In this essay, Jean-Pierre Fiquet proposes to solve the enigma of the seven years of fruitless marriage of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. The work of recent years has revealed a character of Louis XVI more complex than had long been thought. It also emerges a less simplistic relationship to Marie-Antoinette, of whom he was probably not the distraught and unhappy lover described by many authors.
Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette: improbable couple
It is on the basis of this knowledge that Jean-Pierre Fiquet based his research by relying on archives that are presented to us as unpublished. To tell the truth, this is mainly an editorial emphasis because the Viennese archives on the subject have already been compulsively consulted and mentioned many times, if only by Pierrette and Paul Girault de Coursac.
The main idea of Fiquet consists in showing that, at the beginning of his marriage, the future Louis XVI, still Dauphin, would have knowingly refused his wife. Indeed, she did not want to separate from the Abbe de Vermond, her former tutor, which annoyed her husband. By not consummating his union, the young man hoped to be able to annul his marriage and send his wife back to Austria. If it is likely that there was a subject of discord, if it is certain that the possibility of Marie-Antoinette's dismissal was seriously considered, this idea alone is a little short to explain a situation that has lasted seven years, even explaining that it was then the queen who would have refused to the king.
We therefore end up with a work whose thesis is one page and whose major content consists of things well known and often repeated. It is all the more unfortunate that this additional text reveals a faulty mastery of the historical method by the author. On several occasions, one has the feeling that he privileges only the information which abounds in his direction to the detriment of that which qualifies or invalidates it. For example, he does not hesitate to claim that it is Choiseul, ally of Marie-Antoinette, who would have spread the fable of the need for an operation for the dolphin. He forgets there that, long before Choiseul, Louis XV himself spoke of this possibility of an operation in his correspondence with the Infant of Parma. This correspondence is nevertheless known to Fiquet since he mentions it several times.
In the same way, if Louis XVI was so hostile to Marie-Antoinette, we do not understand why he did not send her effectively and above all, why he took so great care to give the public the image of a united couple. whose distribution was so largely ensured by anecdotes, almanacs, songs, theater and prints. In fact, this is one of the specificities of the first years of marriage, Louis XVI is presented to his contemporaries as a happy husband.
We also notice that the author often summons the testimonies of memorialists who wrote long after the fact and in a different political context such as Madame Campan and Father Georgel. Historians have long shown the very dubious reliability of the claims of the former. In addition, the author is relatively unfamiliar with the historiography of the period. When he mentions the pamphlet on Marie-Antoinettte d'Angelucci that Beaumarchais had been instructed to intercept, he sees it as a maneuver by Louis XVI to harm Austria and his wife. On the one hand, he forgets to mention that this pamphlet does not spare Louis XVI when he speaks of his “knotted aiguillette” and on the other hand, a reading by Simon Burrows and Robert Muchembled would have made the author understand that the the practice of forging fake pamphlets to blackmail the powerful had become common and lucrative for adventurers like Beaumarchais.
These faults appear all the more striking as they are reinforced by unfortunate editorial choices. The preface is thus signed Gonzague Saint-Bris, well-known author of very mediocre historical works. If no one else wanted to do it, maybe it was better to do without. The subject, a sexual affair, is sensitive, wanting to present an innovative theory when you are not a professional historian is just as risky, so you have to want to shoot yourself in the foot to add the name of Gonzague Saint. -Bris. In the same way, we do not understand the clumsy choices of the quotations highlighted in the chapters. What are Les Chroniques de l'oeil-de-boeuf doing here, a work of scandalous anecdotes from the 19th century, if it is not to increase the effect of "gaudriole franchouillarde" whose subject would do well?
Despite good intuitions, this work fails by a very fragile knowledge of the period, its sources and historical methodology by the author. Focusing only on the very first years of the marriage, always seen through the same prism, he fails to develop a convincing hypothesis to solve the enigma of the marriage of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
Forced marriage or humiliated Marie-Antoinette, Jean-Pierre Fiquet, Tallandier, April 2015