A recent book, based out of Britain, presents evidence that Marie-Antoinette’s secret love affair with a Swedish aristocrat came undone towards the end of her life. The book is I Love You Madly-Marie-Antoinette and Count Fersen: The Secret Letters. The author is Historian Evelyn Farr. It will be available in the United States next month. The book details the nearly 20-year secret affair between the last Queen of France and diplomat Axel von Fersen. Fersen worked for some time as a diplomat at Marie-Antoinette’s extravagant palace in Versaille.
The book details many secret letters exchanged between the lovers. Invisible ink and code names were used in the love letters. In one letter, Marie-Antoinette writes “I love you madly and never, ever could I exist a moment without adoring you,” reports People. That letter was dated January 1792, in the midst of the French Revolution.
After that letter, things began to sour between the Queen and the Count. The worsening situation during the revolution made it more difficult for them to physically meet. Fersen, at one point, wanted to flee with Marie-Antoinette to Belgium, but the Queen refused. Fersen was reportedly disappointed and stopped communicating for a while, but then made one more attempt to be together. However, communication was difficult as the situation deteriorated in France. Farr believes that Fersen was tormented for years by the way their affair ended.
Born in Austria, Marie-Antoinette married Louis XVI in 1770, when she was only 14-years-old. Louis XVI took the throne as King of France in 1774. By all accounts, it was a loveless marriage. Fersen and Marie-Antoinette had met when they were teens and frequently wrote to each other. According to Farr’s book, the couple only had a physical relationship for ten years, according to the Telegraph. They likely had to end the relationship due to the deteriorating political situation and fear of being found out.
The Queen was never loved by the people of France. As an Austrian, she was considered an outsider and a possible traitor, who was trying to use her influence on Louis XVI. Despite her extramarital affair, she did try to influence her husband’s decisions and remain loyal to his role as King. When mobs stormed the Bastille prison, starting the French Revolution in 1789, Marie-Antoinette failed to persuade Louis to regroup with the royal army. She tried to resist attempts to curb the power of the monarchy by the new National Assembly.
Populist politicians in revolutionary France derided the Queen as an enemy of the people. Legend attributes the famous quote to Marie-Antoinette that upon being told the people have no bread, she replied “Let them eat cake!”
In 1791 Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI attempted to flee France and the revolution. But they were caught and forced to return. In August 1792, a new revolt overthrew the monarchy. The Queen and King were imprisoned in separate quarters. Louis was executed in January 1793, his head chopped off by guillotine.
In August 1793, Marie-Antoinette was put in solitary confinement. In October she was brought before the Revolutionary tribunal under the charge of treason. The Queen was rapidly convicted and guillotined two days later, on October 16. Marie-Antoinette was 37 when she was executed.
There is some evidence that the affair with Fersen resulted in him fathering two of Marie-Antoinette’s four children. It’s not clear if Fersen ever knew they were his. Both children, however, tragically died at early ages. A son, Louis, died at 10 following his own imprisonment after the fall of the monarchy. Sophie, the other child, died of illness weeks before turning one.
Count Fersen likely never got over the love affair with Marie-Antoinette. He did meet another woman after the affair ended. Eventually, Fersen moved back to Sweden, where he died in 1810.
[Featured Image by AP Images]