3 on the 3rd – Marie Antoinette

3 on the 3rd is a monthly feature that shines a spotlight on three books that are somehow connected – topics, writers, decades – who knows what the connections will be. Queen Marie Antoinette was born on 2nd Nov 1755, an as November is National Non-fiction Month it seemed like a great way to start.

Marie Antoinette – The Journey

By Antonia Fraser

Published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2001

This is the first book about Marie Antoinette that I read. I bought the paperback edition and loved it. Having read it multiple times, I treated myself to the hardback edition.

The book took five years to write and is thoroughly researched – there are over 30 pages of notes and sources at the end of the book.

This isn’t a boring historical biography – it’s a dramatic and pacy portrayal of an extraordinary life in extraordinary times.

There are lots of detail about Marie Antoinette’s childhood in Austria, her journey to France at the age of 14 and her life at Versailles. The trauma of the Revolution and the horrors of imprisonment contrast dramatically with the glamour and excess of life in the French Court.

The writer is sympathetic to her subject and addresses some the common myths about the Queen – such as her promiscuity and the famous “Let them eat cake.”

I love this book because it is thrilling, fast paced non-fiction. The complicated politics of revolutionary France is explained in such a way that even a beginner like myself can follow the twists and turns. The reader cannot help but feel incredibly sorry for Marie Antoinette as despite some incredibly ill-advised decisions there is a sense that very few people genuinely have her interests at heart.

If you want a good place to start this book is definitely it.

Waterstone’s: click here

Amazon.co.uk: click here

The Untold Love Story: Marie Antoinette and Count Ferson

By Evelyn Farr

Published by Alison and Busby 1997

The Untold Love Story focuses specifically on the relationship between Marie Antoinette and Count Axel Ferson, using contemporary sources to uncover the details.

Married at the age of 14, to unsophisticated and equally innocent Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette was lonely and isolated at Versailles. Her failure to consummate her marriage and produce an heir, French suspicion of her native Austria and later the politics of the Revolution made her a natural target for hatred.

Marie Antoinette’s relationship with Ferson has been mainly written out of history. Revolutionary libels emphasised her sexual promiscuity and portrayed her as having lesbian relationships with female confidants and seemed to have no knowledge of her actual love affair. Ferson and Marie Antoinette absolutely adore each other. Ferson does everything in his power to help the Queen and the royal family, including orchestrating their failed escape bid.

His grief after her death is heartbreaking. He writes “Losing Her is the grief of my whole life, and my sorrows will leave me only when I die”

This is compelling and tragic romance.

Waterstone’s: click here

Amazon.co.uk: click here

Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution

By Caroline Weber

Published by Aurum Press 2007

Queen of Fashion is a different type of biography as it focuses on Marie Antoinette as a style icon and fashion influencer.

It begins with the striping of her Austrian clothes as she arrives in France and ends with her all white dress worn to her death at the scaffold aged just 37.

Marie Antoinette loved clothes and the books looks at how her style developed and influenced trends across Europe. Elaborate hair dos, masculine riding habits and the simple chemise dresses favoured for her faux-country retreat are all explore in detail.

Although very few examples of Marie Antoinette clothing survived the revolution, there are lots of illustrations from contemporary fashion plates,drawings and portraits.

This is fascinating book for lovers of both fashion and history.

Amazon.co.uk: click here