August 22, 2011

Busting Marie Antoinette Myths: 7 Things She Never Did

Gotta love the AOL news stories!  Of course when I went to check my email and read this headline, I just had to pay it a visit!  For those of you in the Marie Antoinette Mail Art Group, be sure to read this important info, hint, hint, hint.  That's all I'm going to say! 

Juliet Grey


Marie Antoinette, the glamorous last queen of France, was notorious for many things--most of which she never did or said. Because history is written by the winners and she was the French Revolution's greatest victim, much of the information handed down about her lies somewhere between gross exaggeration and outright lies. Many people think she just went from heedless to headless, a bubble-headed spendthrift who was responsible for the revolution. So here are seven busted myths about the woman who became Marie Antoinette and the truth behind the propaganda.


1. Marie Antoinette never said, "Let them eat cake."

Let's lay this tired old saw to rest once and for all. The actual phrase was Qu'ils mangent de la brioche ("Let them eat brioche") and it may have been uttered by Maria Theresa, the Spanish-born queen of "the Sun King," Louis XIV. Marie Antoinette was, in fact, extremely generous to the starving peasantry and citizenry of France, making numerous contributions both financially and materially, to those in distress.


2. Marie Antoinette was not blond.

Despite the way she is always portrayed in the movies and in nearly all books about her, she was in fact a redhead, strawberry blond, to be precise. How do we know this? Her great enemy at court, Madame du Barry, mistress of King Louis XV, nastily nicknamed her "la petite rousse"--the little redhead.

3. Marie Antoinette was not French.

She was the 15th of 16 children, the youngest daughter of Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria. Her May 1770 marriage at the age of 14 to Louis Auguste, the 15-year-old shy, nearsighted grandson of Louis XV, uniting the houses of Bourbon and Hapsburg, was the ultimate political and dynastic marriage, and was intended to erase nearly 950 years of enmity between their two countries. Unfortunately, being a foreigner in France, Marie Antoinette became the scapegoat for all of France's ills.


4. Marie Antoinette's passion for fashion didn't bankrupt France.

 Cruelly nicknamed "Madame Deficit" starting around 1786, she did not bankrupt France, despite her passion for fashion and interior design. Nor were her extravagances the cause of the French Revolution. France's treasury was broke long before she arrived. And the kingdom spiraled deeper into debt when her husband, Louis XVI, agreed to help fund the American colonists during the American Revolution. Without French military aid, our national anthem might still be "God Save the Queen."

5. Marie Antoinette never milked her own cows.

Titled "Marie Antoinette. House where Marie Antoinette played farmerette," a photograph by Theodor Horydczak (ca. 1890-1971), depicts one of the quaint cottages in the hameau, or little peasant village, that Marie Antoinette commissioned to be built on the grounds of le Petit Trianon at Versailles. The hameau consisted of a working farm and dairy with residential cottages for a dozen or so impoverished farmers and their families. Far from being selfish, Marie Antoinette was charitable! The queen did treat her visitors to fresh milk, which was poured and stored in white Sèvres porcelain jugs with her monogram on them.

6. Marie Antoinette was not promiscuous. 

Countless pamphlets and caricatures known as libelles depicted Marie Antoinette as wildly promiscuous, taking lovers of both genders. In fact, she remained a virgin for the first seven years of her marriage. She married the future Louis XVI when he was still Louis Auguste, dauphin of France, on May 16, 1770; and they didn't consummate their marriage until August 22, 1777!


7.  Marie Antoinette was not the power behind the throne.

 Once she became queen, Marie Antoinette was hardly Louis XVI's puppet master. Ironically, her mother, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, despaired of Antoinette's inability to "control" her husband. Marie Antoinette freely admitted that not only did she lack the talent for politics, but that Louis wouldn't permit her to have any input in his government. Although Antoinette did pressure her husband into making certain ministerial appointments, her influence upon him was grossly exaggerated.


Rhonda said...

LOVE THIS, of course, I knew most of these points. Awesome article.

Marie will always be in my heart.
A victim of France.

debi said...

Fun post Rhonda!

I'm taking notes...wink, wink!

cmoh said...

I actually knew most of these. Yahoo for me being a Marie guru LOL. Great Post!