Family life in Vienna, the wedding at Versailles, the French court, boredom, hypocrisy, loneliness, allies, enemies, extravagant entertainment, scandal, intrigue, sex, birth and bereavement, lovers, peasant riots, the fall of the Bastille, the attack on Versailles, confinement in the Tuileries, escape and capture, mob rule in Paris, imprisonment, the guillotine . . .
In Maria Antoinette Evelyne Lever tells the sumptuous story of the last—and most infamous—queen of France. Married off at fourteen by her ruthless mother for political purposes to the unprepossessing Dauphin, the future Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette was immature, brazenly self-indulgent, impetuous and wholly unprepared for the role history cast for her. Her sad attempts to consummate her marriage read like bedroom farce, and she did little to quell the rumors of her increasingly dangerous liaisons. Bolstered by the staged receptions that she mistook for popular approval, she was willfully out of touch with the nation's dire economic troubles, the seething social and political climate of pre-Revolutionary France, and eventually retreated—from both her husband and the public—behind a wall of courtiers and into a world of opulent fantasy—until it was too late.
Based on diaries, court documents and memoirs, Marie Antoinette paints vivid portraits of the Queen, her inner circle and the lavish court life at Versailles. Here are the formidable Empress Maria Teresa of Austria, using her daughter Antonia, as Marie Antoinette was called, to realize her own ambitious for the Habsburg empire; the legendary Madame du Barry, lover of Louis XV, whom Marie Antoinette vowed never to address; the dashing Count Axel Fersen, heir to one of the most powerful Swedish families and the grand passion of Marie Antoinette's life; and the inept and hapless Dauphin, a ruler incapable of action even as he watched the monarchy collapse around him.
From Marie Antoinette's birth in Vienna in 1755 through her turbulent, unhappy marriage, the bloody turmoil of the French Revolution, her trail for high treason (during which she was accused of incest) and her final beheading, Lever weaves a tragic tale of power and its abuse, and an unforgettable tapestry of life in eighteenth-century France.
"Marvelous . . . [a] fine new biography."—Francine Du Plessix Gray, The New Yorker
"Evocative . . . The most important contribution to the subject since the early part of the century."—The Times Literary Supplement
"[Lever] shines a penetrating light on the opulent Versailles subculture . . . This is an absorbing work of meticulous scholarship and easily supplants any recent biographies of the tragic queen."—Library Journal
"This spicy, unsparing chronicle reads as both a brainy bodice ripper and a fascinating morality tale."—Entertainment Weekly
"A tempered and very accessible account . . . a valuable reassessment of a notorious life."—Booklist