Jean Paul Marat

Jean-Paul Marat (May 24, 1743 – July 13, 1793), was a Swiss-born French physician, philosopher, political theorist and scientist best known as a radical journalist and politician from the French Revolution. His journalism was renowned for its fiery character and uncompromising stance towards the new government, "enemies of the revolution" and basic reforms for the poorest members of society. His persistent persecution, consistent voice and uncanny predictive powers brought him the trust of the people and made him the main bridge between them and the radical Jacobin group that came to power in June 1793. For two short months, leading up to the downfall of the Girondin faction in June, he was one of the three most important men in France, alongside Danton and Robespierre. He was stabbed to death in his bathtub by the Girondin sympathizer Charlotte Corday. More


The affair of the necklace

A con artist called Jeanne de Saint-Rémy de Valois conceived of a plan to use necklace to gain wealth and possibly power and royal patronage. A descendant of a bastard of Henry II of France, Jeanne de Valois had after many affairs married a soi-disant (so-called) comte de Lamotte, and lived on a small pension which the king granted her.

In March 1784 she entered into relations with Louis René Édouard, cardinal de Rohan the former ambassador to Vienna. The Cardinal was regarded with displeasure by Marie Antoinette, having revealed some of her secrets to Maria Theresa of Austria, the Empress of the Holy Roman Empire and Marie Antoinette's mother, bringing a maternal reprimand. The Queen also learned of a letter in which the Cardinal spoke lightly of Maria Theresa in a way that offended Marie Antoinette.

At the time the Cardinal was attempting to regain the favour of the queen in his quest for the position of Prime Minister of France. Valois persuaded him that she had been received by the Queen and enjoyed her favour, and Rohan resolved to use her to regain the Queen's goodwill. The comtesse de Lamotte assured the cardinal that she was making efforts on his behalf.

This was the beginning of an alleged correspondence between Rohan and the queen, the adventuress duly returning replies to Rohan's notes, which she affirmed had come from the queen. The tone of the letters became very warm, and the cardinal, convinced that Marie-Antoinette was in love with him, became ardently enamoured of her. He begged the countess to obtain a secret interview for him with the queen, and a meeting took place in August 1784 in a grove in the garden at Versailles between him and a lady whom the cardinal believed to be the queen herself. This lady was a prostitute called Nicole Leguay who bore some resemblance to the Queen. Rohan offered her a rose, and she promised him that she would forget their past disagreements.

The Jeanne Valois de Lamotte took advantage of the Cardinal's conviction, by borrowing from him sums of money destined ostensibly for the queen’s works of charity. Enriched by these, the countess was able to take an honourable place in society, and many persons believed her relations with Marie Antoinette, of which she boasted openly and unreservedly, to be genuine.

In any case the jewellers Boehmer and Bassenge believed in the relations of the countess with the queen, and they resolved to use her to sell their necklace. She at first refused their commission, then accepted it.

On January 21, 1785 the Countess de Lamotte announced that the queen would buy the necklace, but that not wishing to openly buy such an expensive thing, she would use a high person as an intermediary. A little while later Rohan came to negotiate the purchase of the famous necklace for the 1,600,000 livres, payable in installments. He claimed to have the queen's authorization, and showed the jewellers the conditions of the bargain approved in the handwriting of Marie Antoinette. Rohan took the necklace to the countess' house, where a man, in whom Rohan believed he recognized a valet of the queen, came to fetch it.

Shortly afterwards, the comtesse de Lamotte appears to have started at once for London, it is said with the necklace, which she broke up in order to sell the stones.
When the time came to pay, the Comtesse de Lamotte presented the cardinal's notes; but these were insufficient, and Boehmer complained to the queen, who told him that she had received no necklace and had never ordered it. She had the story of the negotiations repeated for her. Then followed a coup de théâtre. On August 15, 1785, Assumption Day, when the whole court was awaiting the king and queen in order to go to the chapel, the Cardinal de Rohan, who was preparing to officiate, was taken before, among others, the king, the queen, the Minister of the Court Breteuil and the Keeper of the Seal Miromesnil to explain himself. Rohan produced a (forged) letter signed by "Marie-Antoinette de France" that the King read. The King became furious and couldn't understand how Rohan, a prince, could have let himself been fooled by such a forgery; no royal would sign "de France". Rohan was arrested and taken to the Bastille. He was able, however, to destroy the correspondence exchanged, as he thought, with the queen, and it is not known whether there was any connivance of the officials, who did not prevent this, or not. The comtesse de Lamotte was not arrested until August 18, 1785, after having destroyed her papers.
The police set to work to find all her accomplices, and arrested the prostitute Nicole Leguay and a certain Rétaux de Villette, a friend of the comtesse, who confessed that he had written the letters given to Rohan in the queen's name, and had imitated her signature on the conditions of the bargain. The famous charlatan Cagliostro was also arrested, but it was recognised that he had taken no part in the affair.

The cardinal de Rohan accepted the parlement of Paris as judges. A sensational trial resulted (May 31, 1786) in the acquittal of the cardinal, of the girl Oliva and of Cagliostro. The Comtesse de Lamotte was condemned to be whipped, branded and shut up in the prostitutes' prison, the Salpêtrière, but the whipping and branding were not executed, and she escaped from prison in June of the following year. Her husband was condemned, in his absence, to the galleys for life. Villette was banished.

