Sunday, December 4, 2011

7 Myths About Marie Antoinette

So many truths have been attributed to Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France who was beheaded during the French Revolution along with her husband King Louis XVI. Perhaps it's time to set those myths to rest by revealing the real truth.

It's generally accepted that history is written by the winner which means the loser usually gets the short end of the stick. And it seems that's what happened to Marie Antoninette who was held responsible for the French Revolution…something that wasn't true.

1) The first and most famous myth is quoting her as saying, "Let them eat cake."

We can start with correcting the quote. The actual phrase was "Let them eat brioche" and was most likely spoken by the Spanish born Queen of Louis XIV. Marie Antoinette was actually considered very generous to the starving people of France.

2) The next myth said Marie Antoinette was a blond.

She has been portrayed in movies and in books as being blond, but in reality she was a redhead, or more accurately a strawberry blond. Madame du Barry, her great enemy at court, nicknamed her la petite rousse—the little redhead.

3) The next great myth says Maria Antoinette was French.

Again, not true. She was the youngest daughter (15th of 16 children) of the Empress of Austria. Her marriage at age 14 to the 15 year old grandson of Louis XV of France united the houses of Bourbon and Hapsburg—definitely a political marriage intended to end nearly 950 years of hostilities between the two countries. As a foreigner in France, she was blamed for all of France's misfortunes.

4) Marie Antoinette's obsession with fashion and interior design bankrupted France.

Starting approximately 1786 she was wrongly nicknames Madame Deficit even though her indulgence in fashion and interior design was not responsible for bankrupting France or causing the French Revolution. France's treasury was broke long before she arrived on the scene. Part of France's extensive debt came from France funding the American colonists during the American Revolution. Of course, that wasn't so much France striking a blow for freedom as it was France striking a blow against England.

5) Myth has it that Marie Antoinette milked her own cows.

Marie Antoinette commissioned a little peasant village to be build on the grounds at Versailles. The village consisted of a working farm and dairy with cottages for a dozen impoverished farmers and their families, an example of her concern for the poor. She did treat her visitors to fresh milk poured from porcelain jugs with her monogram, but was not the one to procure the milk from its source.

6) Myth says Marie Antoinette was promiscuous.

Even though untold numbers of stories circulated about her being wildly promiscuous with lovers of both sexes, they simply weren't true. She remained a virgin for the first seven years of her marriage, having wed at age 14 on May 16, 1770, and not consumating the marriage until August 22, 1777.

7) And finally, it was believed that Marie Antoinette was the power behind the throne, therefore responsible for Louis' decisions.

She was not Louis XVI's puppet master. Her mother, the Empress of Austria, despaired of her daughter's inability to control her husband. Marie Antoinette freely admitted that she lacked any talent for politics and confided that her husband wouldn't permit her to have any input in his government. She did manage to pressure him into making certain ministerial appointments, but that was the limit of her influence.


Harlie Reader said...

Great blog Samantha. You always have the most interesting topics. Keep up the good work.


Harlie Reader said...

I always considered her to be a tragic historical figure.

Samantha Gentry said...

Marika: Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. I think she really did get a bad rap. Of course, the French Revolution did take some strange twists and turns from its original intention and seemed to lose its way.

Maria said...

I've always felt that there was more to Marie's story than we are told. She definitely took the blame for a lot of things she didn't have any control over. Her story is tragic in so many ways!

Samantha Gentry said...

Maria: That's so true, starting with the custom of the time of being forced into a prearranged marriage at the age of 14 and shipped off to a foreign country.

Thanks for commenting.