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Post  Bunnies on Fri Jun 14, 2013 9:45 pm

Forgive me for this silly question, but I've been wondering:

Antoinette was heavily slandered throughout her lifetime, even well before the Revolution broke out. Do we know how she reacted to the pornographic pamphlets and sensuous libels?
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Post  Sophie on Sat Jun 15, 2013 7:12 am

It's not a silly question, but I'm not sure if there any reliable sources for it. Madame Campan's memoirs have such a well-known passage:

Madame Campan wrote:One morning at Trianon I went into the Queen's chamber; there were letters lying upon the bed, and she was weeping bitterly. Her tears and sobs were occasionally interrupted by exclamations of "Ah! that I were dead!—wretches! monsters! What have I done to them?" I offered her orange-flower water and ether. "Leave me," said she, "if you love me; it would be better to kill me at once." At this moment she threw her arm over my shoulder and began weeping afresh. I saw that some weighty trouble oppressed her heart, and that she wanted a confidant.

Scholars quote this mostly together with the diamond necklace scandal and how the parliament acted against the royal couple in favor of the cardinal. There's an interpretation about Antoinette suffering in postpartum depression after the birth of Sophie, but I don't know any other sources mentioning her nervous breakdown(s) - which doesn't mean, of course, that they couldn't happen. So I think she reacted the same way on all the pamphlets, too.

In an old book at my family's place (Carlyle or Funck-Brentano, I'm not sure) there's a story about Antoinette watching the sunrise with her friends and how her enemies sold this story as an "orgy" at Trianon. Then the author states that she reacted quite desperate on it, and cites Madame Campan's anecdote again.

Anyway, if I think about Antoinette's manners in general, I can easily imagine that she really didn't understand why she has to be mocked and hated. In her little world, she was always generous to her people, helped the poor, and encouraged others to live a modest life. If she lived today, she would understand from history that it's sometimes irrelevant how some individuals tend to behave...
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Post  Elena on Sun Jun 16, 2013 5:49 pm

It's an excellent question and thank you, Sophie, for such a superb answer. If I recall, Madame Campan had to send for Madame de Poliganc who was the only one who could calm her down. Another time the Queen was close to nervous collapse was in May 1789 after the Procession to inaugurate the States-General. She had been insulted just as she blew a kiss to her dying little boy and the realization that they would hate her so much was overwhelming. She had a violent trembling fit in which her bracelets broke and they had to cut her dress off of her.

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Post  Sophie on Thu Jun 20, 2013 2:02 pm

A little update to this topic: I found a part in Prince de Ligne's memoirs where he discusses why so many people hated the Queen, her manners and her (mostly foreign) friends. In the end he just mentions a centence:

Prince de Ligne wrote:"The queen was too light-hearted and careless about the libels against her, and I often blamed her [...]."

Unlike Madame Campan's detail, there's no accurate dating when this happened, it's only his opinion about her in general. But one remains confused because of these two clearly opposite descriptions. When it comes to the personalities of historical figures, I tend to think that everything can be proved and confuted with documents at the same time tongue

Source: http://archive.org/stream/princedelignehis02lign#page/202/mode/2up
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Post  Elena on Thu Jun 20, 2013 8:17 pm

I think the Diamond Necklace Scandal was a turning point for Marie-Antoinette. Jean Chalon relates what a difficult time it was for her - the year 1786 - Louis-Joseph's health was failing, the baby Sophie was not thriving. Marie-Antoinette, aware at last of the horrible calumnies being spread about herself in the wake of the Diamond Necklace scandal, declared to Madame Campan in September of 1786, "I want to die!" When Madame Campan brought her orange flower water for her nerves, she said, "No, do not love me, it is better to give me death!" She may have had post-partum depression or even suffering from a nervous breakdown.
Chalon also shows how the queen became more pious following baby Sophie's death; she gave orders that the fasts of the Church be more carefully observed at her table than previously. She began making public devotions and prayers with her household in the royal chapel.

And I mention the depression just from the fact that she said: "Give me death!" She was obviously going through a bad time.

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Post  Sophie on Fri Jun 21, 2013 7:12 am

Elena wrote:I think the Diamond Necklace Scandal was a turning point for Marie-Antoinette.

I have the same opinion. Maybe this was the point when she realized how much the hatred against her was grown, and that the whole thing was irreversible. I think it's another evidence for her depression that she and Louis decided not to have children anymore. A couple that struggled so many years to have an heir was probably terrified about their children's weakness and death. I've also read that Antoinette told Madame Lamballe during the revolution that she might be a happy woman not having children in such a period. You can imagine how she suffered day by day seeing that Madame Royale's and Louis-Charles' lives are also in danger, and it was her and Louis' "fault".

Zweig calls her "an average character" - but a real average character would be driven mad among such circumstances, not even remaining an active rational and political element...! I also think that if the revolution hadn't occured, she slowly would have found herself again and maybe had more children in the early 1790s, but history didn't let her reaching up from this hole again...
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Post  Elena on Sat Jun 22, 2013 11:55 am

Yes, an average woman would have been driven mad. The fact that such good Catholics as Louis and Antoinette would take a break from marital relations in order to give Antoinette a rest from child-bearing meant that her emotional and physical state were indeed precarious at this time. Remember how she was injured during the course of Madame Royale's birth and later she may have had uterine cancer as well.

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