Author Topic: Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen  (Read 53667 times)

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Offline pers

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Re: Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen
« Reply #105 on: October 25, 2007, 11:29:14 AM »
I have written a short resume and proceed to post it successively:

On 10 January 1774, Axel Fersen attended the Dauphine’s Ball at Versailles.  On 30 January 1774, both attended the Paris masked Opera Ball.  Axel writes in his Journal “Madame la Dauphine spoke to me a long time without me recognizing her.  Later when she was recognized, everyone gathered around her and she retired into a loge”.

They next met in August 1778.  On 26 August 1778, Axel wrote to his father “This past Wednesday,  I went to Versailles to be presented to the Royal Family. The Queen who is charming said on seeing me: ‘Ah this is an old acquaintance!’  The rest of the Royal Family did not say a word to me”.

On 10 April 1779, the Swedish Ambassador Creutz, writes to King Gustavus III of Sweden: “I must confide to Your Majesty that the young Count Fersen is so well received by the Queen that it has given offence to several persons.  I admit that I cannot refrain from thinking that she has a fondness for him: I saw signs of this that were too clear to leave any doubt (j’en ai vu des indices trop surs pour en douter).  The young Count Fersen’s behavior on this occasion was admirable in its modesty and restraint and especially in his decision to go to America. By leaving, he removed all dangers, but of course wisdom and resolve beyond his years were required to overcome this seduction.  The Queen could not take his eyes off him these last few days; as she watched him they filled with tears (La Reine ne pouvait pas le quitter des yeux les derniers jours; en le regardant, ils etaient remplis de larmes).  I beg Your Majesty to keep this a  secret for her sake and Senator Fersen’s”.

Offline pers

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Re: Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen
« Reply #106 on: October 25, 2007, 11:30:27 AM »
The expedition did not come off in 1779 and Fersen returned to Paris.  According to Evelyn Lever in her biography on Marie Antoinette, there developed a serious romance during the Winter of 1779-1780.  He left in March 1780 for America.  He landed back in France on 17 June 1783.

On 31 July 1783 he writes to his sister Sophie Piper: “I am so happy that I can hardly believe it.  I have more than one reason for that which I will tell you when we see each other.  In spite of all the pleasure of seeing you again, I cannot leave Paris without regret.  You will think it quite natural when you learn the cause of this regret.  I will tell you, for I do not want to keep anything secret from you… I am very glad Miss Leyell is married.  She won’t be mentioned to me again and I hope no one else will be found. I have made up my mind. I do not want to contract conjugal ties; they are contrary to nature… I cannot belong to the only person to whom I want to belong, the one who really loves me, and so I do not want to belong to anyone”.

Fifteen years later, on 15 July 1798, Axel writes in his Journal Intime: “I remember this day when I arrived from Dang; I stayed at Madame de Matignon’s and I went to Her for the first time”.  Axel in his correspondence and Journal often referred to the Queen as Her/”Elle” with a capital letter. He also referred to her by one of her other baptismal names, Josephine.  Axel had to accompany King Gustavus III on a tour of Italy in the first half of 1784 and during this time wrote twenty-seven letters to Josephine.  According to his correspondence notebook: “To Josephine, May 18 and 21: no. 27, through Fontaine, that I cannot come before the King”.  On 7 June 1784 King Gustavus III and his entourage arrived at Versailles for an extended stay of 6 weeks until 19 July 1784.

By 1787 there were plans made for his living arrangements within the Queen’s private apartment in Versailles.  According to his correspondence notebook he wrote to Josephine on 3 March 1787: ”Plan of living upstairs; she should have a recess made for the stove”.  Independent confirmation is found in the following note to the Director General of Buildings on 10 October: “The Queen has sent for the Swedish stove maker who made the stoves in Madame’s apartment, and Her Majesty ordered him to make one for one of her inner rooms, with heating pipes to warm  a small neighboring room”.  Lever says that the exact layout of her private apartment was not generally known.  The rooms that today are regarded as the so-called “Fersen apartment” is in fact “upstairs” as Fersen wrote in his correspondence notebook, namely the rooms directly above the rooms that form a kind of “corridor” directly behind her bedroom in the direction of the Salon de l’Oeil de Boeuf.

