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 A charge of incest? Seriously? 
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Post A charge of incest? Seriously?
Now, I'm sure most of you knew this and probably have already expressed your outrage about it, but lemme have my turn here. Now I admit I don't really have any verbose thesis to present with the punctuation 'discuss' and really just have a flabbergasted statement.

During the trial, Marie Antoinette was apparently accused of engaging in incestuous practices with her son, the little dauphin. They even coerced a confession out of the frightened little boy.

The queen didn't combat the charges, instead replying (and I paraphrase greatly here) "That's so absurd I'm not even going to respond to it." Which she was absolutely right to do - I mean, seriously?

Ick. Just ick. Even when Robespierre heard of it he complained that they were going to make her a martyr. And say what you will about the guy, but a good rule of thumb is that if Robespierre thinks you've gone too far, then you've probably pull-vaulted over the line of rationality and took off into Crazy Town about a week ago. I mean, why do people have to do that? It's not enough to call a woman a traitor and a tyrant or to besmirch her political affiliations, we have to lampoon her relationship with her children?

I imagine this wasn't the only straight-up lie they told. It's just the one that really jolted me when I read it.

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Wed Feb 15, 2012 9:12 pm
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Post Re: A charge of incest? Seriously?
Yes, unfortunately.....
I believe this was Hebert's idea. This despicable slime bag of a human being harbored an out of control hatred for Marie Antoinette. When pressed to answer this charge, Marie Antoinette said " If I did not reply it was because nature recoils from such an accusation against a mother." She then turned to the crowd and added "I appeal to all those that may be here!" (Castelot pg.380) It was a shining moment for MA, and really pissed off the Revolutionaries, who did not want any sympathy generated for the Queen they were about to kill. The charge sounded as ridiculous to them as it sounds to us.....and had the effect of making them look like idiots.
As far as Hebert goes, it is doubtful there was any limit to what he would have and did say and print about her. The charge was intended to show how perverted she was. Hebert used his paper to abuse Marie Antoinette in the most disgusting ways!


Thu Feb 16, 2012 1:49 am
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Post Re: A charge of incest? Seriously?
Ah, Herbert. I admit I don't know too much about the guy (so there is a chance my diagnosis is off), but what I know I find abhorrent. Apparently he and his gang was so bloodthirsty even the Jacobins recoiled. See my pole-vaulting over the line of rationality quip above. It goes double here.

But --- I don't even know what to say. First off, forcing a child to say that about their mother. Second off, actually presenting that as evidence in court just to besmirch someone. Even in the hypothetical situation which Marie Antoinette was a spendthrift tyraness who decreed 'Let them eat cake!' and was plotting an Austrian invasion and was lusting after the blood of Frenchmen, to call the woman a predator to her own child is still monstrous. (And before someone begins to lampoon me for the infamous cake quote and etc, I said 'hypothetical'.) There is absolutely no fathomable excuse to ever make up a story like that about anyone, ever.

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Thu Feb 16, 2012 2:22 am
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Post Re: A charge of incest? Seriously?
Vive wrote:
There is absolutely no fathomable excuse to ever make up a story like that about anyone, ever.


You would think....but it seems nothing was off limits to the length these brutal men would go to make Marie Antoinette look bad. Her role as a Mother had not been used against her even though she'd been slandered in every other area of her life. It was the last part of her they could attack - and if people believed it, they would have succeeded.


Thu Feb 16, 2012 3:02 am
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Post Re: A charge of incest? Seriously?
Yes Robespierre did not hold Hébert in a very high esteem -which is understandable !-. He said that Hébert had definitely been an "imbecile" to level such an accusation at the Queen.


In fact even Fouquier Tinville, the judge, must have thought the same : he tried to sidestep the question and switched to another subject, but one of the juror pointed out that the Queen had not answered.

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Thu Feb 16, 2012 8:45 am
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Post Re: A charge of incest? Seriously?
Yes it was a sick charge and involved not just the Queen but also her sister-in-law, as Hébert maintains that the young Dauphin testifies that the two women lay him between them in bed to indulge in their perversities.

The problem is however that the Dauphin is very insistent in his accusations, and when faced with his aunt he is adamant about what happened, which moves her to call him a "monster". MA was of course aware of this confrontation, as she asks her sister-in-law in her poignant last letter to forgive him and remember his young age and influencable nature.

