Marie Antoinette: An Intimate History by Melanie Clegg: A Book Review

Marie Antoinette: An Intimate History
Author: Melanie Clegg
Genre: Nonfiction, History, Biography
Publisher: Madame Guillotine
Release Date: 2015
Pages: 284
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Synopsis: As the youngest daughter of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, Marie Antoinette was born into a world of almost unbelievable privilege and power. As wife of Louis XVI of France she was first feted and adored and then universally hated as tales of her dissipated lifestyle and extravagance pulled the already discredited monarchy into a maelstrom of revolution, disaster and tragedy.

     This illustrated first biography by historian and writer Melanie Clegg takes a fresh look at the story of this most fascinating and misunderstood of queens, exploring her personal tribulations as well as the series of disasters that brought her to the guillotine in October 1793.

     Melanie Clegg is the author of five historical novels and is also a regular contributor to Majesty magazine and her own women's history blog Madame Guillotine. Her second biography, a life of Marie de Guise, is due to be published by Pen and Sword Books in 2016.

     My Review: Marie Antoinette is one of the world’s most vilified queens. This biography of Marie Antoinette shows her as a woman who was once adored by her people, but then was hated as her enemies continued to spread malicious gossip about her. This hatred of the queen plays an important role in the French Revolution. Thus, this biography takes a look at the misunderstood queen and shows us how unprepared she was for the role of Marie Antoinette.

      Marie Antoinette was the youngest daughter of Maria Theresa. She was often neglected by her mother. When there is a chance for a marriage proposal between France and Austria, Marie Antoinette hastily prepares for her role. She becomes a child bride at fourteen to Louis XVI. The old king Louis XV dies, leaving Louis XVI unprepared for the role as ruler. Marie Antoinette as queen is kept out of the affairs of state.

      This biography shows Marie Antoinette’s flaws. She is naive, judgmental, stubborn, and a spendthrift. I really didn’t like her early years as queen at Versailles. However, there were some good qualities about Marie Antoinette. She was a patron of the arts. She helped Gluck to become famous in Paris. Later on, she wore simpler gowns.

     I also like how this biography addressed some issues regarding Marie Antoinette. Marie Antoinette’s relationship with Axel Ferson is described as platonic, and she remained faithful to Louis XVI. During the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette later became interested in politics. The author also stressed that during her last days as a prisoner, Marie Antoinette’s jailers tried to keep her as comfortable as she could. The biographer also emphasized that it was during the period of the French Revolution that Marie Antoinette found faith and comfort.

     Overall, this was a balanced biography of Marie Antoinette. The biography stressed that even though the days of the French Revolution were dark times for the queen, there was still a silver lining. It was because of the French Revolution that Marie Antoinette grew into a strong and mature woman. The writing is light and is a very easy read for the general reader. The author does not go into very deep detail about politics. Thus, Marie Antoinette: An Intimate History is definitely a must-read biography for Marie Antoinette fans. If you think that you know everything about Marie Antoinette, this biography may surprise you!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


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