Offline pers

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Re: Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen
« Reply #107 on: October 25, 2007, 11:31:21 AM »
According to Elisabeth de Feydeau in her book “A scented Palace”(page 67), Marie Antoinette requested her perfumer Fargeon (when she met with him in the gardens at Petit Trianon) to “prepare a toilet water destined for a man who was very elegant but had nothing of the dandy about him, someone as ‘virile as one can possibly be’ “.  In June 1791 her perfumer Fargeon was summoned to the Tuileries (De Feydeau page 89).  He met with the Queen in her study.  At this meeting he recognized besides the Queen’s perfume, another one of his creations in the air, namely “the virile fragrance that she ordered as a gift for the mysterious ‘very elegant man’.  He had no doubt been in the room just a few hours ago”.

Also Axel Feren really risked his own life and safety in planning the Flight to Varennes on 20 June 1791, taking care of all the arrangements and he himself acted as the coachman in getting the Royal Family out of Paris on the first part of the escape.  Unfortunately he did not continue with then as Fersen requested, as the King saw no reason for him to continue with them further along on the trip.

Axel Fersen’s grandnephew Baron Klickowstrom allowed Fersen’s Journal and correspondence published in 1877 once he had censored parts of it by crossing out the texts completely.  He refused access to the originals and said that he destroyed them.  However according to Evelyn Lever, they turned up in 1982 and were subsequently acquired by the French National Archives.  She inspected them.  Lever says on page 165 of the English translation of her book: “There can be no doubt, given where they are placed and in their context, that these were crossed-out love messages.  Indeed, one letter has been found that escaped the blue pencil.  The words used by Marie Antoinette could not have been clearer in expressing her feelings for Fersen: ‘I can tell you that I love you’ she said to him”. This quote comes from her letter to Axel dated 28 June 1791.  She continues this specific letter with: “Tell me to whom I should send my letters to you, for I cannot live without that.  Farewell most loved and most loving of men.  I embrace you with all my heart” (Lever page 264).  He wrote back “I am fine and live only to serve you”.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2007, 11:35:03 AM by pers »

Offline pers

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Re: Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen
« Reply #108 on: October 25, 2007, 11:32:05 AM »
After the failed escape Marie Antoinette writes to Axel on 7 December 1791:”It is absolutely impossible  for you to come here now; it would endanger our safety, and if I say this, you must believe me, as I have an extreme desire to see you”.

Their last meeting took place in the Tuileries Palace on 13 February 1792. “Monday 13, Went to the Queen; took my usual route; afraid of the National Guard; her quarters wonderful.  Stayed there.  Tuesday 14, saw the King at six in the evening”.

After the Queen’s excecution, the news reaches Axel in Brussels on 20 October 1793.  He writes in his Journal: “Though I was prepared for it and expected it since the transfer to the Conciergerie, I was devastated by the reality.  I did not have the strength to feel anything.  I went out to talk about this misfortune with my friends and Madame de Fitz-James and the Baron de Breteuil, whom I did not find.  I wept with them, especially with Madame de Fitz-James… I thought about her constantly, about all the horrible circumstances of her sufferings, of the doubt she might have had about me, my attachment, my interest.  That thought tortured me.  Then I felt all that I was losing in so many different ways: feeling, interest, existence, everything was joined in her and all lost…  I even had moments of distaste for Eleanore.  It was not the same feeling, that consideration, that care, that tenderness…”.

On 21 October 1793 he writes in his Journal: “I could only think of my loss.  The fact that she was alone in her last moments, without consolation, with no one to talk to, no one to whom she could give her dying wishes, it is horrifying.  What monsters from hell!  No, without revenge, never will my heart be content.” 
 
