Saturday, November 12, 2011

Becoming Marie Antoinette

I've already read a few books on Marie Antoinette, so I was hesitant about reading another. Juliet Grey did a great job of covering the first years of her life in Austria and then to France to marry the dauphin Louis. The author chose to focus on the shorter period of time, and I really liked it because it wasn't rushed. It allowed you to get to know Antoinette as she grew up in Vienna with all her siblings, followed her education, and then the long betrothal to the dauphin of France. Before she was deemed worthy to travel to France, several things had to be done quickly to make her ready. She had braces for a few months to straighten her teeth, a dance master to teach her to walk in the big clothes of France as well as to dance, and several tutors to teach her fluent French as well as about diplomacy and politics. Her education was quite lacking when compared to most nobility. The preparations were finally made, and after many years of waiting, she was finally sent to France.

Maria Antonia had to quickly learn at the court of Versailles how to handle herself. She was introduced to the teenage boy who was now her husband, and quickly realized he did not speak much unless it was something he was interested in. As she struggles to find herself in this new life, surrounded by attendants and maids all day long, she is not able to make everyone love her as her mother had charged her to do. The King Papa Roi as she called him, was enraptured with her and that served her well. While trying to follow the advice of her mother's letters to her, as well as her matron lady in waiting Noailles, and also the dauphin's three aunts- she finds herself constantly making faux pas and mistakes. This is a court of gossipers and already people seem displeased with her. To please her new husband, who doesn't like fripperies, she does not wear corsets and keeps her hair simple and unadorned as possible.

The book leads up to the death of the King, the dauphin's grandfather, and their quick ascension to becoming the King and Queen of France. I like that the book was condensed more, so we can see as Antoinette grows up and becomes herself. We can also see her relationship with the dauphin slowly progress to a deep friendship and respect. One of the things I found very interesting is that Marie Antoinette was strawberry blond and not blond as they have called her. She was very patient with the dauphin her husband, where many times I would have yelled at him if it were me. She was also very kind and generous in giving to the poor. She was not particularly studious or politically savvy, but we have to bear in mind her young age and how much was expected of a girl of just 14. I look forward to the next book as it follows the new King and Queen of France.

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