Related Posts with Thumbnails

Marie Antoinette's Flaws

I have been accused of romanticizing or waxing poetic about Marie Antoinette. That simply is not the case. I do not have rose-colored glasses on where the Queen is concerned. For me, Marie Antoinette is a multi-faceted, complex person. My view of her is multi-dimensional; I recognize her positive characteristics and cringe at her negative attributes.

I have written dozens of articles about Marie Antoinette's sharp sense of style, her unswerving loyalty, the bravery she displayed in her final days.  I have not discussed her flaws - that is, until now...
  
Marie Antoinette could be thoughtless  Knowing how much his wife delighted in the amusements of simple life, Louis XVI decided to make Marie Antoinette a spinning wheel. After spending hours in his workshop constructing the wheel, he proudly presented it to her. In To The Scaffold, Carolly Erickson writes, "She was charmed, she thanked him warmly - and as soon as he had gone, gave the spinning wheel away." One imagines the big, awkward king much like a child proudly showing off his artwork. His reward for his thoughtful efforts?   A polite smile and a pat on the rear as he was scooted out the door.

Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI had different interests and kept different schedules. Marie Antoinette liked chit-chat, a swirl of activity, and staying up late. Louis was uncomfortable engaging in idle or pointless conversation, was content to work with his hands, and liked to be to bed promptly at 11 PM. One night, early in their marriage, Marie Antoinette contrived a plan to get him to bed early so she could go out on the town. With the help of Louis' younger brother, she moved the arms of the clock to a later hour. As the clock chimed its eleventh chime, Louis bid her goodnight and departed. Marie Antoinette, perhaps feeling giddy at the success of the ruse, might have clapped her hands and giggled. Whether she had intended it or not, she had made her husband the butt of a joke - a joke that would be repeated throughout Versailles and Paris.

Marie Antoinette did not always lead by example. Madame Royale, Marie Antoinette's daughter, writes in her journal about a particular Christmas when the Queen encouraged her children to give their gifts away to the needy. She wanted to make them aware that there were less fortunate souls in the world and that it was the duty of their station to look out for those souls. These are lofty and admirable principles to espouse, but they must be taught through action and deed not just word. Although the Queen was charitable, even giving money out of her purse to support various hospitals and orphans, she made no real sacrifices. While people were starving in the streets of Paris, the Queen was hosting lavish soirees and building her expensive, beloved le hameau on the grounds of Versailles. She went through slippers, gowns, and diamonds as if they were limitless resources and rights of her passage.

The young Marie Antoinette was childish and tactless. Marie Antoinette, the outsider from Austria, had a difficult time settling into her new home at Versailles. Because of her heritage, she was hated by various factions, including Louis XV's mistress, Madame du Barry. Did she rise above it by turning the other cheek? Absolutely not!  One story tells of Marie Antoinette giggling behind her fan at some of her enemies while at the funeral of Louis XV!  (Click here to read another story about Marie Antoinette's campaign against Madame du Barry)

Marie Antoinette was blindly loyal. Oftentimes, Marie Antoinette would show loyalty and favor to those who didn't deserve it. Marie Antoinette and the Comte d'Artois, the King's youngest brother, became friends early on. Artois was a profligate, a lover of women and games of chance. In spite of the King's strong disapproval, he encouraged Marie Antoinette to place high wagers on horse races and card games. Marie Antoinette's friendship with this libertine was the source of speculation and cruel gossip; she was accused of being sexually involved with her brother-in-law. In the end, her friendship with Artois  would prove as insubstantial and pointless as a game of faro. He deserted his brother, sister, niece, nephew, and sister-in-law when the French Revolution began. At the King's request, he fled France. The Duchesse de Polignac, one of Marie Antoinette's close friends, was the perfect example of the courtier leech. Once attached to Marie Antoinette, she sucked her nearly dry (whether intentionally or not)! Polignac, a beautiful, delicate, and by some accounts, warm-hearted woman was married to a spend-thrift and involved with a violent and abusive lover. Her family was impoverished. Marie Antoinette, sympathizing with the young woman's tenuous position, appointed her First Equerry and awarded her an annual salary of 12,000 livres. Polignac had an apartment at the head of the marble staircase near Marie Antoinette's rooms. In no time, most of her family and her lover had obtained positions and pensions. These appointments would anger faithful courtiers, jealous nobles, and starving peasants. Marie Antoinette's blind devotion to the Duchesse de Polignac would prompt some to suggest the two were involved in a lesbian relationship; a rumor that would cause incomparable damage to the queen's reputation.

11 comments:

  1. Wow,those are very serious flaws which you have explained very well. An adolescent can be forgiven did to her level of competency at such a young age but the mature Antoinette continued to repeat too many failures in compassion for others. She has always appeared to be self-centered, especially with the traditions of the court.Thanks for writing about the negative traits which turned many against her. In truth, my first awareness of her was very negative. She was always described to my age group as an extravagant and foolish spoiled brat Queen.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow,those are very serious flaws which you have explained very well. An adolescent can be forgiven did to her level of competency at such a young age but the mature Antoinette continued to repeat too many failures in compassion for others. She has always appeared to be self-centered, especially with the traditions of the court.Thanks for writing about the negative traits which turned many against her. In truth, my first awareness of her was very negative. She was always described to my age group as an extravagant and foolish spoiled brat Queen.

