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Marie Antoinette: The Journey

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Author: Antonia Fraser

Published: September 12th 2006 by Anchor Books (first published 2001)

Format: Paperback , 512 pages

Isbn: 9780307277749

Language: English


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Brilliantly written, a work of impeccable scholarship. An utterly riveting and intensely moving book by one of our finest biographers. Never before has the life of Marie Antoinette been told so intimately and with such authority as in Antonia Fraser's newest work, Marie Antoinette: The Journey. Famously known as the eighteenth-century French queen whose excesses have become Brilliantly written, a work of impeccable scholarship. An utterly riveting and intensely moving book by one of our finest biographers. Never before has the life of Marie Antoinette been told so intimately and with such authority as in Antonia Fraser's newest work, Marie Antoinette: The Journey. Famously known as the eighteenth-century French queen whose excesses have become legend, Marie Antoinette was blamed for instigating the French Revolution. But the story of her journey begun as a fourteen-year-old sent from Vienna to marry the future Louis XVI to her courageous defense before she was sent to the guillotine reveals a woman of greater complexity and character than we have previously understood. We stand beside Marie Antoinette and witness the drama of her life as she becomes a scapegoat of the Ancien Regime when her faults were minor in comparison to the punishments inflicted on her. The youngest daughter, fifteenth out of sixteen children, of Austrian empress Maria Teresa and Francis I, Marie Antoinette was sent on a literal journey by her mother from Vienna to Versailles with the expectation that she would further Austrian interests at all times. Yet, Marie Antoinette was by nature far from interested in state affairs and much more inclined to exert a gracious, philanthropic role, patronizing the arts especially music, as royalty would come to behave in the nineteenth century. Despite this the French accused her of political interference and wrote scandalous tracts against her, mocking her lack of sophistication. Meanwhile, longing for a family and the birth of an heir who would have cemented the Franco-Austro alliance, the French queen had to endure more than eight years of public humiliation for her barren marriage before the delivery of her first of four children. As these problems unfold, Antonia Fraser also weaves a richly detailed account of Marie Antoinette's other, more poignant journey: from the ill-educated and unprepared girl who sought refuge in pleasure as a consolation into a magnificent, courageous woman who defied her enemies at her trial with consummate intelligence, arousing the admiration of even the most hostile revolutionaries. Brilliantly written, Marie Antoinette is a work of impeccable scholarship. Drawing on a wealth of family letters and other archival materials, Antonia Fraser successfully avoids the hagiography of some the French queen's admirers and the misogyny of many of her critics. The result is an utterly riveting and intensely moving book by one of our finest biographers.

30 review for Marie Antoinette: The Journey

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alice Poon

    This was my second Antonia Fraser book, the first being The Wives of Henry VIII. Thorough research and minute attention to details is the clear mark of both. Personally I found the writing of Marie Antoinette: The Journey to be more lucid and less confusing. Perhaps this passage in the Epilogue best sums up the book:- “A scapegoat was in fact what Marie Antoinette became. Among other things, she would be blamed for the whole French Revolution, by those who optimistically looked to one “guilty” in This was my second Antonia Fraser book, the first being The Wives of Henry VIII. Thorough research and minute attention to details is the clear mark of both. Personally I found the writing of Marie Antoinette: The Journey to be more lucid and less confusing. Perhaps this passage in the Epilogue best sums up the book:- “A scapegoat was in fact what Marie Antoinette became. Among other things, she would be blamed for the whole French Revolution, by those who optimistically looked to one “guilty” individual as a way of explaining the complex horrors of the past.” I am inclined to think that Marie Antoinette probably had a lethal fault in her stars that put her in the wrong place at the wrong time. Be that as it might, she, and for that matter, the French aristocrats, could have used more common sense and curbed her/their appetite for pleasure-seeking and extravagance at a time when most French commoners were seen to be poverty-stricken. These vested interests were simply blind to the public’s seething disgust for their hereditary privileges (like exemption from taxes, among other things). Added to this apparent obtuseness on the part of the royalty was the rapaciousness of France’s monarchic neighbors (including Austria, the Queen’s homeland), who had been prowling on her borders and waiting for her domestic troubles to explode in her face. It would not be surprising, under these circumstances, to see the “Austrian woman” (as Marie Antoinette came to be called) becoming the receptacle of the French people’s full wrath, through the vicious manipulation of public opinion by power-hungry demagogues. This biographical work on whom one might term as “the most slandered French Queen in the history of France” also reminds one of how deadly calumnious propaganda can turn out to be. Wicked lies, if repeated often enough, can very easily become verity in the minds of the less enlightened. It also brings to mind how little we’ve advanced in terms of achieving social equality and fairness since those revolutionary days.

