Marie Antoinette

  • England, 1981 (Constable, History Book Club)
  • USA, 1982 (St Martin’s Press, History Book Club of America)
  • Translation, 1983, German (Knaur)


Giddy and extravagant, Marie Antoinette came to France as a child-bride from Austria, France’s traditional enemy, but the hatred she aroused was out of all proportion to her faults.It was not the sansculottes who first called her ‘L’Autrichienne’ or accused her of lesbianism: the campaign of vilification and scurrilous ballads originated among the nobility, even the royal family. Posterity sees her as foolish, immoral and devious, as a meddler in politics who unduly influenced her husband, the amiable and incompetent Louis XVI. Re-examining correspondence and memoirs, Desmond Seward finds a different Marie Anttoinette: strong-minded, religious, devotedly maternal, surrounded by enemies, forced by her husband’s lethargy to intrigue as best she could to save the monarchy. She failed, but could any woman have done better in Revolutionary France? This biography tells the perennially fascinating drama of Marie Antoinette’s life, from the pleasure-filled early years at the Petit Trianon to the terror and humiliation of her imprisonment with her family, and the dignity with which she faced death.

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Reviews of: Marie Antoinette

  • A well written, understanding and sympathetic study and if one may doubt that the last word on his wayward heroine has been spoken, the case for her defence has rarely been presented with such skill and conviction.

    Christopher Hibbert, Spectator
  • Mr Seward’s history is sound, his narrative sparkles; and this vivid account of Marie Antoinette is recommended warmly.

    Sir Philip Magnus, The Daily Telegraph