The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette

Written by Carolly Erickson
Review by Gerald T. Burke

Marie Antoinette begins writing her diary as a young girl in the 1760s and continues sporadically until just before her death in 1793. Through her entries, we learn of her life in Austria as daughter to Empress Maria Theresa. Through an arranged marriage, fifteen-year-old Antoinette begins an unhappy union with the French dauphin. As the diary reveals, her husband refuses to consummate the marriage for many years, preferring to pursue his interests in botany and hunting. In 1774, he becomes King Louis XVI. Over time, Marie Antoinette becomes a mother, and her scandalous extravagances are toned down. As she matures, she tries to influence her husband to support a strong pro-Austrian foreign policy. The diary confirms her passionate affair with Axel Fersen, a Swedish nobleman in the French service. Finally, the French Revolution erupts, and the King and Queen attempt to flee, but they are caught, arrested, tried for treason, and executed.

Carolly Erickson’s fictional account adds a fresh perspective to the well-known facts of Marie Antoinette’s life. From her entries, we see a person who was much influenced by the society she was a part of. This is an appealing examination of a bygone era.