Belloc, Hilaire. Marie Antoinette. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1924.
Belloc provides an early biographical account of Marie Antoinette, using letters, reports, and maps to give the reader an account of Marie Antoinette’s life. Though he begins with a look at the beginning of her life, including information about her parents, Belloc’s real focus is on the latter part of her life. His main objective throughout the book is to portray Marie Antoinette as an insignificant, temperamental woman, whose lapses in judgment, failed friendships, and neglected actions lead to her ruin. He also explains how her control over her own life was nonexistent, and how she is moved to her fate by influences other than her own. An important detail about his work includes his argument of the authenticity of Marie Antoinette’s last letter, a seemingly large debate at that time. He concludes that the document must be real, despite the fact that the language sounds too exceptional compared to other writings by her.
Castelot, Andre. Queen of France: A Biography of Marie Antoinette. Translated by Denise Folliot. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957.
Relying heavily on primary documents, Castelot’s biography of Marie Antoinette also provides the reader with an account of her full life. Unlike Belloc, he does not particularly focus on one time in her life, but spreads his attention equally. His sources include documents that had not yet been published at the time, including documents about Marie Antoinette’s childhood and marriage, which had been in the Vienna Archives. He also contacted the ancestors of the General Comte de Caraman in order to obtain his unpublished Mémoires. In contrast to Belloc, Castelot uses the exact words of eye-witnesses whenever he can in order to give the book a more unbiased attitude, though he leads the reader to conclude that she did not care for her people, nor understand politics. Much of his book agrees with Belloc’s argument that Marie Antoinette did not control her own fate. Unlike his predecessors, Castelot presented Marie Antoinette’s early life chronologically rather than by a series of subjects.
Seward, Desmond. Marie Antoinette. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981.
Seward introduces many new ideals into his biography of Marie Antoinette that had not been previously examined. He focuses on her ruin through slander, the blurring of her personality with that of her husbands, and the fact that she may be seen as a victim of men. He concludes that she is now as revered as she had once been hated. Essentially, his main objective is to break from the traditional portrait that both Belloc and Castelot use to portray Marie Antoinette. Seward does agree with Belloc and Castelot in that Marie Antoinette was an unsuccessful politician, though he maintains that she was serious. He does not contribute any new sources as he believes there are none left to be found. However, he does reevaluate the older sources, as well as takes a look at sources that writers during his time believed were either too biased or inaccurate to be worthy of examination.
Haslip, Joan. Marie Antoinette. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1987.
Just as Castelot before her, Haslip’s biography of Marie Antoinette relies heavily on the Vienna Archives, particularly Marie Antoinette’s family archives. Her sources include early letters between Marie Antoinette and her mother, as well as letters between her two brothers, all of which portray her as honest and good. Haslip splits Marie Antoinette’s life into two parts, which is broken by the Diamond Necklace Affair. She then proceeds to focus on the first part of Marie Antoinette’s life. Though she agrees with Belloc and Castelot that Marie Antoinette was a terrible Queen of France, Haslip builds upon what Seward had done earlier to figure out not only why Marie Antoinette failed, but to also find excuses for her failure. She also follows what Seward had begun by studying Marie Antoinette as a person rather than as a woman who could not control her fate, as Castelot and Belloc had done.
Hunt, Lynn. “The Many Bodies of Marie Antoinette: Political Pornography and the Problem of the Feminine in the French Revolution.” In The French Revolution: Recent Debates and New Controversies,edited by Gary Kates, 201-219. New York: Routledge, 2006.
Hunt nearly breaks completely from the thoughts of historians before her in her article about Marie Antoinette. She focuses on one particular aspect of Marie Antoinette’s life and looks at it from a completely different angle. Using many new sources, most all of which are secondary, Hunt focuses on the pornographic literature revolving around Marie Antoinette, connecting this with Jacobin attitudes towards gender and sexuality. Unlike Belloc and Castelot, Hunt believes that Marie Antoinette was extremely influential, especially in politics. Hunt concludes, in an idea not previously examined, that Marie Antoinette was therefore condemned by revolutionaries who did not believe women should play public or political roles in France. In certain ways, Hunt expands upon Haslips intent to provide excuses for Marie Antoinette’s failure, but she also breaks from Haslip in that she is not interested in whether Marie Antoinette was unfairly accused. She also does not particularly care to examine why Marie Antoinette was so hated by the common French citizens.