In one of the earliest memoirs of the young Queen of France, Madame Jeanne Louise Campan, Marie Antoinette's First Lady-in-Waiting and one of her closest and most faithful attendants, paints a dramatic portrait of the Queen's personal and political relationship with a King who was weaker than she. This memoir is presented against the backdrop of day to day life at court as it unravels in the growing madness of a revolution.
Campan passionately defends, and patiently details, Marie Antoinette's pride and honor in the face of the assault of propaganda against her -- propaganda that we still live with today. Touching, honest, and compelling, Madame Campan provides us a unique and intimate perspective of one of history's most fascinating women.
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November 24, 2006
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Excerpt from The Private Life of Marie Antoinette by Madame Campan
On the 1st of August I left Versailles for my country house at Crespy; on the 3rd came Boehmer (the jeweler), extremely uneasy at not having received any answer from the Queen, to ask me whether I had any commission from her to him; I replied that she had entrusted me with none; that she had no commands for him, and I faithfully repeated all she had desired me to say to him. "But," said Boehmer, "the answer to the letter I presented to her -- to whom must I apply for that?"
"To nobody," answered I; "her Majesty burnt your memorial without even comprehending its meaning."
"Ah! madame," exclaimed he, "that is impossible; the Queen knows that she has money to pay me!"
"Money, M. Boehmer? Your last accounts against the Queen were discharged long ago."
"Madame, you are not in the secret. A man who is ruined for want of payment of fifteen hundred thousand francs cannot be said to be satisfied."
"Have you lost your sense?" said I. "For what can the Queen owe you so extravagant a sum?"
"For my necklace, madame," replied Boehmer, coolly.
"What!" I exclaimed, "that necklace again, which you have teased the Queen about so many years! Did you not tell me you had sold it at Constantinople?"
"The Queen desired me to give that answer to all who should speak to me on the subject," said the wretched dupe. He then told me that the Queen wished to have the necklace, and had had it purchased for her by Monseigneur, the Cardinal de Rohan.
"You are deceived," I exclaimed; "the Queen has not once spoken to the Cardinal since his return from Vienna; there is not a man at her Court less favourably looked upon."
"You are deceived yourself, madame," said Boehmer; "she sees him so much in private that it was to his Eminence she gave thirty thousand francs, which were paid me as an installment; she took them in his presence, out of the little secretaire of Sevres porcelain next the fireplace in her boudoir."
"And the Cardinal told you all this?"
"Yes, madame, himself."
"What a detestable plot!" cried I.