Advice to the Once and Future Queen Marie-Antoinette
by Zack Anderson, May 8, 2016
Do not take any recommendations; listen to no one, if you would be at peace. Have no curiosity—this is a fault which I fear greatly for you; avoid all familiarity with your inferiors. Reply amiably to everyone, and with grace and dignity; you can if you will. You must learn to refuse. Do not be ashamed to ask advice of anyone, and do nothing on your own responsibility. In the king you will find a tender father who will also be your friend if you deserve it. Put entire confidence in him; you will run no risk. Love him, obey him, seek to divine his thoughts; you cannot do enough on this moment when I am losing you. Concerning the dauphin I shall say nothing; you know my delicacy on this point. A wife should be submissive in everything to her husband and should have no thought but to please him and do his will. The only true happiness in this world lies in a happy marriage; I know whereof I speak. Everything depends on the wife if she be yielding, sweet, and amusing. I counsel you, my dear daughter, to reread this letter on the twenty-first of every month. I beg you to be true to me on this point. My only fear for you is negligence in your prayers and studies—and lukewarmness succeeds negligence. Fight against it, for it is more dangerous than a more reprehensible, even wicked state; one can conquer that more easily. Love your family; be affectionate to them—to your aunts as well as to your brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. Suffer no evil speaking; you must either silence the persons or escape it by withdrawing from them. If you value your peace of mind, you must from the start avoid this pitfall, which I greatly fear for you knowing your curiosity.
— MARIA THERESA, Vienna, 1770, from a letter. Upon the sudden death of her father, Emperor Charles VI, in 1740, Maria Theresa at the age of twenty-three ascended the throne. Her disputed claims to the Habsburg empire prompted the War of the Austrian Succession. Her eleventh daughter, Marie-Antoinette, was married in 1770 to the dauphin Louis-Auguste, who became Louis XVI four years later. Until her death in 1780, Maria Theresa continued to proffer extensive epistolary advice and criticism to the queen of France.