this moment. For the attendees, who had nothing to do but look and gossip, this was the encounter of a frustrated virgin and a wonderful seducer. She had to fall for him, it was written in gloden letters ! :lol:

One thing is certain : Marie Antoinette really befriended Fersen. She also befriended Besenval, Coigny, Esterhazy, Lauzun... and so on, and so on, and also many ladies. The difference is that Fersen kept loyal to Louis and Antoinette till the very end, so that he helped in this Varennes terrible adventure.

Another point is that we still have Fersen's writings, so that historians can study them. But I am afraid they don't always do their job very seriously ! On the contrary, they sometimes develop as much imagination as those courtiers ! Let's take Alma Söderjhelm, considered the specialist of Fersen and so often quoted... :roll: Come on ! There is nothing but speculations in her book ! :roll:

Let's add that now, with the distance, a real myth has been developed, acting a lonesome beautiful princess, a clumpsy fat king, and a handsome hero. People enjoy dreaming more than historical analysis. They want to offer this so unhappy, illfated princess some post mortem present, a wonderful love story. :roll:

Although, for those who are truely interested in Marie Antoinette, we soon discover that she did not need this romance ! She had a very full, a very interesting life, with her family, her children, her friends, her comedies, her songs, the arts and manufactures she protected... :D


Beautifully expressed, and all very true.

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Sat Apr 26, 2008 11:06 pm
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Post Re: Marie Antoinette's lover
Pimprenelle wrote:
Let's add that now, with the distance, a real myth has been developed, acting a lonesome beautiful princess, a clumpsy fat king, and a handsome hero. People enjoy dreaming more than historical analysis. They want to offer this so unhappy, illfated princess some post mortem present, a wonderful love story.


That’s so true. :|

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Sun Apr 27, 2008 9:07 am
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Post Re: Marie Antoinette's lover
I believe Marie Antoinette and Fersen were probably very good friends. Yes, she did seem to take a special interest in him and maybe they were even extremely attracted to one another. But you can be attracted to someone and not go on to carry out a full blown affair with them. I mean, we all don't act solely based on the force of our attractions. I believe Marie Antoinette had a strong sense for the responsibilities of her duties. And if she had been involved in this so called tumultuous affair with Fersen, wouldn't she have at first chance had abandoned Louis XVI to his fate in Paris and escaped at the first opportunity? Her life was so studied and criticized by others, who were probably jealous of the attentions she paid to those she had an affinity for, that it is much more probable that this legend was begun purely out of spite. Obviously for others it is easier to degrade her character in this belief than to keep an open mind to the relationship being purely platonic.

Yes, it is an extremely romantic scenario: the beautiful queen in a loveless marriage carrying out this passionate affair with a dashing foreigner, etc, etc. However, I believe that's as far as it goes: romantic fiction.


Sun Apr 27, 2008 12:08 pm
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Post Re: Marie Antoinette's lover
I don't think things are as clear cut as Pim and Thérèse like to make out concerning Fersen.

It is obvious that Marie Antoinette's grooming as a Catholic Habsbourg princess was to be a faithful wife and mother of princes. However things did not turn out quite as she had hoped....even if it is true that Queens were hardly ever left alone and had a permanent following with them, it is less true of Marie Antoinette, who was the first Queen I know of (with the exception of Margaret of Navarre, who was Queen only of this small principauté) to achieve a certain degree of emancipation, relative it is true, but nevertheless real. Trianon, built for and used by court "favourites", becomes the private realm of the Queen. This was unheard of before and much criticized. It is true that even at Trianon Marie Antoinette was spied on and always accompanied by a suite, but....she controlled access to Trianon, another quite new development. Rohan for example was obviously persona non grata. St Priest, admittedly someone who had a bone to pick with a number of people, mentions the regular meetings on horseback of the Queen and Fersen, and mentions the extreme efforts of Fersen to remain discreet, despite the fact that no-one doubted the true nature of their friendship. And interestingly Governor Morris notes with his typical irony in his diaries at the time in a totally manner of fact way: "The only interesting attribute of Fersen was that he was the Queen's lover". Morris frequented all the high society of Paris during his posting as Ambassador of the new United States of America. His view certainly mirrors that of the society of the time, though obviously high society is a hive of rumour and feeds on scandal as well. But so much smoke without any fire....? Normally a Queen had little chance of taking a lover, she was chaperoned, she was under surveillance, as she was the official embodiment of the bloodline of the dynasty, and therefore a bastard child was a serious problem for the succession. And such a child would have brought terrible scandal upon her. However here with this Queen and this period, we cannot talk of "normally"! The Royal family at the Tuileries was under house arrest , submitted to barbarous attacks by the populace of Paris, harassed, physically threatened. The very fact that Fersen was behind an escape attempt is in itself not at all customary...why Fersen and not someone else? He was just a friend of the Queen, but he puts his life on the line for her and her family, and he is not even French for that matter! And then he risks his life anew in 1792 to see the Queen at the Tuileries, passing by his "usual route" (the one he always took during the preparations for Varennes) as he notes despite the presence of National guards all over the place, and sees the Queen without seeing the King! Unheard of behaviour! These were not normal times and usual étiquette and custom did not apply it seems. The Queen, who was soon no longer to be seen as Queen, but simply as the Widow Capet, may have wished in these extreme circumstances to shake off the shackles and accept this love, which in no way would have changed her love for her children nor her profound respect for her husband. In this light I am somewhat sceptical when I hear that all the comprising letters between her and Fersen are apocryphal.