He writes to his sister Sophie on the same day: “She for whom I lived, since I have never ceased to love her, she I loved so much, for whom I would have given a thousand lives, is no more.  Oh my God!  Why overwhelm me thus, what have I done to deserve your wrath?  She is no more.  My pain is indescribable and I do not know how I can go on living; I do not know how I can bear my suffering.  It is extreme and nothing will ever erase it.  She will always be present in my memory and to always weep for her; Everything is over for me my dear friend”.

On 24 October 1793: “Her image, her sufferings, her death and my feeling are always present in my head, I can think of nothing else”.
On 26 October 1793: ”Every day I think about it, and every day my sorrow increases.  Every day I am even more aware of all that I have lost”.

On 5 November 1793: “Oh, how I blame myself for my wrongs toward her, and how I know now that I loved her.  Eleanore will never replace her in my heart.  What gentleness, what tenderness, what kindness, what care, what a loving sensitive, tactful heart!”.
A year later he writes: “This  day was a memorable and terrible day for me.  It is the day I lost the person who loved me most in the world and who truly loved me”.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2007, 11:36:34 AM by pers »

Offline coquelicot

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Re: Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen
« Reply #109 on: October 27, 2007, 05:28:25 AM »
Quote
Yes, I think MA and Axel von Fersen had sexual relations and that he might have fathered her last two children.  Several authors think so - Lady Fraser and Evelyn Lever most prominent among them.  There was a big increase in the number of MA pregnancies between 1783 and 1788 the period that coincides with Fersen's return.  There was also the rides alone and her remodling of a private apartment and finally the later destruction of his diaries. However, many more historians say no - never consummated - and what do you think? and why?
How assertive you are, Axel ! How can you, when even Madame Lever, who studied Marie Antoinette for years as a French historian, is not ?

Then, there is Lady Fraser, indeed... but you are in complete contradiction with the result of her researchs. How strange... First of all, for this British writer, Fersen could not have fathered Marie Antoinette's last two children, for, should he be her lover, which is not certain at all, he would use condoms or coitus interrumptus. The man had many mistresses, and no pregancies problems. So... Why should he have with Marie Antoinette ?

And, since they were supposed to meet each night in this little room with this Swedish stove or in Saint Cloud, why would he stop making children to Marie Antoinette, so suddenly ?

Isn't all this laughable ? I think is all is, this whole story. And the more I study it, the more I think so.

There are few biographies dedicated to Fersen. The best one was written by Françoise Kermina. An older one was written by Charles Kunstler. Then, there are books devoted to Marie Antoinette and Fersen's relationship, such as Loomis' excellent book, or Bauman's. But many more scholars studied this "liaison" (classical word without sexual meaning). Let's think of Paul and Pierrette Girault de Coursac, Philippe Delorme, Simone Bertiere, Jean Chalon, JC Petitfils, Joel Felix... and, of course, so seriously and meticulously, Nesta Webster.

Let's begin with the Girault's demonstration. For these specialists of French history and French court, some conditions are necessary so that a queen can have and maintain a liaison with a man. Marie Antoinette has not a single. Plus, this purpoted liaison with this Swedish Apollon always requires, sooner or later, the king's benediction. If you think Louis XVI ever accepted to be a cuckold, you certainly only read Stephan Zweig ! More recent works show that it actually is impossible. Louis was not so.

Quote
I'm not convinced that installing a Swedish stove in her inner apartments was necessarily a form of deathless passion, it might just be the need for a superior form of heating.  Versailles certainly could do with it.
That's the point, PrincessKate, precisely ! That's the point ! Why would this stove automatically lead to a liaison ? Because it was Swedish ? By contamination ? *lol*

Well... Mesdames Aunts also installed Swedish stoves. Did they also sleep with Fersen ?

Let's add that Fersen used to sleep in this little room in Eleonore and Quintin's Craufurd house, there, upstairs. And that Eleonore had a maid named Josephine... And that these "She" and "she" with or without capitals are not so clear, actually. If you read Loomis' excellent work, you'll see how these passages from Fersen's writings often were misinterpreted. You could also refer to Webster's analysis.

