Although portrayed as a sexually empowered female, the reality of Marie Antoinette’s beauty was debated. Some say that her smile was enchanting, while others focus on the distractions of her drooping bottom lip and large forehead. There is a story of a boy who, upon seeing Marie Antoinette, “flung himself at the Queen’s feet at court, seeing in her the embodiment of ‘all my father’s goddesses’” (Fraser 140). Antoinette was aware of these conflicting views of the court on the subject of her beauty, insightfully remarking,
“If I were not Queen, they would say I looked insolent, is that not so?” (Fraser 140).
Her sexuality was the subject of close speculation because of the need for an heir to the throne. This led to somewhat of an obsession with the sexual activities of the King and Queen. Her image was distorted and used in the fantasies of both men and women at the time (Castle).
One example of wrongful speculation by the public and pamphlet writers on Marie Antoinette’s sexuality was an incident in which a young man fainted, prompting the Queen to touch his chest in order to check for the presence of his heart beat (Fraser 161). This innocent interaction was interpreted as a love affair between the two strangers, and led to more slander of the Queen.
These instances of fabled sexual deviance became so rampant that any normal outing with her entourage could have led to a story of this nature. It became common for these demeaning stories to originate from trips outdoors, in which the speculators would say that she escaped to the bushes with her lovers.
Antoinette had a close friendship with Yolande de Polastron, an attractive woman who, to the public, suggested a romantic relationship with the Queen (Fraser 148). While scandalous rumor and slanderous writings emerged about the speculated lesbian relationship, Marie Antoinette was more interested in the emotional support from Yolande than she would have been in a sexual affair. In fact, Yolande had her own male lover, Comte de Vaudreuil (Fraser 149).
In actuality, the problem of Louis’ impotence and sexual rejection in her own marriage may have led to a feeling of awkwardness on the subject of sexuality for Marie Antoinette. She had a clear attraction for older men over young and able ones.
A lot of the slander surrounding Marie Antoinette included stories of drunken behavior and drunken sexual deviance. These myths, however are ignorant to the fact that Marie Antoinette chose to drink mineral water instead of alcohol at all times. Her husband, on the other hand, was a drunk and handled his depression from the criticism of his reign with alcohol on many occasions (Fraser). If slander was not insisting that the Queen herself was drinking, there is evidence of accusations that the Queen was pressuring her husband to drink (Gruder 265).