  2. 4 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    Next Saturday, October 16th will be her 217th Death Anniversary. On that same day, 217 years ago, Marie Antoinette or Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna (1755-1793) was executed by guillotine. She was convicted of treason. Nine months prior to that her husband, King Louis XIV was executed. These all happened at the height of the French Revolution (1789-1799). Marie Antoinette was a victim from birth to death. Her marriage to King Louis XIV was a move to forge alliances among the warring countries incl Next Saturday, October 16th will be her 217th Death Anniversary. On that same day, 217 years ago, Marie Antoinette or Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna (1755-1793) was executed by guillotine. She was convicted of treason. Nine months prior to that her husband, King Louis XIV was executed. These all happened at the height of the French Revolution (1789-1799). Marie Antoinette was a victim from birth to death. Her marriage to King Louis XIV was a move to forge alliances among the warring countries included in the Seven Years War. Included in these countries were Austria, where Marie Antoinette was an Archduchess and France, where Louis-Auguste (who became King Louis XIV) was a Dauphin. Prior to their marriage, France was used to be Austria's traditional enemy. Even at the time of her execution, peasants were shouting: "Hang the Austrian woman! Long live France!". Marie Antoinette did not dream of becoming a French queen. She just followed the wishes of her mother, Empress Maria Theresa who she did not have a good relation as the later had her favorite, Marie Antoinette's younger sister, Maria Carolina. Thus leaving Hamburg for Paris to live in Versailles was Marie Antoinette way of ending her jealousy of being the less-favoured daughter of the empress. Unfortunately, King Louis XIV did not love her and it took time for their marriage to be consummated. They had 4 children and two of them died at their young age. Their eldest survived, Marie-Therese Charlotte (1778-1851)who later became Dauphine of France upon ascension of her father-in-law to the throne of France in 1824. After the death of the first son who died at the age of 7, the second son (third child) was born: Louis XVII (1785-1795). He, too died but this time, during the imprisonment of her parents in the palace tower. The line "let them eat cake", with "them" being the hungry French peasants because of bread shortage, has not been proven to have come from her. It first appeared in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions but Rousseau did not name who the "great princess" was. Marie Antoinette was never a political animal. She had no power and was content in playing her role as a queen attending social functions and doing civic works. Her unhappy marriage resulted to her becoming frivolous. She dressed herself up extravagantly and wanted to have all the luxuries despite the poor economic condition of the country. She was accused of everything from lesbianism, occult and having incestuous relation with her own son. This is a heartfelt biography of a misunderstood famous figure in French history. She is said to be one of the 4 world-famous French figures in the history following Napoleon Bonaparte, Joan of Arc and Charles de Gaulle. According to Wiki, Fraser's depiction of Marie Antoinette here is kind. For me, that's baloney. This work presented the balanced view of Marie Antoinette and is well-documented as Fraser has all the footnotes and cross-references. "Is anybody here a mother?" was her heartfelt line during her trial when her accuser brought up her alleged incestuous relation with her own son. "Pardon me Sir, I meant not to do it" were her last words addressing her executioner when Marie Antoinette accidentally stepped on his toes on her way to the guillotine. Oh yes, like her king husband he faced her trial and execution with grace. Those last words that should have come from the people who condemned her, in my honest opinion. Her being a political pawn and scapegoat was too tragic. A queen killed by her own people was too sad. Excellent writing though. Well-researched. Amazing biography!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jane Vandre

    As a former French major in college, I really enjoyed this book and learned so much about this period of time and the dynamics of the monarchy in France. While at times it was difficult to keep all the characters straight since they had multiple names/titles, I found that the overall narrative was compelling. Most people today have little sympathy for this queen, but I came away from this book with a much altered impression of her character and personality. She was truly in an impossible positio As a former French major in college, I really enjoyed this book and learned so much about this period of time and the dynamics of the monarchy in France. While at times it was difficult to keep all the characters straight since they had multiple names/titles, I found that the overall narrative was compelling. Most people today have little sympathy for this queen, but I came away from this book with a much altered impression of her character and personality. She was truly in an impossible position...a queen in a country where the royalty was expected to live in a certain fashion, where, in fact, the people demanded it, and yet where the resentment for that lifestyle would eventually be her demise. It reminded me of the "hero worship" of athletes and entertainment celebrities yet the gratification many feel when they are brought down! It's as though we want them to be "bigger than life" and put them in that place, yet resent it at the same time. Anyway, an interesting read for the history buff. You will most certainly come away with a much greater understanding of and sympathy for Marie Antoinette!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Not only does Antonia Frasier dispell the rumor that Marie Antoinette ever uttered “let them eat cake” when told that the French were starved for bread, she gives a fuller picture of the queen that shows her more than just an extravagant self-involved royal out-of-touch with reality. Frasier packs in gossipy details that keep this from being a dry read. Marie Antoinette is born to be a pawn in her mother’s (Hapsburg Empress Maria Theresa) bid to expand Hapsburg power and influence. At the age of Not only does Antonia Frasier dispell the rumor that Marie Antoinette ever uttered “let them eat cake” when told that the French were starved for bread, she gives a fuller picture of the queen that shows her more than just an extravagant self-involved royal out-of-touch with reality. Frasier packs in gossipy details that keep this from being a dry read. Marie Antoinette is born to be a pawn in her mother’s (Hapsburg Empress Maria Theresa) bid to expand Hapsburg power and influence. At the age of 14, a deal is cut for Antoine to marry the future king of France, sealing an alliance between the two empires. Immediately, preparations begin to prepare her for the marriage. Since birth, Marie Antoinette, like all good royal girls, is groomed to be a feminine and submissive royal wife, with lessons in dance, music and etiquette - unfortunately she is otherwise poorly educated, even by 18th century standards. At 15, she is wed to the French dauphin and shipped to France, where she is expected, (with not-so-gentle prodding by her mother and the French royal court) to deliver a future king. Until she delivers, her position in France is uncertain. Frasier details the early struggles of the teenage couple’s marriage and the years it took them to finally consummate it, while painting a vivid picture of royal life with the full court. Marie Antoinette is dressed by ladies in waiting, who get to help based on rank. The royals are crazy – her mother through Antoinette’s servants monitors her monthly periods, others knew the details about when the queen and king tried or had sex. When she finally gives birth, it’s before a gathering of those invited based on rank. Of course, in 18th century France, these were all matters of national importance indicating the future direction of the country. It goes a long way to explaining why Marie Antionette and Louis XVI were so unprepared when they became king and queen. They were born to rule – via a trusted circle of advisers, of course – but when the rules changed after the French Revolution, neither Louis nor Marie Antionette (who apparently had little influence in her husband’s political decisions) were bright enough politicians or visionary enough to see a new role for the monarchy and instead fought every measure to limit their power, eventually even trying to get Austria to send in troops to help restore them to the throne. By the time the revolution rolls around, Frasier has drunken the kool-aid and is fully on the King and Queen’s side, explaining why the royals did what they did. Whether it be trying to preserve the King’s power or their eventual failed escape from Paris, she paints a picture of a king and queen who were devoted to their children and believed the future of France was best served by keeping the king in power. It would have been interesting to get more perspective on the problems going on in the country and whether the King and Queen were totally disconnected as at least Marie Antionette seemed to be. The French Revolution was bloody and eventually led to leaders killing previous leaders in a near-continual cleansing and it’s easy to believe that by the time of King Louis’ execution and then Marie Antoinette’s that revolution leaders had gone too far. Even Thomas Paine argued that the family should be allowed to leave the country and resettle in America. Because Frasier seems to be so behind the royal cause doomed to history, it’s hard to feel like an impartial observer and I at times ended up arguing with the book for its characterization of the King and Queen’s actions, which comes off as a defense. Frasier gives great insight into Marie Antionette’s life and experience up to the end, but she doesn’t apply her critical eye to their actions leading to the revolution and during it. At the same time, she (rightfully) doesn’t spare the revolutionaries.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ana Mardoll

