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Old July 26th, 2013, 08:58 AM   #21

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While Marie Antoinette was not popular with the French people, I think these mischievous drawings and the rumors attached to them were more for raunchy entertainment purposes than true slander. Just like Les Dangereuses Liaisons and the work of Marquis de Sade, I think these catered to the sort of crowd that liked reading dirty fiction and their creators knew that using a very familiar face would be profitable.
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Old July 26th, 2013, 01:27 PM   #22

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Originally Posted by Chrissie View Post
While Marie Antoinette was not popular with the French people, I think these mischievous drawings and the rumors attached to them were more for raunchy entertainment purposes than true slander. Just like Les Dangereuses Liaisons and the work of Marquis de Sade, I think these catered to the sort of crowd that liked reading dirty fiction and their creators knew that using a very familiar face would be profitable.
I think as far as libelles go, the ones directed at Marie Antoinette was probably amongst some of the most succesful until that particular time in French history. There had been a continous market demand for libelles about the rich and powerful (including about the royal house) since Louis XIV, the market demand was their raison d'être, only rarely was they commissioned by political enemies, but the most succesful were the ones about figures who was already unpopular in some way or another with the general populace. And that was the case with Marie Antoinette, as it had been the case with libelles about unpopular mistresses of monarchs or unpopular ministers in the past.

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Old July 27th, 2013, 01:27 PM   #23

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Tabloids can speak you up and they can bring you down as well. Having seen the literature that was written about her in those tabloids were shocking and malicious had she been alive now that would of never happened in today's tabloids.

I can draw parallels with Richard III with this as he had suffered too with rubbish written about him after Bosworth. Nobody was in a position to defend him so I think he was the first victim of the tabloids.

Getting back to Marie Antoinette, she had natural charm and beauty. Men must have been in awe of her, this would cause a lot of jealousy with other women. She never looked for trouble quite the reverse, she did grew tired of all that etiquette at court and distancing herself from it may annoyed the socially elite. Hence the shocking rumours were being circulating and the french people got to read about it.
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Old July 27th, 2013, 01:31 PM   #24

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Originally Posted by Crystal Rainbow View Post
Tabloids can speak you up and they can bring you down as well. Having seen the literature that was written about her in those tabloids were shocking and malicious had she been alive now that would of never happened in today's tabloids.

I can draw parallels with Richard III with this as he had suffered too with rubbish written about him after Bosworth. Nobody was in a position to defend him so I think he was the first victim of the tabloids.

Getting back to Marie Antoinette, she had natural charm and beauty. Men must have been in awe of her, this would cause a lot of jealousy with other women. She never looked for trouble quite the reverse, she did grew tired of all that etiquette at court and distancing herself from it may annoyed the socially elite. Hence the shocking rumours were being circulating and the french people got to read about it.
The tabloid press have always been a double edge sword, you want it to print the good stuff, but the bad gets printed also.
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Old July 27th, 2013, 02:06 PM   #25

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Nice post. It should however be mentioned that the type of libel she was subjected to was not a new phenomenon in France. It heralded back to the Louis XIV, where court favourites and mistresses (as well as the king himself) was subjected to anonymous smear by what can mostly be described as hack writers. The libel of the rich and powerful simply constituted a whole genre of its own, the libelle, and its writers were termed libellistes.

While some of the writers worked in the relative safety of being in foreign neighbouring countries like the Netherlands or England (there were incidents of French agents kidnapping such writers), others did their work from inside France itself. It was a dangerous job though, most libellistes knew the inside of one of Frances many prisons (the Bastille being the most wellknown) and some even had the misfortune to end their days rotting up and forgotten by all in prison.

It should of course be acknowledged that the campaign against Marie Antoinette was particularly vehemous and persistent, but all the essentials in the type of literature that it consisted of was basically old news, slanderous stories of orgies and other types of sexual promiscuity was simply reused with a slight change of the personnel. Despite this the stories of course was gefundenes fressen for the revolutionaries, especially of the more radical and popular sort, who could use them to stir up the rabble and help ensure hatred for a regime they wanted to get rid of.

