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January 2012: Marie Antoinette

A monthly discussion on varying themes guided by our members. (Book of the Month discussions through December 2011 can be found in this section too.)
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Miss Moppet
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Post by Miss Moppet » Wed January 4th, 2012, 6:19 pm

I'm slightly under the weather at the moment, so this is just to let everyone know I won't be posting for a day or two.

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fljustice
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Post by fljustice » Thu January 5th, 2012, 3:48 pm

Hope you feel better soon!
Faith L. Justice, Author Website
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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Thu January 5th, 2012, 7:34 pm

Get some rest, Miss Moppet. Hope you're back in tip top shape soon.

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Brenna
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Post by Brenna » Fri January 13th, 2012, 2:15 pm

So I am reading Madame Tussuad and I'm gaining a whole new perspective on Marie Antoinette. I grew up learning she said "Let them eat cake" so any book that shows her to be a caring mother, wife, and a pretty decent person is a positive.

Wow, cannot believe the entire family was wiped out. I'm curious about M.A's daughter and where Michelle Moran figured out she was so wretched.
Last edited by Brenna on Sat January 14th, 2012, 10:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Brenna

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Miss Moppet
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Post by Miss Moppet » Sun January 15th, 2012, 6:22 pm

[quote=""fljustice""]Hope you feel better soon![/quote]

[quote=""LoveHistory""]Get some rest, Miss Moppet. Hope you're back in tip top shape soon.[/quote]

Thanks everyone for your good wishes! I'm feeling much better now.

[quote=""Brenna""]So I am reading Madame Tussuad and I'm gaining a whole new perspective on Marie Antoinette. I grew up learning she said "Let them eat cake" so any book that shows her to be a caring mother, wife, and a pretty decent person is a positive.

Wow, cannot believe the entire family was wiped out. I'm curious about M.A's daughter and where Michelle Moran figured out she was so wretched.[/quote]

Yes, MA's daughter was the only survivor of her family. Elena Maria Vidal has written a novel about her (Madame Royale) and there is at least one biography in English, Marie-Therese, Child of Terror: The Fate of Marie Antoinette's Daughter, by Susan Nagel. I haven't read either of them though. Madame Royale wrote her memoirs and there are some translated extracts from them here.

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lauragill
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Post by lauragill » Sun January 15th, 2012, 8:39 pm

[quote=""Brenna""]So I am reading Madame Tussuad and I'm gaining a whole new perspective on Marie Antoinette. I grew up learning she said "Let them eat cake" so any book that shows her to be a caring mother, wife, and a pretty decent person is a positive.

Wow, cannot believe the entire family was wiped out. I'm curious about M.A's daughter and where Michelle Moran figured out she was so wretched.[/quote]

Marie-Therese was a very bitter woman. She was tricked into marrying her first cousin, who wasn't at all what her uncle painted him to be; that marriage wasn't consummated. She had to return to France with him as queen and face the people who had executed her parents, and she constantly had to deal with imposters claiming to be her brother Louis XVII.

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princess garnet
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Post by princess garnet » Sun January 15th, 2012, 9:34 pm

One of our members, EM Vidal, wrote a well-written novel titled Madame Royale which is about the daughter. Her blog is "Tea at Trianon" and she has written articles about Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and their family there.

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Miss Moppet
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1.3 MA's Life (1779-1789 - Queenship)

Post by Miss Moppet » Mon January 16th, 2012, 5:08 pm

22 October 1781: Birth of a Dauphin, Louis Joseph
June 1783: The Comte de Fersen returns from America to France
20 February 1785: The Chateau de Saint-Cloud purchased for MA
27 March 1785: Birth of a second son, Louis Charles
15 August 1785: Beginning of the Affair of the Necklace
9 July 1786: Birth of a second daughter, Madame Sophie
18 June 1787: Death of Madame Sophie
5 May 1789: Opening of the Estates General
4 June 1789: Death of the Dauphin Louis-Joseph
14 July 1789: Fall of the Bastille


