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Marie-Antoinette and Other Great Ladies of History

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Marie-Antoinette and Other Great Ladies of History

Post  May on Mon Nov 07, 2011 3:47 pm

A thread on the Alexander Palace Forum discusses Marie-Antoinette and Alexandra Feodorovna.
http://forum.alexanderpalace.org/index.php?PHPSESSID=06obbqstv9rdgf5datetdrahr0&topic=1246.0

Elena Maria Vidal offers a thoughtful comparison:

Both women were vilified in ways that transcended all reality by their political enemies. In order to pull apart a family, destroy the image of the mother; in order to bring a nation into revolution, then destroy the reputation/ image of the queen/ empress, who was the mother figure of the people. If they could convince the people that the queen/empress was evil and that the king/tsar was an idiot, then it meant the children were no good and the entire family should be gotten rid of. It was a deliberate ploy. Antoinette and Alexandra are tragic because no matter what they did it played into the hands of their enemies. The Great Catherine outwardly had lovers and no one held it against her and she was loved by the people. Napoleon's Josephine spent more money on clothes in one year than Marie-Antoinette did in her entire life and yet Josephine was popular with the French people. It is sad that two women of virtue like Antoinette and Alexandra should be so terribly misunderstood.
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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Other Great Ladies of History

Post  May on Mon Nov 07, 2011 3:50 pm

A contrast: Marie-Antoinette and Diana, Princess of Wales. Very well put, with great charity, again by our gracious hostess Elena.

http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2007/06/marie-antoinette-and-diana-princess-of.html

Marie-Antoinette was married to man who was her same age and who was as innocent herself. Diana married a man who was much older, in love with another woman, and used to another woman. Poor Diana could not take Camilla's place. Marie-Antoinette had Louis to herself; she and Louis finished growing up together; they learned about marriage together, they had their children, raised them and buried two, and so by the time the troubles started it was unthinkable for them to leave each other. They were both Catholic, their religion was important to them; they prayed together, went to Mass together and were faithful spouses. At least, there is no reliable evidence to the contrary.

And here is where the two women cannot be compared at all. Diana was deeply wounded by Charles' infidelity; she had lovers, she gave scandal, they both gave scandal and the marriage fell apart. Not surprisingly. Diana continued her charitable works and never lost the love of the British people. Marie-Antoinette, in spite of her fidelity to her husband and her duties, became hated by many French people. But Marie-Antoinette was a foreigner in a foreign land. Furthermore, she stood for everything the revolutionaries wanted to destroy, whereas Diana became the icon of the modern woman, taking control of her own destiny.

Marie-Antoinette carefully prepared for death in her prison cell, as her last letter and the testimony of eyewitnesses give evidence. What time did Diana have to prepare for death? Probably not much. It all happened so suddenly, although I understand a priest was praying at her side when she died. In the hour of death, I think the Queen of France was the more fortunate.
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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Other Great Ladies of History

Post  Elena on Tue Nov 08, 2011 4:34 pm

Great idea for a thread!

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Other Great Ladies of History

Post  May on Tue Nov 22, 2011 8:43 pm

From Gio of History and Other Thoughts:

Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, and Georgiana Cavendish nee Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire were two of the most famous women of the 18th century. When the Duchess visited France and met the Queen, the two women discovered they had a lot in common and became life long friends. So, what are the similarities between them?


Overbearing mothers: both Countess Spencer and Empress Maria Theresa loved their daughters very much, but this love was very often suffocating. The two women were convinced they always knew what was best for their daughters and often sent them letters full of advices, instructions and reproaches. Can you imagine how these poor girls must have felt like every time they received a letter from their mums? Both wanted to please their parents, but this wasn't always an easy task. They were put under a lot of pressure, resulting in an uneasiness in the relationship with their mums. Marie Antoinette in particular, was said to love her mother dearly but to also be in awe, and even sometimes scared, of her.

