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Marie-Antoinette Broché – 11 mai 2006

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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 Marie Antoinette a strong dose of French blood. His mother Elisabeth Charlotte d'Orleans had been a French royal princess and a granddaughter of Louis XIII. Her brother, the Duc d'Orleans, had acted as Regent during the childhood of Louis XV. As for Francis Stephen himself, although he had Habsburg blood on his father's side and was adopted into the Viennese court in 1723 at the age of fourteen, it was important to him that he was by birth a Lorrainer. From 1729, when his father died, he was hereditary Duke of Lorraine, a title that stretched back to the time of Charlemagne. This notional Lorrainer inheritance would also feature in the consciousness of Marie Antoinette, even though Francis Stephen was obliged to surrender the actual duchy in 1735. It was part of a complicated European deal whereby Louis XV's father-in-law, who had been dispossessed as King of Poland, received the Duchy of Lorraine for the duration of his lifetime; it then became part of the kingdom of France. In return Francis Stephen was awarded the Duchy of Tuscany.

The renunciation of his family heritage in order to soothe France was presented to Francis Stephen as part of a package that would enable him to marry Maria Teresa. On her side, it was a passionate love match. The British ambassador to Vienna reported that the young Archduchess "sighs and pines all night for her Duke of Lorraine. If she sleeps, it is only to dream of him. If she wakes, it is but to talk of him to the lady-in-waiting." Wilfully, in a way that would be in striking contradiction to the precepts she preached as a mother, Maria Teresa set her heart against a far grander suitor, the heir to the Spanish throne. The medal struck for the wedding bore the inscription (in Latin): "Having at length the fruit of our desires."

The desires in question, however, did not include the bridegroom's continued enjoyment of his hereditary possessions. As his future father-in-law Charles VI crudely put it: "No renunciation, no Archduchess." Maria Teresa of course believed in total wifely submission, at least in theory, another doctrine that she would expound assiduously to her daughters. Her solution was to tolerate and even encourage her husband's Lorrainer relations at court, as well as a multitude of Lorrainer hangers-on.

The marriage of Maria Teresa's sister Marianna to Francis Stephen's younger brother Charles of Lorraine strengthened these ties; Marianna's early death left Maria Teresa with a sentimental devotion to her widower. Then there was Francis Stephen's attachment to his unmarried sister Princess Charlotte, Abbess of Remiremont, who was a frequent visitor. She shared her brother's taste for shooting parties, in which she personally participated. In the year of Marie Antoinette's birth, a party of twenty-three, three of them ladies, killed nearly 50,000 head of game and wild deer. Princess Charlotte fired over 9000 shots, nearly as many as the Emperor. This strong-minded woman was so devoted to her native Lorraine that she once said she was prepared to travel there barefoot.

Thus Marie Antoinette was brought up to think of herself as "de Lorraine" as well as "d'Autriche et de Hongrie." In the meantime Lorraine had become a foreign principality attached to France, so that princes of Lorraine who made their lives in France had the status of "foreign princes" only and were not accorded the respect due to foreign royalties nor that due to French dukes. This ambiguous status was one from which the foreign princes ever sought to escape, while those of superior birth in French courtly terms sought to hold them down. A seemingly small point of French etiquette--small at least to outsiders--was to be of considerable significance in the future of Francis Stephen's daughter.

This was an age of multiple intermarriage where royal houses were concerned. Insofar as one can simplify it purely in terms of her four grandparents, Marie Antoinette had the blood of the Bourbons--the Orleans branch--and of Lorraine on her father's side. More remotely, her Orleans great-grandmother, a Palatine princess known as Liselotte, brought her the blood of Mary Queen of Scots via Elizabeth of Bohemia--but this was to go back 200 years. On the maternal side, Marie Antoinette inherited German blood from her grandmother Elizabeth Christina of Brunswick-Wolfbuttel, once described as "the most beautiful queen on earth." Her appearance at the age of fourteen enchanted her husband Charles VI: "Now that I have seen her, everything that has been said about her is but a shadow devoured by the light of the sun." However, if exceptional beauty was to be found in the pool of genes that Marie Antoinette might inherit, it was also true that the lovely Empress became immensely large and dropsical in later years.

From the Hardcover edition. --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 .

