Monday, November 8, 2010

The Versailles Boudoir

Marie-Antoinette could never escape the sexual rumor mill. According to The Smart Set:
From early in her rule, the Austrian-born queen inspired in her French subjects the most virulent misogyny. The market was flooded with whole libraries of violent pornography that depicted her as a wasteful and treacherous nymphomaniac who conducted orgies at Versailles, fornicated with cardinals and generals, and spied on France for the Austrians while satisfying her lusts. The most inventive, mock-serious work, Historical Essay on the Life of Marie-Antoinette hit the underground market in 1781 and was updated almost every year until her death, with vivid illustrations of the queen lifting her skirts for the entire male court. It was soon supplemented by Anandria, which depicted her in a lesbian love triangle with her ladies-in-waiting — the French having a particular obsession with the “German vice” — and sexually molesting her young son, the eight-year-old Dauphin.

This hallucinogenic strain of pornography might sound too extreme to have been taken seriously, but it resurfaced after the Revolution with concrete force as Marie-Antoinette was shuffled into ever more humiliating prisons. Her every public appearance was met with streams of abuse about her carnal desires; even a farewell to her most loyal friend, the Princess de Lamballe, who would soon end up on the guillotine, was reported in the press as a depraved lesbian embrace. The low point came at her trial in 1793, when the deposed queen — by now frail, pallid, and gray-haired — was accused before the packed court of committing incest with her son, the Dauphin....
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11 comments:

Julygirl said...

Considering she was so modest that she bathed with her 'Chemise' on, it is hard to imagine.

The North Coast said...

The slander and scathing criticism for tiny faults and lapses that is directed at women in public life is very hurtful, and really not a lot different than what schoolboys direct at their female classmates every day, aimed at every female who asserts herself or displays any self-esteem or originality. It's what made me into a feminist by the time I was twelve.

At least these days, it won't get you killed, though it could cause you to lose a good job, or net you a lot of unwanted attention from the police ("..she's making the money to live in that place by dealing cocaine"..etc.)

Women in public life get similar treatment now, and not just for their imagined sexual behavior. Nancy Reagan and Jackie Kennedy were unfairly criticized for extravagance when all they did is spend privately donated money on giving the public areas of the White House much-needed upgrades, while Hillary Clinton was branded a lesbian, and even the saintly Mamie Eisenhower, a delicate, shy,unhealthy woman known then for her exquisite manners and for never saying a nasty word about anyone, was branded a drunk. And poor Betty Ford was excoriated for her answer to an extremely nosy and inappropriate question that no one with decency would have asked to begin with.

Poor Marie Antoinette couldn't do anything right, and the more she tried to appease her critics, the more she was slandered and criticized, and still is. Even the article you link to describes her as a "frivolous spendthrift and spent far more on gowns and jewels than she ever did on the oppressed masses".

I would like to ask the author of that article and other critics this question: Do YOU spend as much on charity as you do on clothes and cars and boats and electronics and eating out, and other personal indulgence? Will YOU do what you expect some woman in public life to do, which is give up your personal indulgences and award the money to charity instead? Not likely, I don't think. While many of us give to charity, I don't know of one person, including the "bleeding hearts", who ever gave up a major personal indulgence to award the money to the needy in their own neighborhood. So we needn't be critical of Antoinette for not wearing a hair shirt through her short life and enjoying the normal indulgences of an upper-class person, nor would it have prevented her from being the designated scapegoat for all the ills of France that were centuries in the making.

elena maria vidal said...

Very true, Julygirl!!


NC, that is an excellent point. All the people I see repeating the smears about Marie-Antoinette probably to not do as much for the poor in their lifetimes as Marie-Antoinette did in one year. Plus she simplified her wardrobe and had her clothes and shoes made over so she could keep wearing the same outfits. How many of her critics do that? How many of her critics deprive their own children of their Christmas gifts so that there will be more money to give to the poor?

tubbs said...

Women of power - in the spotlight - seem to be targets for salacious gossip. Consider, over the years the sick attacks on women such as Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey. There are people in the check-out lines of the supermarkets who believe the tabloid headlines they see.

Brantigny said...

That much of this calumny was fostered and promoted by her own family is most disgusting. It shows that the men had no honour and were unworthy to be called nobles and knights.

She had the last laugh, justice in Sainthood.

Vive la Reine-Martyr.

Brantigny said...

One last thing, This writer has listed only 1 reference and the commentor has listed but 1 reference. So their opinion is realy a report of that author. While Schama is practically unbiased, Antonia Fraser is sensational the true grasp of Marie-Antoinette is not even evident.

They should have read you...

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Richard, I thought the same thing!

Badger Catholic said...

Why did they hate her so much? Because she was the queen or because she was Austrian? It is like the revolution was hell unleashed on society. And they say politics is dirty today...

elena maria vidal said...

It was a little of both. Mostly because she had to be destroyed in the eyes of the people in order for her enemies to gain control of their minds and hearts. The Queen was the mother of the nation. In order to gain control of a family it is only necessary to destroy the mother.

lara77 said...

I would probably bet that in the Vendee region of France these vile stories and slander would never have been believed. To think that people believed this trash and that the Comte de Provence and the Duc d'Orleans were feeding this vile machine. How ironic that the Duc d'Orleans paid quite a price for his slander of Their Majesties. In his case justice WAS SERVED!

Matterhorn said...

The Duc d'Orleans played with fire and got burned, shall we say. In his case, the wicked did NOT prosper.

The Comte de Provence/Louis XVIII, though, was pretty lucky, all things considered.

The vile nonsense, however, has outlived them all.