Sunday, January 13, 2013
As a mother , a daughter, and one who loves a handwritten letter, I'm fascinated by the letters between Marie Antoinette and her mother, Empress Maria Theresa. In the book, Secrets of Marie Antoinette, by Olivier Bernier, one is able to watch Marie Antoinette grow from an eager-to-please fifteen year old to an eager-to-please twenty-five year old, through these letters. There are others, as well, including many between the Empress and comte de Mercy-Argenteau, the Austrian Ambassador slash tattletale who faithfully spied (and paid others to spy) on Marie Antoinette, then reported back to her mother. Marie Antoinette never knew how her mother managed to know so much about her gambling, ill-advised jewelry purchases, outrageous fashion choices, and (lack of) sexual activity and she trusted Mercy well past the point when it would've been obvious to a more savvy person that his loyalty was not to her, and not to France, but to Austria alone. Her mother usually, as she does in the following, attributes her information to the gazettes, public knowledge or someone besides Mercy.
Anyway, here's an excerpt from one of the letters, dated March 5th, 1775, in which Maria Theresa chastises the twenty year old queen for her frivolity. She doesn't specifically mention her expensive wardrobe, but I doubt the Empress had much good to say about that either.
"I can't prevent myself raising a point which many gazettes repeat all too often: it is the coiffure you use: they say it is thirty six inches high, and with so many feathers to adorn it! A young and pretty Queen, who is full of attractions, doesn't need all these follies, on the contrary, the simplicity of your adornment will show you off better and is more suitable to the rank of a Queen…"