The JourneyBook - 2001
Still a controversial figure ¿ as well as a celebrated one ¿ Marie Antoinette¿s dramatic life-story continues to arouse mixed emotions. To many people, she is still ¿la reine méchante¿, whose extravagance and frivolity helped to bring down the French monarchy; her indifference to popular suffering epitomised by the (apocryphal) words: ¿let them eat cake¿. She was accused of personal profligacies and sexual excesses. Others are equally passionate in her defence: to them, she is a victim of misogyny.
Marie Antoinette remains one of the genuinely romantic and ill-treated characters in history. A compassionate queen and devoted mother, she did little to deserve her tragic destiny. She was born in 1755, one of 16 children of the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa. At the age of 15 she was to be the bride of the French Dauphin, heir to his grandfather Louis XV. The Dauphin came to the throne as Louis XVI in 1774 and for more than ten years the French court at Versailles glittered under the presidency of its young, beautiful and artistic queen, in what would be seen afterwards as the last throw of the Ancien Regime.
In this stunning biography Antonia Fraser examines her influence over the king, the accusations and sexual slurs made against her, her patronage of the arts which enhanced French cultural life, her imprisonment, the death threats made against her, rumours of lesbian affairs, and her trial (during which her 7-year-old son was forced to testify to sexual abuse by his mother) and eventual execution by guillotine in 1793.