During these years MA was increasingly unpopular at all levels of society. Within her family, her brothers and sisters-in-law resented her having finally produced an heir to the throne. Her husband's aunts were estranged from her and his cousin the Duc d'Orleans hoped to find his own opportunity in the troubles the monarchy was experiencing. The courtiers and aristocracy, traditionally expected to support the monarchy, were turning away from it: the Assembly of Notables the King called in 1787 to resolve the country's financial crisis refused to introduce new taxes on the grounds that the decision should be taken more democratically. Many of the court nobility had a personal grudge against MA because she favoured her own small group of friends, such as the Princesse de Lamballe and Gabrielle de Polignac. For the Princesse she revived the obsolete and highly paid function of Superintendent of her Household, which insulted the other ladies of the household who were effectively demoted. Gabrielle de Polignac was made a duchess, with much more royal largesse received by her family and friends. Louis XVI had given MA the chateau of Trianon, in the grounds of Versailles, for her own after the death of his grandfather and she enjoyed retiring there with her closest friends for entertainment and private theatricals. Even the King was not allowed to come to Trianon without her invitation.

Although Louis XIV had enjoyed private retreats, he had used them as a political tool, inviting people he wanted to reward or who might be useful to him to join him there. He held it as a principle that royalty owed itself completely to the public and was not entitled to a private life. MA felt that she was entitled to a private life and her lack of enthusiasm about her public role was obvious to all. For example, she loathed the tradition of royalty eating in public and would barely touch her meal when she had to eat in front of visitors and tourists. Her lack of accessibility was resented and meant that the propaganda which circulated about her was more easily believed.

MA was said to have many lovers, male and female including her brother-in-law Artois, Lamballe and Polignac. But only one man seems to have been romantically linked to her, the Swedish Comte de Fersen. It's certain that MA and Fersen were in love but it is unknown whether the relationship was consummated. Personally, I don't think it is likely that MA would have risked pregnancy by a lover. She also experienced poor gynaecological health after the birth of Madame Sophie in 1786.

In the mid 1780s the scandal of the Diamond Necklace affair further blackened MA's reputation.

Image

This is a reconstruction of the diamond necklace originally intended by the jewellers Boehmer and Bassenge for Madame du Barry, and offered to MA after the death of Louis XV. MA refused the necklace several times, but a con woman called Jeanne de La Motte-Valois managed to convince the jewellers that the Queen was a close friend of hers and did indeed want the necklace. La Motte-Valois stole the necklace, broke it up and sold the diamonds in England. Although she was captured and brought to justice, many people believed her story.

The final years before the Revolution were overshadowed by the deaths of Madame Sophie in 1787 and the first Dauphin in 1789. Although the birth of Louis-Joseph in 1781 had been greeted with great joy and national rejoicing, MA observed bitterly that his death, the month before the fall of the Bastille, went almost unnoticed by the public.

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Miss Moppet
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1.4: MA's Life (1789-1793 - Revolution)

Post by Miss Moppet » Tue January 17th, 2012, 5:50 pm

5-6 October 1789: A mob invades Versailles and carries the royal family to Paris
20 February 1790: Death of Joseph II, succeeded by Leopold II
18 April 1791: The royal family are prevented from travelling to Saint-Cloud
20 June 1791: Flight from Paris of the royal family
21 June 1791: The royal family arrested at Varennes and taken back to Paris
20 June 1792: A crowd invades the Tuileries
10 August 1792: The Tuileries is invaded and the royal bodyguards killed
13 August 1792: The royal family are moved to the Temple
21 January 1793: Execution of Louis XVI
16 October 1793: Execution of Marie Antoinette


Marie Antoinette is said to have been at the Trianon when a courier brought news of a crowd approaching Versailles. Overnight the palace was invaded and MA had to flee to the King's apartment. The next day she, the King and her children were forced to travel to Paris in the middle of a mob brandishing the heads of their murdered bodyguards on pikes.

During the Revolution MA won praise from her political opponents for the courage she showed in the face of physical danger and the energy and tenacity she devoted to the task of saving the monarchy. As the King sank into depression and apathy, she made secret approaches to politicians she thought might be sympathetic to her cause and carried on a correspondence, written in code, with other European monarchs, in the hope that they would lend their support. Neither she nor the King could accept the idea of a constitutional monarchy: they both felt that he had been appointed by God to rule and should not have to answer to a democratic assembly. They were also horrified by the nationalisation of Church property and the law introduced to make all priests swear loyalty to the state.