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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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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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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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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) HASH(0x8b8324ec) étoiles sur 5 226 commentaires
230 internautes sur 237 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8b83c1bc) étoiles sur 5 Thoroughly engrossing biography 26 novembre 2001
Par Matthew Spady - Publié sur
Format: Relié
True or false? 1) Marie Antoinette was a frivolous princess who became a clever, manipulative queen 2) She ruled France through her weak husband 3) She said of the bread-less French, "Let them eat cake." 4) In her spare time, she enjoyed dressing as a milk maid and wandering around a fake farm she had built at Versailles. If you answered "true" to any of these questions, you will want to read Antonia Fraser's detailed, engrossing biography of Marie Antoinette. Fraser's work is well-documented and scholarly, but it is neither dry nor slow reading. She provides sufficient background information to put the historical events in context, but does not allow the facts to hinder the flow of the story. Her writing has an immediacy that pulls the reader so deeply into the story, it is easy to forget that we already know the ending of this historical life. (When the royal family attempts to escape their French captors, Fraser allows us to think-to hope-they might get away.) Through Fraser's eyes, we first sympathize, and then empathize with the princess who only became queen by accident. In addition, Frazer gives us a thorough education in the social order at Versailles, the complex bureaucracy (and attendant jobs) of the French court, and the political infighting that ultimately was the downfall of the entire system. This is a thoroughly engrossing biography-a keeper.
139 internautes sur 146 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8b83c210) étoiles sur 5 A First-Rate Historical Biography! 13 juin 2002
Par Tiggah - Publié sur
Format: Relié
This is only the second book that I've read by Antonia Fraser, the other one being her last, Faith and Treason. Although I enjoyed that book well enough (for Fraser is a very capable writer, able to both capture and hold the reader's attention), I was more than a little uncomfortable with the obvious bias that shone through an otherwise excellent treatment of England's Gunpowder Plot. I was hesitant, therefore, about purchasing this one; but as it turned out, I thoroughly enjoyed this 488-page hardcover (with 429 pages of actual text). I found it to be enthralling, captivating, eye-opening, informative, and insightful, making it a joy to read and a book that I could not wait to get back to. Additionally, it is amply illustrated (48 pages, mostly colour), and I found Fraser's treatment to be fairly thorough (though perhaps not quite so thorough as I've come to expect with Alison Weir's books). Most importantly, I came away from the book with not only a greater knowledge and understanding of (not to mention sympathy for) one of the most famous women in history, but a much deeper understanding of the French Revolution and of the various factors leading up to it.
Fraser does write in a manner that is sympathetic to Antoinette. I do feel authors of historical subjects ought to be as objective as possible; perhaps, though, it is as Fraser says: "[I]s [looking without passion] really possible with regard to the career and character of Marie Antoinette?" (p. 422). This was a woman who, in her lifetime, was either greatly admired or vehemently loathed (sentiments which don't seem to have softened much with the passage of time). More significantly, however, this was a woman who was clearly maligned. Like the rest of us, she had her faults (which are certainly not glossed over by Fraser), but surely no one who has even an ounce of compassion (whether he or she be detractor or admirer) could think that this woman deserved the callous treatment she received and the abject humiliations to which she was subjected.
Antoinette appears, in spite of her faults, to have been primarily a compassionate and kind-hearted (if not overly intelligent) woman. Nevertheless, she had the misfortune of being by accident of birth of royal blood (and Austrian blood at that) and, by the machinations of a domineering mother, queen consort to the king of France at a time when the French court was, in essence, an opulent fish bowl. As a result, Antoinette had the additional misfortune of being at the mercy of libelists intent on her destruction (at a time when there were obviously no libel laws). With reference to Louis XVI, Fraser makes a comment equally applicable to Antoinette: She was hated, not for what she did, but for who she was (ie. a foreigner and a representative of the old order). Any legitimate faults she may have had were, it would seem, merely surplus to requirement for a woman who already had more than enough black marks against her.
Those who think that horror and tragedy are the domain of novelists would be well advised to think again. Just as fiction can scarcely approach the horror of recent world events, there is nothing in the realm of fiction that can even come close to the attitudes, injustices, abominations, and humiliations that occurred during the French Revolution to humankind in general and French royalty in particular. If you've steered clear of history books before for fear that they must, by necessity, be dry and boring, I can't recommend this book highly enough. And if you've enjoyed it, I strongly recommend Stephen Coote's highly-readable Royal Survivor (on the life of England's Charles II) or anything by Alison Weir. For me, this book has awakened a hunger to learn more about late 18th century Europe and some of Antoinette's more colourful contemporaries (such as England`s George III and Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire).
60 internautes sur 65 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8b83c648) étoiles sur 5 Daughter, Wife, Mother; Queen, Pawn...Scapegoat 24 janvier 2003
Par Bruce Loveitt - Publié sur
Format: Relié