    Marie Antoinette / 0-385-48949-8 I love reading and learning about Marie Antoinette as a historical figure - she had such a fascinating life, and was such an interesting person - but I could not have been more disappointed with this book. I'm really surprised that it has so many high ratings, so take my review with a grain of salt, but I just found this book to be a complete chore to wade through. It's really frustrating to see Fraser take such a fascinating historical figure and rob her of all in Marie Antoinette / 0-385-48949-8 I love reading and learning about Marie Antoinette as a historical figure - she had such a fascinating life, and was such an interesting person - but I could not have been more disappointed with this book. I'm really surprised that it has so many high ratings, so take my review with a grain of salt, but I just found this book to be a complete chore to wade through. It's really frustrating to see Fraser take such a fascinating historical figure and rob her of all interest with some of the dullest writing and bald assertions I've ever seen in a biography. I'm sorry to say that the book reads like the worst of high school history books - dryly vomiting up names and dates with very little context, and jumping about the map to cover events "chronologically" with very little effort made to tie events to one another with any sort of compelling or competent narrative. Fraser seems to regard name-dropping and quote-dropping as being most crucial details, and thus she never hesitates to drop in random quotes from various philosophers, sooth-sayers, and poets - even when doing so is distracting and detracts from the narrative flow. Too much bald assertion is used here, and to ill effect. For example, Fraser insists that Marie Antoinette's memorable "re-dressing" ceremony was simply not bothersome or traumatic to the young woman, because it was the fashion of the time, not unusual at all, and that "she had, after all, been treated as a doll, to be dressed up in this and that at the adults' whim since childhood; this was just one more example of that process." This may be personal preference, but I dislike this style of writing in biographies - either tell us how the subject felt through actual, historical sources OR tell us how they *might* have regarded an experience, based on conjectures from personality documented through actual, historical sources. Do not, however, just attempt to "channel" the spirit of the biography from the depths of time, and tell us how they felt, because it's just not accurate - it's one woman's opinion. The entire book is written in this vein, and you just never get the impression that you're reading actual history, but rather Fraser's version of how she has decided it must have been. Whether you trust her to be the expert and know what she is talking about is another matter. I recommend avoiding this book. As a source for Marie Antoinette, I found it sadly lacking, as much of what Fraser asserts as truth is undocumented at best. As reading material, I was repulsed by the turgid prose and by the jump-around-the-map, cram-everything-in-without-context, and drop-a-lot-of-cool-sounding-quotes approach to history. ~ Ana Mardoll

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lois

    This is an interesting and extremely readable biography of the late Queen. This somewhat removes the Queens actual power and agency. As the monarchy failed under Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette stepped up politically. She was a major player in revolutionary events. For details check out John Hardman's 'Marie-Antoinette: The Making of a French Queen" which focuses almost exclusively on her actions leading up to and during the revolution. Her death is memorialized in every detail. Yet many of my ancestors This is an interesting and extremely readable biography of the late Queen. This somewhat removes the Queens actual power and agency. As the monarchy failed under Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette stepped up politically. She was a major player in revolutionary events. For details check out John Hardman's 'Marie-Antoinette: The Making of a French Queen" which focuses almost exclusively on her actions leading up to and during the revolution. Her death is memorialized in every detail. Yet many of my ancestors no doubt died at her and her husband's hands- chattel slavery in Haiti was unbelievably awful. Where are their names? Where is the story of their deaths? What effort has been made to restore their treasures to their descendants? Government is responsible for it's crimes. There was gross mismanagement of resources causing massive poverty and starvation throughout France. Sure some poor folks had it harder in other nations but that's in effect irrelevant. When an individual or a family choose to be monarchs they know this is a possibility. Just like presidents and prime ministers are aware of political assassinations. Don't be a corrupt leader. Don't be married to one. Don't be the child of one. Hold your family to account for their behaviors and choices if you do belong in the family of a highly placed government official. I don't have a problem morally with the death of the royal family🤷🏽‍♀️ Many died because of their ineptitude.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana

