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on 2 August 2017
Brilliant book. I never knew much about the subject before and I was very shocked by her story. Just another victim of the Patriarchy!
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on 15 October 2014
Another Antoina Frazer. I wish it had been written by a more straight forward writer. nice pictures though. Antonia Frazer writes as though she has plums in her mouth !
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on 16 May 2017
Book was in perfect condition and so I am very pleased with my purchase. I like the books by this author.
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on 18 September 2016
Good read not a subject I usually read but worth a read
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on 22 July 2012
I had many issues with this book. I bought Antonia Fraser's book based on many of the positive reviews I read here and because I found the subject of Marie Antoinette fascinating, but I had little background in French history, in general, or the French Revolution, in particular. This caused quite a problem.

First, readers like me should be forewarned that if they do not have this historical background as I mentioned above, they will have a hard time following some of the background events. Antonia Fraser assumes the reader is educated in all this history, so she casually mentions people and events without giving any context or background information. Among other examples, I had to research the Diamond Necklace episode from other sources, because I could not tell from Fraser's book exactly what happened, in what context it was happening or what the real political problem was and why she was blamed for all this. Thankfully, I read Deborah Cadbury's book The Lost King of France: The Tragic Story of Marie-Antoinette's Favourite Son right after and gained a much clearer and concise overview of this event and the whole of the French Revolution, for that matter. Furthermore, her writing style is unclear and she often mentions the numerous family and courtiers surrounding Marie Antoinette without reminding us who they are and how they are relevant. Again, the author assumes we know all this.

Second, I too, felt that the author was quite apologetic for all of Marie Antoinette's weaknesses and problems. All are explained away as being the result of youth, bad education, a strict mother, few friends, ostracism from politics, etc...She is never forced to assume responsibility for herself or for the country of which she is Queen. In truth, the Court of Versailles was out of touch with the realities of French society and the severe economic problems that were plaguing it. The unpopularity and ultimate execution of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette must be seen in this context, but here Antonia Fraser fails us. Until the end, she is consistently excused for everything, some external injustice being committed against her. That is not to say that she deserved to have her head cut off, but it is important to have a more balanced perspective on just who she was and represented and what she had done as monarch of France.

Third, along the same lines as above, Fraser consistently presents Marie Antoinette as noble, graceful, and caring to all who encounter her. In fact, she often goes out of her way to present her like this, by explaining away many of the inconsistencies that might alter this picture. She does this by presupposing thoughts, feelings, and even actions on the part of many of the people surrounding Marie Antoinette and on the Queen herself.

