When it comes to extravagant adulation, today’s selfie-obsessed celebrities have nothing on Marie-Antoinette, the Austrian-born Dauphine of France from 1770 to 1774, when she married the man who would become Louis XVI, and the Queen of France and Navarre between 1774 and 1792.
Her remarkable life story is told chronologically in this neat, compact and visually strong biography. Delalex makes excellent use of personal correspondence, lavish illustrations and the details of the furniture and ornaments in Marie-Antoinette’s lavish boudoir, plus a wealth of unpublished material. The book runs from Marie-Antoinette being cheered upon arriving by carriage at Versailles, where she was caught up in a whirlwind of royal extravagance, to her tragically early death via guillotine, which made her a ‘martyr queen’.
The author, who works as the heritage conservation manager at the Palace of Versailles, does an excellent job of tracing her subject’s passion for fashion and lavish décor, as well as her love of bucolic country life at the Petit Trianon, which sits in the grounds of the estate – including many telling details, such as that Marie-Antoinette happily played shepherdess in her toy theatre while Revolutionary chaos reigned across the capital.
A Day with Marie-Antoinette by Hélène Delalex. List price: $34.95. Published by Flammarion.
From France Today magazine