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The Wicked Queen: The Origins of the Myth of Marie-Antoinette [Paperback]

Chantal Thomas , Julie Rose
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 24 2001

In The Wicked Queen, Chantal Thomas presents the history of the mythification of one of the most infamous queens in all history, whose execution still fascinates us today. Almost as soon as Marie-Antoinette, archduchess of Austria, was brought to France as the bride of Louis XVI in 1771, she was smothered in images. In a monarchy increasingly under assault, the charm and horror of her feminine body and her political power as a foreign intruder turned Marie-Antoinette into an alien other. Marie-Antoinette's mythification, argues Thomas, must be interpreted as the misogynist demonization of women's power and authority in revolutionary France.In a series of pamphlets written from the 1770s until her death in 1793, Marie-Antoinette is portrayed as a spendthrift, a libertine, an orgiastic lesbian, and a poisoner and infant murderess. In her analyses of these pamphlets, seven of which appear here in translation for the first time, Thomas reconstructs how the mounting hallucinatory and libelous discourse culminated in the inevitable destruction of what had become the counterrevolutionary symbol par excellence. The Wicked Queen exposes the elaborate process by which the myth of Marie-Antoinette emerged as a crucial element in the successful staging of the French Revolution.


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From Library Journal

Ignore the subtitle at your peril! This is strictly a study of the portrayal of Marie-Antoinette in contemporary propaganda pamphlets, particularly those emphasizing her supposed sexual proclivities. This unique approach produces some thought-provoking points. Whether the subject warrants a book-length study is, however, questionable. Thomas, the author of two studies of libertinage published in France, argues that these pamphlets do not reflect the reality of the queen's conduct. This is self-evident in our sophisticated age and was probably fairly apparent even in the 18th century. The book is filled out with digressions, a useful chronology of Marie-Antoinette's life, an annotated cast of characters, and reprints of seven of the pamphlets. The tone is uneven, mixing obscure sociological jargon with the crudest street language. Recommended only for the largest academic or research libraries collecting in French history or propaganda.AJean E.S. Storrs, Enoch Pratt Free Lib., Baltimore
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Revolutionary agitation is always most effective when outrage can be concentrated on an individual or one class of people. Our Declaration of Independence demonized George III, though the colonists' real dispute was with a faction of Parliament. As a foreigner with a knack for putting her foot in her mouth, French queen Marie-Antoinette was an inviting target for agitators. Thomas, who has specialized in examining the mass culture of eighteenth-century France, does not attempt to find the "real" Marie-Antoinette. Rather, her target is the queen's detractors, who carried on a campaign of vilification and distortion, primarily via pamphlets, which contributed substantially to the undermining of the monarchy. The campaign began soon after Marie-Antoinette's arrival in France and continued with increasing intensity until her execution. She was variously accused of nymphomania, lesbianism, incest, and insensitive frivolity. This is an unusual and interesting examination of a primitive but quite effective effort at mass political indoctrination. Jay Freeman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Marie Antoinette out of Context April 12 2003
Format:Hardcover
Unfortunately publishers feel that a book on Marie Antoinette will sell every couple years, so like clockwork we see an avalanche of pro royalist, sympathetic, out of context garbage. Most of them repeat the same legends...They base their accounts of the flight to Varennes on Carlyle and talk about her martydom...With the exception of Le Notre not one of her biographers has also done a biography of one of the leaders of the Revolution. Most demonstrate an alarming lack of understanding of basic events such as the the Bread March on Verseilles, September Massacres, the Necklace Affair or even how official Court appointment were made.
This is the first book in sometime that has put Marie Antoinette back into the context of her time...unfortunately for Royalist Mythology she was commonly referred to as the Austrian .... By her actions she precipitated the Revolution...she was provocative and weak...a flammable combination.
As for the reader who's sensibilities are offended by the "riding the penis" cartoon...you obviously haven't seen the several thousand cartoons of time that are available...the one you refer to IS tame...you should see the ones where she is dressed like a nun....You should also read the pamphlets sold at the Palais Royale...
While Hebert did indeed make things up in her indictment, it is hard to get around the fact that she has to shoulder a lot of responsibility for the revolution...
I recommend this book as one of the best books on Marie Antoinette in last 20 years...it has also prompted me to seek out the author.
I think the book is well researched, devoid of sentimentality and attempts to place Marie Antoinette back into the context of the tapestry of her times.
Michael La Vean
Fellow, International Napoleonic Society
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1.0 out of 5 stars Pointless... Aug. 2 2000
Format:Hardcover
Another book regarding Marie Antoinette, hmmmm, the Queen must be experiencing a revival of popularity? Too bad she isn't here to enjoy it (sarcasm). I'd first like to comment that I was shocked when I read the publisher's review of this book. Friends, Marie Antoinette was not betrothed to Louis XV, but his grandson, Louis XVI. She did not come to France in 1771, but 1770. How embarrassed you should be! How poorly you serve both author and subject! As to that author, Chantal Thomas: while it is indeed unique to devote an entire book on the pamphlets and propaganda used as an attack on the monarchy through the reputation of the Queen, I hardly think it necessary. The subject matter makes an interesting college thesis, nothing more. The slander and hatred directed at Marie Antoinette, its effects on the monarchy's demise, blah, blah, blah, have been adequately covered by numerous authors, notably Simon Schama in his wonderful account of the French Revolution, "Citizens".
Stanley Loomis, Andre Castelot, and many more biographers of the Queen have all made clear the nature and consequences of "The Pamphlets". I resent when an author is lauded with praise for a "discovery" that was hardly their's! The pamphlets are kept in a special room of the Archives called "l'enfer", a name which aptly describes its contents. I have a laundry list of biographers and scholars who have made use of the same documents kept there just as Thomas has. These printed attacks on the Queen and their importance in any understanding of Marie Antoinette or the French Revolution have long been recognized. Really. Printing a few examples of this filth and belaboring the point does not a scholar make. It's a pity that publishers and authors don't read these consumer reviews... Please, wake me from my sleep when something truly new, and relevatory is published about Marie Antoinette.
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By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I thought this book was thought provoking and sencible. It is about the painful struggle of Marie Antionette, queen of France and what her people thought of her. I strongly suggest that who ever is interrested in her life and the people around her read this book for research or just for fun. I had to submit a report on Marie and her life and influencial expansion. I am a third year college student at UMass and I recieved a B+ on my paper in French History seminar/class. I got the most of my reserch in this book and found it a little shocking,to say the least. Most of the book talks about her life and the leading up time to her reign as queen. It speaks specifically of how she was misrepresented and blaimed for incidents beyond her control. My personal favorite chapter is that of chapter six when the reader learns of her blaim in her husband being unable to father her children. If you have an important report to write, I strongly recommend this book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Porn with a pretty cover! Jan. 13 2000
Format:Hardcover
I have long been obsessed with Marie Antoinette. I am, in fact, writing a book set in the court of Louis XVI. You can imagine my delight when I was informed about the pending release of Ms. Thomas's book. I had hoped her book would provide many examples of libel against the queen. I was hoping this book would detail who wrote what and when. I found this book to be an excuse to print a lot of nasty words. Ms. Thomas's views, while educated, were tired and repeated over and over again. Nothing in this book was thought-provoking or fresh. It did not illuminate or entertain. Very little was devoted to the effects of the words against the queen. How did this effect MA emotionally, physically? What did it do to the marriage of the King and Queen? What were the long-term impacts of these libelous ditty's? How did they effect journalism as we know it today? How did they contribute to the Revolution? All in all, a disappointment.
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