The tragic truth of this accusation is that it is the proof of just how terrified the young boy was, as he was prepared to say anything to gain favour with his jailors. He had already seen too much terror, and the death of his father which he had tried personally to stop by pleading with the revolutionaries.

Hébert's accusations, however sick and reprehensible, were based on testimony, but a testimony that should have been disregarded as coming from a frightened child caught in the act of masturbation, his guilt and apprehension about that fact causing him to make up the whole story.

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Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:21 am
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Post Re: A charge of incest? Seriously?
It was after Fouquier-Tinville expressed some doubt as to whether they had enough evidence to actually get the death penalty for Marie Antoinette, that Hebert's twisted mind devised this plan. Hebert had been one to scream the loudest for the head of Marie Antoinette.

While the Dauphin was in Simon's care at the Temple, Hebert had a hand in the abuse of the boy and instilled great fear in him. Cronin says "Simon encouraged the child to practice self-abuse, probably on Hebert's orders.." and also that eventually, Hebert "gave orders to Simon that from time to time a prostitute was to be bought to Louis' room. The boy was too young to have intercourse, but the prostitute would sap his strength and eventually perhaps infect him with syphilis."

When Louis-Charles was removed from MA, put into the care of Simon and his wife, he was immediately subjected to abuse. The psychological confusion experienced by a child in these circumstances would be overwhelming. After the initial shock of it, a child begins to adapt and even tries to please the abuser in an attempt to avoid further abuse. This 8 year old boy was no match for the grown men who set upon him.

In any event, Cadbury reports he was subjected to "atrocious cruelty" and that "prison staff noticed that Louis-Charles could be frozen with terror at the sight of anyone he did not recognize and would not utter a word to them unless they showed him some act of kindness". It was the intent of his jailers to break the spirit of this child, and thus they did. In the situation he was in, Louis-Charles would have done and said anything he was told to do or say.


Hebert was the one who drew up the confession for Louis-Charles to sign. Cadbury claims the Dauphin was given "more than a little liquor" for the meeting with the officials who would question him. She also says the atmosphere was "highly charged". It wouldn't take a whole lot for this room of grown men to get this scared 8 year old to sign a piece of paper, and the next day they all confronted Madame Elizabeth and Madame Royal for questioning. Then, of course, at MA's trial, she would have this piece of filth slung at her. Just disgusting.


Thu Feb 16, 2012 6:45 pm
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Post Re: A charge of incest? Seriously?
Bertière however is a little more skeptical when it comes to the way Simon handled the Dauphin. According to her, these are exaggerations made my MTC, who could not conceive that such accusations had been levelled at her by her own brother.

Bertière makes out that Simon did not treat Louis-Charles especially badly, and that the horrendous mistreatments began only after his mother's death, when he was moved into another cell, where is was left on his own device and utterly cooped up - a dank, dark room and devoid of the most basic facilities. Obviously, Simon being uneducated, rude as well as a keen "sans-culotte", his influence could only be damaging for the child, who was spotted swearing at his mother and aunt and calling names, as well as singing various revolutionary songs.

Bertière puts down his behaviour to his extreme loneliness, isolation an grief back in those days when he was with his mother, aunt, and sister, which contrasted to his closeness to his father. They were wary of his because he was given to being overly talkative and trusting, and at that time, they were in touch with Toulan who strove to get them out. So they were afraid he would snitch and give them away. The child may have bore them a grudge, all the more that he was intensly traumatized by his father's death and never got over it. Let us not forget that we are talking about a child that had lost his brother, father, had been in constant insecurity for a long period of time and had witnessed manslaughters and lynching !

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Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:31 pm
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Post Re: A charge of incest? Seriously?
It is a shame to not have access to Bertiere's book in English! I would love to add it to my collection!


Fri Feb 17, 2012 8:07 pm
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Post Re: A charge of incest? Seriously?
True, Bertière is a must-read, but there are other equally good biographies available in English as well, my favourite being Haslip's. Bertière did try to have her book translated, but it was published about the same time as Fraser's.


Her point is that the young boy was, at some point, caught masturbating by his mother/aunt, who, being both rather on the prudish side, told him off. He started to have a grudge against them, all the more that he felt really isolated.

