June 02, 2010

Marie Antoinette: Height Issues?


Joseph Ducreux After French, 1735-1802,  Marie Antoinette as a Young Girl. Dates not recorded, oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston




"She has a most graceful figure; holds herself well; and if, as may be hoped, she grows a little taller, she will possess every good quality one could wish for in a great princess. Her heart and character are both excellent."

This statement was made when she was around 13. There have been many debates on how tall Antoinette actually was, the number is unknown for sure. Speculation has found her to be anywhere from as tall as 5'6'' and a shorter 5'25''.

5'6'' would be rather tall for the 18th century lady. As she had been observed and described we must remember she would always be found in her fashionable heeled shoes, and miles high poufs. Along with posture fit for a queen (and helped by those grand corsets), she would certainly appear tall to contemporaries. She also had better nutrition than most. It can be agreed she was somewhere between the two but I would say closer to 5'25''.

By the 18th century height was at an all time low! (between the 9th -18th cent.'s) Yes, people grew shorter. The 18th century population was on average 2.5 inches shorter than their medieval ancestors.

If someone would be so kind as to measure the length of the death mask at Madame Tussaud's we can get an idea of how tall Marie Antoinette's height was based on the ideal cannon of proportions! (I know, that is dark) Too bad we do not have any exact numbers...


9 comments :

  1. Oh, come on, she was tall enough! I think they wanted to be 3 metres tall! Let's have a look nowadays and see how tall are people! Neither short, nor tall!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Marie Antoinette was reportedly quite tall, especially by conventional standards. Why do you think it was more likely 5'2?

    That is extremely interesting that the people of her day were about 2 " smaller than medieval ancestors? Why is that?

    Fascinating post!

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Anonymous 5'25'' is just my thought on her height based on portraits and description. I am not sure that her mother was very tall either.

    More interesting are the possible reasons for the decline in height during that period. Some theories are the rise of cities and population growths and the ease of spreading communicable disease. Agriculture, climate and diet as well. If you are interested in reading more check out this article:

    Steckel , Richard H.. "New Light on the "Dark Ages"." Social Science History 28, no. 2 (2004): 211-229.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hmm, 5'2.5"? That seems fair enough.

    Btw, Richard II of England was a known and recorded 6 foot.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very interesting - it seems quite a number of fabulous Historical ladies were quite short, Catherine of Aragon for instance was posatively tiny!

    Keep the posts comin' - this blog is so interesting! :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. You must have read the chapter on MA by Hilaire Belloq "French Revolution" -- he was saying she wasn't extravagant at all, especially as compared to more modern standards, but that she didn't understand the French or fit in, so therefore was mistrusted...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Mary, Queen of Scots, was 5'11 and she was from the 16th century.

    Marie Antoinette was 5'2 and was in the 18th century.

    That's a huge diference. However, Queen Elizabeth 1 was 5'3. If I remember right Jane Seymour was tiny too.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anne Boleyn was supposed to have been petite, even for her time. Anyway, what has height to do with anything? It's charisma, personality, style and, last but not least, personal ethics, that count.

    ReplyDelete
  9. thanx for that post. though i cannot really work with your foot and inches... european, you know... :-D
    anyways, when i went to mdm tussauds, i took a pic of me standing next to marie antoinette, and if i remember right, mdm t went to meet the royal family and so the height of this wax m.a. can be quite acurate, what do you think? i am 1,78 metres and she was just a tiny bit shorter than me... i look for the pics and will email you...

    ReplyDelete