I can heartily recommend Robert Darntons groundbreaking study of the genre:

The Devil in the Holy Water, or the Art of Slander from Louis XIV to Napoleon (Material Texts): Robert Darnton: 9780812241839: Amazon.com: Books
Another excellent book by Darnton that covers libelles is The Forbidden Bestsellers of Prerevolutionary France. The people who produced these libelles mainly came from Grub Street, which Darnton describes in The Literary Underground of the Old Regime. As Darnton describes them, a grub street intellectual was an individual from the provinces, who, having read the works of Voltaire and Rousseau, came to believe in the republic of letters where the only boundary is talent. He goes to Paris in search of fame and fortune, only to find that the republic of letters is actually a nobility of privilege and protection. Only those with the right ideas and the right contacts are allowed into this club. The rest are reduced to a life of degradation and poverty, doing whatever it takes to survive, including spying for the police, writing for hack journals, and producing libelles. As Voltaire put it, "they live off ryhmes and hopes and die in destitution." Having discovered that the republic of letters is a cruel illusion, the spurned individual directs all his rage and humiliation at the system. He wishes to destroy it and desanctify its symbols.

Grub Street intellectuals played an important role in the old regime communications systems. They were the anonymous pens of philosophes who wished to strike at their political enemies discreetly. They spread philosophe ideas among the public by distributing various versions of philosophe texts. And they produced libelles.

Libelles had a long history in the old regime, dating back to the sixteenth century. The output of libelles exploded during crises, as they were as important to warfare as guns and soldiers, used to attack the legitimacy of opponents and weaken their standing in front of the people. The latter half of the eighteenth century saw a sustained profusion of libelles due to france's declining status as a world power.

The eighteenth century libelles reduced politics to personalities. Every problem in the old regime could be attributed to perverse ministers, abusive clerics, or a decadent and stagnant aristocracy. One of the most common tropes was the impotent upper class and the virile lower class, and most of the libelles were directed at what grub street perceived as a corrupt, irresponsible, decadent, and stagnant ministerial monarchy that was responsible for all problems in French society. The libelles were usually presented in the form of a biography or history, using techniques of voyeurism--being at the right place at the right time, intercepting letters, witnesses, and "logical reasoning." These were really the only "news" about eighteenth century elites.

Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.

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Old August 2nd, 2013, 02:49 PM   #26

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Originally Posted by Danton
Marie-Antoinette was the target of abuse for those opposed to the Austrian alliance (the physical manifestation of which she was), those who were unable to break into her faction, and also those generally opposed to the role of women in politics. I am sure the King's inner circle (men like Maurepas, Calonne*, Miromesnil and Vergennes) were at pains to keep her influence at arms length, but I am not too sure if they would have actively connived in the tolerance of such tabloids, as they generally reflected very badly on Louis XVI himself (the cukolded husband).
It's a good question who financed these pamphlets against Marie Antoinette in the 1780s before the Revolution. I think Danton is on to it by suggesting those shut our from her circle, opposed to the Austrian alliance and the role of women in policits. I thin the Duke d'Orleans and Count de Provence may have been behind some of the pamphlets against the Queen. When Marie Antoinette gave birth to an heir to the throne in 1781, the Count de Provence was heard to question the child's paternity.
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Old August 2nd, 2013, 03:17 PM   #27

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Originally Posted by spellbanisher View Post
Another excellent book by Darnton that covers libelles is The Forbidden Bestsellers of Prerevolutionary France. The people who produced these libelles mainly came from Grub Street, which Darnton describes in The Literary Underground of the Old Regime. As Darnton describes them, a grub street intellectual was an individual from the provinces, who, having read the works of Voltaire and Rousseau, came to believe in the republic of letters where the only boundary is talent. He goes to Paris in search of fame and fortune, only to find that the republic of letters is actually a nobility of privilege and protection. Only those with the right ideas and the right contacts are allowed into this club. The rest are reduced to a life of degradation and poverty, doing whatever it takes to survive, including spying for the police, writing for hack journals, and producing libelles. As Voltaire put it, "they live off ryhmes and hopes and die in destitution." Having discovered that the republic of letters is a cruel illusion, the spurned individual directs all his rage and humiliation at the system. He wishes to destroy it and desanctify its symbols.