    I am not a history buff, so it's hard for me to judge if this book is historically accurate. What I can attest to is that Antonia Fraser knows how to write a very engaging non-fictional narrative. And from my limited experience with non-fiction, it is a hard thing to do. "Marie Antoinette" doesn't appear to be an overly objective book, the tone of it is very involved and I guess that's what makes it so readable. Fraser paints a very sympathetic portrait of Marie Antoinette, who at some point in I am not a history buff, so it's hard for me to judge if this book is historically accurate. What I can attest to is that Antonia Fraser knows how to write a very engaging non-fictional narrative. And from my limited experience with non-fiction, it is a hard thing to do. "Marie Antoinette" doesn't appear to be an overly objective book, the tone of it is very involved and I guess that's what makes it so readable. Fraser paints a very sympathetic portrait of Marie Antoinette, who at some point in French history was the most hated woman in the country and was accused of being sexually deviant (to the point of incest), an Austrian spy, an enemy of French people, of bankrupting the country... the list goes on. Fraser's French queen is extremely likable. Not raised for the high throne, lacking education and crucial understanding of politics, Marie Antoinette is a tragic figure more than anything else. She marries French Dauphin at the age of 14 almost by default, when her sister dies. Without proper tutoring, with her marriage unconsummated for over 7 years, Marie Antoinette keeps herself busy by frivolous occupations: she organizes parties, she dances, she gambles, she buys jewelry and dresses. She is kept in the dark about politics and current events, her first obligation is to be a decoration, not to rule French people who are struggling under heavy taxes. As the years pass, Marie Antoinette becomes a mother, and a great mother at that. She is still apolitical, and yet strangely held responsible for everything bad happening in the country. Marie Antoinette's political awakening finally happens when France is taken over by the revolutionary forces. When her husband (as inexperienced in politics as she is) finds he has no courage or ability to make decisions about their future, it is Marie Antoinette who takes charge and attempts to salvage monarchy for her son. Unfortunately, due to the lack of clear understanding of politics, she is unable to make the right decisions, and her entire family eventually meets an awful demise. "Marie Antoinette" is an interesting (and sad) story of a woman whose only aspirations are her family and peaceful life. She is thrown into the world of politics without any preparation and is quickly consumed by it. Recommended to those readers who are interested in history and biographies of royalty.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    And it only took me 11 years to finish it...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Harriet M.

    This was a good for a beach-ready kind of history. Fraser's good in terms of readability, but she bends over backwards to explain how Antoinette was misunderstood without really coming to terms with the complexity of her public face. I would have liked more footnotes, although I'm probalby not the target audience in that regard. I REALLY would have liked some more editing, not just in terms of overall repetitiousness, but in terms of readability. Fraser writes engagingly and well most of the tim This was a good for a beach-ready kind of history. Fraser's good in terms of readability, but she bends over backwards to explain how Antoinette was misunderstood without really coming to terms with the complexity of her public face. I would have liked more footnotes, although I'm probalby not the target audience in that regard. I REALLY would have liked some more editing, not just in terms of overall repetitiousness, but in terms of readability. Fraser writes engagingly and well most of the time, but every now and then, you arrive at these sentences that make no sense at all. I prefer histories that try to stir up an argument or some kind of engagement with the reader. I felt more like I was being handed a bill of goods.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Megan Medley

    I have a slight fascination with Marie Antoinette. She is what led me to study the French Revolution whe I did my minor in History. While in Paris, I wanted to visit everything related to her, and when anything on the History Channel comes on about the French Rev., I must watch it. She is probably one of the most misunderstood monarchs. I suppose it's unjust of me to sympathize with her, but she too, was just a girl. Married at 14 to a prince who knew nothing about how to rule a kingdom. Forced I have a slight fascination with Marie Antoinette. She is what led me to study the French Revolution whe I did my minor in History. While in Paris, I wanted to visit everything related to her, and when anything on the History Channel comes on about the French Rev., I must watch it. She is probably one of the most misunderstood monarchs. I suppose it's unjust of me to sympathize with her, but she too, was just a girl. Married at 14 to a prince who knew nothing about how to rule a kingdom. Forced to learn the French language and the French ways. Taught that decadance was her right and then punished for living up to that expectation. Forced to see friends and loved ones beheaded. I can never get over how they lifted the Princess de Lamballe's head on a stake just for her to see; just out of cruelty. I'm sure her mother, the Empress of Austria, had no idea what kind of life she was sending her daughter to live. Had she known, she probably would have sent her to a nunnery at birth.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I've read some great historical fiction on Marie Antoinette (Juliet Grey's trilogy starting with Becoming Marie Antoinette comes to mind) but this was my first nonfiction read on this doomed queen. It was comprehensive and packed full of information, but never dragged. This book also reinforced why I prefer to read nonfiction history books in paperback/hardcover rather than on my Kindle--there were lots of pictures included throughout the text. I really like it when history books do this because I've read some great historical fiction on Marie Antoinette (Juliet Grey's trilogy starting with Becoming Marie Antoinette comes to mind) but this was my first nonfiction read on this doomed queen. It was comprehensive and packed full of information, but never dragged. This book also reinforced why I prefer to read nonfiction history books in paperback/hardcover rather than on my Kindle--there were lots of pictures included throughout the text. I really like it when history books do this because when an author talks about a certain artifact or painting, it's helpful to have the picture immediately available for reference. The text itself was quite good. I appreciated how the author also interpreted the emotional states and personalities of the main players, because this made them come alive in my mind. I regarded Marie Antoinette as a sympathetic historical figure before I ever read this book, but this biography does an especially good job of outlining the ultimate tragedy of Marie Antoinette--that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The author does present a balanced picture of her strengths and faults (along with those of her husband Louis XVI), but in the end, whatever her faults were, Marie Antoinette was a completely different person than how she was portrayed in the libellous pamphlets of the time and how some people still regard her today. I enjoyed learning more details about her life with this excellent biography.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Madeline