All that being said, however, it is clear that Antonia Fraser has given us a much broader view of Marie Antoinette than history has provided us until now. We can see from where she came, her childhood and education, and her life at the court of Versailles. This context helps us to understand more fully why she behaved in such a manner and does give a more complete picture of Marie Antoinette in all her roles as wife, mother, and Queen. It seems that Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette came to love and rely on each other, and their last years together are touching and poignant. I enjoyed this private look into her life, but due to the deficiencies above I can only give it three stars.
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on 22 June 2001
I have read every single book published in England about Marie Antoinette, and I think Antonia Fraser has done the impossible. Every other book is written 'in the shadow of the guillotine'. Ms Fraser removes this. The young Arch-Duchess Antonia had no idea of her fate until the last few years of her life, and as a result of the way this book is written, we see the young Dauphine Marie Antoinette as a warmand loving princess, who longed to serve her adopted country and cared greatly about the poverty and suffering she saw around her. None of this impressed the frivolous French courtiers who were only too happy to criticize the Austrian Princess. Antonia Fraser also consigns to the wastepaper basket of history the comment, 'Let them eat cake'. Antoinette never said it: it has long been known that this remark was made by Marie Therese, the dim-witted wife of Louis XIV, and was resurrected by those who wished to weaken the monarchy still further. Antoinette's marital difficulties are not smoothed over, but again, Antonia Fraser removes the myth of the 'petit operation' which was said to have been performed before Louis XVI could make his queen a mother. Yes, Marie Antoinette was frivolous as a young woman, but aren't most young women of 14-20? As soon as she became a mother, as she had long wanted to be, her concerns changed and she became a mature and much more sensible woman. She supported her husband and family throughout the terrible traumas of the Revolution, and her courage and dignity in the face of the guillotine make her worthy to be the daughter of Empress Maria Theresa. This is, without doubt,the best biography of Marie Antoinette I have read.
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on 19 March 2003
A biography of Marie Antoinette is a bit of an old chestnut, like Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Jackie O, there can't be much more to say - or can there? In the case of this book, I would answer a resounding yes!
If you are looking for a sensational soap storyline, if you want to climb the hill of false indignation of reviling someone who apparently told the starving to eat cake, you'll be disappointed. Fraser debunks the myths that the gullible and small minded seem to find so satisfying. Very few people, if any, are all bad or all good and that holds true throughout the years and centuries.
We can never know fully what it is like to be in someone else's shoes, but I suspect that this gentle, engaging and ultimately enthralling book is about as good as it gets.
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on 9 June 2008
This is the first of Antonia Fraser's historical biographies that I have read and on the strength of it I have already bought her biography on Henry the Eighth and his six wives and I intend to buy more. I absolutely adored the way this book was written, she sets the scene in such a realistic way that you can almost hear the baying of the angry mobs and smell the stench of the prison where Marie spends the last of her days.

Some historical biographies get too bogged down in historical data, quoting endless facts, dates and figures until you feel your brain can hold no more. This is the perfect biography in that it gives you the important information you need in order to understand the causes and effects of the revolution, yet the book never forgets the main subject which is Marie A herself. This book charts her course from a naïve, slightly uneducated child, pawn in her mother's imperial game into the most hated woman in all of France. This book succeeds in cutting through the gossip and anecdotes of the time, which haunt Marie A to this day, and gives her a human face. Yes she was flawed, but in this account we find some of the reasons behind her faults and ultimately come to see her as misguided rather than a bad person.

If this book has a flaw, it is that Antonia Fraser is maybe TOO sympathetic to Marie, in parts of the book you nearly feel like she is making excuses for all of Marie's bad behaviour rather than admitting when she was at fault. However this is the only flaw I could find in this book. Her descriptions of life at Versailles are truly stunning. I particularly enjoyed her description of the pomp and ceremony involved just in getting Marie dressed every morning! Overall, if you want a historical biography with flowing prose and true heart, then you will not find better than this one. I for one came away from the book with a new understanding of probably the most misunderstood woman in history.
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on 16 October 2011
I read several books about the French Revolution and the story of Marie Antoinette, I found this particular one very informative but not historically very objective. Fraser seems more concerned with rescuing the figure of the Queen from the allegations and violence she had been exposed to, than with considering events from an historian's perspective. I appreciate Fraser's attempt to rescue a female figure who has been appointed as the scapegoat for centuries of wrong doings, however this one- sided portrait of Marie Antoinette is deceiving. I found 'The Last Queen of France' by Evelyne Lever a less pretentious, much more complete and better documented biography of Marie Antoinette.
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on 27 July 2002
This is a superb book - it lays bare the soul of a woman who was much maligned yet remained imperious and brave to the end. The causes of the French Revolution are brought to life vividly and Antonia Fraser is always informative but never boring.
The life at the Court of Versailles is described with amazing detail along with the young Dauphine's wretched unhappy early marriage to a man who had little interest in her and didn't consumate his marriage for over seven years!
The abortive escape attempt to Varennes and the captivity endured by the Royal Family culminating in their tragic end makes gripping reading and the diabolical behaviour of the "sans culottes" and Robespierre's Reign of Terror gives cause for much thought. I would heartily recommend this book - it will shed an entirely new light on the tragic young queen.
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