Marie-Antoinette is such a mythical character that we know her mainly thanks to pop culture and films that are not always very faithful to history, such as that of Sofia Coppola. So inevitably, what we think we know about the queen who has lost her mind is often a little exaggerated, even completely false. It is therefore time to dismantle some clichés that stick to the skin of Marie-Antoinette, a queen not so evil after all.
1. She reportedly said “If they don’t have bread, let them eat brioche”
This sentence, attributed to Marie-Antoinette, entered into legend because it would be the one that would have set fire to the powder as the starving people advanced towards Versailles to demand bread. The punchline ” Let them eat cake “ would therefore have been the straw that was missing to launch the Revolution. Only, Marie-Antoinette never pronounced it. It was attributed to him by detractors who stole the formula from Confessions of Rousseau written in 1765. However, in 1765, Marie-Antoinette was only 10 years old and was still in Austria. Rousseau, who quoted in his book a “great princess” could not therefore quote Marie-Antoinette at the time. Big fake news, then.
Look, other received ideas about the French Revolution.
2. “She slept with the whole court”
What better way to politically discredit a woman at court? Lend him heaps of sexual adventures right to left. This is exactly what happened with Marie-Antoinette, unfairly presented as a wanton. It started when the queen didn’t give birth to Louis XVI – the first came only after 8 years of union; in this case, people are worried about not seeing an heir arrive, and they invent anything and everything to humiliate the one they believe to be responsible. Then, Marie-Antoinette had a few lovers (mostly platonic or epistolary, as with the Count of Fersen) and was often surrounded by gallants who kept her company. Yet there is absolutely no evidence that she had sex with them. If we describe her as a big hot ass, it’s just to make her look like a bad woman, that’s all.
3. “She ruined the country because of her spending on fashion”
So, even if the one called “Madame Deficit” has indeed swallowed up a lot of thunasses in clothes and other small personal pleasures (like the construction of her hamlet), this cliché is rather false. It comes mainly from the fact that she was scammed in the famous “Queen’s necklace affair” which is too long to tell here but which I have already told you about in the top scandals at the court of the kings of France. .
In short, it cost money, but above all caused ink to flow from which resulted its sulphurous reputation as a money pit. In summary, yes she spent a lot, but she was not the only one to do so at court, and we must also count the money committed to the war of independence of the United States which broke the coffers well of the Kingdom. Yeah, don’t put it all on the back of the lady.
4. “She betrayed France”
In 1792, Marie-Antoinette supported Austria, her native country – the country of her family – at war with France. It is attested by letters, which prove among other things that she provided the battle plans of France to Austria, so there is no doubt about it. But seeing it as a betrayal of France is a bit simplistic. You should know that during the Revolution (which continued after 1789 eh, it’s not just the storming of the Bastille) Marie-Antoinette knew that she and her family were in danger. However, if Austria and their allies won the war against France, it could allow him to stay alive and keep Louis XVI on the throne. They would have been put under Austrian guardianship, but they would have been alive, and the absolute monarchy would have continued. Because that’s also important: the queen really believed in absolute monarchy. So inevitably, from our point of view as Republicans today, we see that as a betrayal, but from Marie-Antoinette’s point of view, what she was doing was legitimate. It was beneficial for her, but also for the kingdom. Only, as it’s the winners who write history, well, we decided to write that the Austrian was a traitor. Just remember that it’s actually not that simple.
5. “She was mean”
We often speak of Marie-Antoinette as a cold and wicked woman, but that is above all a matter of fantasy, and that can be explained by a lot of elements. I’ll give you a few, but it won’t be exhaustive. Already, there’s the brioche episode, and now you know it’s fake. Then, she had a lot of detractors who wrote pamphlets about her or caricatured her and attributed to her lots of actions that she had not committed for the simple and good reason that she was Austrian, and that the French people of the time hated the Austrians. Like really, they hated them like the French hated the Germans for decades after Hitler died. And then, quite simply, Marie-Antoinette was queen at the time of the Revolution, so inevitably, it’s not good for her image. The Revolution is THE big pride of the French, and she, well, she was the enemy. Suddenly, we see her as a bad woman when she was just defending what she had been raised for all her life. Finally, at the Court, Marie-Antoinette was apparently mocking and capricious, she gave little nicknames to everyone, but from there to speak of “wicked”, there is room for improvement. In short, this story of wickedness, it may have gone a little far.
6. “Marie-Antoinette played shepherdess at the Petit Trianon”
This somewhat bizarre idea would have it that Marie-Antoinette had the leisure of taking herself for a shepherdess, milking the cows and shearing the sheep, when she lived in her hamlet built at the Petit Trianon in Versailles. Well absolutely nothing proves it. We have no proof of that. It’s probably just a rumor that was peddled to make her look like a vulgar peasant and discredit her once again. We have no evidence to the contrary either, of course, but if we remain a little logical, the theory of the rumor is still much more plausible.
7. Before being executed she sang “I’ve lost my mind since I saw Suzette”
It’s a rumour. Just a rumor…