    This book was one of Sofia Coppola's primary sources for her movie "Marie Antoinette" and anyone who's seen the movie will enjoy finding all the quotes used in the movie that the historical figures actually said. It's a good biography and, unlike Coppola's movie, actually tells you what happened to Marie-Antoinette and her family after the mob arrested them and brought them to Paris. Fraser goes a little out of her way to portray Marie-Antoinette as just a misunderstood but good-hearted person ( This book was one of Sofia Coppola's primary sources for her movie "Marie Antoinette" and anyone who's seen the movie will enjoy finding all the quotes used in the movie that the historical figures actually said. It's a good biography and, unlike Coppola's movie, actually tells you what happened to Marie-Antoinette and her family after the mob arrested them and brought them to Paris. Fraser goes a little out of her way to portray Marie-Antoinette as just a misunderstood but good-hearted person (the woman was an idiot, Fraser. A nice idiot, but an idiot.), but I didn't mind a little fawning since Fraser's book has a lot of good details about life at Versailles and Marie-Antoinette herself. For instance, did you know that she hated the color orange so much she wouldn't even allow it to be near her? Neither did I, but apparently it's true.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Caidyn (NO LONGER ACTIVE; he/him/his)

    4.5 Having read -- technically listened -- to this, I can see why this is typically seen as the Bible to Marie Antoinette, much like how Eric Ives' The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn is the Bible for Anne Boleyn. Fraser casts Marie in a very good light, making her seem smart and powerful and very much like the Queen of France, dispelling rumors that have stuck with her throughout the years, such as "Let them eat cake!" or that she had many lovers. See, when I was a kid, I read diaries for the royal 4.5 Having read -- technically listened -- to this, I can see why this is typically seen as the Bible to Marie Antoinette, much like how Eric Ives' The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn is the Bible for Anne Boleyn. Fraser casts Marie in a very good light, making her seem smart and powerful and very much like the Queen of France, dispelling rumors that have stuck with her throughout the years, such as "Let them eat cake!" or that she had many lovers. See, when I was a kid, I read diaries for the royals. The three I read were Anastasia Romanovna (or, Romanov if you disregard the whole weird Russian language stuff), Cleopatra, and then Marie Antoinette. And, it's very funny how I go with who I like as historical figures. Anastasia was a very strong woman, or was developing into one when her life was cut short. Cleopatra was ruthless; a sister (Berenice) killed her other sister (Cleopatra Tryphaena), she watched her father kill a sister (Berenice got killed this time), killed her two little brothers, and then exiled and finally killed another sister (Arsinoe). Anne Boleyn, my current beloved, was extremely smart and ambitious. Marie Antoinette is none of those things. She was, as Madeline put it in her review, an idiot. A kind and sweet idiot, but still an idiot. She didn't read much, she wasn't very good at writing, she wasn't a master of languages (she forgot her homeland's language within a couple years of being in France), and she certainly didn't care about the government until it was too late in her life. She loved frivolous things. Let's be honest. I mean, most likely they were there to help her disguise her tumultuous marriage, but still. However, two things struck me while listening to this. 1) If the French Revolution hadn't happened, what would she have done? Seriously. Right at that time, she was starting to enter into politics more. And, during the Revolution, she was more careful and obvious. She started applying what she knew... after basically two decades in this country. Would she have fixed things, or would she have let the economy become worse? Would she have really made a difference? It's a question that we'll never know. 2) If only she and Louis had been born not as royals. They would have been great parents, loving and considerate. They weren't fit for being royals, which is how I feel about the last Romanovs. Nicholas and Alexandra weren't meant to be royals. They were meant to be in a family, just normal people. If you decide to read this -- and you know a lot about the Romanovs and their downfall -- you'll be struck by the similarities to it, something Fraser does point out around the epilogue. Marie's life was tragic. Interspersed with the parties and balls and dresses, her life wasn't easy. Louis distrusted her for most of their marriage. He also only went to bed with her out of duty to create children, and it seems to be that way for most of their marriage despite the honest love that developed between the two of them. Then, her children. One died a horrible, excruciating death. Another died as an infant. Her other son died after she was executed. She herself had bad health for most of her life. It wasn't easy, no matter what people might say. When I went to Versailles, all I could think of -- besides that I was likely stepping and walking where so many noble people peed and pooped because toilets were too far away -- was this was the place Marie Antoinette lived. She walked these halls. She danced in the Hall of Mirrors (which is absolutely gorgeous). It was striking and very, very emotional. This book is certainly one I'll want to read rather than listen to at some point. It reminded me how much I used to love Marie Antoinette. Funny how that works.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cassie

    LOVE LOVE LOVE. This book took me a while to get through because of Mrs. Fraser's dense style of writing but also because I tried to savor each moment of this biography. Somehow Antonia Fraser writes in a no nonsense way yet allows the reader to hear the music, and the swish of Marie Antoinette's skirts as she walked through Versailles. This book takes the reader on a journey through an incredible life, causing me to laugh, cry and at one point throw the book I was so incensed at the injustices LOVE LOVE LOVE. This book took me a while to get through because of Mrs. Fraser's dense style of writing but also because I tried to savor each moment of this biography. Somehow Antonia Fraser writes in a no nonsense way yet allows the reader to hear the music, and the swish of Marie Antoinette's skirts as she walked through Versailles. This book takes the reader on a journey through an incredible life, causing me to laugh, cry and at one point throw the book I was so incensed at the injustices against this tragic figure. I enjoyed how Antonia Fraser analyzed both sides of the argument and presented the Queen's life in an impartial way. However this did not feel like other biographies I have read that are cold and impersonal because Mrs. Fraser allows her opinion (she clearly states that it is her opinion though) and that draws the reader in as if she is telling you a secret. This long, involved book feels too quick and at the end truly you feel as if you have lost a good friend.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cher