They married a position: Marie Antoinette's marriage was arranged by her mother, Empress Maria Theresa, to solidify a political alliance between Austria and France. Georgiana, instead, was happy at the prospect of marrying the Duke of Devonshire but soon after the wedding she realised how cold her husband really was. Even though overtime the couples grew closer (Marie Antoinette refused to leave her husband during the French Revolution and William was said to be completely devastated when Georgiana died), both women were trapped in a loveless marriage. In addition, they hadn't just married a man, they had a married a position and had to deal with all the expectations, restrictions and duties their status imposed upon them. Some people may have envied them for their positions and the privileges that came with them, but if they had looked more closely, they would have realised how deceiving appearances can be and that they didn't have an easy life..

Love for gambling: both Marie Antoinette and Georgiana loved gambling. They would spend entire nights at the gaming table, gambling away enormous fortunes and piling up huge debts. Their husbands weren't happy about it. The economical situation in France was disastrous and so Louis XVI forbade his wife from gambling. He granted her permission to play one last time, though, and the game went on for three days! Louis was disgusted. Georgiana instead, never stopped. She kept borrowing money from her friends (and never repayed them) to pay off her creditors, in the hope they wouldn't demand money to the Duke. She was constantly on the verge on bankruptcy and feared her husband's reaction should he find out the extent of her debts. Even when he came really close to demand a separation because of her debts, Georgiana wouldn't neither tell him the exact amount of her debts, nor stop playing.

Queens of fashion: both women became fashion icons and trendsetters. Women would wait to see what clothes and hairstyles these two fashionable women, who had exquisite but also extravagant tastes, would wear so that they could imitate them. It was Georgiana who first wore big ostrich feathers on her hair and pretty soon, all the ladies followed suit, to some ridiculous extents at times. And when her painting by Gainsborurough (shown at the top of this post) was unveiled, women rushed to their milliners requesting their "picture hat". As Queen of France, Marie Antoinette was required to wear elaborate court gowns, although she preferred to switch to simpler styles of clothing when possible (in any case, both got her in trouble). Her chief modist was Madame Bertin. The popularity of this talented modist really soared when she started designing clothes for the Queen. Marie Antoinette often gave her input on the gowns, suggesting alterations and proving she too had a talent for fashion. Her fashion choices often had a political message like the ship ornament she wore in her hair to show her support to the Americans revolutionaries.

Affectionate mothers: both women were under great pressure to beget an heir but years would pass before they finally gave birth to their first children (Georgiana had trouble conceiving while Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI didn't consummate their marriage for years). Marie Antoinette had lived a hectic lifestyle, staying up late every night dancing and gambling, but she settled down when she became a mother. The Queen of France lived only for her children and she personally saw to their education and upbringing. Georgiana too was a very affectionate mother who nursed her children and she even raised her husband's illegittimate daughter.

Victims of slanders: vicious pamphlets and gossips, all unfounded, circulated about both women. Marie Antoinette was accused of everything, including bankrupting France with her spending on clothes, exercising complete control over the king, having sex with anyone she met, both male and female, and even incest with her own son. This bad propaganda completely destroyed her reputation and eventually led her to the scaffold. Georgiana too was a celebrity of her own time, so papers and pamphleteers would often print malicious gossips about her. She was accused to kiss or bribe electors with favors and was made fun of for her hairstyles.

Charming women: the Queen of France and the Duchess of Devonshire were both pretty, charming and lively women who were always kind to everyone. And because of it, they were loved by everyone they met. Even those people who believed the calumnies circulating about these women and were determined to dislike them, ended up loving them once they met them. A man who was thus charmed by Marie Antoinette was Barnave, one of the three appointed to bring the royal family back to Paris from Varennes. During the trip, he started to feel sympathy for the Queen and became a supporter of the royal family. Unfortunately, this wasn't enough to save them.

http://historyandotherthoughts.blogspot.com/2011/11/what-did-marie-antoinette-and-georgiana.html
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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Other Great Ladies of History

Post  May on Tue Nov 22, 2011 8:45 pm

I thought of doing a post comparing Marie-Antoinette and Princess Lilian of Belgium, but hesitated for various reasons. Gio's post has inspired me afresh, though...
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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Other Great Ladies of History

Post  Elena on Tue Nov 22, 2011 8:57 pm

You should! Smile

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Other Great Ladies of History

Post  Elena on Tue Nov 22, 2011 9:07 pm

Matterhorn wrote:From Gio of History and Other Thoughts:

Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, and Georgiana Cavendish nee Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire were two of the most famous women of the 18th century. When the Duchess visited France and met the Queen, the two women discovered they had a lot in common and became life long friends. So, what are the similarities between them?


