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The scandalous queen: misconceptions about Marie-Antoinette


If there is a queen who has been criticized, it is Marie Antoinette. Is it true ? Is this wrong? Cécile Berly thus takes up these clichés in her work " The Scandalous Queen - Misconceptions about Marie-Antoinette ", Analyzes their origin and shows us that they are either dependent or exculpatory against Marie-Antoinette, while making her a martyred and guillotined woman.

Marie-Antoinette, the scandalous queen

The work consists first of a short biography dealing with the gist of the character, followed by a genealogical tree of the Bourbon family from Louis XV, supplemented by a good bibliography and a filmography.

Finally, the body of the book takes up all these clichés, such as "Marie-Antoinette was a wind head" being of a frivolous character, fleeing from any serious subject and yet she is curious about the sciences and the progress of medicine; "Marie-Antoinette has emptied the coffers of the kingdom" with her Petit Trianon and the Hameau, constantly under construction, constantly enlarged and transformed, the theater, parties, pensions granted to her small group of friends ; qualified as a "Trianon shepherdess" when she plays at the merchant dressed as a lemonade at a party given in this area which already has a heavy reputation ... or when she brings farm animals there! ; "She dresses like a chambermaid" with her madness of constantly renewed dresses and yet after the extravagances, she aspires to the natural, leaving aside the baskets and the corsets and invents the Greco-Roman style worn by the ladies under the Directory and the Empire; called a "bad mother and accused of incest" she was one of the few to take care of her children so much, to devote her time to the sick dolphin who was lying (hence the incest); accused of being "responsible for the Revolution", she supports the king, urges the courtiers to leave the kingdom after the storming of the Bastille, and Fersen prepares the flight of the royal family, a flight which will be validated and decreed by the king ...

The great reproach that can be made to this queen, is that she upset the habits and customs of the Ancien Régime, not wanting to live in the shadow of her husband the king. She will play roles inadequate with her function and have favorite pleasures like fancy dress balls in Paris, whims unworthy of a queen. Charitable, she distributes to the poor on her personal cassette and adopts the children of peasants… but her actions will be considered suspect during the Revolution! To fill the boredom and loneliness, she befriends "simple" people and leaves large families behind.

If she had not been guillotined, this queen would have passed like all the previous ones, in the collective memory of the history of France.

Our opinion

At the end of this very interesting and valuable work, we can conclude that these received ideas, these acts which make Marie-Antoinette a scandalous queen, greatly contribute to the dynamism of this living memory! And yet, the few positive points in favor of the queen, such as her expeditious trial in three days and an hour of deliberation by the jury, find it difficult to forget the negative points which give an impression of irresponsibility on her part, or even to “do it on purpose”, to do nothing to avoid scandal and to “give the stick to get beaten”.

The author

The author Cécile Berly is a historian and works on the history of the French Revolution and the 18th century. She has already written: “Marie-Antoinette” in 2010; “Marie-Antoinette and her biographers”; "History of a writing of the French Revolution in 2006".

The scandalous queen - received ideas about Marie Antoinette - Cécile Berly. Editons Le Cavalier Bleu, March 2012.


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