I will, later, when I have more time, to reply to pers's fascinating and long comments.
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Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen
« Reply #110 on: October 27, 2007, 08:11:54 AM »
Quote
I'm not convinced that installing a Swedish stove in her inner apartments was necessarily a form of deathless passion, it might just be the need for a superior form of heating.  Versailles certainly could do with it.
That's the point, PrincessKate, precisely ! That's the point ! Why would this stove automatically lead to a liaison ? Because it was Swedish ? By contamination ? *lol*

According to Evelyn Lever, MA installed the stove because she supposedly had a room set up fro Fersen adjacent to hers, and the stove was to keep him nice and warm in the style he was accustomed ;-). 

Offline coquelicot

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Re: Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen
« Reply #111 on: October 27, 2007, 10:28:24 AM »
The facts are the following : a stove was installed in a little room in the queen's appartments in Versailles.

Fersen happened to ask a certain Josephine for keeping warm her room upstairs.

That is almost all for certainties. Let's add that the Sullivans had a room upstairs were Fersen used to hide when he came to secretly "stay there" with Eleonore. And that Josephine was the name of Eleonore's maid.

The rest is but interpretations, dear. Imagine whatever you want, these would only remain imaginations, not facts. Some auteurs even affirm that Fersen had a room in the little Trianon, where he "stayed" with his mistresses !
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Offline coquelicot

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Re: Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen
« Reply #112 on: October 27, 2007, 11:19:17 AM »
Now, getting to pers' so interesting posts !

Quote
Also it will be WONDERFUL if we develop the necessary technology to be able to read the parts of the correspondence that Axel Fersen's nephew crossed out. 

Sorry, dear, we actually don't know who crossed out these passages. You seem to have rather the idea that it was Klinckowström. To protect the queen's reputation, maybe ? Is that it ?

Many historians have other interpretations. Let's mention the Girault de Coursac couple, Philippe Delorme or Chalon, for instance. They suggest these crossings out could have been made by Fersen himself. The man was extremely proud of his so sepcial fame. He adored to be seen as the tragical lover of the former queen of France. There are a lot of evidences of this, quotations from his diary can prove it.  You can find these quotations here. These come from Kunstler's "Fersen et son secret", Hachette, 1947, p. 222 sqq.

Quote
If one reads his correspondence and extracts out of his Journal Intime, I think one can sense that there was great love that existed between them and deep down, (we are all human after all!) I cannot think that one will not follow up on such feelings...
Did you read Fersen's diary, pers ? I read large parts of it, and I agree with his biographer, Françoise Kermina, these writings are rather shallow and uninteresting. You find many references to innumerable women, sometimes quite contemptuous.

For instance, when he met Marie Antoinette at this masked ball, he only wrote a few words, from which it is obvious that this young man was flattered to have a little conversation with the dauphine. It goes like "I met a VIP !!!" On the other hand, he stayed a long time with a charming young lady, very pretty, and describes what she said, what he said, how he and his friend kissed her... Fersen seems more interested in this adventure than in Marie Antoinette !

Quote
They next met in August 1778.  On 26 August 1778, Axel wrote to his father “This past Wednesday,  I went to Versailles to be presented to the Royal Family. The Queen who is charming said on seeing me: ‘Ah this is an old acquaintance!’  The rest of the Royal Family did not say a word to me”.
Do you find this quotation relevant, pers ?
You are right. It is a perfect illustration of Marie Antoinette's human delicacy and political intelligence. King Gustav was at that moment trying to make the links beween France and Sweden closer. But what did the royal family ? They did not even notice count Fersen... How sad... Then, queen Marie Antoinette had these kind few words to him.

Do you pay attention to Creutz's letter to Gustav ? This information would be relevant, indeed, should it be mentioned by other ambassadors to their courts. But it is not. Count Creutz, ambassador of Sweden in France, is just flattering his king's national pride, by telling how a Swedish noble man was noticed in Versailles.

