MARIE ANTOINETTE

Extremely Rare ALS of Marie Antoinette as Queen of France

Item #20234


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MARIE ANTOINETTE - Extremely Rare ALS of Marie Antoinette as Queen of France
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MARIE ANTOINETTE - Extremely Rare ALS of Marie Antoinette as Queen of France

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MARIE ANTOINETTE. (1755-1793). French queen whose legendary spending enraged the citizenry and helped foment the French Revolution. ALS. (“Marie Antoinette”). 1p. Small 8vo. N.p., April 19, 1788. (To PIERRE-CHARLES BONNEFOY DU PLAN, 1732-1824, keeper of the furniture and concierge of the Queen’s retreat, known as the Petit Trianon.) In French with translation.

 

Pray deliver the furniture that I intend for St. Cloud, and for which I have already designated the day and hour that they may come and take them. Marie Antoinette April 19 1788”

 

Maria Antonia, the daughter of Hapsburg ruler Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, married Louis-Auguste, the French dauphin, in 1770 in order to strengthen the recent alliance between France and Austria. At court, known as Marie Antoinette, she faced numerous challenges including the controversy surrounding the couple’s failure to consummate their marriage on their wedding night, the public opposition to the Austrian alliance and falling out of favor with King Louis XV’s powerful mistress Madame du Barry whom Marie Antoinette eventually exiled from Versailles.

 

Upon the death of Louis XV, Louis-August and Marie Antoinette became king and queen of France. Louis gave the queen the chateau Petit Trianon, located on the grounds of Versailles and formerly her enemy Madame du Barry’s home. The 19-year-old queen delighted in redecorating the chateau, creating a private refuge from the rigors of court.

 

De Plan served as the Petit Trianon’s intendant and, as such, oversaw the movement of furniture, delivery of supplies, managed much of the queen’s budget, and controlled access to the chateau. After his 1782 purchase of a seigniorial estate he became Baron du Charmel.

 

In 1785, Louis XVI purchased the Chateau de Saint-Cloud for Marie Antoinette who thought the country air would benefit her children’s health. Despite her move, the couple’s youngest daughter, Sophie Beatrix, succumbed to tuberculosis in 1787 before she reached her first birthday and her eldest son, the dauphin Louis Joseph, died from the same illness two years later at age 7. From 1787 to 1788, the queen, with her architect Richard Mique, enlarged the palace, rebuilt the large staircase and made substantial changes to the garden. Initially, the chateau was decorated with furniture from the Garde-Meuble, a royal storehouse of furnishings, but soon after Marie Antoinette filled the palace with elegant and sumptuous gilt furnishings commissioned specifically for Saint-Cloud. It is likely that our letter refers to this period of renovation. During the revolution, the château was declared a bien national, confiscated and then emptied of its contents in a series of Revolutionary sales.

 

From the outset, Louis XVI’s reign was troubled by France’s grave economic situation and worsened by his support of the American Revolution. Poor advice from Louis’ ministers aggravated the situation and led to his gradual fall from power, giving way, finally, to the French Revolution. Although the causes of the revolution, which began on May 5, 1789, were many, Marie Antoinette’s reputation as a spendthrift combined with rumors that she was an Austrian spy fanned the flames of outright disapproval. By late September 1792, the king had been deposed; following his trial and conviction for treason, Louis was guillotined on January 21, 1793. Marie Antoinette was tried before the Revolutionary Tribunal and executed by guillotine ten months later on October 16, 1793.   

 

In 1789, du Plan became the king’s secretary and after the royal family departed Versailles he lived in an apartment above the queen in the Tuileries. To avoid implicating the queen, he destroyed household inventories, but spent more than a year in a dungeon during the reign of terror.

 

Written on a folded sheet which bears a short list in an unidentified hand on the blank integral leaf.

 

Folded with normal wear and in very good condition and apparently unpublished. Autograph letters signed and dated by Marie Antoinette as queen are of the utmost rarity. We located only three ALSs of Marie Antoinette in 40 years of American auction records, and none of them dated as queen.

 

 

Item #20234



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