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Marie-Antoinette [Broché]

Antonia Fraser , Anne-Marie Hussein
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Description de l'ouvrage

11 mai 2006 BIOGRAPHIES ME
Marie-Antoinette : une figure mythique. jugée sévèrement par ses contemporains, et par l'Histoire, perçue tour à tour comme une reine "scélérate", puis une victime expiatoire, elle a pourtant toujours été unanimement admirée pour son inébranlable courage face aux grands cataclysmes du siècle. Devenue reine de France à peine sortie de l'adolescence, elle est investie par sa mère, la puissante impératrice Marie-Thérèse d'Autriche, de la mission de protéger les intérêts de son pays auprès du roi. Toute sa vie elle jouera un rôle politique ambigu, s'attirant d'abord la méfiance et bientôt la haine du peuple français. Avec l'objectivité et la précision qui caractérisent toute son œuvre d'historienne, Antonia Fraser retrace le voyage initiatique de la reine. Elle examine, avec un foisonnement de détails, sa personnalité et son parcours : l'enfance, l'influence des liens familiaux, les relations conjugales marquées par un mariage longtemps non consommé, la venue tant attendue de ses enfants, son idylle avec le comte Axel Fersen, ses contacts avec de grandes figures de la Révolution, et enfin ses efforts héroïques pour sauver sa famille, et la monarchie, de la tempête révolutionnaire.

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chapter one

A Small Archduchess

"Her Majesty has been very happily delivered of a small, but completely healthy Archduchess."

Count Khevenhuller, Court Chamberlain, 1755

On 2 November 1755 the Queen-Empress was in labour all day with her fifteenth child. Since the experience of childbirth was no novelty, and since Maria Teresa, Queen of Hungary by inheritance, Empress of the Holy Roman Empire by marriage, hated to waste time, she also laboured in another way at her papers. For the responsibilities of government were not to be lightly cast aside; in her own words: "My subjects are my first children." Finally, at about half past eight in the evening in her apartments at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Maria Teresa gave birth. It was a girl. Or, as the Court Chamberlain, Count Khevenhuller, described the event in his diary: "Her Majesty has been happily delivered of a small, but completely healthy Archduchess." As soon as was practical, Maria Teresa returned to work, signing papers from her bed.

The announcement was made by the Emperor Francis Stephen. He left his wife's bedroom, after the usual Te Deum and Benediction had been said. In the Mirror Room next door the ladies and gentlemen of the court who had the Rights of Entry were waiting. Maria Teresa had firmly ended the practice, so distasteful to the mother in labour (but still in place at the court of Versailles), by which these courtiers were actually present in the delivery room. As it was they had to content themselves with congratulating the happy father. It was not until four days later that those ladies of the court who by etiquette would formerly have been in the bedchamber were allowed to kiss the Empress. Other courtiers, including Khevenhuller, were permitted the privilege on 8 November, and a further set the next day. Perhaps it was the small size of the baby, perhaps it was the therapeutic effect of working at her papers throughout the day, but Maria Teresa had never looked so well after a delivery.

The Empress's suite of apartments was on the first floor of the so-called Leopoldine wing of the extensive and rambling Hofburg complex. The Habsburgs had lived in the Hofburg since the late thirteenth century, but this wing had originally been constructed by the Emperor Leopold I in 1660. It was rebuilt following a fire, then greatly renovated by Maria Teresa herself. It lay south-west of the internal courtyard known as In Der Burg. Swiss Guards, that doughty international force that protects royalty, gave their name to the adjacent courtyard and gate, the Schweizerhof and the Schweizertor.

The next stage in the new baby's life was routine. She was handed over to an official wet-nurse. Great ladies did not nurse their own children. For one thing, breastfeeding was considered to ruin the shape of the bosom, made so visible by eighteenth-century fashions. The philandering Louis XV openly disliked the practice for this reason. The traditional prohibition against husbands sleeping with their wives during this period probably counted for more with Maria Teresa, an enthusiast for the marital double-bed and the conception--if not the nursing--of ever increasing numbers of babies. As the Empress said of herself, she was insatiable on the subject of children.

Marie Antoinette was put into the care of Constance Weber, wife of a magistrate. Constance, according to her son Joseph Weber, who later wrote his memoirs, was famed for her beautiful figure and an even greater beauty of soul. She had been nursing little Joseph for three months when she took over the baby Archduchess, and it was understood in the family that Constance's appointment would improve all their fortunes. As the foster-brother of an archduchess, Joseph Weber benefited all his life; there were pensions for Constance as well as his other brothers and sisters. During Marie Antoinette's childhood, Maria Teresa took her to visit the Weber household; there she showered gifts upon the children and, according to Joseph, admonished Constance: "Good Weber, have a care for your son."

