Friday, February 17, 2012


Anna A. of Vive la Reine offers a brilliant analysis of a "letter" whose authenticity is highly questionable. First of all she quotes courtroyale:

Another love letter addressed to Count Fersen from Marie Antoinette:
(there is a bit of controversy regarding the authenticity of this letter by those who chose to believe that MA was a Catholic martyr)
July 29 1791
I can tell you that I love you and indeed that is all I have time for. I am well. Do not worry about me. I hope you to be well too. Write me cipher letters and send them by mail to Mrs Brown’s address, in a double envelope to Mr. de Gougens. Send the letters by your manservant. Tell me to whom I should send the letters I could write you. I cannot live without that. Farewell, the most loved and the most loving of men. I kiss you with all my heart.”
 La revue bleue 1907
 Anna responds to courtroyale:
...The letter in question is very questionable, historically. It was supposedly found in the Archives of Stafsfund by Lucien Maury, who claimed that he had found an extract of a letter from the queen to Fersen which had been looked over, and had it published in the Revue Bleue in 1907.  The letter, however, was not in Marie Antoinette’s handwriting, and it was only in the cipher that the queen used. It’s not known for certain whose handwriting the letter is in, although it does not match the queen’s. Which leaves us with a few possibilities, ignoring the context of the letter for now: That an unknown woman got ahold of the Queen’s cipher and wrote this note to Fersen; that Marie Antoinette had the letter dictated for her; that Fersen translated a letter from someone into Marie Antoinette’s cipher; that someone in the 19th century penned the letter and slipped it in with Fersen’s papers.
It’s possible that someone working closely with Fersen would have had access to her cipher and could have penned the note. Mme de Saint-Priest, the wife of the King’s minister, who knew of Fersen’s work to save the royal family, could have obtained her cipher. Several of her letters to Fersen around June 1791 contain similar phrases to those included in the “love letter,” including an indication that she had not heard from Fersen in some time, that she was devoted to him and wanted him to write, etc. Marie Antoinette having the letter dictated is almost certainly out of the question, since she would have to trust another person with her correspondence during the oppressive time period after the family’s failed flight. Fersen could have translated a letter back into the queen’s cipher, regardless of who sent it, but it begs the question of why Fersen would copy out a letter in the Queen’s cipher [regardless of who wrote it] instead of the other way around. The last possibility isn’t out of the question, considering the contention around Marie Antoinette’s reputation that went back to the 1770s.
It’s also important to look at the credibility of the person who supposedly discovered the letter. He referred to the Baron de Klinckowstrom, who published the first lengthy edition of Fersen’s correspondence with Marie Antoinette and others, snidely as someone who was a “defender of the Queen’s memory” — that is, that he must be covering something up in order to defend her reputation. Maury also attributed the letter to September 1791, although Mlle Soderhjelm (who essentially started the theory that Fersen is referring to Marie Antoinette when he speaks of a woman he is in love with in letters to his sister) places it being received by Fersen on July 4, 1791.
In either case, when you compare this letter to authenticated letters written by Marie Antoinette in Fersen either to the end of June or in September, the contents don’t match up. In the “love letter,” the writer knows where Fersen is, but not to who she should send the letters to him, and begs for him to write her. But on June 29th, 1791 in an authenticated letter, Marie Antoinette asks Fersen not to write to her and says she cannot write him again for some time.
Then, in another authenticated letter on September 26th to Fersen, Marie Antoinette acknowledges that she had received a letter from him (which presumably gave the queen an address) but has not known his whereabouts for the past two months. The writer of the “love letter” knew where Fersen was, but did not know who she should send letters to, asked him to write in cipher, and had a more complicated method of exchanging correspondence with him. Marie Antoinette admits she did not know where he was, but she knew where to send the letter in Brussels without complication, and would not need to tell Fersen to whom to send the letters because they had been corresponding for some time. Marie Antoinette and Fersen’s correspondence had long made use of cipher, so why include this in a letter? Whether the letter is dated June or September, it is at odds with the information we have from letters which were more thoroughly authenticated. Unlike the “love letter,” which was once published with an editorial column that not only gave the year 1792 for the letters but boldly stated that Madame Campan sewed a disguise for Fersen while he was making love with the queen!
To quote Nesta Webster:
“Let us consider the matter judicially: a writer strongly hostile to the Queen is allowed to hunt amongst Fersen’s papers, asserts that he has found confirmation of his aspersions on her character in the form of a note which no one before had ever seen, produces a fragment neither written nor signed by her, and this is to be regarded as proof? What court of law would consider such evidence for a moment? And why a fragment? Why not the whole letter? … The famous fragment has never even been submitted to experts and rests on the testimony of M. Lucien Maury alone.” (Read entire post.)
 I would just like to add that Marie-Antoinette being a Catholic martyr has nothing to do with whether or not she had an affair with Count Fersen. Since genuine martyrdom wipes away all past sins then if the Queen did truly die a martyr's death her martyrdom would blot out past offenses. An extramarital affair may keep one from being officially beatified but there are many whose martyrdom is known only to God. However, those of us who do not believe the Queen and Fersen were lovers do so not because we are trying to prove she was a martyr; we do so because of the evidence and lack thereof.

I have written of this same topic at length, here and here.


Violet said...

I just don`t understand why everyone want to believe Marie Antoinette and Fersen had an affair!

Stephanie A. Mann said...

I have been asked to participate in a "meme" to name three favorite books and ask five other bloggers to do the same! Here are my choices--and I look forward to seeing yours:

elena maria vidal said...

I don't know. It is a misplaced romanticism.

The North Coast said...

I agree with Elena Maria Vidal. I, too, thought for a long time that Antoinette and Fersen were secretly lovers and I would have been totally sympathetic toward her had that indeed been the case.

I'm not being hard on poor Louis XVI here, for I can see from all evidence that Antoinette developed a lot of love for this kindly, intelligent, and devoted man over the term of her marriage to him and wouldn't have wanted to risk hurting him. But face it, folks, he was not her choice, and most likely wouldn't have been her choice. I would attribute the physical pain she experienced in her first sexual encounter with him to her lack of arousal, for I'm sure she did not find him appealing for the first few years and had to know him a long time to warm to him. I could surely understand why someone who was married without her consent to one she never even had met, let alone chose, would find an appealing "mate" of her choice, and I admire her for being large enough as a person to make another, better choice , to recognize her husband's great traits and decide to love him as her husband.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, NC. She came to appreciate Louis and she said God chose the right husband for her.

Aron said...

Perhaps it has something to do with the way that our society has...twisted...the meaning of love, and expectations thereof? For example, I wait for marriage to the right woman that God has for me, and I express affection or regard for my male friends. Well, I must be...not preferring the company of women, shall we say. A man and a woman are friends, well, they MUST also be lovers, musn't they?! If one loves someone than that can only be one sort of "love," and so on...