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The Image Of Marie Antoinette Portrayed As Propaganda

Info: 2370 words (9 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in History

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The portrayed image of Marie Antoinette is true to a certain extent however this image was merely based on propaganda which depicted rumours and scandals rather than plausible evidence. It is evident that this image of the last queen of France, which is significantly based on pessimistic outlooks, is based on false observations, accusations and bias accounts of events. Marie Antoinette married the dauphin of France Louis-Auguste at the age of 14 in 1769. When her husband’s father died in 1774 she became the last Queen of France at age 19. She was the last Queen of France due to the radical social and political upheaval known as the French Revolution. Although she was at first welcomed and admired by the people of France for her charm and beauty, they quickly turned against her and accused her of harbouring sympathy for Frances enemies and being overly flamboyant. The image of Marie Antoinette prior and during the French revolution was an image of promiscuity, irresponsibility and carelessness. In spite of this, she was also shown to be a compassionate mother that loved and cared for her children dearly. She was depicted as having more care for her own personal possessions and appearance than the well-being of her people and country. Some may see her as deceitful and selfish, but through close analysis of facts and solid evidence it is apparent that Marie Antoinette was merely a victim of historical circumstances.

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The promiscuity observed of Marie Antoinette was merely a false accusation used to defame the queen and taint her reputation. The consummation of her marriage with King Louis did not occur until seven years after their union. This encouraged various rumours to spread around Paris that since Louis-Auguste was an awkward unaffectionate husband, Marie must have sought affection and sexual relations elsewhere with aristocrats and nobles [1] . Marie Antoinette was not satisfied by her marriage [2] . Her husband Louis was portrayed as being insensible and egocentric. Although he was a devoted husband who admired Marie’s character, Louis’s apathy towards the queen made her feel isolated. The seven years, in which the marriage remained unconsummated, Marie Antoinette continued to be silent and unconcerned by rumours of her inability to procreate. During this time Marie was said to have an affair with Count Fersen, the charming Swedish statesmen and soldier. Various images showing the two together suggested that these rumours were in fact true, however no real confirmation was made of these allegations. These accusations were neither established nor approved; they were merely stated in the infamous scandalous sheets known as libelles. Marie gave birth to her first daughter Marie-Therese Charlotte in 1778, disproving rumours that she and Louis-Auguste had never engaged in intimate relations. Although she was known as “the Austrian whore”, no evidence had substantially shown Marie’s infidelity. Rumours told shocking stories of countless lovers, both male and female. Certainly however, rumours of her infidelity were fuelled by courtiers who disliked her and had no substantial proof supporting them. The image of Marie Antoinette as being promiscuous was mainly based on propaganda fuelled by rumour and scandal, in an attempt to slander the queen. This image was untrue and was only ever believed due to the great amount of dislike the queen faced during her reign. This shows how Marie Antoinette was a victim of historical circumstances.

Profligacy was another feature of Marie Antoinette’s image which was true to a certain extent [3] . To make up for lack of affection from her husband and the endless criticism of her mother, Marie Antoinette began to spend more time and money on gambling and extravagant clothing, cards and horse betting as well as trips to the city and new clothes, shoes and make up. As tradition went, Marie was expected to spend money on her attire, so as to outshine other females at Court, being the leading example of fashion in Versailles [4] . However, she took spending to a whole new level when she asked for custom made gowns with lower hemlines and more revealing necklines, sparking controversy all over France. The infamous scandal of the “Diamond Necklace Affair” portrayed Marie Antoinette as the main offender. She was said to have demanded the creation of a handmade diamond necklace worth over two million livres (the currency at the time). Such accusations enabled the whole of France to view the queen as wasteful and reckless, when in reality she was nothing of the sort. The claims of this demand made by Marie Antoinette, were never proven and it was confirmed that she had been framed by con-artist Jeanne de Saint-Rémy de Valois. Although she did enjoy a lavish lifestyle of gambling, dancing and expensive attire she also gave to the poor and assisted the needy. At the beginning of her reign, France was struck by a stampede which killed many and left countless others with no money or housing. As an attempt to support these helpless victims, Marie took from her own private spending account and gave a large amount of money to those affected by the stampede. Such an act showed that the queen was in fact generous and caring, and understood that some causes were more important than others. Despite her extreme spending on various luxuries, Marie Antoinette was not as spendthrift and wasteful as she was portrayed to be. Therefore the image of her as being reckless and profligate was merely an over exaggeration, once again used to defame the queen of France proving once again that she was in fact a victim of historical conditions.

