Discussions about the Imperial Family and European Royalty > French Royals

Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen

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About the myth of Louis' "impotence:" there is no proof whatsoever that he ever had that problem. Louis and Antoinette, married at ages 15 and 14, took awhile to consummate their marriage. This was not uncommon - Mme de Lamballe's huband died when she was 17 and their marriage had never been consummated, so she claimed. It had become fashionable for some couples to wait until they got to know each other better. Yes, I know the families were having fits over it, but Louis had a mind of his own.

Bernard Fay, Louis' biographer, quotes the Spanish Ambassador, who paid spies to check the sheets of the young couple, claiming that there was evidence of sexual activity early on in the marriage, but Marie-Antoinette may have had a physical problem that hindered the full consummation of the union. The "little operation" she mentioned to her mother in a letter, may have meant procedures other than the circumcision allegedly performed on Louis.

Vincent Cronin, in "Louis and Antoinette," says that during the time that Louis had the alleged operation to get rid of the phimosis (circumcision), he went horseback riding everyday, which would have been physically impossible. Also, Louis' medical records (every prince received a thorough medical examination when they left the nursery) make no mention of a phimosis. Louis may not have had any physical problem at all.

Marie-Antoinette's brother Joseph made his incognito visit in 1777 to see why they had not produced an heir, and he wrote a graphic letter to Leopold which Vincent Cronin thinks was to have a laugh at Louis' expense, blaming all the problems on him. (After all, who had ever heard ofa Habsburg with infertility problems?) The main problem with Louis and Antoinette, is that he went to bed early and she stayed up late. Once they got their schedules coordinated, they conceived.

Thanks, Elena_Maria, that's all news to me, about Antoinette being the one with the problem. Odd that such things are so often blamed on the woman when it is in fact the man who has the problem, whereas in this case it was vice versa!


--- Quote ---Thanks, Elena_Maria, that's all news to me, about Antoinette being the one with the problem. Odd that such things are so often blamed on the woman when it is in fact the man who has the problem, whereas in this case it was vice versa!
--- End quote ---

And as I always say, whatever their early problems were, they overcame them, consummated their union and had four children, not to mention the miscarriages.

about antoinette not leaving: i don't think leaving with fersen and then having a discreet affair was much of an option. i don't know whether they were lovers or not... but had she left with him she would have been anything but discreet. and that wasn't like a royal, especially a habsburg. i'm sure maria tereza educated her well enough for her not to leave like that with anyone. as for not leaving her children when her husband died - i think that's a natural mother's instinct and while one can criticize marie antoinette in some aspects she certainly loved her children a lot.


--- Quote ---...there they are (in my translation, not very good)

(13. February 1792, from Axel Fersen´s diary)

"I went to queen. Along the usually route. I was afraid of National Guard. Her apartment was beatiful. I don´t see the king. I stayed there."

--- End quote ---

This is the passage which Stanley Loomis and Vincent Cronin both think may refer to a one night stand between the Queen and Count Fersen, the one and only time they consummated their love, in the view of those authors. However, they both agree that the passage containing"I stayed there" or "Reste- la" was scribbled out by the censor, "reste-la" being Axel's usual phrase denoting he had slept with a woman. So no one is certain what the phrase was, since it was scribbled out (unless recent technology has revealed it).

Other professional historians like Nesta Webster, several decades ago, and more recently Simon Schama, disagree that Antoinette had a rendez-vous with a lover. The queen was essentially under house arrest at the Tuileries, with servants who were spies, especially after the abortive escape attempt the previous June. The guards came into her room every two hours to make certain she had not tried to escape again. It was almost impossible for her to have intimacy with her husband, much less with a lover.

In those last months at the Tuileries, when the Royal Family had little doubt that their lives were in danger, Antoinette became closer than ever to her devout sister-in-law, Madame Elisabeth, who spent hours writing long spiritual letters about death and judgment to her Irish confessor Abbe Edgeworth. The atmosphere at the palace, as I said on another thread, was more like the catacombs than Les Liaisons Dangereuse, with the queen, Mme Elisabeth and Mme de Lamballe scheming how to sneak non-juring priests into the Tuileries so they could go to confession and receive communion in preparation for their sudden demise.


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