Monday, February 18, 2019

The Authenticity of Marie-Antoinette's Last Letter

Gio quotes Hilaire Belloc:
Nevertheless I believe the document to be without the slightest doubt authentic, and I will give my reasons for this certitude:

(1) To forge a letter of Marie Antoinette's is peculiarly difficult. There have been many such attempts. They have been discovered with an ease familiar to all students of her life. This difficulty lies in the great irregularity of her method of writing, coupled with the exact persistence of certain types of letter. She never in her life could write a line straight across a page. She never made two "d's" exactly the same, and yet you never can mistake one of her "d's." She never crossed a "t" quite in the same manner twice and yet you can always tell her way of crossing it. The absence of capitals after a full stop is a minor point but a considerable one. She always brought the lower loop of the "b" up to the up stroke, so that it looks like an "f"; she always separated her 'Ts'' from the succeeding letter.

(2) To the faults in grammar and in spelling I should pay little attention — those things are easily copied; but it is worth remarking that on the third line of the letter written in prison she spells the infinitive of "montrer" without the final "r" as though it were a participle, while in the letter written to her brother in 1791 she makes no such error. She puts an "e" in "Jouis" and so forth. All these discrepancies are a proof of the authenticity of the letter. She spelt at random, and her grammar was at random, though she got a little more accurate as she grew older. It would, on the contrary, be an argument against the authenticity of the letter if particular mistakes, discovered in a particular document of hers, were repeated in this last letter from the Conciergerie.

(3) The letter was immediately exposed to public view; the paper was grown yellow, the writing was apparently old, the ink in places faded, the creases deep and worn. Now all these accidental features could no doubt be reproduced by a modem forger with the advantage of modem methods, modem mechanical appliances, modem chemical science and photography. They could not have been achieved by a forger of 1816.

It seems to me, therefore, a document absolutely unassailable. The arguments against it are of the same sort which modem scepticism perpetually brings against every form of historical evidence that does not fit in with some favourite modem theory.
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Read Marie-Antoinette's last letter, HERE. Share


Gio said...

Thank you for sharing my post! Have a lovely day!

May said...

It is such a beautiful and moving letter. I don't think there can be any doubt it is hers.

Jeanne said...

Another interesting trivia - the letters of Marie-Antoinette et. al. to Cardinal Boncompagni Ludovisi (ca. 1775):