Overbearing mothers: both Countess Spencer and Empress Maria Theresa loved their daughters very much, but this love was very often suffocating. The two women were convinced they always knew what was best for their daughters and often sent them letters full of advices, instructions and reproaches. Can you imagine how these poor girls must have felt like every time they received a letter from their mums? Both wanted to please their parents, but this wasn't always an easy task. They were put under a lot of pressure, resulting in an uneasiness in the relationship with their mums. Marie Antoinette in particular, was said to love her mother dearly but to also be in awe, and even sometimes scared, of her.

They married a position: Marie Antoinette's marriage was arranged by her mother, Empress Maria Theresa, to solidify a political alliance between Austria and France. Georgiana, instead, was happy at the prospect of marrying the Duke of Devonshire but soon after the wedding she realised how cold her husband really was. Even though overtime the couples grew closer (Marie Antoinette refused to leave her husband during the French Revolution and William was said to be completely devastated when Georgiana died), both women were trapped in a loveless marriage. In addition, they hadn't just married a man, they had a married a position and had to deal with all the expectations, restrictions and duties their status imposed upon them. Some people may have envied them for their positions and the privileges that came with them, but if they had looked more closely, they would have realised how deceiving appearances can be and that they didn't have an easy life..

Love for gambling: both Marie Antoinette and Georgiana loved gambling. They would spend entire nights at the gaming table, gambling away enormous fortunes and piling up huge debts. Their husbands weren't happy about it. The economical situation in France was disastrous and so Louis XVI forbade his wife from gambling. He granted her permission to play one last time, though, and the game went on for three days! Louis was disgusted. Georgiana instead, never stopped. She kept borrowing money from her friends (and never repayed them) to pay off her creditors, in the hope they wouldn't demand money to the Duke. She was constantly on the verge on bankruptcy and feared her husband's reaction should he find out the extent of her debts. Even when he came really close to demand a separation because of her debts, Georgiana wouldn't neither tell him the exact amount of her debts, nor stop playing.

Queens of fashion: both women became fashion icons and trendsetters. Women would wait to see what clothes and hairstyles these two fashionable women, who had exquisite but also extravagant tastes, would wear so that they could imitate them. It was Georgiana who first wore big ostrich feathers on her hair and pretty soon, all the ladies followed suit, to some ridiculous extents at times. And when her painting by Gainsborurough (shown at the top of this post) was unveiled, women rushed to their milliners requesting their "picture hat". As Queen of France, Marie Antoinette was required to wear elaborate court gowns, although she preferred to switch to simpler styles of clothing when possible (in any case, both got her in trouble). Her chief modist was Madame Bertin. The popularity of this talented modist really soared when she started designing clothes for the Queen. Marie Antoinette often gave her input on the gowns, suggesting alterations and proving she too had a talent for fashion. Her fashion choices often had a political message like the ship ornament she wore in her hair to show her support to the Americans revolutionaries.

Affectionate mothers: both women were under great pressure to beget an heir but years would pass before they finally gave birth to their first children (Georgiana had trouble conceiving while Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI didn't consummate their marriage for years). Marie Antoinette had lived a hectic lifestyle, staying up late every night dancing and gambling, but she settled down when she became a mother. The Queen of France lived only for her children and she personally saw to their education and upbringing. Georgiana too was a very affectionate mother who nursed her children and she even raised her husband's illegittimate daughter.

Victims of slanders: vicious pamphlets and gossips, all unfounded, circulated about both women. Marie Antoinette was accused of everything, including bankrupting France with her spending on clothes, exercising complete control over the king, having sex with anyone she met, both male and female, and even incest with her own son. This bad propaganda completely destroyed her reputation and eventually led her to the scaffold. Georgiana too was a celebrity of her own time, so papers and pamphleteers would often print malicious gossips about her. She was accused to kiss or bribe electors with favors and was made fun of for her hairstyles.