    2.5 stars - It was alright, an average book. Certainly not textbook dry, but it is still a 600+ page biography, so not exactly a page turner either. I did however want to high-five the author when she sarcastically referred to convents as the place to put Queens and noble wives that were no longer convenient for their husband/father/brother. ------------------------------------------- First Sentence: On 2 November 1755 the Queen-Empress was in labour all day with her fifteenth child.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Although it took me so long to read it that I had to pay tremendous fines at the library (ahem...) I did enjoy this book and a better understanding of Marie Antoinette. I certainly learned a lot about Marie Antoinette and the French Court and Revolution, and I liked that it was easy to read but not sensationalized. I was disappointed, though, that Antonia Fraser, rather than simply writing about Marie Antoinette's life, projected across her views of Marie Antoinette through her writing, forcing Although it took me so long to read it that I had to pay tremendous fines at the library (ahem...) I did enjoy this book and a better understanding of Marie Antoinette. I certainly learned a lot about Marie Antoinette and the French Court and Revolution, and I liked that it was easy to read but not sensationalized. I was disappointed, though, that Antonia Fraser, rather than simply writing about Marie Antoinette's life, projected across her views of Marie Antoinette through her writing, forcing me (if I wasn't careful!) of viewing Marie Antoinette the same way she did. I suppose it's difficult to write an unbiased biography, and maybe she wasn't even trying to, but I would prefer a biography that simply tells me the story and lets me decide for myself.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    An absolute intriguing historical figure. I think all the injustice she faced makes me just love her more!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Fascinating, well-written, and tragic.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Aurélien Thomas

    With a nice and very accessible writing style, we go through 'The Journey' more like through a novel than an historical biography; making for a quick and pleasing read. The fact the author deals straightforwardly with Marie-Antoinette as a woman and a mother above all, beyond the historical and well-known character, also allows for an original outlook helping to sympathise with her. Simple pawn on the geopolitical chessboard of the times, married at 15 and against all expectations just so as to With a nice and very accessible writing style, we go through 'The Journey' more like through a novel than an historical biography; making for a quick and pleasing read. The fact the author deals straightforwardly with Marie-Antoinette as a woman and a mother above all, beyond the historical and well-known character, also allows for an original outlook helping to sympathise with her. Simple pawn on the geopolitical chessboard of the times, married at 15 and against all expectations just so as to seal a weak alliance between Habsbourg and Bourbons, sent over like a parcel in a foreign country despising hers and, later victim of hideous propaganda, political games of the Terror and a disgusting trial, there is indeed more than one reason to have pity for her! And, sure enough, Antonia Fraser doesn't hesitate to assail reader's sensitivity with a wealth of pathos and cheesy emotions spilling all over, until overflowing to the extreme in the last chapters! Here's in fact the problem: refusing to take some distance with her subject by having a clear (and well asserted!) bias surely makes Marie-Antoinette more accessible and human, but such dismissal of the cold analysis expected from an historian also carries the risk of losing some objectivity. The Necklace Affair (in which she was without a shadow of a doubt an innocent victim, let's be fair) is for example dealt with in great details whereas, on the contrary, other aspects more controversial of her personality are gently brushed under the carpet (e.g. what about her influence upon Louis XVI and the choice of his ministers?). Without being completely apologetic (the excesses of 'Madame Deficit' and her court are widely recognised) that all along the book private matters like her relationship with Fersen get more attention than political ones is indeed problematic; and such a lack of balance is frankly disappointing. Disappointing because, despite it all, Antonia Fraser clearly knows her topic in depth, knows how to convey her passion for the era and, if one can regret the over-sentimental clichés, her work remains well documented, referenced, without any argument put forward without evidence. In a word, it still is a serious book. A good read, but damn it! Keep some tissues at hand!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Miriam

    I saw the movie based on this book in the theater when it came out, and I didn't like it that much. I guess it was too subtle for me. I saw it again recently and liked it more. So I decided to read the book. The movie only goes up to the leaving of Versailles, not the horrible denouement of the story. In some ways, that fits the tone of the film better--the fall from grace, the decline of Eden, and we all know what happens next. And the book turns at this point from an analysis and interpretation I saw the movie based on this book in the theater when it came out, and I didn't like it that much. I guess it was too subtle for me. I saw it again recently and liked it more. So I decided to read the book. The movie only goes up to the leaving of Versailles, not the horrible denouement of the story. In some ways, that fits the tone of the film better--the fall from grace, the decline of Eden, and we all know what happens next. And the book turns at this point from an analysis and interpretation of history (the common stereotypes of Marie Antoinette, whether those can be documented historically, the context of women's roles in diplomatic history, the various factors playing into the way things all turned out, etc) to a more straight-up narrative: this happened, then this happened, then they killed Louis XVI, then Marie Antoinette. But Fraser's epilogue is masterful. She reminds us of the queen's traits: her lack of (and neglected) education, her frivolity (likely born from her attempts to find joy in the absence of purpose--when Louis wouldn't have sex with her and wouldn't let her influence his political decisions), her desire to please, her beautiful grace and charm. She reminds us of the period, the changes taking place toward the end of the eighteenth century (the simplification of court rituals and dress, the growing deficit in France, the need for reforms, the unrest growing). And she provides an important reading of Marie Antoinette's fate--her status as a foreigner and a woman made her the scapegoat for the entire Revolution. She may have had royal blood, she may have given birth to the next generation of French royalty, but she herself was an outsider. And a woman! It's not just that she was a foreigner, it's also that she was a woman. Her nickname in the papers, "L'Autrichienne" shows this: it's not just "the Austrian woman," it also sounds like a combination of the French words for "ostrich" and "female dog/bitch." It's not just her outsider status, it's her gender that makes her the easy target. Sure, Marie Antoinette wasn't perfect, but to blame her for the entire Revolution is to neglect a wide range of other causes. The book suggests how easily people make up their minds about public figures, especially women, based on scanty information or outright lies. It's an indictment of the sexism of the time and of the historians and writers who perpetuate it in the present. Fraser presents a flawed yet sympathetic figure for us to see, and then points how various social factors and real, actual people came together to torture her and finally kill her. It's an interesting book to be reading in this election season, that's for sure.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    I enjoyed this quite a bit. I haven't read anything else about Marie Antoinette, but I felt that Fraser did a good job of telling "Marie Antoinette's dramatic story without anticipating its terrible ending," as she writes in the author's note. Here and there she mentions that something will have greater consequences in the future, but she does so in a straightforward manner, with no melodrama. Much as is the case with Alison Weir's "Six Wives of Henry VIII," Fraser has produced a deeply-research I enjoyed this quite a bit. I haven't read anything else about Marie Antoinette, but I felt that Fraser did a good job of telling "Marie Antoinette's dramatic story without anticipating its terrible ending," as she writes in the author's note. Here and there she mentions that something will have greater consequences in the future, but she does so in a straightforward manner, with no melodrama. Much as is the case with Alison Weir's "Six Wives of Henry VIII," Fraser has produced a deeply-researched book that manages to stay clear of being too dry. She provides a cultural context where necessary, and points out inconsistencies in the contemporary, and more modern, accounts of the events of Marie Antoinette's life. We follow her from her upbringing in Vienna through to her death at the guillotine during the French Revolution. Having seen the Kirsten Dunst film earlier in the fall, it was quite interesting to read a fuller account of Marie Antoinette's life than we see in the film. It was also fun to be reading along and have a scene from the movie come along -- while the filmmakers certainly took liberties, some of the more memorable scenes from the movie (at least for me) appear to have actually happened much as they are presented in the film. I highly recommend this to anyone wondering how much of the film is taken from life, or to anyone with an interest in royal histories.

