I have just finished "Marie Antoinette" by Stefan Zweig. Its an older biography of this much maligned queen. I have previously read only two historical novels about her. One was "The Queens Confession" by Victoria Holt, but I read this many many years ago when I was a teenager and my mum first got me interested in royalty. I must ask her if she still has it (we are so much alike in books so I know she will still have it!), and reread it. And just a few months ago I read "The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette" by Carolly Erickson. This made me keen to read more about her, and try and understand some of the truths and fictions surounding her.
I originally read the Erickson book to get in the mood for seeing the movie "Marie Antoinette". Now, I know that Antonia Fraser's biography was used as a basis for the film, but I knew that I wouldn't have enought time to read that before seeing the movie, so I had to choose a quicker read! So now after seeing the movie, I had to read a biography. And the Zweig book has been on my shelf for much longer than the Fraser one!
It seems the more you read about Marie Antoinette, the more you feel sorry for the way things panned out for her. Yes she might have been frivolous and flighty during her first years in France, but when she became a mother, and lost two of her children, it seems that life changed for her. Maybe she realised what was really important in her life as a women, and that was her children. I believe she loved Louis XVI as she might of loved a favourite brother. Yes, she was married to him for political reasons, but they went through some much during the Revolution, that I believe she felt very protective towards him, and she must of felt stronger as a person with him close by.
As for Count Fersen... Well, Zweig takes the line that he MUST of been her lover physically. He believed that the loyalty and devotion he showed to Marie Antoinette both in his endevours to gain her release from imprisonment, and in his writings, could have only come from a physical relationship. His explanations are pretty compelling, but we can never truly know what went on behind closed doors, we can only speculate. Which is part of the fun in reading about history isn't it?
The imprisonment and removal of her children are something that no woman should have to go through. And the charges of incest that were laid on her were terrible, and contrived only to bring about her death.
I look forward to learning more about Marie Antoinette, and her immediate circle of family and friends. But for now, I am back into the Tudor era. I've just started "The Sixth Wife" by Suzannah Dunn.