Charming women: the Queen of France and the Duchess of Devonshire were both pretty, charming and lively women who were always kind to everyone. And because of it, they were loved by everyone they met. Even those people who believed the calumnies circulating about these women and were determined to dislike them, ended up loving them once they met them. A man who was thus charmed by Marie Antoinette was Barnave, one of the three appointed to bring the royal family back to Paris from Varennes. During the trip, he started to feel sympathy for the Queen and became a supporter of the royal family. Unfortunately, this wasn't enough to save them.

http://historyandotherthoughts.blogspot.com/2011/11/what-did-marie-antoinette-and-georgiana.html

I am glad you posted this, Matterhorn! I would only disagree on the point of Marie-Antoinette's marriage. While it may not have been a grand passion I still think that what Louis and Antoinette had together was a more nurturing and loving relationship than what poor Georgiana had with the Duke. Plus Louis and Antoinette tried to be faithful to each other and succeeded, as far as we know. Their relationship became stronger as time went on. Meanwhile, Georgiana's husband openly lived with another woman. And Georgiana was an alcoholic. She was not as strong as Marie-Antoinette.

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Other Great Ladies of History

Post  May on Wed Nov 23, 2011 12:53 am

Yes, I had similar thoughts about the marriages. I think you are right.
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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Other Great Ladies of History

Post  Elena on Wed Nov 23, 2011 1:14 am

Thanks! Smile

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Other Great Ladies of History

Post  May on Mon Nov 28, 2011 9:33 pm

Here we go: Marie-Antoinette and Mary-Lilian:

November, the month dedicated to the Holy Souls in Purgatory, is a time full of anniversaries for King Leopold III, Queen Astrid and Princess Lilian. All three began their momentous and often tragic lives in this dark, tempestuous month; Leopold on November 3, Astrid on November 17, and Lilian on November 28. Leopold and Astrid were also married in November! By rather a remarkable coincidence, Leopold was born the day after the birthday of his legendary forebear, Marie-Antoinette of Austria, who actually arrived on All Souls' Day itself, with all the churches of Vienna ominously draped in liturgical mourning. In fact, Leopold would sometimes have celebrated his birthday on All Souls' Day, too, since the feast is commemorated on November 3, if November 2 falls on a Sunday. The King was a descendant of Marie-Antoinette's favorite sister, Queen Maria Carolina of Naples. As it happened, Leopold and especially Lilian shared many qualities and experiences with the unfortunate Queen of France. Marie-Antoinette was a Habsburg archduchess, a daughter of the great Empress Maria Theresa, and Mary Lilian Baels was a Fleming, the product of a culture influenced by the Habsburgs, who ruled the Low Countries for centuries. Both Lilian and Marie-Antoinette were among the youngest children in large families, with forceful and capable mothers. Both girls were named after Our Lady, like many other Catholic princesses. Lilian and Marie-Antoinette also shared great beauty, charm, glamor and passion. Both were queens of fashion, with exquisite taste. Both were gracious hostesses, admired for creating magical environments, Marie-Antoinette at Trianon and Lilian at Argenteuil. Both were staunch, loyal and courageous women. Each was kind and charitable to the less fortunate, and known for her goodness within her inner circle. Both were loving wives and mothers. Both were sincere Catholics, fun-loving girls who seemed to grow in spiritual grandeur with time and suffering. Like Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, Leopold III and Lilian had their faults, but were cruelly maligned beyond all reality. Both Lilian and Marie-Antoinette faced hateful accusations of immorality and even incest. Like the Queen of France, the Queen of the Belgians in all but name bravely shared her husband's miseries. Lilian and Marie-Antoinette bore insult, imprisonment, deprivation, illness and danger of death with patience and dignity. Each strove to protect and comfort her king and his children in terrible circumstances. At the end of her life, each left touching last wishes expressing a gentle spirit of piety, humility and care for her family and faithful friends. While sparing Lilian a bloody martyrdom, and granting her many years and a peaceful passing in old age, Providence called both women to sacrifice.

