THE FATAL FRIENDSHIP: Marie Antoinette, Count Fersen and the Flight to Varennes by Stanley Loomis

THE FATAL FRIENDSHIP: Marie Antoinette, Count Fersen and the Flight to Varennes

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The melodrama of the Flight to Varennes is ably exploited by Loomis who intertwines this pivotal episode of the French Revolution with the weepy love story of Marie Antoinette, the much maligned, and Fersen, the Swedish knight who didn't abandon her to adversity. Despite the inflated sentimentality which leads him to portray the hapless queen as a ""noble soul"" in her downfall, Loomis (Paris in the Terror, 1964) constructs a vivid and convincing tableau of the vapid backbiting life of the Court and the temper of the nobility on the eve of the Revolution. Loomis makes clear that the nemesis of the despised Austrichienne was not the result of the clamorings of Marat or the bloodthirsty cries of the local fishwives; long before the Assembly was convened she had become a ""flesh-and-blood effigy of the vox populi"" reaping the fury of slander sown among the inner circle of her own Court. Although Loomis has a tendency to treat the French Revolution as a particularly nasty aristocratic fronde, he does an excellent job of sketching the intricate dynastic diplomacy which abetted the Queen's fate. The author's royalist sympathies and the insulated vantage point of the ""queen's circle"" preclude a balanced account of the revolutionary maelstrom but he is, once again, very good at depicting the frenzied irrationalism of Paris and Versailles in the heady days when young men of the upper classes cried ""Arise, ye desired storms!"" And he does succeed in modifying the picture of the heartlessly inane woman who bid the hungry peasants eat cake. Fersen, her would-be savior and probably her lover, remains a romantic but enigmatic figure; the pathos of their guarded devotion assures wide readership.

Pub Date: Feb. 4th, 1971
Publisher: Doubleday