Maria Teresa was thirty-eight years old and since her marriage nearly twenty years earlier, she had produced four Archdukes as well as ten Archduchesses (of whom seven were living in 1755). The extraordinarily high survival rate of the imperial family--by the standards of infant mortality of the time--meant that there was no urgent pressure upon the Queen-Empress to produce a fifth son. In any case it seems that Maria Teresa had expected a daughter. One of her courtiers, Count Dietrichstein, wagered against her that the new baby would be a boy. When the appearance of a girl, said to be as like her mother as two drops of water, meant that he lost the bet, the Count had a small porcelain figure made of himself, on his knees, proffering verses by Metastasio to Maria Teresa. He may have lost his wager but if the new-born augusta figlia resembled her mother, then all the world would have gained.

If the birth of an eighth surviving daughter was not in itself a disappointment, was there not perhaps something inauspicious about the date itself, 2 November? This, the Feast of All Souls, was the great Catholic Day of the Dead, when the departed were solemnly commemorated in a series of requiem Masses, in churches and chapels heavily draped in black. What this actually meant during the childhood of Marie Antoinette was that her birthday was generally celebrated on its eve, the Feast of All Saints, a day of white and gold. Besides which, 13 June, the feast of her patron saint St. Antony, tended to be regarded as Marie Antoinette's personal day of celebration, just as the feast of St. Teresa of Avila on 15 October was the name-day of her mother.

If one looks to influences, the baby born on the sombre Day of the Dead must have been conceived on or around a far more cheerful feast of the church: 2 February, the traditionally candle-lit celebration of the Purification of the Virgin Mary. An episode during the Empress's pregnancy could also be seen as significant. In April, Christoph Willibald Gluck was engaged by Maria Teresa to compose "theatrical and chamber music" in exchange for an official salary; this followed his successes in Italy and England as well as in Vienna. A court ball at the palace of Laxenburg, fifteen miles from Vienna, on 5 May 1755, marked his inauguration in this role. Two tastes that would impress themselves upon Marie Antoinette--a love of the "holiday" palace of Laxenburg and a love of the music of Gluck--could literally be said to have been inculcated in her mother's womb.

In contrast, the fact that a colossal earthquake took place in Lisbon on 2 November, with 30,000 killed, was not at the time seen as relevant. This was an age of poor European communications and news of the disaster did not reach Vienna until some time afterwards. It was true that the King of Portugal and his wife had been engaged to stand as the coming baby's godparents; the unfortunate royal couple had to flee from their capital at about the time Marie Antoinette was born. But, once again, this was not known at the time. In any case, royalties were not expected to be present at the event; according to custom, proxies were appointed in their absence: the baby's eldest brother, Joseph, and her eldest sister, Marianne, aged fourteen and seventeen respectively.

The baptism took place at noon on 3 November (baptisms were always held speedily and in the absence of the mother, who was allowed to recover from her ordeal). The Emperor went with a cortege to the Church of the Augustine Friars, the traditional church used by the court, and heard Mass, including the sermon. After that, at twelve o'clock, as Count Khevenhuller noted in his meticulous diary, which is an important source for our knowledge of events in Maria Teresa's family, the baptism was held in "the new and beautiful Anticamera" and performed by "our Archbishop," since the new Papal Nuncio had not yet made a formal appearance at court. The imperial family sat in a row on a long bench. Two galas were ordered: a great gala for the day of the baptism, and a lesser gala for the day after. On 5 and 6 November there were two more spectacles that were shown to the public for free, and on those days there was no charge to the public for entry at the city gates. It was all a very well established ritual.

The baby in whose honour these celebrations were held was given the names Maria Antonia Josepha Joanna. The prefix of Maria had been established for all Habsburg princesses in the days of the baby's great-grandfather, the Emperor Leopold I and his third wife Eleanora of Neuburg; it was intended to signify the special veneration of the Habsburg family for the Virgin Mary. Obviously in a bevy of eight sisters (and a mother) all enjoying the same hallowed prefix, it was not going to be used for everyone all the time. In fact the new baby would be called Antoine in the family.

The French diminutive of the baptismal name, Antoine, was significant. Viennese society was multilingual, people being able to make themselves easily understood in Italian and Spanish as well as in German and French. But it was French, acknowledged as the language of civilization, that was the universal language of courts throughout Europe; Frederick II of Prussia, Maria Teresa's great rival, for example, preferred his beloved French to German. It was French that was used in diplomatic despatches to the Habsburgs. Maria Teresa spoke French, although with a strong German accent (she also spoke the Viennese dialect), but the Emperor Francis Stephen spoke French all his life, not caring to learn German. In this way, both in the family circle and outside it, Maria Antonia was quickly transmogrified into Antoine, the name she also used to sign her letters. To courtiers, the latest archduchess was to be known as Madame Antoine.