Fersen was her greatest support at this time, acting as her ambassador abroad and organising the royal family's escape from Paris. Unfortunately the King was very quickly recognised and the royal family were arrested at the little town of Varennes and forced to return to Paris. MA subsequently considered trying to escape France with the Dauphin but decided that the family should stay together.

Their move to the medieval stronghold of the Temple in August 1792 made the royal family prisoners. MA lost first her husband, executed in January 1793, then her son the Dauphin, who was taken from her care and given to a cobbler to bring up. Finally she was moved to the Conciergerie for her own trial, leaving her daughter and sister-in-law Elisabeth at the Temple. Her last letter, written to Elisabeth the night before her execution, never reached its destination.
It is to you, my sister, that I write for the last time. I have just been condemned, not to a shameful death, for such is only for criminals, but to go and rejoin your brother. Innocent like him, I hope to show the same firmness in my last moments. I am calm, as one is when one's conscience reproaches one with nothing. I feel profound sorrow in leaving my poor children: you know that I only lived for them and for you, my good and tender sister.
David's famous sketch of MA on her way to the scaffold shows the "firmness" MA had hoped to display. The crowds who attended her execution did not realise that the former Queen was a dying woman: MA was weakened by continual heavy bleeding, probably a symptom of uterine cancer. She may also have been suffering from tuberculosis, most likely contracted from her husband. She may only have had a few months to live, but the political value of her execution was such that she went to the scaffold anyway.

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Ludmilla
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Post by Ludmilla » Tue January 17th, 2012, 8:16 pm

[quote=""Miss Moppet""]Yes, MA's daughter was the only survivor of her family. Elena Maria Vidal has written a novel about her (Madame Royale) and there is at least one biography in English, Marie-Therese, Child of Terror: The Fate of Marie Antoinette's Daughter, by Susan Nagel. I haven't read either of them though. Madame Royale wrote her memoirs and there are some translated extracts from them here.[/quote]
LauraGill said: Marie-Therese was a very bitter woman. She was tricked into marrying her first cousin, who wasn't at all what her uncle painted him to be; that marriage wasn't consummated. She had to return to France with him as queen and face the people who had executed her parents, and she constantly had to deal with imposters claiming to be her brother Louis XVII.

I guess you could make comparisons between Louis XVII and Russian Princess Anastasia in being mythologized in popular culture. I was curious how many writers have written stories about Louis XVII and found this list on Wik:
  • In fictionThe story of Louis Charles is central to the young adult novel Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly.
  • Louis XVII is one of many aristocrats rescued by the eponymous Scarlet Pimpernel in one of Baroness Emmuska Orczy's novels - Eldorado
  • The rescue and subsequent attempt to return Louis XVII to the throne is told in the 1937 novel The Lost King by Rafael Sabatini. The now out of print novel covers his supposed escape from the tower mixing fiction with factual names and events.
  • Mark Twain satirised the host of claimants in the characters of the Duke and the Dauphin, the con men in the novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In the novel, a con man claims to be the "Lost Dolphin" of France in order to gain sympathy and charity from the novel's eponymous character.
  • The apparent discovery of the adult Louis XVII is the central plot point of The Black Tower by Louis Bayard.
  • A highly-fictionalised Louis XVII appears in the 1991 film Killer Tomatoes Eat France portrayed by Steve Lundquist (credited as "Gerard Lundquist"). In the film, Louis is the modern-day descendant of the French royal family and is restored to the throne by the end of the film.
  • The 1957 British film Dangerous Exile presents the theory of Louis XVII having been exiled to Wales by balloon.
  • He is also portrayed in the Japanese anime The Rose of Versailles.
  • The escape of Louis XVII from The Temple prison is portrayed in "Live Free or Die" by Dominic Lagan (ISBN 0956151809)
  • The dauphin appears in The Grave Watchers by Missouri Dalton as a watchman (person who has risen from the dead) and is considered to be in control of the French government from the shadows (ISBN 9781610402842).

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