Marie-Antoinette The Making of a French Queen John Hardman

Publication date:
24 Aug 2021
Yale University Press
384 pages: 197 x 127mm
24 color illus.
Sales territories:


A new look which fundamentally overturns our understanding of this famously "out of touch" queen

“Presents [Marie-Antoinette] as much more than a symbol whose meaning is in the eye of her beholder . . . neither martyr nor voluptuary but rather a serious participant in politics.”—Lynn Hunt, New York Review of Books

“Splendid. . . . Masterly. . . . A wonderfully gripping biography.”—Allan Massie, Wall Street Journal

Named a Book of the Year (2020) by The Spectator

Who was the real Marie-Antoinette? She was mistrusted and reviled in her own time, and today she is portrayed as a lightweight incapable of understanding the events that engulfed her. In this new account, John Hardman redresses the balance and sheds fresh light on Marie-Antoinette’s story.

Hardman shows how Marie-Antoinette played a significant but misunderstood role in the crisis of the monarchy. Drawing on new sources, he describes how, from the outset, Marie-Antoinette refused to prioritize the aggressive foreign policy of her mother, Maria-Theresa, bravely took over the helm from Louis XVI after the collapse of his morale, and, when revolution broke out, listened to the Third Estate and worked closely with repentant radicals to give the constitutional monarchy a fighting chance. For the first time, Hardman demonstrates exactly what influence Marie-Antoinette had and when and how she exerted it.

John Hardman is one of the world’s leading experts on the French Revolution and the author of several distinguished books on the subject.

“Splendid . . . masterly . . . a wonderfully gripping biography.”—Allan Massie, Wall Street Journal

“Hardman utilises years of researching the fall of the French monarchy, weaving in accounts by those who knew, loved or loathed Marie Antoinette, to offer a broadly convincing portrait of a woman who ‘inspired loyalty in strangers who were willing to risk their lives for her, even when the chances of success were slight.' It is a thought-provoking portrait of a brave, well-intentioned, if often misguided queen.”--Gareth Russell, The Times (London)

“[A] splendid biography  [. . .] It sheds genuine new light on a celebrated and tragic figure whose faults did not merit the appalling fate she suffered”—Munro Price, Literary Review

“The impressive depth of Hardman's knowledge of the old regime's factional court politics makes it essential reading for anyone who wants to know more about the decision-making that led France into revolution - decisions in which the queen played an active part”Marisa Linton, BBC History Magazine

“In his new biography of the queen, John Hardman goes beyond the cliches of Marie- Antoinette's life - the enormous wigs, her extravagant spending and 'let them eat cake' - to reveal her as a political mover and shaker with real influence, particularly during the last months of the French monarchy”Laura O’Brien, History Today

“It is worth making time for John Hardman's Marie-Antoinette....A well written and sympathetic life of a woman out of her depth in the world of politics, and a good companion piece to the same author's life of her husband Louis XVI”—Jonathan Sumption, Spectator [Books of the Year]

“Hardman is far more than a biographer, his works are key to understanding the politics of the reign of Louis XVI. Steeped in the original sources and well able to decode the plots and schemes of the factions, this is both an entertaining and convincing new interpretation of the tragic Queen”—Peter Campbell, author of Power and Politics in Old Regime France

"Superb. Hardman draws upon his vast knowledge of the period to present a new, deeply researched and compelling portrait of a much-maligned queen'—Julian Swann, author of Exile, Imprisonment, or Death

“Gripping and beautifully-written. Hardman centres on the queen's political role, long a subject of myth and controversy. He cuts through both with forensic skill, and reveals a much more intelligent and impressive figure than the frivolous spendthrift of legend.”—Munro Price, author of The Fall of the French Monarchy

"A fresh perspective grounded in robust scholarship, Marie-Antoinette offers readers new insight into the political role of the last Queen of France."—Will Bashor, author of Marie Antoinette’s Darkest Days