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Tue Apr 29, 2008 10:03 am
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Post Re: Marie Antoinette's lover
baron de batz wrote:
I don't think things are as clear cut as Pim and Thérèse like to make out concerning Fersen.

In this light I am somewhat sceptical when I hear that all the comprising letters between her and Fersen are apocryphal.


What compromising letters?

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Tue Apr 29, 2008 11:38 am
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Post Re: Marie Antoinette's lover
And we have discussed this topic before:

viewtopic.php?f=12&t=217&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&start=225

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Tue Apr 29, 2008 11:49 am
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Post Re: Marie Antoinette's lover
Thérèse wrote:

What is wrong with the queen being fond of Fersen? It does not mean that he was her lover!

It seems Thérèse that you too have doubts as to whether Fersen was not more than just a member of her private circle...

I have read through the previous posts on the same subject but under a different title (maybe someone could clean up a bit? :) ) and I am not convinced. It is true that historians are themselves divided, and that the provenance of certain letters which would have been compromising is not proven. However Pim and Thérèse, who are so convinced that Fersen were not lovers, are for me also influenced for me on this subject by an image of the Queen that they wish to remain intact. For me the Queen would not go down in my estimation if there was proof of an affair with Fersen. Numerous contemporary observers take it for granted that the Queen and Fersen were lovers. It is difficult for us to ignore all of these even if it was common practice to gossip....and Fersen's rôle that close to the Royal family, that tied up with their personal afffairs, was nothing if not unusual for someone of his social rank. He was not after all a cousin, or any part of the family. Nothing however proves a relationship with the Queen either way, so ,therefore two factors seem important, which various historians have taken into account:

1) The psychology of the two protagonists
2) The social and behavioural context at Versailles and afterwards

Zweig would tend to think that it is likely that the two had a relationship. I would agree with him from a psychological point of view. Marie Antoinette was for me an esthetical person (not a sexual person as far as we can tell, at least not with Louis XVI) and therefore I believe that Fersen probably attracted her artistically, much as a beautiful piece of furniture, a painting, a piece of jewelry would have. She liked to be surrounded by beauty. Look at her choice of female companions! She must have struggled with problems of physical revulsion towards her husband at times, his penchant for overeating, his obesity, his taking refuge in food and drink at the most difficult times. Her brother hits the nail on the head in his letter of remontrances to her, when he writes something like "worse, do you not show him your revulsion when he comes to you?". Our Queen, a great connaisseur of beauty, didn't pick the ugliest, as they say in France when she encouraged Fersen...she had an eye for beauty, including male beauty. Furthermore Marie Antoinette had a great need to be loved. This made her vulnerable. For a long time, right up to their semi-imprisonment, Louis XVI had seemingly great difficulty in showing his love to her, and made a disastrous start. Her description of him as a "pauvre homme" which her mother picks upon, is fairly clear. Her famous letter where she talks of herself as not sharing the same interests (I would make a poor Vulcan and I'm not sure he would wish me to play the rôle of Venus) is a fairly clear endictment of the difficult state of affairs at the time. So I think that despite herself, and no doubt encouraged by her close friends (one has to remember how unusual this was to have such close friends for a Queen) who mostly had lovers themselves, she starts to notice what is around her. And what we know of her childhood in Vienna shows us that the Dauphine didn't lack character and even discussed with her sister the latter's marriage to a much older and unattractive man, and the fact that she would find someone else once she had arrived in Naples. Therefore psychologically for me lots of different factors seem reunited that plead in favour of some kind of relationship between the two.

Socially and from a point of view of étiquette, any relationship would have been extremely difficult. But Marie Antoinette as we know breaks new ground here right from the start. Firstly she breaks down the fiercely possessive étiquette that surrounds and defines her rôle as dauphine. She replaces the Comtesse de Noailles, she goes to the Opéra with Artois and her friends without the King, she is given and fully embraces Trianon, the "favourite's" palace away from the Court, she restricts access to the same, she reduces her suite often to a few friends or ladies of waiting. She establishes her own private society without the King, often the King and her do not see each other at all at night, let alone share the same bed, as her mother did with her husband. On this point her mother tries to get her to follow her line, which was in itself unsual. Therefore, even though normally speaking such a relationship with Fersen would have been hard to imagine and even harder to put into action, the situation of this Queen was somewhat though not entirely different. Of course spies were never lacking, but it was certainly easier for her to control this than it had ever been for previous sovereigns, and this is precisely what one reproaches her for! Finally the political situation, completely unseen before in France, further changes the social situation in which the Queen evolves. She is no longer the respected sovereign of Versailles, she is in semi or complete imprisonment in Paris, she and Fersen are drawn closer by adversity and by the King's well documented difficulties to rise up to the situation. They start to act decisively like a couple, pushing the King to resist certain demands, to flee to Varennes, she sees Fersen as the man of action capable of saving her children. His rôle is unheard of for a simple nobleman and foreigner, to be that close and involved with the Royal family! Therefore everything is turned on it's head here and with it quite possibly the usual logical reasonable behaviour of our two main protagonists....