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2011/11/mary-lilian-and-marie-antoinette.html
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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Other Great Ladies of History

Post  Elena on Mon Nov 28, 2011 9:39 pm

Wonderful! Thank you!! Very Happy

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Other Great Ladies of History

Post  May on Mon Nov 28, 2011 9:47 pm

You are most welcome! Thank YOU!
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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Other Great Ladies of History

Post  May on Tue Nov 29, 2011 8:16 pm

It is striking that in Belgium, it was not the "hated" king and consort who suffered violent, early deaths- instead that happened to the most loved king and queen, Albert and Astrid. Leopold and Lilian, although in serious danger at times, suffered more in their lives than in their deaths. In that respect, they rather remind me of Madame Royale (especially Leopold, who tragically lost family members while surviving many perils himself).
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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Other Great Ladies of History

Post  May on Sun Dec 04, 2011 7:44 pm

Elena Maria Vidal discusses the tasteless comparison of Marie-Antoinette to Michelle Obama:
http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2010/08/michelle-obama-is-marie-antoinette.html
When I first saw the frail comparison of Mrs. Obama to Queen Marie-Antoinette, I thought it too silly to take seriously. However, the silliness seems to have taken over the internet, even sites that I used to respect. Anyone who has ever studied Marie-Antoinette or read even one of the reputable biographies about her will see that there are no similarities between the two women at all, other than being wives of heads of state. Since the comparison is meant to insult the Queen as well as the First Lady, it might be helpful to look at some basic facts.

Marie-Antoinette is once again being portrayed as the Queen who was indifferent to the suffering of the people. However, Marie-Antoinette never said "Let them eat cake." It is not a mere allegation, it is not a matter of speculation. She said nothing of the kind. It was not even a rumor spread about her in her lifetime, but did not start circulating until the nineteenth century. What the Queen did say was: "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."

As a practicing Catholic who assisted at daily Mass, Marie-Antoinette had extensive charities. In pre-revolutionary France it was for the King and the Queen to give an example of almsgiving. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette took this duty seriously and throughout their reign did what they could to help the needy. 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. They became very popular with the common people as a result, which was reflected in the adulation with which they were received when the Dauphin took his wife to Paris on her first "official" visit in June 1773. Marie-Antoinette's reputation for sweetness and mercy became even more entrenched in 1774, when as the new Queen she asked that the people be relieved of a tax called "The Queen's belt," customary at the beginning of each reign. "Belts are no longer worn," she quipped. It was the onslaught of revolutionary propaganda that would eventually destroy her reputation.

The King and Queen were patrons of the Maison Philanthropique, a society founded by Louis XVI which helped the aged, blind and widows. The queen taught her daughter Madame Royale to wait upon peasant children, to sacrifice her Christmas gifts so as to buy fuel and blankets for the destitute, and to bring baskets of food to the sick. 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. There was food for the hungry distributed every day at Versailles, at the King's command. During the famine of 1787-88, the royal family sold much of their flatware to buy grain for the people, and themselves ate the cheap barley bread in order to be able to give more to the hungry.

I fail to see the connection between the First Lady's trip to Spain with anything that Marie-Antoinette ever did. For one thing, after traveling to France from Austria at age fourteen to marry the heir to the throne, Marie-Antoinette never traveled anywhere again, except for the futile escape attempt during the Revolution. Otherwise, she never left the environs of Paris and Versailles; she never in her life saw an ocean. It was considered too expensive for the royal family to travel.

As for Mrs. Obama having a European holiday while America is struggling financially, it might not be the most prudent of choices. Nevertheless, the pictures I saw of Michelle and Sasha relaxing on the beach and lunching with the King and Queen of Spain do not seem to me to be examples of extreme decadence. There are plenty of serious issues for which one might critique the Obamas but comparing Michelle to Marie-Antoinette is foolish to say the least.
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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Other Great Ladies of History

Post  Kaitlyn Lauren on Sat Aug 02, 2014 6:34 pm

I know Antoinette and Georgiana were aquainted. Georgiana's friends including the Duke of Dorset, an Ambassador and one of the Queen's "intimates", liked to gossip and spread rumors about MA and Fersen. Considering they all slept around themselves and were aquainted with Fersen I don't take their words seriously.

People assume MA had a lover since many other 18th century women did. It was almost expected after producing an heir. I do not believe she stooped so low. I don't even see how it was possible honestly, even at Trianon. But I have discussed this before. It is well documented with other aristocratic ladies. It is not so with MA despite rumors and comments made by contemporaries.
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