During the reign of King Louis XVI, many Frenchmen disliked the King’s wife, Marie Antoinette. In fact, they often blamed her for coercing her husband into making unpopular decisions. While Louis XVI often agreed with her and allowed her to give gifts and rewards to her favorites, he did not allow her to coerce or sway his decisions when it came to matters of state.
Illustrative of this is a disagreement that occurred between the couple and was reported by Scots Magazine in 1776. It follows almost verbatim:
In France the women think they have an hereditary right to govern; even the mistresses of the kings never gave up that point: no wonder then, if a sprightly woman of parts and beauty, and a queen too, should think herself neglected, if denied this trifling prerogative. But with a king, who was thought most likely of all others to give up this point, she has been mistaken, and her advisers removed from court.
Étienne-François, duc de Choiseul, who was Foreign Minister at the time, and some other men out of power, in concert with the Queen, had laid a deep scheme, not only to put out Claude Louis, Comte de Saint-Germain, (a man of great abilities and honour), but also by a coup de main to overturn the whole court-system, and bring about a thorough change of ministers and measures. The Queen commenced the action by proposing it to the King; but he told her in plain terms; that he had good and able counsellors; that he meant to act in all things for the benefit of his people, (and this alone is his real object); and desired she would mine her own department, and not interfere in matters of states.
This brought on some very warm altercation. The Queen retired, and became soon after very ill. Her physicians told his Majesty, that something hung heavy on her mind; and till that was removed there was no hopes of conquering her disorder. The King immediately visited her, took her by the hand, and expressed his affection and concern, and his desire to know what it was that occasioned her chagrin … she again touched upon the maneuver she had so much at heart: but the King, with the same manly firmness, insisted upon it, that she never should interfere in matters of states: upon which she indignantly threw his hand out of hers, and the King as indignantly retired.
Choiseul and others of the Queen’s private council are banished from the court, some say, sent to the Bastille, and the present ministry stand their ground. Never were two tempers more opposite than those of the King and Queen of France: He is a grave, quiet man, who avoids being seen as much as possible: she an animated sprightly woman, who wishes to be seen, and to see all the world.
- Scots Magazine, 1776