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Tue Apr 29, 2008 2:45 pm
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Post Re: Marie Antoinette's lover
baron de batz wrote:
Thérèse wrote:

What is wrong with the queen being fond of Fersen? It does not mean that he was her lover!

It seems Thérèse that you too have doubts as to whether Fersen was not more than just a member of her private circle...



Sorry, I am not afflicted by doubts in this regard. You are reading meanings into my words that are not there.

So what about the "compromising letters?" Is this a new discovery?

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Tue Apr 29, 2008 2:57 pm
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Post Re: Marie Antoinette's lover
So in your opinion Thérèse French Queens were often openly fond of their courtiers?

I have no new compromising letters to reveal, unfortunately :D It would be nice to be able to unravel the mystery. Our Swedish friend Axel may find something one day perhaps in some dusty old book that once belonged to a Fersen relation! Who knows? I was referring to the correspondence that we all know about, especially the ciphered letter and the Soderhjelm letters. You say its' maybe or even probably not from the Queen, but if it were..you can't be sure any more than I can. And you make no reference to the long list of arguments I make about MA breaking very new ground all through her short life!

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Tue Apr 29, 2008 3:10 pm
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Post Re: Marie Antoinette's lover
baron de batz wrote:
So in your opinion Thérèse French Queens were often openly fond of their courtiers?

I have no new compromising letters to reveal, unfortunately :D It would be nice to be able to unravel the mystery. Our Swedish friend Axel may find something one day perhaps in some dusty old book that once belonged to a Fersen relation! Who knows? I was referring to the correspondence that we all know about, especially the ciphered letter and the Soderhjelm letters. You say its' maybe or even probably not from the Queen, but if it were..you can't be sure any more than I can. And you make no reference to the long list of arguments I make about MA breaking very new ground all through her short life!


Baron, we have gone over this so many times on this forum, in detail on other threads. I fail to see the reason to have another thread on this topic. Perhaps you have unlimited time to go over this again and again, dear sir, but I do not. No authenticated compromising letters exist.

The queen showed open favor to many courtiers. Her name was linked with both men and women. Fersen was often mentioned in the gossip, but then so was Artois, her brother-in-law. So was Madame de Polignac and Princesse de Lamballe.

As for life at the Tuileries, here is a quote describing how it was for the king and queen, from Imbert de Saint-Amand's book "Marie-Antoinette at the Tuileries." (How difficult it would have been for her to entertain Count Fersen, when she was hardly ever alone.):

"It had been resolved that [the queen] should have no personal attendant except the lady's maid who had acted as a spy before the journey to Varennes. A portrait of this person was placed at the foot of the staircase leading to the Queen's rooms so that the sentinel should permit no other woman to enter. Louis XVI was obliged to appeal to Lafayette in order to have this spy turned out of the palace where her presence was an outrage on Marie Antoinette. This espionage and inquisition pursued the unfortunate Queen even into her bedroom. The guards were instructed not to lose sight of her by night or day. They took note of her slightest gestures, listened to her slightest words. Stationed in the room adjoining hers they kept the communicating door always open so that they could see the august captive at all times." (pp223-224)
http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id= ... 4VRR4GGDQQ

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Tue Apr 29, 2008 3:21 pm
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Post Re: Marie Antoinette's lover
Indeed, baron, you show no testimony, no proof, nothing but a personal interpretation. Are you influenced by Delannoy's so romantical movie ? :lol:

Have you read these "Söderjhelm's letters" ? Anyway, you are right to call them "Söderjhelm's letters" instead of "Marie Antoinette's letters" ! :mrgreen: There actually are no secret or cyphered letters, all the letters Marie Antoinette once wrote to Fersen are published in Evelyne Lever's 2005 edition of the correspondence. These are political matters, you would not find love words under Marie Antoinette's quill.

Where did you read Marie Antoinette was disgusted by Louis XVI ? :shock: She never mentioned so, she tells nothing about his obesity or what else... ? :shock: I would be interested in knowing your sources about this. Neither did the queen mention Fersen's so artistical beauty. :roll: The only commentaries she ever wrote about count Fersen are political.

Or maybe you take for granted that the queen of France once was given a foot massage by Axel von Fersen ! :lol:

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