Marie-Antoinette and Count Fersen: The Untold Love Story

The tragic life of Marie-Antoinette, last Queen of France, has assumed almost mythical proportions. A victim of political intrigue, she was known as the ‘Austrian whore’ and accused of every imaginable sexual and political crime. Yet after the French Revolution she was reinvented as a martyr, and the image of the woman behind the propaganda grew even more distorted. Daughter of the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa, Marie-Antoinette was married at the age of fourteen to the heir to the French throne. The vivacious Archduchess had charm and intelligence, while the Dauphin, crowned Louis XVI in 1774, was boorish, gauche and unable to consummate their marriage. Rebuffed by him, the young girl engaged in a hectic social life and looked elsewhere for love. This book charts her transformation from reckless teenager to dignified yet misunderstood Queen and maps out in detail her enduring relationship with Axel von Fersen. Their liaison was based on deep affection and mutual passion and began long before revolutionary storm clouds gathered over France. Although known to insiders at court, her love for the chivalrous and handsome Swedish Count was suppressed in the many attempts to manipulate the Queen’s image. In this definitive new edition of her acclaimed study Evelyn Farr presents a detailed analysis of fresh evidence from archive sources to peel back the layers of misinformation obscuring the Queen’s great love affair and to reveal its impact on the destiny of the French Royal Family.

Before the Deluge: Parisian Society in the Reign of Louis XVI

The Parisian nobility in the reign of Louis XVI is usually dismissed as a privileged, frivolous and decadent elite – a cause of revolution in France rather than a catalyst for reform. This lively, readable book draws on contemporary sources to paint a more balanced portrait of pre-revolutionary Parisian high society.

Before the Deluge not only exposes the beau monde’s preoccupation with amusements, love affairs, mysteries and scandals, but also highlights its love/hate attitude towards the splendour and power of the Court of Versailles, and traces the aristocracy’s active support for liberty and equality long before the words became part of a Jacobin slogan. The author also reveals the contrast between aristocratic excesses and the more sober life-styles of the French bourgeoisie and the lower classes. Attention is also focused on the marital problems of Louis XVI and his queen, Marie-Antoinette, who found herself increasingly isolated and unpopular, and the subject of fantastic stories concerning her and her associates.

Court and nobility failed to adapt quickly enough to the new forces unleashed by the Enlightenment. This book charts the resulting end of an aristocratic society in fascinating detail.

The World of Fanny Burney

The life and fascinating times of the 18th century novelist and diarist Fanny Burney. Her novels inspired Jane Austen but her diaries are far more entertaining than most novels. From Georgian London to Napoleonic Paris, she recorded the antics and sayings of writers, artists, actors, singers, generals, courtiers and royalty with an unerring eye for comedy.

Foreign Language Editions

Marie-Antoinette et le comte de Fersen : la correspondance secrète

Dans l’intimité d’un amour interdit

Cover final

« Je ne vis et n’existe que pour vous aimer – vous adorer est ma seule consolation, écrit Axel de Fersen à Marie-Antoinette, après la fuite à Varennes. Mon Dieu, qu’il est cruel d’être si près et ne pouvoir se voir ! » La Révolution les a séparés. Il risque d’être assassiné s’il pose le pied sur le sol français. Jamais il n’a été heureux sans la femme qui l’appelait « le plus aimé et le plus aimant des hommes ». Pour la sauver, il a tout tenté. Et maintenant, la voici prisonnière aux Tuileries, négociant sa vie et son trône avec ses ennemis jurés… Se reverront-ils un jour ? Fersen déploie tous ses efforts pour la voir. « Je vous aime et vous aimerai toute ma vie à la folie, lui dit-il. Sans vous il n’est point de bonheur pour moi. » Axel de Fersen fut bien plus, à la cour de Versailles, que le stratège qui donnait des conseils politiques à Louis XVI et l’ami dévoué qui organisa l’évasion de la famille royale en 1791. Ce comte suédois, d’une parfaite éducation, fut surtout l’amant de la reine de France. Et l’amour de sa vie. Ses carnets, publiés au XIXe siècle, avaient été censurés. Quant à la correspondance des deux amants, il n’en existait que des éditions incomplètes. Pour la première fois, voici rassemblée l’intégrale de leurs lettres qui sont parvenues jusqu’à nous – dont six missives inédites. Enfin décryptés par Evelyn Farr, certains passages raturés révèlent l’intensité de leurs sentiments. Chiffres, encres invisibles, intermédiaires, cachets secrets, doubles enveloppes, noms de codes… Autant de témoignages d’une passion inavouable. Ils donnent à voir une reine frondeuse et indépendante, qui osa braver les dangers et aimer sans retenue l’homme qui avait gagné son cœur. Avec cette correspondance, étayée d’autres documents inédits, Evelyn Farr dévoile, dans toute sa vérité, l’une des plus extraordinaires idylles du XVIIIe siècle.