Charming, sophisticated, lazy and pleasure-loving, an inveterate womanizer who adored his wife and family, Francis Stephen of Lorraine handed on to ... --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Revue de presse

“Fascinating . . . the court at Versailles comes alive.” –The Washington Post

“Colorful, fluently narrated. . . . A touching, psychologically believable portrait.” –The Wall Street Journal

“Absorbing as ever. Fraser’s blend of insight and research persuade us that this unfortunate queen deserves neither the vilification nor the idealization she has received.” –The New Yorker --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Détails sur le produit

  • Broché: 567 pages
  • Editeur : Flammarion (11 mai 2006)
  • Collection : BIOGRAPHIES ME
  • Langue : Français
  • ISBN-10: 2080689150
  • ISBN-13: 978-2080689153
  • Dimensions du produit: 24 x 15,4 x 4,2 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.7 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (3 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 504.334 en Livres (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres)
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7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Format:Broché
Antonia Fraser est spécialiste de biographies, puisqu'elle a également écrit celle de Marie Stuart, consacré un ouvrage aux six femmes d'Henri VIII, ou encore à Cromwell. Dans cet ouvrage sur celle qui fut surnommée l'Autrichienne par ses belles-soeurs, Fraser s'attache à tuer deux mythes: le soi-disant libertinage de M.-A., ainsi que son mépris du peuple qui lui aurait fait prononcé cette terrible phrase "Il n'ont plus de pain? Ils n'ont qu'à manger des brioches". L'auteur nous rappelle que cette tirade aurait aussi été attribuée à d'autres reines de France peu appréciées du peuple... Autant d'anecdotes qui fourmillent dans un livre très bien documenté, un peu fastidieux parfois à la lecture, puisque très "historique". Il faut bien suivre, car les références et les divers personnages sont foison, et on se perd parfois dans les relations de parenté! Ce n'est pas du tout romancé, et les dialogues, si il y a, sont fondés sur des témoignages de l'époque.
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4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Surprenant ! 14 mars 2007
Par Lecointe
Format:Broché
Cette biographie sur Marie-Antoinette est surprenante. On pourrait croire que le sujet a été épuisé plus de mille fois, mais j'ai encore appris plein de détails sur sa façon de vivre à Vienne et en France. Après avoir lu la Marie-Antoinette de Stefan Zweig qui (je trouve) se concentre sur l'aspect psychologique de la reine, et la Marie-Antoinette de André Castelot qui est absolument remarquable, celle d'Antonia Fraser est très bien documentée. L'auteur a réussi à rendre Marie-Antoinette plus humaine, et autre point j'avais l'impression de vivre dans son intimité car ce livre est rempli de détails. J'ai particulièrement apprécié la première partie "Madame Antoine", car elle s'attarde sur la famille impériale autrichienne et sur les relations qu'avaient Marie-Antoinette avec ses frères et soeurs. Je trouve que peu d'ouvrages s'attardent sur sa vie à Vienne et sur son enfance, et j'ai trouvé vraiment intéressant que Antonia Fraser parle de cette partie de la vie de la reine, car c'est la période qui a le plus marqué Marie-Antoinette, elle vivait dans la nostalgie de son enfance.

On a l'impression que cette biographie veut nous rendre Marie-Antoinette plus accessible et plus humaine. N'oublions pas que lorsqu'elle est arrivée à Versailles, elle n'avait que 15 ans, c'était une adolescente. Comme elle nous l'indique dans l'Avant-Propos: "J'ai avant tout essayé, pour autant que cela soit possible, de raconter l'histoire dramatique de Marie-Antoinette sans laisser pressentir sa terrible fin."

Antonia Fraser a totalement réussi, car on est complètement plongé dans l'univers de Versailles, et on ne pense pas beaucoup à l'horrible fin de la pauvre Marie-Antoinette. Bref, c'est un livre à découvrir d'urgence !
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9 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Indispensable 31 mai 2006
Format:Broché
Marie Antoinette est à la mode et les bios fleurissent. Celle-ci est très complète, fourmille de détails et jette un éclairage sur cette reine, très personnel. Pion politique pour sa mère et l'ambassadeur Mercy qui l'accompagne à Versailles et la surveille et la manipule pendant plus de 20 ans. Ce dernier la trahira de la pire façon en la laissant seule face à son destin tragique. Elle n'était vraiment pour lui qu'une mission diplomatique ! Union conjugale désastreuse pendant de nombreuses années qui la remplira de frustration et lui vaudra une inquisition d'une crudité et d'une cruauté inimaginable par sa mère et son frère. Incroyable de découvrir qu'elle devait rendre des comptes sur ses moindres désagréments féminins et était en même temps totalement ignorante de l'acte charnel !

Evidemment frivole, dépensière, insouciante ce qui lui vaudra la haine du peuple. Une haine fomentée par l'aristocratie qui ne supportera pas la perte de leurs privilèges. La reine ne devait existée que pour subir leurs flatteries, exigences et hypocrisies. Avec la volonté de disposer de son libre arbitre et de sa vie privée, de garder ses enfants près d'elle pour les éduquer comme toute mère aujourd'hui, elle détonnait dans le paysage ! L'auteur prend un parti pris, oui la reine et Fersen étaient amants (en tout cas l'amour entre eux, même si il était finalement platonique - mystère éternel -, n'est plus contesté et contestable) et nous livre une surprise (en tout cas pour moi) Marie Antoinette avait 3 ancêtres français quand son mari n'en avait qu'un !
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