Marie Antoinette: Femme Fatale or Scandalized Victim?

Was Marie Antoinette A “Femme Fatale”, Or An Innocent Figure Scandalized By The Public?

Portrait of Marie Antoinette, 1783.

Portrait of Marie Antoinette, 1783.

This project aims to compare the public portrayal of the French Queen Marie Antoinette as a “femme fatale”, versus the reality of her life. She was accused, among other atrocities, of secret investment in the interest of her native Austria, and excessive spending of public money. These accusations were somewhat rooted in truth, but turned into obvious hyperbole with the marketing of a series of pamphlets exploiting the Queen’s body in a pornographic manner. The 18th century was less affected by the vivid pornographic portrayals of the monarchs than other centuries may have been. This time was also receptive to the creation of archetypes, like the femme fatale, which Marie Antoinette was morphed into by the media. The slanderous accusations surrounding the Queen and her husband’s reign were in large part what led to the disillusionment of the French and eventually the French Revolution and royal couples’ executions.

Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette in the 2001 Sofia Copolla film

Although the image of Marie Antoinette was looked down upon and even hated during her reign, 21st century readership has been more receptive, even viewing her as an icon. Sofia Copolla’s film Marie Antoinette, based on the biography of her life by Chantal Thomas, focuses on the iconic fashions, style, and light-hearted nature of the Queen, while giving an empathetic portraiture of an undervalued young girl in a foreign setting. It is clear from the comparison of the two images pictured above that the movie installation of Marie Antoinette is more feminine and indulgent than the more sophisticated period portrait of the Queen.

This website should be navigated in the order of the sub-tabs presented: Background, Pamphlets, On Power, On Spending and Ignorance (with the sub-page of the Diamond Necklace affair), On Sexuality, Trial and Death: The Aftermath, and finally the Conclusion and Works Cited. It should be noted that the page, Trial and Death: The Aftermath, includes a word cloud analysis of a period newspaper article on Marie Antoinette’s trial.
After you have navigated the website, review the material in the concept map provided below, which separates the accusations of Marie Antoinette into the categories of Crime, Scandal, and Spectacle.


Concept Map

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