Skip to main content

Marie Antoinette by Desmond Seward: A Book Review

Marie Antoinette
Author: Desmond Seward
Genre: Nonfiction, History, Biography
Publisher: Thistle Publishing
Release Date: 2015
Pages: 253
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Synopsis: Giddy and extravagant, Marie Antoinette came to France as a child-bride from Austria, France’s traditional enemy, but the hatred she aroused was out of all proportion to her faults. It was not the sans-culottes who first called her ‘L’Autrichienne’ or accused her of lesbianism: the campaign of vilification and scurrilous ballads originated among the nobility, even the royal family. 

     Posterity sees her as foolish, immoral and devious, as a meddler in politics who unduly influenced her husband, the amiable and incompetent Louis XVI. Re-examining correspondence and memoirs, Desmond Seward finds a different Marie Antoinette: strong-minded, religious, devotedly maternal, surrounded by enemies, forced by her husband’s lethargy to intrigue as best she could to save the monarchy. She failed, but could any woman have done better in Revolutionary France? 

     This biography tells the perennially fascinating drama of Marie Antoinette’s life, from the pleasure-filled early years at the Petit Trianon to the terror and humiliation of her imprisonment with her family, and the dignity with which she faced death.

     My Review: Marie Antoinette is one of the world’s most hated queens. Even today, my  French grandmother believes in Marie Antoinette’s wicked image. Yet, was she really as evil as my grandmother has always portrayed her to be? This sympathetic biography of Marie Antoinette shows her as a woman who was doomed by the time  she set foot in France. With the decline of popularity from Louis XV and the lies that her own enemies spread about her, there was no hope of saving Marie Antoinette’s reputation. It was the hatred and criticism of Marie Antoinette that helped play a role in the French Revolution. This biography also shows the queen’s strength and courage as she faced her enemies during the French Revolution.

   While many biographers have stated that Marie Antoinette was unprepared for her role as queen, the author describes that she was prepared for the role that was given to her. Marie Antoinette’s role as queen was simply to look good and entertain the French court. She was not supposed to be involved in politics. Therefore, Marie Antoinette had the charm for the role of the Queen of France, but because she was from Austria, she made her enemies. Much of the criticism of Marie Antoinette was spurred on by her enemies, who never stopped spreading malicious gossip about her.

   This is not to say that Marie Antoinette did not have any negative aspects. She spent exorbitant sums on clothes that Louis XVI had to pay. She spent her nights gambling with her friends so often that Louis XVI once called her useless. She gave her favorites important positions in court. However, she loved the arts and promoted Gluck. If it wasn’t for Marie Antoinette’s patronage, Gluck would not become as legendary as he is today.      

     This biography also suggest that Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen were most likely not lovers. Their relationship seemed to be platonic. This is because there is no conclusive evidence of infidelity on Marie Antoinette’s part. Therefore, it is most likely that she remained faithful to Louis XVI. During her trial, she defended herself against every accusation made to her. She even garnered so much sympathy from her enemies that there was some doubt if she would ever get the guillotine.

   What I found most fascinating in this biography of Marie Antoinette is the French Revolution. It is during the French Revolution where we see Marie Antoinette’s strength and courage. While Louis XVI wavers on making decisions, Marie Antoinette is busy asking other monarchs to help her escape.

    Overall, this was a very thorough biography of Marie Antoinette. This book emphasized Marie Antoinette’s courage during the dark days of the French Revolution. Marie Antoinette was very fast-paced and it read like a novel. The writing itself was mostly a pretty easy read for the general reader. There were a few times I got confused, and I had to reread the paragraph. Still, I got a very good portrait of both Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. I recommend this biography for Marie Antoinette enthusiasts. It is very detailed and counters the legendary myths of Marie Antoinette, especially the legend, “Let them eat cake!”


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post by Allison Pataki: A Book Review

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post Author: Allison Pataki Genre: Historical Fiction Publisher: Ballantine Release Date: February 15, 2022 Pages: 381 Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review. Synopsis: Mrs. Post, the President and First Lady are here to see you. . . . So begins another average evening for Marjorie Merriweather Post. Presidents have come and gone, but she has hosted them all. Growing up in the modest farmlands of Battle Creek, Michigan, Marjorie was inspired by a few simple rules: always think for yourself, never take success for granted, and work hard—even when deemed American royalty, even while covered in imperial diamonds. Marjorie had an insatiable drive to live and love and to give more than she got. From crawling through Moscow warehouses to rescue the Tsar’s treasures to outrunning the Nazis in London, from serving the homeless of the Great Depression to entertaining Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Hollywood’s biggest stars, Marjorie Merriweath

The Seven Sisters (The Seven Sisters #1) by Lucinda Riley: A Book Review

The Seven Sisters (The Seven Sisters #1) Author: Lucinda Riley Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance Publisher: Atria Release Date: 2015 Pages: 463 Source: My State Public Library Synopsis: Maia D’Apliese and her five sisters gather together at their childhood home, “Atlantis”—a fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva—having been told that their beloved father, who adopted them all as babies, has died. Each of them is handed a tantalizing clue to her true heritage—a clue which takes Maia across the world to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Once there, she begins to put together the pieces of her story and its beginnings. Eighty years earlier in Rio’s Belle Epoque of the 1920s, Izabela Bonifacio’s father has aspirations for his daughter to marry into the aristocracy. Meanwhile, architect Heitor da Silva Costa is devising plans for an enormous statue, to be called Christ the Redeemer, and will soon travel to Paris to find the right sculptor to

Blog Tour: Marie Antoinette’s World: Intrigue, Infidelity, And Adultery In Versailles by Will Bashor

Marie Antoinette’s World: Intrigue, Infidelity, And Adultery In Versailles [history/biographical nonfiction] Release date: June 15, 2020 Postponed due to Covid-19: July 30, 2020 at Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Hardcover and ebook, 320 pages Author’s page | Goodreads SYNOPSIS Synopsis: This riveting book explores the little-known intimate life of Marie Antoinette and her milieu in a world filled with intrigue, infidelity, adultery, and sexually transmitted diseases. Will Bashor reveals the intrigue and debauchery of the Bourbon kings from Louis XIII to Louis XV, which were closely intertwined with the expansion of Versailles from a simple hunting lodge to a luxurious and intricately ordered palace. It soon became a retreat for scandalous conspiracies and rendezvous—all hidden from the public eye.       When Marie Antoinette arrived, she was quickly drawn into a true viper’s nest, encouraged by her imprudent entourage. Bashor shows that her often thoughtless, fantas