May 09, 2008

Sexy Villainess




T
o start things off, I present the antagonist of late 18th century France, Marie Antoinette. Of course there is much hype about the Queen currently with the Coppola movie, and fashion trends, but knowing she said "let them eat cake", spent a lot of money and wore feathers in her hair does not mean much.

November 17, 1755 Marie was born Maria Antonia Josepha Joanna. She grew up in a very conservative religious family in Austria. At 14 on May 15, 1770 she married Louis-Auguste and became dauphine of France. And she did possess the many graces and beauty desired of the time. Her complexion alone was striking compared to the tones of lilies and roses.

This was when the rumours truly began and her defamation rocketed through the next few years. Underground cartoons and pamphlets shred any positive reputation she once possessed, with intent to vilify her over things such as ridiculous expenditures on frivolities and merely being of Austrian decent. Interestingly enough, she was more French in blood than her husband, but that is just irony.

Fabricated stories were not uncommon and it became know of her infamous apocryphal “Let them eat cake” quote when in question of the starving country. In a whirlwind parade of events that seemed to lack any breaks this historical figure was held in prison until she fell apart in spirit and health.

Before her captivation was a period when there was paranoia of an attack on the household of the royal family, and those around her feared for her life if an assailant broke in. Marie always kept a small basin of powdered sugar on a table in her room, and would put a spoonful of it into her water if she wanted a drink. (Just a step behind Kool-Aid) To prevent an assassin from poisoning the unattended sugar, one of her ladies would secretly switch the sugar for fresh every so often, just in case. One day the Queen caught her lady switching the sugar, and told her not to bother herself with such a task.

“Remember, that not a grain of poison will be put in use against me. The Brinvilliers do not belong to this century: this age possesses calumny, which is a much more convenient instrument of death; and it is by that I shall perish.”
And there we behold our great villainess of the 18th century, Marie Antoinette Queen of France.

1 comment

  1. I discovered this site serendipitously! Kudos to you for a most excellent and innovative decision! I shall spend many weeks, months catching up with current subscribers.
    I appreciate the tantalizing tidbit about the sugared water. I never knew this and find this completely credible and in character with Marie-Antoinette. I've enjoyed Evelyn Lever's many biographies and fiction, as well as Antonia Fraser's -in my opinion definitive bio. Do you concur?

    Also, I've started the Goncourt brothers' version and find how details are glossed over when Modern readers such as ourselves crave the commerage. Sadly, les freres Goncourt gloss over many salicious morcels, however, I do enjoy the flowery detail and attention to Marie-Antoinette's Petit Trianon. Reading about the grounds and description of points of interest are the most satisfying and palpable YET!

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