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Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser
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Marie Antoinette

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Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser
Paperback $24.00
Nov 12, 2002 | ISBN 9780385489492

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    Nov 12, 2002 | ISBN 9780385489492

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  • Nov 12, 2002 | ISBN 9781400033287

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  • Sep 12, 2006 | ISBN 9780739340073

    1232 Minutes

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“Fascinating . . . the court at Versailles comes alive.” –The Washington Post

“Colorful, fluently narrated. . . . A touching, psychologically believable portrait.” –The Wall Street Journal

“Absorbing as ever. Fraser’s blend of insight and research persuade us that this unfortunate queen deserves neither the vilification nor the idealization she has received.” –The New Yorker

Author Essay

A Letter from Lady Antonia Fraser

My dear reader,

I had always hoped to write about Marie Antoinette one day–a childhood heroine like my first subject, Mary Queen of Scots–but when I started my real journey of investigation five years ago, I must admit that I had no idea what a rich, fascinating story it would prove to be. For one thing, I discovered the importance of Marie Antoinette’s family background in Austria, too often overlooked in favor of her subsequent French career. For me, researching in Vienna, and visiting the palaces of her youth, the contrast between her Austrian family life–she was fifteenth out of sixteen siblings and the youngest daughter–and the convoluted formality of the Court at Versailles was striking. No wonder she turned to the pastoral simplicity of her private life at the Petit Trianon, that miniature jewel of a palace in the park of Versailles. My visits there brought a fresh understanding of her character.

My chosen subtitle The Journey refers of course at one level to the journey Marie Antoinette made from Austria to France at the age of fourteen, when she married the heir to the French throne, the future Louis XVI; an unhappy young man who could not consummate the marriage for more than seven years. She arrived as the unwelcome “Austrian woman” representative of a foreign power, Austria, generally disliked at Court. Even now, in France, I noticed in conversations that Marie Antoinette was frequently regarded as the scapegoat for the French Revolution, her French husband being exonerated. But the real meaning of the subtitle is more profound: My greatest discovery for myself was the extraordinary development of Marie Antoinette as a character, from the inadequately prepared young girl to the mature and courageous woman of the French Revolution years. Threatened with physical violence on numerous occasions, generally scorned, Marie Antoinette nevertheless managed to behave magnificently both at her trial and execution.

It was impossible to study–let alone write about–her last months without emotion; and yet the final lesson of her life for me was not tragedy but triumph over adversity. I hope you will share with me Marie Antoinette’s journey, which was, lastly of course, my own.

With best wishes,

Antonia Fraser

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