Let's take a look at Marie Antoinette's real close entourage. Madame Campan writes nothing about count Fersen, not a single word. Neither did Mercy. And be sure that, should any danger exist, the Austrian spy would immediately report it to Marie Therese ! And Madame Mere would at once scold her daughter ! Indeed, Marie Therese talks about Guines, Besenval, Polignac, Lamballe, Coigny, Lignes, Lauzun... but Fersen, no, she did not. What does this silence mean ? That is was nothing to talk about, maybe ? *lol*
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Offline Yseult

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Re: Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen
« Reply #113 on: October 27, 2007, 02:22:34 PM »
Since the moment I have read the bio written by Stephan Zweig, I believe they were lovers. Of course, I can´t be sure, but I really believe they shared a great love.
If I remember well, Zweig states that a lot of years after the death of Marie Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte refused to accept Fersen as a swedish representative for a negociation. Napoleon was very rude: he was not interested in a negociation with a man "who shared the bed with the former queen". Of course, Fersen was informed about the words pronounced by Napoleon...and he remained in silent. He didn´t denied the accusation.

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen
« Reply #114 on: October 27, 2007, 02:58:46 PM »
Let's take a look at Marie Antoinette's real close entourage. Madame Campan writes nothing about count Fersen, not a single word. Neither did Mercy.

Is it possible that they were protecting MA's reputation, or alternately, that MA was so discreet in her private life (even if technically she was supposed to have been on constant public display) that no one really knew for sure? After all, there were plenty of various rumors about her, but nothing definite one way or the other... Again, according to the author Lever, MA was supposedly extraordinarily good at protecting her private life.

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen
« Reply #115 on: October 27, 2007, 03:09:33 PM »
Did you read Fersen's diary, pers ? I read large parts of it, and I agree with his biographer, Françoise Kermina, these writings are rather shallow and uninteresting. You find many references to innumerable women, sometimes quite contemptuous.

I have to add (having just finished reading Lever's book, as if you couldn't guess ;-)), that according to Ms Lever, while Fersen was supposed to have been pining away for MA (while she was under house arrest at the Tuilery) he was openly having an affair with a Mrs Sullivan... if this is true, perhaps he wasn't as much of a loyal and romantic figure as he wanted everyone to believe...

Offline coquelicot

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Re: Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen
« Reply #116 on: October 28, 2007, 05:15:07 AM »
Quote
Is it possible that they were protecting MA's reputation, or alternately, that MA was so discreet in her private life (even if technically she was supposed to have been on constant public display) that no one really knew for sure? After all, there were plenty of various rumors about her, but nothing definite one way or the other... Again, according to the author Lever, MA was supposedly extraordinarily good at protecting her private life.

This explanation is allegued by Zweig (who firmy believes in a complete and generous consummation, according to his Freudian theory). Zweig even offers a "silence conspiracy". And Madame Lever, though being a French positive historian, dares to take it into account ! This is anything but positive and material analyse, anything but serious historical criticism !

We can't seriously rely on silence to prove that a fact ever happen.

I don't think that even your explanation, dear Helen A, could be valuable concerning Mercy. Count Mercy's mission was to observe every single detail about Marie Antoinette and to report it to her omnipotent mother Maria Theresia. He went on in France after the Empress' death. And he did his job precisely, reporting about Lauzun or Ligne, or about Bezenval and other friends of the queen. No a single word about count Fersen. Considering the mission of Mercy, this silence only means one thing : there was no danger, there was no substance to report about between queen Marie Antoinette and this Swedish young Apollon. And Mercy was able to make the difference between real facts and little court gossips.

Then, there is Madame Campan, who was the queen's friend, at least, she claims so. She could keep silence to protect her mistress, indeed. Then, why does she report about Lauzun and Besenval ? And even about Madame de Lamballe and Madame de Polignac ?