  22. 5 out of 5

    LibraryCin

    As a little girl, Marie Antoinette was an Archduchess of Austria. She later married Louis XVI, the future king of France. They ruled France in the late 18th century, but that came to an end via the French Revolution. They had to run for their lives, which in the end, they both lost. This is her biography, so it's nonfiction. This was very good. I must admit to not knowing a lot about her, the time period, or the other people involved, so I learned a lot. Because I don't know as many people, at ti As a little girl, Marie Antoinette was an Archduchess of Austria. She later married Louis XVI, the future king of France. They ruled France in the late 18th century, but that came to an end via the French Revolution. They had to run for their lives, which in the end, they both lost. This is her biography, so it's nonfiction. This was very good. I must admit to not knowing a lot about her, the time period, or the other people involved, so I learned a lot. Because I don't know as many people, at times there were a lot of people to try to keep straight, but I think Fraser did a pretty good job of at least keeping clear the main “players”. It's a long book, but it was very good. And I think it's the first I've read by Fraser. I'm sure I'll pick up more and I'll likely read more about Marie Antoinette, as well.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    It's no surprise that this book took me forever to get through, it is a really dense, long history book. Despite this fact I really enjoyed it! I didn't know much about Marie Antoinette prior to reading this, but I was very interested in her life, and now I feel like I know practically everything about her! The author definitely has a more sympathetic view of the doomed queen, which is not a bad thing in this case. It really seems like bad luck was really Marie Antoinette's problem! I would defi It's no surprise that this book took me forever to get through, it is a really dense, long history book. Despite this fact I really enjoyed it! I didn't know much about Marie Antoinette prior to reading this, but I was very interested in her life, and now I feel like I know practically everything about her! The author definitely has a more sympathetic view of the doomed queen, which is not a bad thing in this case. It really seems like bad luck was really Marie Antoinette's problem! I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Marie Antoinette, and up for a very thorough, cohesive, and ginormous historical biography!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Three stars for a very well written biography, but minus two for the difficulty in user[reader] friendliness. I don't think I would've read this whole thing if it wasn't so darned interesting to me. It has alot of very difficult words/wording because (in my opinion) it was written by a famous historian rather than a great 'writer' if you will. It's loaded with historical facts about what we know of Marie Antoinette the person, which is extremely interesting especially since she lead such an inte Three stars for a very well written biography, but minus two for the difficulty in user[reader] friendliness. I don't think I would've read this whole thing if it wasn't so darned interesting to me. It has alot of very difficult words/wording because (in my opinion) it was written by a famous historian rather than a great 'writer' if you will. It's loaded with historical facts about what we know of Marie Antoinette the person, which is extremely interesting especially since she lead such an interesting life. This is also the book that inspired the movie made in 2005 with Kirsten Dunst.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Susanna - Censored by GoodReads

    I've yet to read a book of Fraser's I didn't like.

