Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette: Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe
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Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette: Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe analyzes Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette in a thematic framework, focussing on the dialogue between their perceptions of themselves as heads of households, wives, and mothers and the expectations of their husbands’ subjects concerning the Queen Consort’s performance of these roles. The public nature of the Queen Consort’s position transformed the choices Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette made as wives and mothers into political acts with lasting implications for their respective royal houses. Both Queens approached their roles in a manner that ultimately contributed to the collapse of monarchical government. The question of the Queen’s actual activities and her contribution to popular discourse has been particularly neglected as the symbolism of Henrietta Maria, and especially Marie Antoinette has received more recent scholarly attention while discussion of each Queen’s actual motives has been relegated to popular biographies. The juxtaposition of the Queen’s own intentions with the expectations of her husband’s subjects provides a more complete picture of the ideological conflicts centering on the consort. These points of similarity and the comparative structure deepen the understanding of Henrietta Maria’s impeachment and Marie Antoinette’s trial because the juxtaposition of the two events reveals the continuous presence of the Queen Consort as a divisive figure throughout the Early Modern period. The comparison also demonstrates that both Queens attempted to actively shape their reputations according to the perceived extent of the public sphere in their lifetimes. Each Queen’s engagement with the charges levelled against her reveals the boundaries of public life in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Comparative analysis of the experiences of the two Queens illuminates changes in the perception of monarchy, the place of women within their families, the public sphere and ideas of foreignness that occurred over the course of Early Modern European history.