Manipulating Maria: Marie Antoinette's Image From Betrothal To Beheading And Beyond
Kilgore-Mueller, Mylynka D'Ann
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The shaping of Marie Antoinette's image began before her arrival at Versailles. Prior to her marriage, her mother, Austrian Empress Maria Theresa brought in experts to educate the Archduchess in the ways of life in the French court. Marie Antoinette was taught to walk, speak and act like a lady in the Versailles court. She was remade into the ideal image of French beauty at the time. Upon arrival at Versailles, she was quickly overwhelmed by the strict etiquette that was applied to her daily activities. There was a protocol for every aspect of her day, from her morning toilette to her evening coucher. Marie Antoinette had very little control over her role at court or of her role in her marriage. She tried to take control of the one thing she could; her image. She crafted and manipulated it to make her presence known at the highly regimented court of Versailles. She continued to craft her image up until the time of her execution by consciously choosing her hairstyles, her dresses, shoes, and accessories. How she shaped her image, why she shaped it the way she did, and the reactions she received from it are the focus of this paper. The many paintings, fashion plates, caricatures and cartoons of both the period and of today help to explain the myth of Marie Antoinette. The myriad of uses to which she is now put in popular culture illustrates the enduring power of her memory. By examining them I hope to find out why Marie Antoinette made the choices she made, caused the commotion and outrage she did, and why she remains a relevant figure today.