During the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette was often portrayed as a vindictive and flirtatious harpy who was actively responsible for the fall of the French royal family. The French people viewed their queen as a “spy-whore” intent on ruining France and the Revolution from within. Most of the “evidence” against her that led to her eventual execution, however, was based on pure rumor that was fueled by anti-monarchy propaganda found in libelles, newspapers, and pamphlets. Scandalous events, such as the still infamous Diamond Necklace Affair, gave rise to the negative ideas about the queen. Marie Antoinette’s public behavior and complete disregard for the royal traditions of France did nothing to boost public opinion of her. Even today questions surrounding this once prominent figure are left unanswered: Who was the real Marie Antoinette? What really led to her demise? Does contemporary pop-culture portray her accurately? Primary sources that are both sympathetic and unsympathetic toward the queen are weighed to answer these questions. This presentation attempts to show Marie Antoinette in a more accurate light. It also shows that neither Marie Antoinette nor the French people can be held completely responsible for her down fall. This presentation also looks at modern interpretations of Marie Antoinette in films such as Sofia Coppola’s 2006 Marie Antoinette. By looking all of these sources, the true circumstances behind Marie Antoinette’s demise and her role in the French Revolution can be seen.
Kristin Jauch, ’09 Castle Rock, CO
Sponsor: Robert Givens