Marie Antoinette: The Journey
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France’s beleaguered queen, Marie Antoinette, wrongly accused of uttering the infamous “Let them eat cake,” was the subject of ridicule and curiosity even before her death; she has since been the object of debate and speculation and the fascination so often accorded tragic figures in history. Married in mere girlhood, this essentially lighthearted, privileged, but otherwise unremarkable child was thrust into an unparalleled time and place, and was commanded by circumstance to play a significant role in history. Antonia Fraser’s lavish and engaging portrait of Marie Antoinette, one of the most recognizable women in European history, excites compassion and regard for all aspects of her subject, immersing the reader not only in the coming-of-age of a graceful woman, but also in the unraveling of an era.
white muslin might be draped over the apple-green. Marie Antoinette, animatrix of the Petit Trianon, had a special fancy for the cotton toiles de Jouy, introduced into France in the 1770s, for chinoiserie or pastoral scenes in the style of Boucher. On the other hand the decor of the so-called Salon Doré in her private apartments, created about 1783, looked to a neo-classical future—white and gold with sphinxes prominent among the gilded decorations in the Pompeian style. A major part of the
Mozart, Louis Auguste was making an address to the celebrated British historian David Hume, an experience that marked him for life with an enthusiasm for Hume’s works. In particular he admired the character of Charles I about whom Hume had written so vividly and so magisterially.*10 It was a significant difference. The real betrayal in Marie Antoinette’s education was that she was never encouraged to concentrate. This ability, comparatively easy to inculcate in childhood, was generally held to
keeping with a new order, prompted by the Commune, which set up a special tribunal to try royalists for crimes allegedly committed during the overthrow of the monarchy. Marie Antoinette made desperate pleas to keep the Princesse de Lamballe beside her, on the grounds that she was a royal relative. She wished to protect the vulnerable friend whom she had introduced into this perilous situation, judging the Tower to be safer than an ordinary prison. When the Princesse was removed with the others,
daughters, the wives of important princes in other countries, were expected to give full and frequent reports on the subject. Envoys such as Count Mercy d’Argenteau were pressed into service, and the French royal doctor, Lassonne, was supposed to report “every month” directly to her mother with news of Marie Antoinette’s cycle so that Maria Teresa was not left to the doubtful “meticulousness” of the young woman herself. Less appropriately, perhaps, Gluck was at one point asked to bear the vital
disreputable origins were more difficult to accept. Nevertheless by now “the new lady,” as she was known, was simply a force with whose influence they had to reckon. Unfortunately there were three reasons why Marie Antoinette found herself unable to take such a pragmatic view of simply accepting the fact that “the Harlot” pleased the King (the attitude she had innocently expressed at La Muette when she declared herself the rival to the unknown charmer). In that first surviving letter of 9 July