Reading With Posh – Antonia Fraser's Marie Antoinette: The Journey
Marie Antoinette is propably one of the world's most famous royals. The last queen of France became well known not only for her scadalous reputation as a wasteful, careless, pleasure-seeking queen but also for her brutal death by the guillotine. However, there's so much more to the story of Marie Antoinette than what the general public has held to be true even centuries after the Queen's death.
Personally, I have always been obsessed with royals, don't ask me why I just find them fascinating, and Marie Antoinette was as you can imagine one of the first royals I ever heard about. However, since the opinion on Marie Antoinette was always displaed very harshly I wasn't in an urge to know more about her. Therefore, it's safe to say that for the longest time I was willing to believe the fact that she was as fabulous as she was careless being the main reason in leading France to the edge of ruin.
But for the sake of Marie Antoinette a seed of doubt was already planted in my mind and before I knew it I was questioning wheter one person, even if we're talking about a queen, can cause a ruin of a whole nation? There must be more to the story. And goodness there was.
MARIE ANTOINETTE: THE JOURNEY
BY ANTONIA FRASER
Antonia Fraser's book "Marie Antoinette: The Journey" is a biography of the last Queen of France and goes through the whole life of Marie Antoinette from the court of Austria to her last day at the guillotine. It sheds light not only on how and why she was blamed for France's misfortunes but also who she was as a person as well as why her success as a queen was doomed form the beginning. Marie Antoinette's public figure, motherhood, her personal relationships and love life, her favorite hobbies and how see approached life are all in this book bringing the hated Queen back to live as a whole living, breathing human being who, as matter of fact, went through the likes of suffering, dehumanization and mocking none of us are ever likely to experience. Therefore, jugding by the image this book paints of her one must admit that while she did once live an extremenly priveleged live there was also some extreme darkness in there too.
The most striking thing that this biography brought up about Marie Antoinette was the fact that she was never set to be the succesful queen France might have needed. Uneducated due to being the youngest daughter of Marie Terese's (The Empress of Austria) was never meant to have an important political role. However, the pecking order suddenly change and within a blink of an eye Marie Antoinette was rewarded the price most precious of them all, the crown of France, while securing the franco-austrian allience. However. even as an adult Marie Antoinette lacked political interest not to mention talent. Also the young age when she and Luis XVI became King and Queen with already bad financial situation, the general reformist athmosphere of the 18th century and the King's incapability to focus or take interest in state affairs hardly promesed prosperous and calm reign. However, it wasn't always so bad. In fact the people of France seemed to like the Queen first since she did bring a certain colorfulness to the side of the King who was not particularly fit to entertain court.
"Nevertheless the pleasures of France – above all, the pleasures of Paris where she seemed to recieve the love of a whole people – began to weight in the balance against memories of her home."
– Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser
Secondly what was eye opening to learn was why Marie Antoinette became such a hated figure in France during the revolution. Namely, through times foreign princesses have always been treated with a certain prejudice and so was Marie Antoinette. Especially, as the troubles and revolution went on "The Austrian woman" was made the symbol of everything that the revolution despised about monarchy portraing the Queen's actions to be the in the core of the problems. Therefore, Marie Antoinette went from being the glamorous queen and the mother of the children of France to a despicable figure intensified with propaganda and lies which till to this day have a certain power over the reputation of the Queen.
"The light-hearted, unintellectual, pleasure-loving young woman of yesteryear at Versailles had developed into a formidably hard worker. Maybe it is true that as the Queen wrote at one point: 'It is in misfortune that you realize your true nature.'"
– Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser
Still under all of those political and historical facts as well as speculation nothing is more thrilling or interesting than uncovering the human being behind the mask of time and position. And in the case of Marie Antoinette seeing her grow from innocent, ignorant, naive girl of 14 to a worried mother refusing to abandon her duties by the King's side no matter how dangerous the circumstances was at the very lest heartfelt. And while it is complitely true that she did not posses talent nor certain boldness of a ruler she did, however, was an excellent mother figure, tender at heart and truly caring person who wanted to live a more simpler life from that of Versailles which she portrayed at the Petit Trianon. Moreover, to my mind she was extremenly brave and creative person, not the mastermind of politics but delighfully clever in her own way, which came apparent in her trial where Marie Antoinette showed wit and firmness of character. She also never encouraged revenge for her and the King's faiths. So after all, she died as gracefully as the best of queens and is forever remembered as such, a Queen.
. . .
"We had a beautiful dream and that was all."
– Marie Antoinette
Are you familiar with Marie Antoinette's story?
What do you think of her?
Thank you so much for reading!