Palais des Tuileries, France
21 January 1793
Dear Agony Aunt Bathilda,
I am badly in need of your sage advice. I have heard you are quite experienced in these matters, especially dealing with the delicate issues that affect royals such as myself.
I am in dire need of some public relations. Aunt Bathilda, there are people spreading lies about me. Moi! The Queen of France! But my life is an open book! I put on my rouge and wash my hands in front of the whole world.
It is not my fault that I am daughter of a Habsburg emperor and that these “people” are French peasants. We all have to play the hand we are dealt at birth! Look at me: I was married at 15 years old to a man I had never even met before. I wasn’t even at the wedding! But I managed to overcome that dilemma. Surely, these peasants have never had to deal with a situation as serious as that!
I have tried to reason with them. But it is as if we speak different languages. They accuse me of adultery and incest. My poor young son has been very unceremoniously taken from me! They call me traitor, because Louis and I tried to
run for our lives go on vacation to Austria two years ago. I only wanted to visit my parents and have some good Wiener Schnitzel for a change. You can’t get a decent one here.
These horrible people call me names like “Madame Veto” and “Madame Deficit” in the newspapers, and refer to me as “that Austrian whore” behind my back. I do not know what I have done to incite their wrath. I am not too ostentatious, for a queen. Surely, royalty such as ourselves are expected to entertain guests and throw memorable and extravagant parties every night.
These peasants are revolting! And they’re causing quite some terror too! They seem to think that the wealth in France is for them. Mais non! It is for the First and Second Estates, who have worked tirelessly to keep it.
For the last two years, my brave husband and I have been held captive in this palace. We have been wrenched from Versailles, the home that I was promised when I was betrothed to Louis. I can tell you, he is about to lose his head over this madness! I do not know what to do.
Do you think perhaps I could give the peasants a small peace offering? I know a very good pâtisserie on Rue de Catherine, which makes excellent brioche. Perhaps I could offer the peasants some petit fours? Some pain au chocolat?
Would that help? Surely, everyone loves cake.
Please, Aunt Bathilda, I am desperately in need of some wise advice. I must hurry. The noise here is deafening. It almost sounds like there’s an angry mob beating on our door.
I await your reply.
Maria Antonia Josepha Joanna
Queen Marie Antoinette (R)
My dear Queen Marie Antoinette,
I am indeed sorry to learn of your predicament.
Clearly, you are a very misunderstood creature with only good and kind thoughts in you. I would agree that everyone loves cake and a good pâtisserie is indeed hard to find!
Give the peasants your peace offering. It’s an excellent idea! I am quite confident that they will appreciate the gesture and that history will remember you kindly for this.
Aunt Agony Bathilda