I Love You Madly: Marie-Antoinette and Count Fersen: The Secret Letters by Evelyn Farr Book Review

Delve deeper into the world of the BBC hit drama series Versailles, and discover the real Marie-Antoinette in this ground-breaking study of her secret love affair with the Swedish diplomat Count Axel von Fersen.

For the first time an historian has compiled all the known letters between Swedish count Axel von Fersen and Marie-Antoinette, including six letters never before published. With unprecedented access to French and Swedish archives, Evelyn Farr has proven beyond doubt one of history’s greatest romances. Axel von Fersen was Queen Marie-Antoinette’s lover and loyal counsellor who gave her political advice from 1785 to the fall of the French monarchy at the time of the French Revolution. He organized the Royal Family’s escape from Paris in 1791. Evelyn Farr’s revelatory work on the subject also goes some way to proving that Count Fersen was in fact the biological father of Marie Antoinette’s two younger children. Farr unveils the logistics and practicalities behind the romance; the use of code and invisible ink, the role of intermediaries, secret seals, double envelopes, codenames and the location of Fersen’s clandestine lodgings at Versailles. I Love You Madly is a meticulously researched and enjoyable study of a forbidden love at a time of revolution. The letters portray a rebellious and independent queen who risked everything and broke all the rules to love the man who succeeded in conquering her heart.

Marie Antoinette’s relationship with Axel von Fersen has been the subject of speculation since the beginning of their friendship, some noting the timing of von Fersen’s visits with the births of Marie Antoinette’s younger children 40 weeks later. The fact is we will probably never know the true extent but we do have plenty of surviving letters by both von Fersen and Marie Antoinette. Evelyn Farr has found some previously unpublished letters and also managed to read some parts of letters that were blacked out. They often corresponded in code or invisible ink and used several means of transporting letters to one another. It is clear that their relationship was more than just a friendship. The letters show us a personal side of Marie Antoinette, which in itself is a real treat.

Von Fersen seems to really care for the Queen, and he was heavily involved in their attempted flight from Paris. Most touching of all is how he tries to keep her memory alive after Marie Antoinette is guillotined. At the end of his diary, he taped a part of a note from Marie Antoinette, and it reads, “Farewell, my heart is all yours”. The love was real, despite all the hate.

“I Love You Madly: Marie-Antoinette and Count Fersen: The Secret Letters” is available now in the UK and will be available in the US on 1 November 2016.

About Moniek Bloks 2659 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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