Synopses & Reviews
Frances beleaguered queen, Marie Antoinette, wrongly accused of uttering the infamous “Let them eat cake,” was the subject of ridicule and curiosity even before her death; she has since been the object of debate and speculation and the fascination so often accorded tragic figures in history. Married in mere girlhood, this essentially lighthearted, privileged, but otherwise unremarkable child was thrust into an unparalleled time and place, and was commanded by circumstance to play a significant role in history. Antonia Frasers lavish and engaging portrait of Marie Antoinette, one of the most recognizable women in European history, excites compassion and regard for all aspects of her subject, immersing the reader not only in the coming-of-age of a graceful woman, but also in the unraveling of an era.
"The portrait is drawn delicately, with pleasant touches of humor....Fraser's approach is controlled and thoughtful....Her queen is neither heroine nor villain, but a young wife and mother who, in her journey into maturity, finds herself caught in a deadly vise." Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Antonia Fraser is the author of Mary Queen of Scots
, The Six Wives of Henry VIII
, and Faith and Treason
, among others. She is also famous for her Jemima Shore series of mysteries. She and her husband, Harold Pinter, live in London.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
1. How important was Marie Antoinettes childhood in Austria-historical enemy of France-in influencing her career? Would it ever have been possible for an Austrian princess to have a satisfactory life in France?
2. Was Marie Antoinettes relationship with her mother, the Empress Maria Teresa, a damaging or a supportive element of her life?
3. Marie Antoinettes marriage to the Dauphin, later Louis XVI, remained unconsummated for seven and a half years. What effect did this have on her character-and her relationship wth her husband?
4. Were the accusations of extravagance and frivolity leveled against Marie Antoinette justified-both during her own lifetime and since? Marie Antoinette was also the target of numerous vicious libels about her sexuality. What part did these libels played in blackening the image of royalty in France, and how valid were they?
5. Assess the political role of Marie Antoinette in the years shortly before the French Revolution: Should she have tried to influence Louis XVI more or was she correct to let history take its own course?
6. Marie Antoinette was a patron of the arts and a nature enthusiast. Is philanthropy an essential part of the royal role?
7. Once the French Revolution started, Marie Antoinette could probably have escaped by herself, or with her little son disguised as a girl. Instead she saw it as her duty to remain at the Kings side. Knowing that she was an unpopular queen, why did she make that decision?
8. Marie Antoinettes courage and composure at her trial and execution aroused widespread admiration at the time, even from her enemies. How much had her character changed since her youth? Or were such qualities always latent in her personality?
“Fascinating . . . the court at Versailles comes alive.” -The Washington Post
The introduction, discussion questions, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your groups reading of Antonia Frasers acclaimed biography Marie Antoinette: The Journey.