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MARIE ANTOINETTE’S HEAD: The Royal Hairdresser, the Queen, and the Revolution

Available October 16, 2013 (Lyons Press)

 

“Bashor continues to offer original perspectives on the last Bourbons and those who served them. In this dual biography, Marie Antoinette emerges through the eyes and “magic comb” of Léonard Autié, her gifted hairdresser …Marie Antoinette’s Head not only entertains, it conveys both the events and the character of the age.”

– Reed Benhamou, PhD, Professor Emerita, Indiana University

 

“This is a new and riveting account, in a clear and attractive style, of significant historical events that lead to the French Revolution of 1789, as seen through the eyes of Marie Antoinette’s ambitious hairdresser…”

– Aleksandra Gruzinska, School of International Letters and Cultures, Arizona State University

 

“I have nothing but praise. The book is so well researched, so well written, so totally readable that it will appeal to a very wide public….”

– David Wingeate Pike, American Graduate School of International Relations and Diplomacy, Paris

4 comments

  1. Will says:

    Don’t loose your head…
    By huffyone on October 16, 2013
    Format: Hardcover Amazon

    This book was fascinating, if you have any interest in the 18th century or the French revolution I would recommend it. My only knowledge of Leonard before reading this book came from Sofia Coppola’s movie Marie Antoinette. He was quite the character in the movie, and even more so in this book. Living into his 70’s and seeing the greatest highs and lows in France’s history, Leonard’s life was quite the odd journey. A well written and engrossing story, with some interesting pictures as well.

  2. Will says:

    Marie Antoinette’s Head
    By S Riaz TOP 500 REVIEWER (Amazon.com) on October 19, 2013
    Format: Kindle Edition

    This enjoyable and informative biography looks at the life of Leonard Autie, the celebrated and famous hairdresser, who personally cared for the locks of Queen Marie Antoinette. Just when you thought that you had read every possible volume about Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution, this entertaining book comes along – which focuses on a minor player in events, but nevertheless one who found himself in the very heart of the action.

    Leonard Autie arrived in Paris in 1769, as a young man in his mid twenties, armed only with his luggage and a “big bundle of vanity.” Talented as a hairdresser, he felt he had artistic genius – he certainly had charisma – and he was “greedy for gold and fame.” His parents were domestic servants in a small town, and Leonard’s arrogance masked the fact that he was all too aware of his provincial status. Still, through a friend, Fremont, he was introduced to a young actress at the Nicolets Theatre. She was a minor and less than successful member of the company, but once Leonard had dressed her hair, she found herself a sudden sensation. The onset of sudden applause gave both her and Leonard newfound fame. It wasn’t long before Leonard was introduced to the Court, where he became a favourite of Madame du Barry. Later, he witnessed the arrival of the young dauphine, Marie Antoinette, and eventually became her personal hairdresser.

    This book has all the intrigue of Versailles, along with the Court’s many excesses. Leonard’s hairstyles were so elaborate that women risked their hair catching fire, or had to lean their heads out of the carriages on the way to attend the theatre or masked balls, in order to have their hair styled in one of his amazing creations. Eventually, limits were put on the size of a ladies hair if they were to attend the theatre, as the audience’s view was obscured by his clients hairstyles. Working for Marie Antoinette gave Leonard success, but limited his work outside of the Court. Fearful of losing other custom through needing to be constantly available to Marie Antoinette, Leonard used his friend, Fremont, and his brothers, to make sure they could dress the hair of every noble lady who requested his services. Soon he was rich beyong his wildest dreams; he even merited a small apartment at Versailles. Yet, all was not as wonderful as it seemed. The Queen was seen as frivolous and sacrificed popularity for seclusion and lack of etiquette. Discontent was in the air and Marie Antoinette was targeted by those looking for change. Leonard was her almost constant companion during her years as monarch and one of her most trusted advisors. He was there during “the Affair of the Necklace” and he witnessed the revolution.

    Although Leonard had a better understanding than most of the people’s grievances, his heart “still broke for the royal family.” During the years of trials and executions, Leonard remained loyal to Marie Antoinette. He undertook dangerous missions for the royal family and even acted as a spy. This book also follows his travels after the revolution, when exile from France led him to take his talents to many other countries, including the Court in Russia. As well as being a fascinating glimpse into the life of someone so associated with the French Court, this is also the story of Marie Antoinette, of the revolution and the aftermath, as witnessed by someone who was there. For anyone with any interest in that era, this is a wonderful read. The author really brings the period and the characters to life and it is also packed full of great illustrations, including some of the most bizarre and elaborate hairstyles you could ever imagine.

  3. admin says:

    Editorial Review (Amazon.com)

    “Entertaining . . . [T]he book captures details of an extraordinary time and place. An engaging, albeit embellished, narrative of a celebrity hairstylist, circa 1789. Biography buffs and lovers of historical fiction will enjoy this work…”

    – Library Journal

  4. admin says:

    Spectacular Romp through Versailles
    By markymark on October 2, 2013 (Amazon.com)

    LOVED this. A fun and informative read through Versailles and 18th century France with all the backstabbing and fashion and sex and in-fighting. Brings a ‘fly on the wall’ feel to history through Marie Antoinette’s hairdresser, Leonard Autie, a fun, witty character who was the only hetero male in the court, it seemed. The writer does an amazing job setting the world up and giving us a peak into characters’ interactions from a time long past…Marie A comes off as much more human than you’d expect–a bit clueless, but not horrible. Just trapped. And almost sympathetic, to an extent. Leonard’s life is fascinating and as far as I know, not really covered before. Great read! Loved this book!

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