Marie Antoinette, as a letter, wrote this piece of literature to her mother. It was written in 1773, and since Marie was born in 1755, this would make her the age of 18, or the prime of her youth. The letter shows the excitement of a young queen-to-be showing her appreciation…first, of the letters that she received from her mother and secondly, telling her mother of her travels and her trip to Paris in particular.
She describes her joy and excitement of meeting the citizens, but pays specific attention to the peasants of Paris. The letter serves as written proof or documentation of the demeanor of the citizens, perhaps a glimpse of how neighboring territories may have felt towards Marie Antoinette. Since it was a letter written by her, it also gives us the reader, an idea of what Marie may have been like by noting the tone, attitude, and style of her writing.
This gives us the reader, excellent insight of what her character may have been like.
Who is the author of this document? What is his/her social position (this could include age, gender, ethnicity, social class, political position, insider/outsider, or anything else that strongly influenced their sense of “place” in society)? Which line of text best indicates how the author views or wishes to present him/herself?
Marie Antoinette wrote this letter herself, and in this moment she would have been at a high political standing having just married Louis Auguste in 1770.
She is, of course, a female and a young woman who is about to take the throne in the following year when Louis XV dies. She was of Austrian decent and her father was the Holy Roman Emperor and her mother was the Empress of Austria. Born with a silver spoon in her mouth despite being one of fifteen children, she was married off to one of the most powerful empires in Europe.
As a woman in that era, Marie Antoinette is monumental because she seemed to be more similar to a contemporary 21st century woman that we find today. On many accounts, it is recorded that she stays up well into the night exploring the nightlife of her empire and sleeps well into the afternoon. In the letter, Marie writes to her mother that the dauphin (Louis XVI) and herself told the guards not to harm the citizens that were surrounding and crowding upon their arrival. I believe this line shows her kindness and mercifulness towards her people. Just the fact that she is overjoyed from receiving the love of her followers shows how human she is despite being in such a high political position.
Since in this moment in time Louis XV has yet to pass on, Marie Antoinette has yet to succeed to be queen, however actively serves as princess of France. Her marriage is still fresh therefore her visit in Paris would cause an excitement within the nation since it created a unity between Austria and France. Famously Marie Antoinette is always described as beautiful and full of character, it is only natural that the citizens of France would feel lucky to encounter feelings of joy and at the same time not harbor any feelings of remorse or resentment as she had not claimed the throne (clearly the love fades since her death is caused by being beheaded).
She seems to not be completely familiar with her husband, Louis XVI, yet as well. Note in the bottom of the letter Marie writes, “ …gave great pleasure on that glorious day, was the behavior of the dauphin. He made admirable replies to every address, and remarked everything that was done in his honor, and cspecially the earnestness and delight of the people, to whom he showed great kindness.” This line has a certain air of curiosity and Marie seems somewhat blindsided to his behavior. This only thing I would be able to conclude is that she is either (A) still learning many new characteristics about her husband or (B) this is a side of dauphin that she never sees or perhaps is not in his nature to behave.
It can be easily said that the intended audience for this letter was to Marie Antoinette’s mother, Maria Theresa the empress of Austria. Marie states several times throughout the letter of her many thanks to her mother for the reciprocating letters. The excitement in Marie’s tone is evident that she is astonished, despite the chaotic excitement upon their arrival, the amount of order there is.
Marie is overjoyed that despite the hardships that the peasants faced, such as taxes, they remain loyal to her and her husband Louis, and show their affection with cheering and excitement. In response to the love that they received, Marie makes a point to tell her mother that the dauphin and herself wished the citizens not to be harmed despite the fact that they were unable to move for hours from the sheer masses of people who gathered upon their arrival.
Marie Antoinette in this letter gives myself as a reader, a sense of relief, in that, even someone who is of high royalty such as herself, in reality is just an ordinary person, an ordinary woman; a woman who feels excitement and who does not remain stoic in the face of her citizens. As a reader I am an audience and this tender, young woman who is essentially a teenager, can be swept of her feet in pure amazement. On the other hand, Maria Therese, is the other audience of whom she is writing directly too.
I feel as though it would give her mother a sense of relief to know that she is loved by her subjects and simply that she is in good health and appears to be happy. Maria Therese was somewhat known for marrying her children for strategic purposes in order to expand the empire and gain allies. She seemed to be a very politically oriented woman, and to know that all is well in France must give her some feeling that she, as a mother, had done a good job, despite marrying Marie Antoinette off at such a young age.
Marie Therese, or Marie Antoinette’s mother was again, famously known for strategically marrying off her children in order to create unity among neighboring nations, with this in mind her mother seems to be rather intelligible when it comes to politics. Having grown up in a royal family herself, Marie should have an idea of what to expect as a queen, which gives her some authority, however it may not be safe to quickly assume so. In the letter as well Marie writes, “I cannot describe to you, my dear mamma, the transports of joy and affection which every one exhibited towards us.”
I feel as though since Marie Antoinette is on a pedestal, metaphorically and literally, she may not know if its truly love that the subjects are showing. She doesn’t particularly go into detail of how the subjects show their affection, but simply describes that they are ‘cheering’. For all we know they could be shouting about taxes and approaching them in a non-violent matter, it seems somewhat hard to believe that every subject was awestricken with love for her and the dauphin.
Historically, Marie has been known to be promiscuous and the relationship between her husband and she was a distant one I inferred from the end of this letter that Marie does seem somewhat estranged from her own husband.
This letter was dated 1773 and her marriage has gone on for a solid three years by now yet she still seems to know little about the dauphin, even addressing him as “the dauphin” in her letter instead of by name is somewhat puzzling to me, yet that could just possibly be the culture of that particular time era as well. It could be perhaps that they did not address each other by name, or perhaps a woman should remain quiet and obedient at that time as well, which would say that the marriage between the two was not estranged at all but normal for that time.
What is the historical significance of this document? Did it change history in some way? Does it exemplify a particular aspect of the past? Does it suggest an exception to a general trend in the era in which the document was written—or in the history of the Modern Western World more generally? Does it offer a different view of a familiar historical event or issue?
I do not believe this PARTICULAR document to have historical significance, but as a gear in a clock, it serves a greater purpose for a whole. Again, it is an actual written document by a monumental character, a female at that, which gives us an idea of her character and we can see some of her personality leak through in her writing. It gives us little clues about what her life may have been like and serves as an eyewitness account of what was going on in that moment in time.
Her collection of letters serves as a glass ball of what life as royalty was like. This letter specifically, seems to have been written by a girl instead of a woman, Marie’s tone is not calm in any way but as if she has butterflies in her stomach, a combination of nervousness and perhaps basking in the glory of all the positive attention she is receiving, indicating that she may not be completely use to serving a nation despite having grown up around such historical individuals her whole life.
Every document, no matter how detailed or well written, leaves unanswered questions and silences. What are two things that you, as someone who is knowledgeable about this historical era, notice as being significant missing information in this document? You may start each response by posing a specific question to the author and the reasons for your asking the question.
First question or silence: Marie Antoinette seems as though they are not deserving of the kindness they received from the people of Paris. Why is this so? Why does Marie feel this way? For example when she states, “What a happy thing it is for persons in our rank to gain the love of a whole nation so cheaply.” This implies that you (Marie) feel like you owe more to your citizens than they have received.
Second question or silence: Why does Marie “blush” at her mother’s kindness? Did Maria do something FOR Marie Antoinette to feel this way? How is the relationship between daughter and mother as well? Is there some significance to why Marie Antoinette calls it a “precious” letter, does it contain material of importance?