History is full of fiction, and I intend to write the truth. Marie Antoinette, The French Revolution, and Liberti!
Lady Antonia Fraser on Marie Antoinette
A Resolute Biographer and a Kinder, Gentler Antoinette was written in 2001 as an article featured in the New York Times. The title refers to the author, and biographer, Lady Antonia Fraser. The article details the life of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France during the French Revolution. The point that Fraser makes clearly in her work is that the Queen did not say “Let them eat cake”. The fact, she argues, is that her [Marie Antoinette] conscience would not have allowed her to feel that way.
That is a rumor attributed to her, and one that was most likely made up just to anger the lower classes. The people were on the brink of starvation, and they were also witness to the outcome of the American Revolution. This gave the French people hope, and acted as a catalyst for the storming of the Bastille. They knew that they could also succeed and overthrow their tyrannical monarch like the Americans did.
The New York Times writes:
For more than 200 years, she has been pilloried, especially in France
as a cold blooded hedonistic snob, the blight of the French Revolution,
someone well deserving of her fate at the guillotine. As a biographer,
Lady Antonia tries to uncover mistake and misapprehensions of history.
“I always try to set it right,” she said in a recent interview.
The Times, in its attempt to remain skeptical, also mentions that Fraser seems to gravitate towards strong women with a tendency to lose their heads, noting that she has also written a biography on Mary, Queen of Scots. Lady Antonia simply states that she is attracted to the idea of strong women throughout history, it just so happens that strong women always lose their heads during these time periods.
She [Lady Antonia] also tries to correct the portrait that history has painted of Antoinette by writing that she was actually a very sensitive and empathetic person, and by the end of her life in 1793, she was happy to die.
Marie was wed to Louis XVI as a child and she was uneducated, but very smart. Lady Antonia goes on to state the obvious by mentioning that Louis was more responsible for the revolt because of his neglect and spending, all the while the people of France starved to death. Fraser spent time in France off-and-on for five years, researching information she could use for her book, as well as any hands-on evidence she could find.
Fraser goes on to write in her book regarding the famous phrase, “Let them eat cake”, was originally credited to another person, a Spanish princess that Louis the XIV married. (See source material below).
It has also been said about many other royals during that time period, according to Lady Antonia. She also brings up a wild idea about Marie’s sex life and court life, mentioning that she did indeed have lovers, suggesting one may have even been female.
Fraser also makes mention that there were people in Maine awaiting the arrival of her and the king, however, they never successfully escaped France, or the Revolution.
Fraser also goes into details about Marie’s relationship with her mother, Empress Maria Teresa of Austria. She wanted to tell the story of Marie, and her life from the beginning to the end, making note of the key things that happened to Antoinette along the way.
Lady Antonia makes it clear that as the queen was preparing for death, she never lost her courage and dignity.
She writes, “People have always talked about her great unhappiness. But when the end finally came and she was taken out of the cell and she was not going to see her children again- I think she thought this is the release.” As evident by Marie Antoinette’s last words, “The moment when my ills are going to end is not the moment when courage is going to fail me.”
Marie Antoinette was not the cold blooded, heartless queen that has been portrayed for generations.
She had no choice but follow her husband’s path after she was forced to married young, and molded by the court for her king, she did as she saw fit to live her life...even among rumors and dishonesty.
She is not responsible for the Revolution, and the blame should not be placed on her alone. This statement associated with the Queen was fabricated to use as a scapegoat, however, it was also responsible for sending her to the guillotine.
The point about Antoinette that the New York Times is trying to showcase, is that there is a different side to Marie Antoinette, one that many people do not know. The Times allows Lady Antonia to make use of their platform so she can tell the world that the most infamous statement attributed to the French Revolution, did not happen in any way, shape, or form.
This article in relation to locality can be narrowed down to Europe, specifically France. After the American Revolution, the French Revolution sparked off with zeal. Starting with the storming of the Bastille, things continually worsened, and became horrible with the rise of the Jacobin Class, and their ‘Reign of Terror’.
The king and queen were beheaded, as well as at least 22,000 other French men and women.
This article directly correlates to the Queen of France, and her famously associated quote, which allegedly caused the angry mob to have her executed. Research has been done to show that she in no way had anything to do with this quote originally, and it was never noted to have been Antoinette who said it.
A direct quote taken from the article very simply says the one thing Lady Antonia mentions at every conference and book signing, “No, she didn’t say it.” After the years of research and the passion she has for the subject in which she is writing about, she is a credible source in relaying this important information to the public.
The movies and stories we have seen were playing off of the incorrect information they learned in school. Her comment could not have sealed her fate because she never made such a statement; she was not that type of queen.
To find out this was not true, and that she has been represented falsely throughout the generations, is sad. We should share the correct information, and give her the benefit of the doubt.
Plus, cake was much too expensive to have and prepare in the middle of a famine. The statement, “Let them eat bread”, would have been more practical, and still would have carried the same connotation.
References and Quotes
This is a quote taken directly off of the website, Alpha History
The link is highlighted if you would like to check out the whole article on the Queen's life. It is fascinating.
One story about Marie Antoinette’s attitude to the common people has survived all others. When told that French workers were deprived of bread, legend has it that Antoinette replied: “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” (“then let them eat cake”). It is doubtful she said anything of the kind. The same remark was attributed to several apocryphal queens and “great princesses”, long before Antoinette had even arrived in France. The same remarked had also appeared in the works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau when Antoinette was still a child.
Extant sources suggest the queen was actually more cautious and measured with her remarks. She often showed a measure of concern for the poor, at least in comparison to others of her rank. When hearing of food shortages in one French town, the queen is reported to have said: “It is quite certain that in seeing the people who treat us so well despite their own misfortune, we are more obliged than ever to work hard for their happiness.”
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Bri Smith