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To the Scaffold: The Life of Marie Antoinette
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To the Scaffold: The Life of Marie Antoinette

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  841 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
One of history's most misunderstood figures, Marie Antoinette represents the extravagance and the decadence of pre-Revolution France. Yet there was an innocence about Antoinette, thrust as a child into the chillingly formal French court.

Married to the maladroit, ill-mannered Dauphin, Antoinette found pleasure in costly entertainments and garments. She spent lavishly while
ebook, 384 pages
Published July 1st 2004 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1991)
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May 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in: French History, French revolution, European Monarchy
Things I learned from this book:

1)King Louis had a medical condition known as phimosis that made is excruciatingly painful to ejaculate. It required a painful surgery to correct, and it was until 7 years into their marriage he finally opted for this surgery. Ouch.

2)Marie Antoinette never left France after she arrived as a young bride.

3)The guillotine was a new execution method invented during the revolution. It was actually a political statement meant to grant all levels of society an equal meth
Jul 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most riveting biographies I've read. After reading the biography of Napoleon Bonaparte, I picked it up AGAIN (this is my third time reading it) in order to refresh my memory of what layed the groundwork in France for the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon. Undisciplined, LAVISH spending by Marie Antoinette and the royal family and courtiers during a time in France when their economy was on the verge of bankruptcy, led to wide protest and unrest. Burdensome taxes were d ...more
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-cried
I think that the first sentence in the book description... "One of the most misunderstood." I'm not saying she wasn't frivolous or empty headed in some regards but she didn't seem to be a hateful or mean person. What was done to this family was brutal.
Page Wench
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, france
A more informal feel to this than other Marie Antoinette biographies I've read. I appreciated the footnotes and kept my bookmark at the appropriate place to easily flip back to refer to them for each chapter. A good mixture of personal and court details and the broader political picture of a troubled France. Recommended to anyone interested in the French Revolution or Antoinette, even if you've read other biographies.
Michelle Davila
It is by no means the best chronicle of this woman. It talks endlessly about the queens growing up and life, but not much about the trial. So the tittle is missleading
M.M. Strawberry Reviews
I read this back in highschool - this book was a chance discovery as I wandered among the shelves at my school library, looking for something to read. This book looked interesting, so I picked it up, and I was not disappointed. Not only does Ms. Erickson offer a glimpse into Marie Antoinette's life, but she also gives a background of French history (which is vital to understanding the French Revolution and the circumstances that stripped the royal family of their powers and led to Louis and Mari ...more
Nov 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a good crash course on the life of Marie Antoinette and the circumstances that led to her death. Erickson is a highly sympathetic author, but she doesn't whitewash the monarchy's absurd extravagance (she notes in one chapter that the cost of maintaining the royal household was, at one time, fully a sixth of the national budget). On the whole, she does an excellent job telling the story of how the French monarchy refused to change with the world around it. It doesn't read like fiction, bu ...more
Dolores Marconi
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great read; well researched story. Marie Antoinette was nothing like she has been generally portrayed; her famous quote "Let them eat cake", in this account, meant to allow them what she herself could eat. The teen aged King and Queen were untrained in business but good hearted.
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.

Read for a uni assignment on the French Revolution.
Sa Schmidt
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is a good read. I would agree that she had been mistreated historically. Her and her King were not well prepared at all for royal duties prior to their coronation. And the Kings who was to do that was not an effective or good king at all. He is as much to blame in if not more , in my view, for this financial fiasco as the royal family that paid with their lives. His incessant preoccupation with Madam Du Barry who was not a lady. And her antics helped France nothing and invested in its future ...more
Feb 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this author’s style of writing. I especially liked the beginning of the book. It was interesting to read about Marie Antoinette’s background, and then read about her experiences at first in the palace. Of course, in the end it takes a dark turn, and the political parts of the book were a little hard to follow. It’s definitely written with a bias for Marie Antoinette, but that’s OK by me, because I think she gets a bad rap that she doesn’t necessarily deserve. I wish there had been some ...more
Jessica Harn
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The life of Marie Antoinette really comes to life, making her death even more tragic in the French Revolution
Elizabeth Alfaro
Light reading about the Queen we hate and love.
Noelle M
Aug 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The French Revolution, in my opinion, was the death blow to the ancient "organic" social structure and its economy, that divided society into three classes or "estates": clergy, aristocracy, and serfs. From what I can see of the economy of that system, the clergy and aristocracy held the land and wealth, and the serfs provided the engine's steam. The economy enforced by these classes of power and non-power collapsed under the demands of the Hundred Year War. Economies and social organizations do ...more
Nicole B
I really enjoyed this biography as its prose read like a story, a more narrative telling of Marie Antoinette's life as opposed to a an in-depth informational telling. If you are looking for a more superficial, general overview of Marie Antoinette's life, this is the book for you. It does a good job at hitting all of the main events but doesn't go too in-depth on any of them.

