Sunday, August 23, 2009

Marie-Antoinette: A Reputation in Shreds

She is the queen who danced while the people starved; who spent extravagantly on clothes and jewels without a thought for her subjects’ plight. Such is the distorted but widespread view of Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France (1755-1793), wife of King Louis XVI. The recent Coppola film has further damaged the image of the much-maligned, beautiful and charming Austrian archduchess, sent to France at age fourteen to marry the fifteen-year-old Dauphin. Sadly, the picture many people now have of Marie-Antoinette is of her running through Versailles with a glass of champagne in her hand, eating bonbons all day long, and rolling in the bushes with a lover...
Incidentally, all this calumny, mockery and derision reminds me of the way Lilian Baels was later treated... but that is no surprise, as Leopold's enemies explicitly hearkened back to the French Revolution.

3 comments:

MadMonarchist said...

I don't mind the "party-girl" image as much as I detest the portrayal of the late Queen as uncaring and immature. I have been accused of playing into the "party girl" stereotype of the Queen, but I think there's nothing wrong with a good bash and for a Queen consort parties could be extremely important (or at least moreso than most think). Observe the differences between Czarinas Dagmar and Alix and what it meant for them. What I find most objectionable is the assumption that Marie Antoinette was uncaring. She was a very compassionate woman who gave generously to the poor. Also the image of her as rather oblivious and self-absorbed. She was a greater help to her husband than some other consorts have been and she was a very caring and devoted mother. It is the portrayals to the contrary that really make my blood boil.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you for the link, kind friend!

Matterhorn said...

You are most welcome, Elena.

MadMonarchist, it's true that entertainment was an important aspect of the role of royal consorts, for political as well as social reasons, but the problem is people portray MA as partying for the sake of wild self-indulgence, while letting her country and people go to rack and ruin through her extravagance...so they use the "party-girl" image to feed the "uncaring and self-absorbed" image. Besides (especially as she got older) she became considerably more mature, serious and sedate, (trying to introduce simpler fashions, etc.) something that is usually ignored.