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Fight against fake news and lewd rumors in Versailles

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As a smoking weapon, Goldstone notes in the closing lines of her book that although the preserved heart of a child long believed to be Louis-Charles was “tested for DNA against Marie Antoinette and found to be consistent” in 2000 – Goldstone erroneously dated this event to 2004 – “in a curious omission, Louis’s remains were never publicly tested for paternity.” Line carries.

This fall, French researchers announced that they had deciphered Marie Antoinette’s private letters to Fersen using X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, the extensive editorial staff of which have thwarted potential detectives (including this reviewer) for generations. “In a blow to the gossip,” the New York Times reported, “the content doesn’t make it clear whether they were having an affair.” Goldstone persevered. In a video on her website, she elaborates on her thesis that heels slept with the queen and impregnated her, and reiterates her case by claiming that he must have done so because “experts” discovered that Louis XVI. was autistic. By “experts”, Goldstone apparently means a Dr. Linda Gray, a “well-known developmental pediatrician” in New Haven, Connecticut, whom she, as she writes in her book, “contacted … about Louis’ behavior without identifying him.” “The child you are describing,” quoted Goldstone Gray in response, “checks every box for autism spectrum disorder.” If correct, this hypothesis would perhaps explain a lot about the shy and embarrassed French king’s character. However, it would not prove that he was unable or unwilling to procreate with his wife. In any case, Gray’s words cannot rightly be called a diagnosis, since Louis died in 1793; nevertheless, they are considered compelling historical evidence by Goldstone.

Such misleading statements are particularly troubling because they repeat the pattern of lustful “fake news” that Marie Antoinette destroyed in the first place. Like Maria Theresa (who had to wage an almost eight-year war to uphold her right to follow her sonless father as ruler of the Habsburg Empire) and Maria Carolina (whom Napoleon Bonaparte reluctantly called “the only man in the Kingdom of Naples”, just about them from her throne and exiled), Marie Antoinette lived in a misogynist political culture that was tough on powerful women. From the moment she arrived in Versailles from her native Austria in 1770, Louis’ 14-year-old bride encountered irreconcilable hostility from many high-ranking personalities at court. Some of her antagonists opposed the Austrian diplomatic alliance that was supposed to ratify her marriage to Louis; others, like her husband’s brother Provence (later Louis XVIII) and his cousin Chartres (later Philippe-Égalité), hoped they could become king themselves if their relative’s marriage failed. To advance their plans, these adversaries cast her as a shame on the honor of her husband and France: an amoral, dissolute and lascivious whore. They distributed leaflets, which they showed in orgiastic romp with their closest friends, their stylist and her husband’s younger brother, d’Artois (later Charles X), among others. Coincidentally, these publications often called their children bastards, but usually named d’Artois, rather than Fersen, as the father.

When the revolution broke out in 1789, the opponents of the crown followed the same strategy and produced even more pornographic leaflets, the “l’Autrichienne” – literally “the Austrian”, but also a play on words for a bitch – represent even more X-rated scenarios. This smear campaign peaked or bottomed in the trial that sentenced her to death in October 1793 when the new Republican government prosecutor, Marie Antoinette, accused the 8-year-old Louis-Charles of incest. To explain these “unusual allegations”, Goldstone notes that the prosecution had apparently ruled that the Queen “had to advocate internally for the corruption and depravity of the monarchy in general. … This was done by building on the picture she presented in the brochures. That’s right. If only Goldstone had brought the same acumen into her own controversial conjectures about Marie Antoinette’s sex life.

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