    ReplyDelete
  3. She sounds like a selfish person. And maybe the people that said you have roses colored glasses are right. Must be a reason as to why you write this just now

    ReplyDelete
  4. BB ~

    As I wrote, I once viewed the queen through rose colored glasses but now I see her clearly. She was a charming woman with flaws. Every person has a flaws. Some people are selfish. Some people leave snarky, barely coherent comments on stranger's blogs. Fortunately, Marie Antoinette's flaws are far fewer than her positive attributes.

    All the best,

    Leah Marie Brown

    ReplyDelete
  5. ThirtyTwo Degrees ~

    As always, it is a pleasure to read your comments on my blog. Thank you for visiting.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for this blog. I am a high school history teacher, francophile, and author of Le Blog. One of the first things I teach my students is that history is not black and white...no one person is all good or all evil, and that is what makes history so rich. Marie Antoinette, like you and like me, had her positive and negative qualities, and made some smart and other not-so-smart choices. She and Louis inherited tremendous debt and political turmoil that had been brewing for generations. She was a typical adolescent girl and he said it best, "Protect us Lord, for we rule too young." They were in WAY over their heads (when they were still attached, anyway! LOL) I understand your fascination...I have a similar thing going with Robespierre, and you can imagine how that flies with the average person. One of my blogs is about him and why I think he got a bum rap. I think the problem is this: We are fed a biased history written by an elite few. Most people do not take the time to deeply study people or the times in which they lived, yet feel it is okay to pass judgment on them based on a paragraph or two they once read in a high school history textbook. I don't think it is that you see Marie through rose colored glasses...I think you have taken the time to know who she truly was. You recognize she does have flaws, but are able to look past them and appreciate her for her humanity. And to me, that's what makes a great historian.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so glad you enjoyed MARIE ANTOIENTTE'S FLAWS and my blog in general. Marie Antoinette has long been a passion of mine and this blog provides an outlet for all of the queen-related minutiae rattling around in my brain!

      Marie Antoinette was too young to rule - too naive and immature. Sadly, she gained much wisdom in her later years, as a result of tragedies. I often wonder what sort of woman she would have become, had she been allowed to live beyond her prime.

      At her heart, she was a kind person. Sure, she was frivilious during those early days at court, but she showed great compassion and philantrhopy too. As she grew, she abandoned her wild ways and settled into womanhood with grace.


      I hope you will visit again and follow me on Twitter, where I post loads of tidbits. @18thCFrance

      All the best,
      Leah Marie

      Delete
  7. Jennifer ~

    I am so glad you enjoyed MARIE ANTOIENTTE'S FLAWS and my blog in general. Marie Antoinette has long been a passion of mine and this blog provides an outlet for all of the queen-related minutiae rattling around in my brain!

    Marie Antoinette was too young to rule - too naive and immature. Sadly, she gained much wisdom in her later years, as a result of tragedies. I often wonder what sort of woman she would have become, had she been allowed to live beyond her prime.

    At her heart, she was a kind person. Sure, she was frivilious during those early days at court, but she showed great compassion and philantrhopy too. As she grew, she abandoned her wild ways and settled into womanhood with grace.


    I hope you will visit again and follow me on Twitter, where I post loads of tidbits. @18thCFrance

    All the best,
    Leah Marie

    ReplyDelete
  8. I didn't know that the Duchesse de Polignac came from an abusive marriage...Here I am with first coffee and I learned something new.

    I just discovered your blog and am enjoying it thoroughly. (Your choice in wallpaper is sublime and relevant!)

    I look forward to enjoying more posts!

    ReplyDelete
  9. You forgot this evil queen's fatal flaw: Marie Antoinette conspired with the foreign armies who were invading France and received the punishment due to traitors in wartime!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Like EVERYONE else making comments on the topic, I too rely on biased historical and apocryphal literature. I found these statements that paint a completely different picture of the queen. I have biographies which also highlight her strengths... "During the fireworks celebrating the marriage of the young prince and princess in May 1770, there was a stampede in which many people were killed. Louis and Marie-Antoinette gave all of their private spending money for a year to relieve the suffering of the victims and their families.
    Marie-Antoinette started a home for unwed mothers at the royal palace. She adopted three poor children to be raised with her own, as well overseeing the upbringing of several needy children, whose education she paid for, while caring for their families.
    She brought several peasant families to live on her farm at Trianon, building cottages for them."

    Happy reading...
    https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080911022304AAHIfOA

    ReplyDelete

You have left a comment on my blog! Merci beaucoup! I hope to you will visit Titillating Facts About the Life and Times of Marie Antoinette again soon! Until then...au revoir and bonne chance!