  26. 5 out of 5

    SaЯRah Muhammad

    Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, and Georgiana Cavendish nee Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire were two of the most famous women of the 18th century. When the Duchess visited France and met the Queen, the two women discovered they had a lot in common and became life long friends. So, what are the similarities between them? -Overbearing mothers: both Countess Spencer and Empress Maria Theresa loved their daughters very much, but this love was very often suffocating. The two women were convinced the Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, and Georgiana Cavendish nee Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire were two of the most famous women of the 18th century. When the Duchess visited France and met the Queen, the two women discovered they had a lot in common and became life long friends. So, what are the similarities between them? -Overbearing mothers: both Countess Spencer and Empress Maria Theresa loved their daughters very much, but this love was very often suffocating. The two women were convinced they always knew what was best for their daughters and often sent them letters full of advices, instructions and reproaches. Can you imagine how these poor girls must have felt like every time they received a letter from their mums? Both wanted to please their parents, but this wasn't always an easy task. They were put under a lot of pressure, resulting in an uneasiness in the relationship with their mums. Marie Antoinette in particular, was said to love her mother dearly but to also be in awe, and even sometimes scared, of her. -They married a position: Marie Antoinette's marriage was arranged by her mother, Empress Maria Theresa, to solidify a political alliance between Austria and France. Georgiana, instead, was happy at the prospect of marrying the Duke of Devonshire but soon after the wedding she realised how cold her husband really was. Even though overtime the couples grew closer (Marie Antoinette refused to leave her husband during the French Revolution and William was said to be completely devastated when Georgiana died), both women were trapped in a loveless marriage. In addition, they hadn't just married a man, they had a married a position and had to deal with all the expectations, restrictions and duties their status imposed upon them. Some people may have envied them for their positions and the privileges that came with them, but if they had looked more closely, they would have realised how deceiving appearances can be and that they didn't have an easy life.. -Love for gambling: both Marie Antoinette and Georgiana loved gambling. They would spend entire nights at the gaming table, gambling away enormous fortunes and piling up huge debts. Their husbands weren't happy about it. The economical situation in France was disastrous and so Louis XVI forbade his wife from gambling. He granted her permission to play one last time, though, and the game went on for three days! Louis was disgusted. Georgiana instead, never stopped. She kept borrowing money from her friends (and never repayed them) to pay off her creditors, in the hope they wouldn't demand money to the Duke. She was constantly on the verge on bankruptcy and feared her husband's reaction should he find out the extent of her debts. Even when he came really close to demand a separation because of her debts, Georgiana wouldn't neither tell him the exact amount of her debts, nor stop playing. -Queens of fashion: both women became fashion icons and trendsetters. Women would wait to see what clothes and hairstyles these two fashionable women, who had exquisite but also extravagant tastes, would wear so that they could imitate them. It was Georgiana who first wore big ostrich feathers on her hair and pretty soon, all the ladies followed suit, to some ridiculous extents at times. And when her painting by Gainsborurough (shown at the top of this post) was unveiled, women rushed to their milliners requesting their "picture hat". As Queen of France, Marie Antoinette was required to wear elaborate court gowns, although she preferred to switch to simpler styles of clothing when possible (in any case, both got her in trouble). Her chief modist was Madame Bertin. The popularity of this talented modist really soared when she started designing clothes for the Queen. Marie Antoinette often gave her input on the gowns, suggesting alterations and proving she too had a talent for fashion. Her fashion choices often had a political message like the ship ornament she wore in her hair to show her support to the Americans revolutionaries. -Affectionate mothers: both women were under great pressure to beget an heir but years would pass before they finally gave birth to their first children (Georgiana had trouble conceiving while Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI didn't consummate their marriage for years). Marie Antoinette had lived a hectic lifestyle, staying up late every night dancing and gambling, but she settled down when she became a mother. The Queen of France lived only for her children and she personally saw to their education and upbringing. Georgiana too was a very affectionate mother who nursed her children and she even raised her husband's illegittimate daughter. -Victims of slanders: vicious pamphlets and gossips, all unfounded, circulated about both women. Marie Antoinette was accused of everything, including bankrupting France with her spending on clothes, exercising complete control over the king, having sex with anyone she met, both male and female, and even incest with her own son. This bad propaganda completely destroyed her reputation and eventually led her to the scaffold. Georgiana too was a celebrity of her own time, so papers and pamphleteers would often print malicious gossips about her. She was accused to kiss or bribe electors with favors and was made fun of for her hairstyles. -Charming women: the Queen of France and the Duchess of Devonshire were both pretty, charming and lively women who were always kind to everyone. And because of it, they were loved by everyone they met. Even those people who believed the calumnies circulating about these women and were determined to dislike them, ended up loving them once they met them. A man who was thus charmed by Marie Antoinette was Barnave, one of the three appointed to bring the royal family back to Paris from Varennes. During the trip, he started to feel sympathy for the Queen and became a supporter of the royal family. Unfortunately, this wasn't enough to save them.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tarah Luke

    Very good biography of a very unfortunate and unlucky person who became the target of public hatred for no real discernible reason. Good introduction to her life, though I did spot a couple of minor historical errors that only nerds like me would notice or care about. It is, however, not as unbiased as one would hope, as Fraser cannot hide her pro-Marie Antoinette feelings, especially toward the end when her situation gets bad. Overall, though, well-written.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    This book was different from what I was expecting, but in a very good way. I was expecting it to read more like a story, but it is very much documentary. I was very impressed by the author's depth of investigation into the historical record to help her reader get a real feel for who Marie Antoinette really was and also to uncover fact from gossip and hearsay. The book is very readable, compelling, and eye-opening.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Interesting! But not great. I was not impressed by the writing and the epilogue dragged on for far too long.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Shahine Ardeshir

    If you're interested in an unbiased, detailed account of the life of Marie Antoinette, this is the right book to pick up. Students of history are always taught that they should refer to multiple sources to form an opinion about a historic event or personality - and that's exactly what Antonia Fraser did. With painstaking detail, the author has put together jigsaw pieces from multiple sources to tell the story of the unfortunate queen of France, Marie Antoinette. This book is well written, detaile If you're interested in an unbiased, detailed account of the life of Marie Antoinette, this is the right book to pick up. Students of history are always taught that they should refer to multiple sources to form an opinion about a historic event or personality - and that's exactly what Antonia Fraser did. With painstaking detail, the author has put together jigsaw pieces from multiple sources to tell the story of the unfortunate queen of France, Marie Antoinette. This book is well written, detailed and provided me with excellent perspective on the life she lead and the real person behind the stories and caricatures painted of her. It surprised me, for example, to know that the famous cake quote was erroneously attributed to her - and goes completely against the greatly charitable nature all those close to her spoke of. The downside, however, is that with detail comes length. While the first half of the book is engaging and very riveting, (chronicling her Austrian birth, her marriage at 14, her life at Versailles court and the births of her children all the way to the storming of the Bastille, which was the beginning of the end of the monarchy) the pace slows drastically in the second half, which painfully details the humiliating and cruel end to which she finally came. By the end of the book, the very degree of detail which at the beginning was refreshing made me as a reader grow bored and just want it to finish already. But even the slow second half doesn't take away from the fact that this is a very good read about a clearly misunderstood and extremely tragic queen. For the most part, I enjoyed it.

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