Public opinion was much excited by this trial. Most historians come to the conclusion that Marie Antoinette was relatively blameless in the matter, that Rohan was an innocent dupe, and that the Lamottes deceived both for their own ends. This was also broadly the finding of the Paris Parlement, although they did not comment on the actions of the Queen.

Many people in France persisted in the belief that the queen had used the countess as an instrument to satisfy her hatred of the cardinal de Rohan. Various circumstances fortified this belief, which contributed to render Marie Antoinette very unpopular -- her disappointment at Rohan's acquittal and the fact that he was deprived of his charges and exiled to the abbey of la Chaise-Dieu. The Parliament's acquittal of Rohan also pointed to an assumption that Marie Antoinette was somehow in the wrong.

The Countess de Lamotte took refuge in London and published her Mémoires in which she accused the queen and recounted additinal calumnies which include made up stories of sexual affairs with the Queen.

The affair of the necklace was important propaganda against the French monarchy in the years before the Revolution. Marie Antoinette was an unpopular figure, and salacious gossip about her made her even more of a liability to her husband. She was never able to shake off the idea in the public imagination that she had perpetrated a multi-million livre fraud for her own political ends.

Affair of the Necklace

My daughter Geneviève told me I would hate this film. She was right, it is offensive in every detail. The story line is stilted to make the "heroine" appear as the agrieved party, instead of a prostitute whose machinations pulled the monarchy down.
Here is movie review of this stinker. Another review of the film is here

I refuse to put Hilary Swank on my blog so you will have to go to the link.

This film would make Stalin proud.

The true story of Axel von Fersen part 3

Much has been made of the letters Marie-Antoinette wrote to her friend Count Esterhazy, and the ring which she sent to Fersen via Esterhazy. In August 1791, after the failure of the escape to Montmedy, the royal couple were isolated and cut off from news about relatives and friends since Fersen, the principle channel for conveying the news, had been silent for almost two months. The Swedish count was in Vienna at King Gustavus’ request on a secret mission, consulting with the Emperor about the possible rescue of the French royal family. The queen wrote to Esterhazy: "If you write to him (Fersen) be sure to tell him that many leagues and many countries can never separate hearts: I feel this truth more everyday.” In September 1791, the queen sent Esterahzy two gold rings which, according to Webster, bore the motto: Domine, salve fac regem et regina. (God save the king and the queen.) Other authors say the motto was Lâche qui les abandonne. (Coward be the one who lets them down.)more

The truth about le Comte von Fersen

Authors such as Simone Bertiere, Philippe Delorme, and Nesta Webster make it clear that although Marie-Antoinette might have been in love with Count Axel von Fersen at some point, there is no proof of what may have been in the depths her heart. Certainly, there is no evidence of an extramarital affair, and to over speculate on the queen's personal feelings is to violate the sanctuary of the human heart. Whatever her sentiments, they did not interfere with her duties as wife, mother, and queen. Adultery for a queen of France was high treason and if any of her many enemies at court discovered such a situation, had it existed, Louis XVI would have been forced to take her children away from her and banish her to a convent. Even the most basic knowledge of her temperament suggests that she was devoted to her children and would never have risked being separated from them. Those who claim that Louis XVI “knew” about his wife’s “affair” with Fersen, but looked the other way, are ignoring the moral scruples and religious principles of the roi tres chretien. He would never have permitted the mother of his children to carry on with another man, as the Giraults de Coursacs make clear in their writings. More


The true story of Axel von Fersen

Elena Maria Vidal printed an article some time ago in Tea at trianon about le Compte Von Fersen, which is most thoroughly researched. He was a true friend to the Royal family and a most dear friend to Madame Royale in her exile. ..."No greater love hath any man, than one who would lay down his life for another."

It starts...

The Fersen Legend, Part 1

Too often in the many articles about Marie-Antoinette that have surfaced in the last year due to the Coppola film, Count Axel von Fersen is referred to as the "queen's lover" or as her "probable lover." It is repeatedly disregarded that there is not a scrap of reliable historical evidence that Count Fersen and Marie-Antoinette were anything but friends, and that he was as much her husband’s friend as he was hers. People are free to speak of Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour as “lovers” since they openly lived together for many years. But to speak that way of Marie-Antoinette, who was known for her purity among her circle of close friends, of whom a courtier said: "Her soul was as white as her face," (Vincent Cronin's Louis and Antoinette) who lost her life because she chose to stay at her husband’s side, is the height of irresponsibility.

The Swedish nobleman was in the service of his sovereign King Gustavus III and Count Fersen’s presence at the French court needs to be seen in the light of that capacity. The Swedish King was a devoted friend of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette and Gustavus, even more than the queen’s Austrian relatives, worked to aid the King and Queen of France in their time of trouble. Fersen was the go-between in the various top secret plans to help Louis XVI regain control of his kingdom and escape from the clutches of his political enemies. The diplomatic intrigues that went on behind the scenes are more interesting than any imaginary romance. (The queen’s relationship with her husband is more interesting as well.) However, books and movies continue to add this sensationalism to the queen’s life, as if anything could be more sensational than the reality. Serious modern and contemporary scholars, however, such as Paul and Pierrette Girault de Coursac, Hilaire Belloc, Nesta Webster, Simone Bertiere, Philippe Delorme, Jean Chalon, Desmond Seward, and Simon Schama are unanimous in saying that there is no conclusive evidence to prove that Marie-Antoinette violated her marriage vows by dallying with Count Fersen.