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Marie-Antoinette’s Letters to Lover Deciphered Using X-Ray Technique

© AFP 2023 / MARTIN BUREAUA visitor looks at a painting representing French queen Marie-Antoinette entitled "Marie-Antoinette en grand habit" ("Marie-Antoinette in court dress", 1779-1788) by Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun displayed at "Marie-Antoinette, Metamorphoses of an image" exhibition at the Conciergerie Paris museum, on October 15, 2019
A visitor looks at a painting representing French queen Marie-Antoinette entitled Marie-Antoinette en grand habit (Marie-Antoinette in court dress, 1779-1788) by Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun displayed at Marie-Antoinette, Metamorphoses of an image exhibition at the Conciergerie Paris museum, on October 15, 2019 - Sputnik International
The life of France’s highly unpopular yet still widely discussed queen Marie-Antoinette still remains a hotly debated topic among historians, writers and filmmakers, as researchers try to come up with new ways to shed some more light on events surrounding the last years of her life.

Written correspondence between Marie-Antoinette and her lover Count de Fersen, some parts of which were previously deemed “illegible” due to censor marks used to redact the letters, have now been deciphered with the help of new scanning technique, the French National Archives revealed on Wednesday, as cited by AFP.

“For the first time we can read Fersen's writing using unambiguous sentences on his feelings for the queen, which had been carefully hidden”, the project’s leading researchers said in a statement.

The team of researchers of the REX project, which lasted for 95 days, used the so-called x-ray fluorescence system (XRS) technique to analyse the content of the inks used for writing and censoring. As a result, 8 out of 15 redacted letters previously deemed illegible have now been brought to light in order to be scrutinised by researchers and the public.

“The principal conclusion of the REX project is less about sensational revelations on the relationship between Marie-Antoinette and Fersen, and more about the expression of feelings of hope, worry, confidence and terror, in a particular context of forced separation and imprisonment”, the French National Archives’ statement said.

According to historians, the written conversation between the French queen and her lover took place several years after the French revolution in 1798, when Marie-Antoinette has already been living under house arrest in Paris's Tuileries palace with her husband King Louis XVI.

In this July 17, 2004 file photo tourists visit the ruins of Adolf Hitler's headquarters the Wolf's Lair in Gierloz, northeastern Poland, where his chief of staff members made an unsuccessful attempt at Hitler's life on July 20, 1944. Margot Woelk was one of 15 young women who sampled Hitler's food to make sure it wasn’t poisoned before it was served to the Nazi leader in his Wolf's Lair, the heavily guarded command center in what is now Poland, where he spent much of his time in the final years of World War II. Margot Woelk kept her secret hidden from the world, even from her husband then, a few months after her 95th birthday, she revealed the truth about her wartime role. - Sputnik International
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“Marie-Antoinette and Fersen express themselves using the terminology of love, even if the majority of the content of the letters is political”, the researchers concluded.

Austria-born Marie-Antoinette came to power in 1774, after her husband ascended the throne but was executed almost 20 years later, while accused of high treason following the French Revolution. The last queen of France left her mark on history with her heavy and lavish spending as the population of her country suffered from hardship and financial strain.

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