The only downside is that this book is rather dated now (I read in 2017), and new scholarship has arisen that contradicts s
Kathleen Hagen
To the Scaffold: the Life of Marie Antoinette, by Carolly Erickson, Narrated by Davina Porter, Produced by recorded Books, Downloaded from

This book is filled with details about Marie Antoinette’s life, first in Austria as Empress Maria theresa’s daughter, and then in France where she went to be the wife of Prince (dauphine) Louis. Louis, when he became king, was not a leader. Antoinette, as she was known, had to advise him and lead him. But in doing so, she went, in the view of the
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: france
This may be my favorite book of Revolutionary Era France that I have read. It was full of detail, not just about the royal family, but about all of the people and circumstances surrounding them. It was honest in presenting the faults of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, but presented a sympathetic view of them and their situation. It highlighted not only their weaknesses and shortcomings, but their strengths and humanity.

The thing that struck me most during my reading of this book, were the
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read if you like surprise (spoiler alert), Marie Antonette was beheaded.

While I do think she was spoiled and really overdid in many cases, I do have to wonder if her life would/ could have been different if her mother had chosen to educate her more in politics and allowed her to see her in action negotiating. Maybe Marie Antoinette would have been more able to help Louis XVI, who I really do think of as such a weak king and individual, if she had more background and instruct
 SaЯRah Muhammad
One definite asset that this biography possesses is that one does not need much prior information about the Revolution to understand it. Different political ideologies, thoughts, and actions are carefully explained, yet the general flow of the book generally does not sway too far from Antoinette. This biography was also enjoyable to read because of the numerous (and sometimes amusing) quotations used, as well as the in-depth account of Antoinette's last days.
The only noticeable fault that I foun
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I began this book with a very limited knowledge of Marie Antoinette and that period of French history. From the standpoint of describing how people lived, especially at court, during that time, the author was amazing. I truly had no idea of the awful, unclean living conditions! Because of surviving diaries, letters, etc, the author was able to paint a very clear picture of Marie Antoinette and her life.

The period of time was a sad one for the people of France, especially in the crowded, dirty ci
Dec 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was a very well written and interesting biography of one of the most famous women in history. I really didn't know much about Marie Antoinette and found the descriptions and background of the political situation in France leading up to the revolution to be quite helpful in giving context to her tragedy. Good read for anyone who wants to learn more about these subjects. Familiar with Ericsson as a historical fiction author, very impressed with this biography.
Aug 05, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
All in all pretty good. Interesting narrative and I learned a lot, but it lacked spark for me. Perhaps there simply isn't enough detailed documentation of Marie Antoinette's life to flesh her out more fully. At times, I felt the author wanted the reader to be more sympathetic than the circumstances called for. A good introduction to the subject with interesting information, but not a riveting read.
Connie Barillas
Lots of French history. Insights into the royal family as "regular" people. Sadness that the naivete of the royal couple lost them their heads. I've wondered what became of their children. It has been interesting to read early American history books with the memory of this book. The American founders knew this couple, and liked them.
Samantha Bee
This read more like sensationalised fiction than a non-fiction biography. It seemed to rush through some points in Antoinette's life, and I wasn't particularly fond of how Louis was portrayed as a fat and lazy buffoon, how Du Barry was presented as an over-ambitious whore, or how the whole Fersen thing was made out to be 100% fact. Could have used some more sources as well.
Dec 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This was the first book that I'd read about Marie Antoinette. Like most adolescents, my opinions at the time, were based on the small paragraphs in class history books. I felt amazing sympathy for this historical figure. Carolly Erickson's ability to enliven this person (beyond the page) opened new literary possibilities.
Mar 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author brings to life the terrible times of the French Revolution. She helps bring to life the good and the bad not just of the royalty but of the nobility, counselors, advisors, and people. It was such a dark time. Well done.
Sep 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just finished reading this book and I loved it. It gave a lot of information on th normal everday life and the view points everyone was coming from. I had a hard time puting this book down and was a little sad when it was over.
Brian Bigelow
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These days I think we sometimes see the French revolution through rose colored glasses. Yet it really wasn't all that great.
As I read through I wonder the end result could have been changed. What if Louis XVI, and Marie Antoinette, had managed to escape?
Aug 24, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
Recommended to Diane by: 9th Ward Book club
This book was so interesting. I never would want to live in those times. She was raised in a royal home, yet really had no idea how to be a queen. She had a really sad life that ended with her beheading.
Jul 07, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember being scandalized by this book, but also facinated. Marie Antoinette is certainly one of those characters who baffles, delights, and offends...loved and hated by history, who only lived as she was raised.
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Distinguished historian Carolly Erickson is the author of The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette, The First Elizabeth, Great Catherine, Alexandra and many other prize-winning works of fiction and nonfiction. She lives in Hawaii.
More about Carolly Erickson...

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