Marie Antoinette was also depicted to be irresponsible and careless by propaganda. This is true only to a certain extent. Upon entering the French Royal Court, Marie Antoinette was immature and unprepared to take up her role as dauphine, being only 14 at the time. To make matters worse, she was unappreciated and barely recognized by the nobles due to her status as a “foreign woman”. As well as this she failed to comply with her royal duties, instead spending time playing cards and betting on horses [5] . Eventually becoming rather rebellious in character, the dauphine began to disrupt royal ceremonies, encouraging dislike and disgust from the court. As part of her responsibility as future queen, Marie was expected to make friends with important courtiers. However she denied this obligation and instead went on outings with only a select few friends, not honouring the custom of being surrounded by attendants. Her disregard for royal duty caused the court and public to view her as a negligent future queen [6] . Marie began her life at the French court as a spoiled little Austrian child, not gaining the approval of French people even from the very start. As well as her indifference to royal requirements, Marie Antoinette was considered a reckless spender, giving the court added reason to detest and ignore the future queen. Through close observation of accounts of events as well as actions taken by the queen of France, one can determine that the image of Marie Antoinette as an irresponsible, careless “little girl” is only partly true, and some exaggeration is present in this claim. Such an overstatement showed how Marie Antoinette was victimized prior and during the French Revolution. Therefore, it is noticeable that the propaganda which portrayed the image of Marie Antoinette was based on fact and truth but had an essence of embellishment within in.

Marie Antoinette’s negative portrayal can be seen as too extreme and mildly false stated due to the fact that upon her arrival aristocrats and members of the monarch both presumed their dislike of the queen because of her Austrian heritage. Marie Antoinette’s mingling and constant contact with the Austrian Empire became evidence for the allegation that her allegiance lay with her home country Austria rather than France. During her reign over France, Marie Antoinette was portrayed as untrustworthy and was accused of harbouring sympathy for Frances enemies, including her home town Austria. From the beginning of her marriage, regardless of her portrayal through the libelles, the new queen of France had very little political influence with her husband. The King, who was brought up with anti-Austrian sentiments, blocked many of her proposed candidates from making important decisions. This demand of disallowing Marie and her political companions to make important decisions was made by King Louis-Auguste as well as the Chief Minister Maurepas and Foreign Minister Vergennes. All three were anti Austrian, and were worried about the potential consequence of allowing the queen – and by extension, the Austrian empire – to have any authority in French policy. Such an attitude was reflected in the people of France, and gave opportunity for even more slander and propaganda against the queen [7] . She was portrayed as being too friendly with the Austrian Empire, who at the time was an enemy of France. Even after moving to France, Marie kept in contact with friends and family in Austria. This displeased the King, because at the time Austria and France had a hostile relationship. Due to her relations with Austrians, the public considered her of enemy alliance and created names for her like “Austrian whore”, “The Austrian Woman” and even the “The Ostrich Bitch” (ostrich being a play on words to Austrian). All this debate of where Marie Antoinette stood in terms of national loyalty was over exaggerated in the media and no solid evidence proved that she was indeed on Austria’s side in its aggressive relationship with France [8] . Once again, it is seen that Marie Antoinette’s bad reputation and pessimistic image was all a result of historical circumstances.

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One positive feature of Marie Antoinette’s portrayal prior and during the French Revolution was that she was a great fun-loving mother figure, and at one point generous, beautiful and charitable. These claims were all true to a certain extent; however they soon turned to disapproval when the French Revolution began. Although most of her image was sour and impolite, there were some aspects of Marie Antoinette’s portrayal that were positive. When she first arrived in France, both the middle and lower class admired her for her beauty, charm and care free attitude. The depiction of Marie Antoinette as a fine mother figure was a truthful one, as she was seen to be very caring and loving towards all four children during their life. Although most of her children lived short lives, and experienced horrible deaths, Marie still showed maternal concern and support to all four of them. She is pictured in modest, simple attire, with two of her eldest children at a garden in 1785 and again at their palace in 1787. Such pictures gave support to the claims that she was in fact a fine mother and calmed the constant controversy circling around France. The representation of Marie Antoinette as a first-class mother and a generous and charitable queen is quite opposite to her mainstream image and is one of truth and is based on factual accounts of events [9] . Hence, once can say that this particular characteristic of Marie Antoinette’s rendered image, is true and was one of the very few positive aspects.

Marie Antoinette, dauphine turned final queen of France, was a historical figure portrayed through propaganda prior and during the French revolution. Most of her image was based on rumour, scandal and was used to defame her and taint her perky reputation. When she first arrived in France, she was welcomed and admired by most, although disliked and not accepted by others. She was at first a woman of care free nature, who gave generously and cared immensely for her country. During her reign she became indifferent to royal duties and grew more and more unpopular to the public. Prior the French Revolution she was slandered for having such close relations to France’s enemy, Austria. During the French Revolution she was slurred for spending enormous amounts of money on personal possessions and appearance instead of aiding the needy French citizens. Marie was accused of having multiple affairs with both men and woman, due to the insensibility of her husband King Louis. Most, if not all of these statements, accusations and claims were hardly based on truth of fact, but instead were founded on the basis of rumour, scandal and defamation in an attempt to ruin the image of the once beloved queen. Marie Antoinette, beautiful queen of France was clearly and merely a victim of historical circumstances, who met her fate at the guillotine. Although most of the propaganda that portrayed her image prior and during the French revolution had some aspect of truth, the majority of her image was never proven with evidence or solid fact but instead was spread apathetically and can be deemed as hardly accurate or anything close to reality.


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