With "Marie Antoinette", Lady Antonia Fraser has written one of the more memorable biographies of recent years. She has taken a woman who had been turned into a caricature, a "poster-child" for a "typical" example of reactionary, frivolous royalty, and turned her into a real, and sympathetic, human being. And, if Lady Antonia has perhaps stacked the deck a bit too much in favor of her subject- playing up her positive qualities and playing down her negative ones- by the time you reach the end of the book your gut feeling is that you really can't blame her. For this was a woman who, before she was physically destroyed by the forces of revolution, had been emotionally worn down by years of abuse at the hands of her political enemies. This was a woman who had very high moral standards, yet was constantly being accused in the pamphlets of the time of being heterosexually and homosexually promiscuous; a generous, sensitive and intelligent woman accused of being selfish, heartless and stupid; a woman who wasn't a political animal- who wanted to do "good works" and to be a good wife and mother- but was subjected to pressure right after her marriage (by her mother Maria Teresa) to do what was best for Austria rather than what was best for France. Even if Antoinette had been politically inclined, her influence was never very great- Louis XVI, despite what the pamphlets said about him, was far from being a fool. His main interest may have been hunting, but he was intelligent, well-read, and he had a mind of his own. (And he had been warned in his youth to be wary of wily Austrian women!) But after years of anti-Antoinette and "fool Louis" propaganda, the people were primed to mistrust and hate "The Austrian Woman". As the saying goes, if you say something loudly enough and often enough people will start to believe it. When conditions in France got bad enough, the people knew who to blame. Louis and Antoinette could easily have been exiled. But the intellectuals in charge of the revolution had the precedent of the execution of Charles I of England. And, as intellectuals sometimes do, they gave more weight to abstract ideas and ideals than to acting in a humane manner. (They thought that Antoinette's death would "unite them in blood"- whatever that was supposed to mean.) In an eerie precursor to the Stalinist show trials of the 20th century, Marie was put on trial. The outcome was decided ahead of time, and so was never in doubt. She was not allowed to prepare a proper defense. Unsubstantiated accusations were made and hearsay was accepted as evidence. Just to be sure, the 8 year old Dauphin, one of whose testicles had been damaged while playing, was brainwashed by his jailers into making allegations of sexual abuse against his own mother. The allegations weren't true but, due to the corrosive influence of the pamphleteers over the course of many years, the people were ready to believe anything. Despite being ill and suffering from sleep deprivation, Antoinette defended herself with intelligence and dignity. Once the inevitable verdict was reached, she met her death with undiminished courage. (Indeed, at this point, after 4 years of her and her family being terrorized and abused, and after the execution of her husband, she welcomed death.) This book should be required reading, not only because it gives Marie Antoinette "the day in court" that she never really had in her lifetime but because it never lets us forget her humanity. It also shows us the disturbing power of propaganda, which is something just as relevant today as it was 200 years ago. For, despite the best efforts of Lady Antonia Fraser, I'm afraid that Marie Antoinette will always be known for something she never said and, considering her concern for the French people, something she never would have said...."Let them eat cake!"
22 internautes sur 24 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8b83ca14) étoiles sur 5 Antonia Fraser Has Done It Again 25 septembre 2001
Par Un client - Publié sur
Format: Relié
As in the case of her history of "Mary, Queen of Scots," Antonia Fraser has taken a much mis-understood and maligned Queen and told her story with as much clarity and understanding as possible. Used by her mother, the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, as a pawn for European politics, Marie Antoinette was thrust into the vicious and decadent French court at an early age and had to endure years of humiliation from all sides because of her seemingly inability to produce an heir to the French throne (the Daulphin's impotence and stupidity notwithstanding). Once an heir was produced, three more children followed of which two died young. Lady Fraser is very adept at balancing Marie Antoinette's faults as well as her virtues in producing a portrait of a woman forced by circumstance to go her own way through French politics - because of this, she created many loyal friends and dangerous enemies. Her long time affair with Count Fersen as well as the diamond necklace fiasco has been told with clarity which finally puts to rest the many distortions and lies which have been handed down by less astute (and bias) historians. The final chapter is heart-rending to say the least, in which one finally glimpses Marie Antoinette's final hours in which she goes to her death serenely and forgives her enemies (the blood of Mary Stuart prevails at the end). Thank you Antonia for a truly unique reading experience.
18 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8b83c7a4) étoiles sur 5 fantastic! 22 octobre 2006
Par LuelCanyon - Publié sur
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Don't be afraid of this big-boned bio of Marie Antoinette, it has everything you need. It's elegantly paced and beautifully construed. Fraser's work is just the best. She knows when to leave a topic, when to move on. HOW to move on. This is first rate writing from a consistently fine writer. The book is sypathetic toward Marie Antoinette, on occasion even moving; Fraser illuminates from the inside out with her subjects, and we're the winners for that. The book's full of marvelous detail about court life, yet seen through new eyes, perhaps Marie Antoinette's eyes. Fraser lingers on the Queen's Austrian life before Versailles long enough to lead us to new lights about this woman's suffering on account of her extraordinary temperment. It's an altogether admirable effort. If the book seems light on Fersen, look again. His place in Marie Antoinette's life undulates through the narrative like a slow fire. This is one of the few authoritative books about Marie Antoinette that truly witnesses the mystery. Pre-Revolutionary France bleeds through the pages. Fraser writes like an entranced surgeon; her preparation, her immaculate discernment of good sources is unmatched. An essential book about astonishing things.
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