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 Grossest Misrepresentations of Marie Antoinette? 
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Post Grossest Misrepresentations of Marie Antoinette?
What is the grossest misrepresentation of Marie Antoinette you've ever seen?

Contemporary propaganda pamphlets aside, I gotta cite this book I recently purchased called Mad Kings & Queens by Alison Rattle and Allison Vale. It's a slim little thing that I bought to skim before I went to bed because it looked like light, amusing reading. It also has a nasty habit of just making things up. Due to the title being called mad kings and queens - implying that the monarchs it outlined would have some sort of mental illness - I was surprised to see Marie Antoinette listed in its table of contents, because you know, despite my revolutionary leanings I never thought that the unlucky queen was insane.

The book proceeded to essentially blame her for all the excesses of Versailles - and that is a common enough misconception so I didn't really react too negatively. Until it started to accept the propaganda pamphlets that were spread about her in the 18th century as true facts. It implied that Antoinette was totally sleeping with everyone, especially the women. The book did admit that there was a "fog of propaganda" around its 'facts' but hastily added that "her lavish ifestyle, three day long spending sprees, and exclusive networks of elite companions did not necessarily exclude such proclivities [as sexual deviancy."

Ah, but here comes the kicker. It then proceeded to decry her depression later in life as if that was a sign of mental illness. In my opinion, if someone's husband was executed, their children torn away from them, a mob is howling for their blood, and they are locked in a prison and they are not depressed, than that would be a sign of mental illness. Marie Antoinette being depressed during the revolution is --- well, it's a bit of a given.

So that entry completely undercut any reliability for the book to me. I know it was supposed to be amusing fun, but I think monarchies have been filled with enough legitimately mad royals without having to frame Marie Antoinette up.

So that was my adventure. Any other horror stories out there?

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Thu Mar 08, 2012 1:52 am
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Post Re: Grossest Misrepresentations of Marie Antoinette?
This is an interesting question, though by and large we've discussed that extensively enough throughout the forum.))


I have often come across as a MA basher on here, but the fact is that I do look up to her as a person, and I love her. But it does annoy me when her shortcomings are glossed over and blinked at just because she is Marie-Antoinette. What is wrong from another person is wrong on her part too -not that I would have been any better. I have done a lot of daft things too. But I am not the Queen of France -or am I ?

It is for instance very common to downplay the court's spending, stating that the amounted to 7% of the total budget at best. Give me a break ! For any level-headed individual, 7% spent on those trifles IS a lot. And it is not sufficient to say that "it is a drop of water in the sea of deficits". Savings have to start from somewhere. And I do understand that these expenses had an original purpose -subduing the nobilty, but still.

As far as MA is concerned, it is a bit exagerated to constantly play down her spending. Being a fashion victim is fine (and still, and still ...), but when a Queen of France goes gambling along with less-than-trusworthy people (gambling was forbidden in the kingdom by the way) besides upping the ante and losing a lot, carousing till the dawn without her husband and skipping the mass, I do think one is being overy severe when deeming her slightly over the top ! And don't give me the "robe en gaulle" thing to show me how thrifty she became : figures in fact prove that her spending did not significantly decrease until the eve of the Revolution. If you put her behaviour in perspective with the overall living conditions of the population at that time, you'll understand all this does not boil down to misrepresentations.

Now there were misrepresentations, most of which had to do with her sexuality : it was taken as read that she had had at least to lovers until recently, the revolutionnary press gave her God knows how many... There is no denying that as far as her personnality goes, she was grossly maligned and in the end, as Fraser puts it "more sinned against than sinning". There is no doubt that many found in her an opportunity to deal the fatal blow to the monarchy (though I doubt this was premeditated) : an isolated, foreign princess stemming from a less than popular nation, and to top it all arrogant and strong-minded. But then again, had she been a tad more cautious...

Not everybody has the privilege to be the Queen of France and to be remembered in History. Upheavals, violent death are part of the "risques du métier", in the same way, a miner may as well die in a blast. And after all, with the exception of the obnoxious suffering inflicted on her son and family, if I were in such a position of power, I'd rather die that way. it is a bit flustering to die in your bed when you can flaunt your arrogant Austrian nose before a bunch of gaping plebeans. Even her enemies marvelled how proud and self-possesed she remained all along. And perhaps Marie-Antoinette tought that as well : didn't La Fayette say that she preferred to be "beautiful in her misfortune" than averting it ? Sacrée Antoinette !


Did I answer your question ? :roll:

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Mon Mar 12, 2012 2:48 pm
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Post Re: Grossest Misrepresentations of Marie Antoinette?
A good analysis! I agree with most things, however gambling was not initiated by MA at court and she wasn't the first Queen to indulge in that, not to mention the favourites! She just needed a husband to get her to tow the line, and Louis wasn't that man. Any woman needs that...! :)

Likewise it is clear that Louis made considerable efforts to reduce his own spending, but was not able to control that of his wife...but that is not a new thing either! :lol:

Which figures prove that her spending did not significantluy decrease until the eve of the revolution?... i agree that there is St Cloud, but that was a purchase made by the King, pushed by his wife for sure.

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Tue Mar 13, 2012 9:30 am
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Post Re: Grossest Misrepresentations of Marie Antoinette?
That was my sexist post for the day! :lol: Tongue in cheek girls, tongue in cheek! :)

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Tue Mar 13, 2012 9:31 am
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Post Re: Grossest Misrepresentations of Marie Antoinette?
As for the spending, this is mentioned by Bertière in the chapter about the Necklace affair : her spending did not decrease significantly, even in the Tuileries, save for jewlery she maintained a high level on spending on furniture and dresses. Let us not forget that at the beginning of the reign, she had her her allotment doubled. I do not think that inflation is a relevant explaination for that increase. I do agree that her spending on clothes was much inflated, as Webster underlined it, but it was the duty of her staff to curb the spending, avoid corruption and perhaps clinch a deal with Bertin, who, after all, greatly availed herself of the Queen's patronage to sell her dresses in Paris.


About gambling, this is true, but she favoured the games that were forbidden and incurred the greatest losses. Marie Leczinska played the relatively harmless "cavagnole", but Marie-Antoinette preferred the pharaon and played with professional players, thus incurring huge losses -I think that frequenting such a riff-raff was never before seen for a Queen of France.

There is no doubt that Louis did not perform his role, but it seems he did not make too much of her intellect (and of women's intellect by and large) and thought spending and carousing was an appropriate occupation for any woman, which at least spared him of MA's constant interferring with his politics.

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Tue Mar 13, 2012 9:52 am
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Post Re: Grossest Misrepresentations of Marie Antoinette?
All of that is true. Louis XVI was what we could call now a bit of a macho...he believed a woman's rôle was as a mother and basically as a woman! He doubly distrusted MA's interferences in politics, firstly because they came from a woman and secondly because she was Austrian!

He then came to realize that MA's intellect was not to be scoffed at, as she supported him in the bad times and when he became more and more depressed. I think she could have been a formidable Queen, if she had had the chance.

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Tue Mar 13, 2012 1:28 pm
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Post Re: Grossest Misrepresentations of Marie Antoinette?
baron de batz wrote:
All of that is true. Louis XVI was what we could call now a bit of a macho...he believed a woman's rôle was as a mother and basically as a woman! He doubly distrusted MA's interferences in politics, firstly because they came from a woman and secondly because she was Austrian!


Didn't most men think a woman's role was to bear children and be a woman? Women were not taken seriously in Politics and Louis had also been schooled to mistrust the Austrians.


Wed Mar 14, 2012 10:52 am
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