Absolutely crazy about Marie-Antoinette

• Love letters rediscovered thanks to x-rays

A method of X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy has revealed the relationship that connected Marie-Antoinette to the beautiful Swedish count Axel de Fersen! These are fifteen letters: the first, written by Fersen on June 27, 1791, a week after the failed flight to Varennes, the last on August 10, 1792, the day the people of Paris invaded the Tuileries.

This correspondence has long been preserved by the descendants of the Count of Fersenand even published in 1877, in a heavily edited version. It will then be claimed that the letters had been destroyed, but it was without expectation that they reappeared during a sale in 1982. The National Archives of France then acquired them and noted a coded language and gross deletions that prevented their full understanding.

Between 2015 and 2020, researchers from the Rex II program sneak under the ink patties and redact the hidden sentences in eight out of fifteen letters, such as “Adieu, my good friend, I will never cease to worship you” from the count’s pen, and “I do not end without telling you my dear and very tender friend, that I love you madly and never, never, can I be a moment without adoring you “under the Queen’s. We then discover that the Count himself was the author of these deletions and corrections!

• Two decades of love between Marie-Antoinette and Axel de Fersen

Without being violent, these letters reveal a love that historians had guessed. The two lovers would have loved each other for almost two decades after met in 1774 at a costume ball, when Marie-Antoinette was not yet queen. We know today that the Count discreetly had his own apartment on the Petit Trianon and also thatat the request of Louis XVI, he organized the royal family’s escape to Varennes.

The queen was guillotined on October 16, 1793, her great love was stoned to death seventeen years later, in Stockholm, after he was wrongly accused of poisoning the heir to the Swedish throne. These mysterious letters, which have long been left behind, are the subject of a fascinating book by the historian specializing in Marie-Antoinette Evelyne Lever.


Marie-Antoinette’s great love. Secret Letters from the Queen and Count of Fersen, Evelyne Lever, ed. Thailand, 375 pages, € 22.50.

• Marie-Antoinette, a look that hits the mark

His alabaster color, her curved eyebrows, her rosy lips, her powdered cheeks… Here’s something that might inspire Lisa Eldridge, Lancôme’s makeup designer, to the point reconstruct cosmetics used at Louis XVI’s court. But the queen’s boxes also panic the auction houses: in 2018, one of her pendants was torn off for 32 million euros, and in November last year, two of her diamond bracelets were sold for 7 million euros. Marie-Antoinette wore amazing jewelry which she had saved from the revolution by letting them lead to Brussels and then to Vienna. They were returned to his daughter, Marie-Thérèse of France, in 1795, before being bequeathed to the Bourbon-Parma family, who kept them for two centuries.

• An inexhaustible source of inspiration for the 7th art

No character has inspired the cinema so much! As early as 1903, a silent film revived Marie-Antoinette. In 1909, a certain Renée Carl recorded her The Queen’s Necklacethen Yvonne Mirval in 1910 in Marie Antoinette’s secret adventureand finally Ukrainian Diana Karenne, twice in the 1920s.

Hollywood, in turn, is in love with the Queen, Norma Shearer was elected in 1938, while Lise Delamare in France the same year played her for Jean Renoir. Then it’s Annie Ducaux, Michèle Morgan, Geneviève Casile or even Jane Seymour.

Jacques Demy also dedicates a French-Japanese film to him (Mrs. Oscar, 1979), which will only be discovered in France after his death. In the 2000s, Sofia Coppola’s film revived the myth of Kirsten Dunst in the shoes of a very rocket Marie-Antoinette.

On the series side a new queen, in the form of the German-Russian actress Emilia Schulewill be unveiled on Canal + in 2022 in a series of eight 52-minute episodes.

• Marie Antoinette, pop icon

In 1972, a manga, The rose of Versailles, is a hit in Tokyo. ONE tribute to Marie-Antoinette, who will soon be a musical and even an animated series in 40 episodes in 1979, under the title Mrs. Oscar. In 2005, the Colombian painter Fernando Botero revisited in his own way, all in curves, the portrait of the queen painted by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun in 1783. And in 2014, the photographers Pierre and Gilles in turn transformed the escort girl. Zahia Dehar as a fiery Marie-Antoinette.

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