Grub Street intellectuals played an important role in the old regime communications systems. They were the anonymous pens of philosophes who wished to strike at their political enemies discreetly. They spread philosophe ideas among the public by distributing various versions of philosophe texts. And they produced libelles.

Libelles had a long history in the old regime, dating back to the sixteenth century. The output of libelles exploded during crises, as they were as important to warfare as guns and soldiers, used to attack the legitimacy of opponents and weaken their standing in front of the people. The latter half of the eighteenth century saw a sustained profusion of libelles due to france's declining status as a world power.

The eighteenth century libelles reduced politics to personalities. Every problem in the old regime could be attributed to perverse ministers, abusive clerics, or a decadent and stagnant aristocracy. One of the most common tropes was the impotent upper class and the virile lower class, and most of the libelles were directed at what grub street perceived as a corrupt, irresponsible, decadent, and stagnant ministerial monarchy that was responsible for all problems in French society. The libelles were usually presented in the form of a biography or history, using techniques of voyeurism--being at the right place at the right time, intercepting letters, witnesses, and "logical reasoning." These were really the only "news" about eighteenth century elites.

Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.
Well, he does occasionally mention libelles in those works, but only in passing and the work I referenced is his monograph on the subject.

Those works are certainly interesting and important (and some of my favourites on French ancien régime public sphere), however not particularly interesting in connection with this subject.

Last edited by Gudenrath; August 2nd, 2013 at 03:20 PM.
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Old August 6th, 2013, 06:02 AM   #28

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I've discovered this monograph on the London-based libellistes:

[ame="http://www.amazon.com/Blackmail-Scandal-Revolution-Londons-Libellistes/dp/0719065275/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1375797443&sr=1-1&keywords=blackmail%2C+scandal+and+revolution"]Blackmail, Scandal and Revolution: London's French Libellistes, 1758-92: Simon Burrows: 9780719065279: Amazon.com: Books@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51TLV0heufL.@@AMEPARAM@@51TLV0heufL[/ame]

I haven't read it yet, but it seems to revise some of Darntons conclusions, "...he demonstrates that their attacks on living monarchs and their consorts (most notably Marie Antoinette) were in fact almost unobtainable prior to 1789. He concludes that the libellistes’ primary importance lies in their contribution to factional politics and in the public disquiet aroused by desperate and heavy-handed attempts to kidnap or silence them".
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Old August 6th, 2013, 05:42 PM   #29

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Thank you, Gudenrath, for this last contribution.

I've been reading reviews of this book online and chapter 5 of he book is devoted to libels against Marie Antoinette. The reviews indicate the conclusion you suggested that despite the number of pamphlets against the Queen, they did not widely circulate before 1789.

The reviews indicate that many of these pamphlets were bought up by the crown and that a purpose of the writers was blackmail rather than actual circulation. However, rather than destroy the pamphlets a large number see to have been stored in the Bastille and came into circulation after July 1789.

I was looking for a response to Simon Burrow's 2006 book by Lynn Hunt, Chantal Thomas or Robert Darnton to contend, as each of them has, that there was much broader circulation of libels against Marie Antoinette before. 1789 but I have not seen responses to Burrows.
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Old August 7th, 2013, 12:10 PM   #30

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In the documentary Marie Antoinette, a film by David Grubin (2006), the assertion is made by Simon Schama that in the 1780s pamphlets against the Queen sold like hotcakes. the assertion these were widespread by 1785 is made by Chantal Thomas and Évelyne Lever. The assertions of this pamphlet campaign and the widespread hatred of the Queen that had developed by 1785 appear in this part of the film at 7:00 through 9:00 -

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfY0OeH9ON8]Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France (part5/12) - YouTube[/ame]
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