Marie Antoinette was having an affair

Marie Antoinette († 37) Weren't two of your children from the king?

It was not love that led 14-year-old Maria Antonia of Austria to the French heir to the throne Ludwig-Auguste, who was only a year older, in 1770. The tried and tested procedure of the Habsburgs to continuously expand their rule in Europe with the help of a rigorous marriage policy forced the very young hereditary duchess to marry the Dauphin and gave her a name that has become an indispensable part of the history books: Marie Antoinette. She owes her fame above all to her own fateful role in the French Revolution, which cost her her life at the guillotine in 1793. But the way to get there is still fascinating.

The enemy at my court

Inexperienced and naive, the Austrian entered the society of the French high nobility. Marie Antoinette quickly became her sister-in-law's plaything. Her good nature made her the victim of numerous scoffs and intrigues. After all, it would take three years for the Dauphine to gain the confidence to take advantage of their position at the court of Versailles.

While much of the French population lived in poverty, Marie Antoinette indulged in abundance. When she was made queen in 1774 (her husband became Louis XVI), her decadent lifestyle became immoral. “If they don't have bread, they should eat cake” - a saying that is still said to her today. Wrong: The fictional quote was circulated by their enemies on the eve of the French Revolution. And Marie Antoinette had enough enemies at court, often just contemptuously called “the Austrian woman”.

Wasn't the crown prince the king's son at all?

Gossip topic number one has been the queen's love life for many years. It wasn't until eight years after the wedding - an eternity back then - that she gave birth to her first child, a daughter. In 1781, the long-awaited heir to the throne, Louis Joseph, was born, although he still died in childhood. His younger brother Louis Charles (born 1785) then became Crown Prince. But the boy drove the talk at court even further: because supposedly he should not have been the real son of the king's son ...

Code name: Madame Brown

It was no secret that Count Axel von Fersen was a favorite of Marie Antoinette. When the Swede with north German roots moved to France in 1783, the two had been correspondence for ten years. Numerous letters, which are still in good condition, bear witness to the emotional relationship. But the lovers were careful: aliases (she was “Madame Brown”), invisible ink and blackened areas made it impossible for outsiders to completely decipher the messages.

But the nobility glowed for the gossip, and when the queen gave birth to her second son (Louis Charles), who looked little like her first, the aristocracy seemed to know no other subject even across national borders. For many it was clear that King Louis XVI. It was impossible to be the father of the newborn, as everyone knew that Marie Antoinette spent more time with the Count von Fersen than with her husband. At that time, however, these claims could not be substantiated; the DNA test was not invented until 200 years later.

"I only live to love you"

The British historian Evelyn Farr claims to have found new evidence. In a 1791 letter from then Prime Minister William Pitt to his Secretary of State, it says: “I know von Fersen very well, and to me he is a man of undeniable honor and truthfulness. He is calm, determined and extremely discreet [...] He was Her Majesty's dearest favorite and is generally regarded as the father of the current Dauphin. "

Well, this letter is not yet proof of paternity. But in many sources it is said that Marie Antoinette and her husband Louis XVI. seldom got physically close. The reason for this was a former prostitute who had "worked her way up" to become the king's influential mistress. Marie Antoinette spoke to her only once in her life, so much did she hate her husband's lover.

Axel von Fersen, on the other hand, hardly left the queen's side at the Versailles court and was considered a passionate charmer. In his letters to Marie Antoinette, he wrote: “I only live and exist to love you. Adoring you is my only consolation. I love you and I will do this all my life. "

The mystery of Marie's little daughter

The fourth and last child of the French royal couple is also supposed to come from this liaison in reality. Little princess Sophie Hélène - officially named after the king's aunt, but supposedly named after the count's sister - was born in 1786. However, a few months after the birth, deformities could be seen on her body. One - admittedly rather macabre - theory is that these were the result of an attempted abortion. Because Maria Antoinette is said to have known that the girl was not from her husband, they say.

Much more likely, however, is the theory that Sophie's deformities stem from the corset that her mother did not want to take off even during pregnancy - a common fashion in high society in the 18th century, let us say at this point.

Sick, neglected, lynched

The allegedly common children of Marie Antoinette and Axel von Fersen both unfortunately met a tragic death: Louis Charles died in 1795 at the age of ten, emaciated and neglected in Temple prison - after he had to watch the king and queen in the wake of the French Revolution were killed on the scaffold. His misshapen sister Sophie Hélène closed her eyes forever seven years earlier when she was only eleven months old.

The Swedish count had a no less sorrowful end. When the Swedish Crown Prince died unexpectedly in 1810, his father, the King, suspected that he had been poisoned by Axel von Fersen. In order to deny the suspicions, he therefore accompanied the funeral procession of the dead heir to the throne. For the people who shared the king's view, this was an open act of mockery: they tore him from his horse and lynched him in the street.

The riddle of the royal children remains unsolved

Can the question of paternity ever be resolved? Probably not. So far, genetic researchers have not gone to great lengths to prove or disprove the claims. The reason is the lack of solid evidence. The letters alone, which the lovers wrote each other for almost twenty years, are not enough.

It is hard to imagine what other testimonies there might have been from this liaison if Marie Antoinette, Alex von Fersen and the children had been destined for a long life. Did this love just bloom at the wrong time? There will probably never be an answer to this question.

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