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By Antonia Fraser

France’s beleaguered queen, Marie Antoinette, wrongly accused of uttering the notorious “Let them consume cake,” used to be the topic of ridicule and interest even ahead of her dying; she has for the reason that been the item of discussion and hypothesis and the fascination so frequently accorded tragic figures in historical past. Married in mere girlhood, this basically lighthearted, privileged, yet differently unremarkable baby was once thrust into an exceptional time and position, and used to be commanded by means of situation to play an important position in historical past. Antonia Fraser’s lavish and interesting portrait of Marie Antoinette, probably the most recognizable girls in eu historical past, excites compassion and regard for all features of her topic, immersing the reader not just within the coming-of-age of a swish girl, but additionally within the unraveling of an period.

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It was once definitely a explanation for depression between her Austrian advisors that she remained essentially bored to death, “both by way of precept and inclination,” in Vermond’s phrases, other than the place questions of non-public distaste or gratitude have been involved, as with Aiguillon at the one hand (where she succeeded as the King agreed along with her) and Choiseul at the different (where she failed simply because he did not). If now not political by means of temperament, Marie Antoinette used to be beneficiant and loyal—good features in a royal individual yet dear ones. The family of a Queen of France often consisted of approximately 500 humans all paid for by way of the Minister of the Royal loved ones (Ministre de l. a. Maison du Roi) at a price of four million livres. those ranged from its professional Mistress, the Comtesse de Noailles, all the way down to the footmen who grew to become the royal bed since it used to be too heavy for the ladies to regulate. They incorporated the varied functionaries, who quite often labored in a quarterly rota in squads of 4, for the good and the kitchen in addition to the bedchamber. checked out with a twenty-first-century eye, it is a giant institution; it has to be thought of, even if, from an eighteenth-century standpoint. The King’s loved ones used to be even larger—that used to be basically to be anticipated. however the respective families of his more youthful brothers and their other halves have been nearly as huge because the Queen’s, the Mistress of the family and the Mistress of the gowns for the Comtesse de Provence receiving an analogous monetary present, for instance, as these for Marie Antoinette. typically, the royal procedure, which have been verified lengthy prior to the coming of Marie Antoinette, was once quite lavish. And there have been many, many folks, as a rule yet no longer completely noble, with a vested curiosity in carrying on with it. additionally, it used to be now not as though the remainder of the realm adhered to another commonplace of existence. The Spanish ambassador had not less than seventy servants, the English ambassador over fifty; on the château of Chantilly, an surprised English customer watched a supper social gathering given by way of the Prince de Condé at which 8 humans have been waited on at desk by way of twenty-five attendants. As Thomas Jefferson wrote of the French and their way of life: “The roughnesses of the human brain are so completely rubbed off with them that it sort of feels as though one may well drift via a complete existence between them and not using a justle [sic]. ” It was once theoretically to soft out roughnesses, then, that Marie Antoinette had, for instance, a Grand Almoner, a primary Almoner, an Almoner in usual, 4 almoners who circled quarterly, 4 quarterly chaplains, 4 quarterly chapel boys, all the way down to chapel summoners. after all the impression of such gross overmanning used to be the opposite of soft and it used to be additionally very pricey. these kinds of humans, like every the opposite courtiers, watched one another endlessly to work out that no additional virtue was once being taken, no privilege overlooked. The Queen’s trainbearer, to take just one instance, needed to be of noble delivery; differently the 1st Gentleman Usher, who needed to supply a spot for him in his trainer, couldn't tolerate the organization.

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