Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Indomitable Spirit of Marie Antoinette: A Guest Post from Ginger Myrick

Please welcome Ginger Myrick, who has recently penned a historical horror novel involving one of the most famous queens of France...

Marie Antoinette is often thought of as a victim, and indeed she became a scapegoat for all of France’s ills, but many people don’t realize what a strong woman she actually was. She was daughter to the Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa, a steely woman and ruler in her own right, who governed her empire with a formidable hand.

The Empress ran her family life with the same no-nonsense attitude, raising her children to be obedient in the extreme and acutely aware of their positions and duties. Maria Antonia was the fifteenth child and youngest girl, and was married into the French royal family at the tender age of fourteen. During these early years of her residence in France, Marie Antoinette was docile and eager to please. She was so overwhelmed at her circumstance—being in a foreign court with strange new rituals and no friends to speak of—that she did all that was asked of her. But eventually she began to chafe at the demands placed upon her and blossomed into her own person.

Four years after her marriage to the Dauphin of France, her husband was made Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette became Queen. In matters of government, after too many occasions when her husband ruled in direct opposition to her suggestions, Marie Antoinette decided to forgo her fruitless dabbling in politics in favor of the personal aspects of her life she could better control. She was now the Queen of France, and no one would dictate her comportment any longer.

For the duration of her residence in France, she had been slave to the strict system of etiquette in place at Versailles. She had never quite understood its necessity and always viewed it, and its enforcer, the Comtesse de Noailles—her Mistress of the Household whom she had mischievously nicknamed Madame Etiquette—with a considerable amount of disdain. The woman had been a necessary evil for a young foreign teenager hard-pressed to learn the new ways of her adopted country, but that rationale no longer applied. The Queen replaced the “old bundle” with her friend, the Princesse de Lamballe, leaving her young circle of intimates with no one to reprimand them. This was the first step toward establishing her own personality—and authority—and she continued to do as she pleased although not always for the sake of pleasure, which is a common misconception.

Marie Antoinette broke with tradition for sake of her children, which was the biggest motivation behind decisions later in her life that some people construed as rebellious. When her first child was born, it turned out to be a girl and not the anticipated Dauphin. The new mother was reported to have said, “Poor little girl. You are not what was desired, but you are no less dear to me.” She went on to prove her devotion to the baby, even managing to nurse the child for a few months after her birth, which was unheard of and absolutely would not have been allowed had the child been male. She took the little girl with her to le Petit Trianon away from the unhealthy air of Versailles as often as she could, and when the keenly awaited Dauphin eventually arrived, she did the same with him. She even played a part in her children’s education, which was also not done with royal offspring.

Then, during the turmoil of the pre-revolutionary years, her husband, Louis XVI, began to suffer from the pressures of his position. He broke down on several occasions and was unable to attend important meetings with opposing factions. Although the Queen had previously been shut out of politics, now that the monarchy was threatened—and the security of her children’s positions within in it—she took the King’s place and did her best, despite her limited knowledge in this complicated sphere of royal responsibility.

Regardless of her noble efforts, the royal family’s lives came under serious threat. When urged by Louis XVI himself to take their children and go, Marie Antoinette refused to leave him. She stayed by his side during the troubles, even separating herself in her apartments at Versailles to reduce the risk to other members of her family when the palace was besieged by an angry mob. As evidence of the people’s hatred of their foreign queen, the rabble slew her guards, broke into her quarters, and hacked her bed to pieces, yet the Queen still had the composure to flee with her two ladies down a secret corridor to the safety of the King’s rooms.

The next morning the revolutionaries escorted the royal family to Paris under the watchful eye of the Garde Nationale. They were now prisoners, but the Queen was still not resigned to their fate. She learned code and continued to correspond with Axel von Fersen and made several plans of escape, unwilling to enact one unless the entire family could go as a unit. Finally they attempted it but were caught 40 miles from their destination and forced to return to Paris, where she continued to work toward preserving the monarchy for her remaining son, Dauphin Louis-Charles.

Eventually, even that slim hope was extinguished. The revolutionaries took Louis-Charles away from her in July of 1792. Soon after, she was removed from the Tower—where she yet shared the comfort of her daughter and sister-in-law—to the Conciergerie where she was utterly alone. But still, she would not break.

The trial to decide her fate was announced, and it was clear she would be made a sacrifice to the cause. At this point she might have given up, but she regarded the trial as a way to erase the stain on her reputation from years of scorn heaped upon it by an entire nation. Here was the chance to finally have her say, to defend her actions and leave her children the memory of a loving mother untouched by the hateful bias of the masses. She was given little time to prepare but defended herself admirably at the trial, even evoking a sympathetic response when she appealed to the women in the room after being accused of incest by her prosecuters. When she went to her death, it was with such dignity that witnesses called it haughtiness, disdain, or arrogance, but none dared say she lacked courage.

In my latest release, INSATIABLE: A MACABRE HISTORY OF FRANCE ~ L'AMOUR: MARIE ANTOINETTE, I've added one more complication to the mix; a mysterious plague causing a sinister transformation in the residents of Paris. In this work of alternate history, the Queen handles the unforeseen circumstance with the same steely aplomb that ruled her actions in documented historical accounts. The eBook editions of INSATIABLE (Kindle and Nook) are currently on sale for an introductory price of $2.99 and are available at:

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for hosting me on Book Babe, Tara. It makes me smile to have a post on such a badass site. Rock on, strong woman, rock on!