Simon caught him indulging in his solitary pleasures, and, contrary to what the boy had expected, told him off as well. Louis-Charles resorted to making up some fibs about his mother's teaching him those things. Simon, who had been drilled into that Marie-Antoinette was some kind of sex-obsessed she-devil, bought this story.

I think that Marie-Antoinette hit the nail on the head when she wrote that it is "easy" to make a child say whatever you want. Saying that it is "easy", in my book, indicates that she does not believe that any kind of mistreatment made Louis-Charles accuse her, but that he was led astray by Simon's wrongful influence.

About the wine, well, Simon was not very educated, so, according to Bertière, having Louis-Charles drink wine was a way to "treat him like a man" and not to get him drunk. I have personnally no trouble believing this, because the reasonable attitude we now have in France with regards to alcohol is very recent. As a child, my parents never made me drink wine but would pour a dip of wine into my water -sort of to get me accustomed to the taste-. It seems to me very realistic to say that in the XVIII century lowest classes children drank as much as their parents did. It was still like that back in the early XX century !

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Sat Feb 18, 2012 10:25 am
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Post Re: A charge of incest? Seriously?
Yes in Normandy even last century they would put a drop or two of Calvados brandy in the baby's milk to calm it down a bit.

I agree with you Ludy, there was probably more of a social class reason for Simon sharing his wine with the young lad than a deliberate attempt to get him drunk. And the child probably took to it. I have read so many competely contrasting opionions on Simon's treatment of the boy that I don't know whom to believe. I tend to think he treated him like most working class children of the time were treated, sometimes quite tender, oftentimes the stick!

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Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:33 am
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Post Re: A charge of incest? Seriously?
When faced with these charges, didn't Marie say something along the lines of: "Ask any mother: is such a thing even possible" ?

Despite her flaws, I have such a soft-spot for Marie and this pathetic story brings my sympathy toward her to a zenith. I can't even begin to imagine how Marie and Louis-Charles felt being cruelly separated from each other - Marie who adored her children and Louis-Charles who was so young and vulnerable. Marie went into hysterics when Louis-Charles was taken away from her and it took quite a long time for him to finally be pried (literally) from her grasp. I can't imagine how torturous and dragging the remaining days were for that poor woman and her innocent child. I believed these accusations actually gained Marie sympathy among the public?


Wed Apr 04, 2012 11:12 pm
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Post Re: A charge of incest? Seriously?
Lilly wrote:
When pressed to answer this charge, Marie Antoinette said " If I did not reply it was because nature recoils from such an accusation against a mother." She then turned to the crowd and added "I appeal to all those that may be here!" (Castelot pg.380)


I have a much harsher opinion of how Louis-Charles was treated. I think this child was taken with the worst of intent and deliberately abused. I absolutely think they plied him with wine to make him drunk. I think that Simon was a sick man and he "got off" on brutalizing and terrorizing this little boy, all the more because of who he was. In today's terms he'd probably be refered to as a Socio/Psychopath.


Can I ask Woodland Nymph.... why do you address the Queen as simply "Marie"? I have never seen her refered to in this way in any book or film, or heard of anyone she knew calling her only Marie. Just wondering.........


Thu Apr 05, 2012 1:10 am
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Post Re: A charge of incest? Seriously?
Lilly wrote:
Can I ask Woodland Nymph.... why do you address the Queen as simply "Marie"? I have never seen her refered to in this way in any book or film, or heard of anyone she knew calling her only Marie. Just wondering.........

Oh wow I never even realized that I do! I suppose I do it out of habit; when I talk about her among my family and friends - and I do so often - I may simply call her Marie due to it being such a casual conversation. But I mean no disrespect whatsoever! :)


Thu Apr 05, 2012 4:50 pm
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Post Re: A charge of incest? Seriously?
Lol, no ! It's not disrespectful at all, don't you worry. I have noticed a lot of non French members called her that way. Maybe because they think Marie is the official name and Antoinette a kind of secondary name, like George Walker Bush ha ha ha !!!!

Joke apart, the truth is that all archduchesses were called "Marie", so if one wants to shorten MA's name, it would be Antoinette rather than Marie.


... here we call her MA. That way the question is settled ! :lol:

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Thu Apr 05, 2012 8:12 pm
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