And those sources those who want to believe in a love story rely on... Are they reliable ? Creutz, as we have seen. But he was the Swedish ambassador flattering his king's national pride. The other ambassadors, as we have seen for Mercy, did not mention this event. Saint Priest is also often quoted... but Madame de Saint Priest was among Fersen's unlucky mistresses, openly claimed her love and Saint Priest was publicly ridiculed. Taking this into consideration, is Saint Priest's testimony that realiable ? There is Madame de Boigne too... Well... this lady was not even born when those events happen ! *lol*

So... If we make a little comparizon, we have, on the one hand, shallow and extremely light testismonies. On the other hand, the real entourage of the queen, who do not even mention Fersen's name.

And, sorry, pers, but philosophical remarks such as "passion do not spare royals" cannot be taken into consideration when applying historical methods.
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Offline coquelicot

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Re: Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen
« Reply #117 on: October 30, 2007, 05:59:40 AM »
Now that I finally have a little time, I can get back to pers' so interesting comment !

Quote
According to Elisabeth de Feydeau in her book “A scented Palace”(page 67), Marie Antoinette requested her perfumer Fargeon (when she met with him in the gardens at Petit Trianon) to “prepare a toilet water destined for a man who was very elegant but had nothing of the dandy about him, someone as ‘virile as one can possibly be’ “.  In June 1791 her perfumer Fargeon was summoned to the Tuileries (De Feydeau page 89).  He met with the Queen in her study.  At this meeting he recognized besides the Queen’s perfume, another one of his creations in the air, namely “the virile fragrance that she ordered as a gift for the mysterious ‘very elegant man’.  He had no doubt been in the room just a few hours ago”.
Did you take it seriously ? Really ? Elisabeth de Feydeau's book is extremely interesting for all information concerning perfumes formulas, for his his this lady's actual scholarship. The rest is but novel, pers !

Quote
Axel Fersen’s grandnephew Baron Klickowstrom allowed Fersen’s Journal and correspondence published in 1877 once he had censored parts of it by crossing out the texts completely.  He refused access to the originals and said that he destroyed them.  However according to Evelyn Lever, they turned up in 1982 and were subsequently acquired by the French National Archives.  She inspected them.  Lever says on page 165 of the English translation of her book: “There can be no doubt, given where they are placed and in their context, that these were crossed-out love messages.  Indeed, one letter has been found that escaped the blue pencil.  The words used by Marie Antoinette could not have been clearer in expressing her feelings for Fersen: ‘I can tell you that I love you’ she said to him”. This quote comes from her letter to Axel dated 28 June 1791.  She continues this specific letter with: “Tell me to whom I should send my letters to you, for I cannot live without that.  Farewell most loved and most loving of men.  I embrace you with all my heart” (Lever page 264).  He wrote back “I am fine and live only to serve you”.
Have you read this correspondence, pers ? I did, completely. It is not true that these crossed-out passages could not correspond to anything except tender words. They sometimes are at the end of the letter, indeed, but they can also be in the middle of the text. And, actually, these crossed-out words could concern anything, politics as well as health. Nesta Webster's analyse is still the more relevant on this specific matter.

The message you quote, pers, supposed to be sent to "the most loved and loving of men" actually is not in Marie Antoinette's handwriting. This letter was discovered among others with Fersen's papers. It was cyphered, not in Marie Antoinette's handwriting. So, who chyphered it ? That's precisely what we don't know. Nesta Webster, Philippe Delorme, Paul and Pierrette Girault de Coursac or Jean Chalon already examined this so peculiar message. It is difficult to come to a conclusion for sure on who wrote this, but one thing is certain : you cannot affirm it was Marie Antoinette.


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Offline Imperial.Opal

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Re: Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen
« Reply #118 on: October 30, 2007, 01:05:13 PM »
 Hi Coquelicot welcome back to the Forum. you have been away too long  ;)

Offline coquelicot

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Re: Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen
« Reply #119 on: October 30, 2007, 01:28:38 PM »
Thank you so much, Imperial Opal ! I am very happy to be back !
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