Marie-Antoinette: What’s Fact and What’s Fiction?

University of Oxford

Catriona Seth, FBA (Fellowship of the British Academy) is the Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. A distinguished cultural historian, she has published widely (mostly in French) on literature and cultural history of the eighteenth century.


An Austrian archduchess who married the heir to the French throne and was guillotined in Paris in 1793, Marie-Antoinette is one of the most recognizable women in history. She is represented both in splendid portraits by major artists and in scurrilous anonymous caricatures. And she continues to inspire fashions and to spark debate. But who was the real Marie-Antoinette? Was she responsible for bankrupting France? Was she the power behind the throne? Did she plot with the enemies of the nation, as her trial suggested? Was she a libertine with a series of lovers? And did she really say, “Let them eat cake?” These are some of the questions Professor Catriona Seth will answer in her presentation as she seeks to present the woman behind the myths.


Recommended Reading:

Marie-Antoinette : The Journey, by Antonia Fraser

Marie-Antoinette: The Making of a French Queen, by John Hardman

Marie-Antoinette, by Stefan Zweig


Discussion Questions :

  1. Did Marie-Antoinette play an active part in politics?
  2. What role was there for a French queen?
  3. How did Marie-Antoinette’s fate influence her posthumous reputation?




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Jeffrey Watt

Marie Antoinette

Fabulous lecture and lecturer today. Great information about the French court and the revolution.

2 years ago

Professor Seth does a spectacular job explaining about the myths and facts of Marie Antoinette from her childhood

2 years ago

Marie Antoinette: fact versus fiction

Professor Seth did a spectacular job of explaining about the myths and facts of Marie-Antoinette from the queen’s childhood through the queen’s death. I do not Remember hearing about why the French people turned on her. Apparently, bad times create a bad queen.
Most interesting to me is that Marie Antoinette never, ever, said, “let them eat cake.”

2 years ago
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