Marie Antoinette’s censored love letters were learn the use of X-rays

A letter from Marie Antoinette to Axel von Fersen, dated 4 January 1792, that has been partly redacted


All the way through the throes of the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette expressed her love for Swedish rely Axel von Fersen thru phrases which might be after all readable 230 years later.

Fashionable scanning era has effectively prominent the ill-fated French queen’s ink from that of von Fersen, who scribbled over her textual content in what used to be more than likely an effort to give protection to his shut pal and possible lover, says Anne Michelin at Sorbonne College in Paris.

She and her colleagues just lately investigated 15 letters exchanged between Antoinette and von Fersen from 1791 to 1792 on the request of the French Nationwide Archives. Whilst nearly all of each and every letter used to be readable, sure phrases or sections were hidden below closely penned loops and random letters – Js, Ls, and Ts most commonly – supposed to censor the file. Forensic gadgets of the French Nationwide Police made an unsuccessful try to discover the hidden phrases within the Nineteen Nineties, however the era of the time used to be missing, says Michelin.

This yr, Michelin’s staff used X-ray fluorescence scanning to hone in at the compositions of steel components like copper, iron and zinc within the letters’ ink. For the reason that quite a lot of inks used within the letters contained other ratios of those components, the researchers had been ready to customize their scanning ways to decipher authentic phrases buried below the layers of looping ink – every now and then wanting to regulate their strategies even for a unmarried phrase, which might take a number of hours to scan.

Their analyses additionally resolved the thriller of who had censored the letters. Via evaluating the compositions of the ink used for scribbling out phrases and that used for von Forsen’s personal writing, the researchers showed that von Fersen himself had finished the redacting.

“There have been more than likely political causes for protecting the letters,” says Michelin, including that they could were supposed to provide a extra beneficial public symbol of the queen, who used to be in the end beheaded by means of guillotine in 1793. “However von Fersen will have simply been very connected to those letters, as smartly.”

Marie Antoinette wrote to von Fersen at lengths about political issues of the time, together with how the royal circle of relatives used to be dealing with the revolution, says Michelin. Her censored writing, then again, featured extra romantic vocabulary – phrases like “liked” and “adore” and intimate words like “No, no longer with out you” and “you, whom I really like and can proceed to like till my…”.

Extramarital relationships had been not unusual during the historical past of French royalty, so a romance between Marie Antoinette and von Fersen wouldn’t be unexpected, says Michelin. Even so, the newly came upon phrases don’t ascertain that they had been fans.

“Correspondence is at all times only one a part of the entire tale,” she says. “We write, however we don’t essentially write what we predict. And what we write may also be exacerbated by means of dramatic eventualities, like a revolution. The queen used to be not loose to transport round, so in fact that will exacerbate her feelings. You’ll in point of fact really feel that during her writing.”

Sadly, the researchers’ scanning ways nonetheless weren’t complicated sufficient to discriminate the buried phrases in seven of the letters, which stay a thriller, says Michelin.

Magazine reference: Science Advances, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abg4266

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