Letters de Marie-Antoinette (LMA) (2023...)

The project “Letters from Marie-Antoinette” (LMA, for its acronym in French) aims to make an inventory of the active correspondence of Marie-Antoinette, and make it accessible in a digital version. The letters are kept in public collections in France and abroad, as well as in private collections. Some have been published, others remain unpublished.

Since the 18th century, everyone has had an opinion about Marie-Antoinette. She is a controversial figure, sometimes hated, sometimes adored, rarely considered with the hindsight required. Many biographies have been devoted to her. These, when used, are based on the published correspondence, which, unfortunately, is incomplete and sometimes even falsified. Since the late 19th century, publishers of Marie-Antoinette correspondence have willingly deleted or altered entire passages that they deemed unnecessary or compromising. Moreover, because the sources are widely dispersed, despite the large number of existing publications, to date, none can claim to be exhaustive.

The aim of this project is to publish the letters written by Marie-Antoinette (active correspondence), cross-referencing them in a second phase, where possible, with the letters she received (passive correspondence).

Among the numerous sets of letters, we should point out the exchanges between Marie-Antoinette and her original family (with her mother, the Empress Marie-Thérèse, and with her brothers and sisters), regularly used to portray a crown princess and then a queen who remained a Habsburg; official letters, for example, to foreign sovereigns or princes of the Church, showing the duties of a Crown Princess and Queen of France; more personal letters to friends and relatives, including the princesses of Hesse-Darmstadt, the Archduchess’ childhood friends, and to Fersen – recently studied as part of a project supported by the Fondation des Sciences du Patrimoine and based on the Archives nationales de France) – which continue to reveal their secrets and which are also part of a later large set of letters, the political letters (notably to ministers, Ambassador Mercy, the revolutionaries Barnave and Mirabeau) of the revolutionary era. These make it possible to gain a better understanding of the ambitions and limitations of a queen actively engaged in efforts to influence events. Some of these letters are at times coded or redacted, making transcription more difficult.

Marie-Antoinette, reine de France.
Louise-Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun. Oil on canvas, 1788.
Versailles, musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, MV 2097. © Château de Versailles, Dist. RMN / Christophe Fouin.


>  Archives nationales autrichiennes (Österreichisches Staats-Archiv)
>  Archives nationales de France
>  Centre de recherche du château de Versailles
>  University of Oxford – Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages
>  Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership

Doctoral contract

To apply for the doctoral contract which will begin in October 2024 and which is attached to this project:


Project managers: Mathieu da Vinha, Scientific Director at the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles and Catriona Seth, Professor and Chair of Maréchal Foch at the université d’Oxford.

>  Isabelle Aristide-Hastir, General Curator, Archives nationales de France;
>  Karin Borgkvist Ljung, Researcher and Palaeographer (Sweden);
>  Tess Eastgate, PhD student awarded the AHRC OOC DTP scholarship, université d’Oxford/Centre de recherche du château de Versailles (until December 2023);
>  Evelyn Farr, Historian specialising in Marie-Antoinette and her correspondence (Britain);
>  Alexandre Maral, Director, Centre de recherche du château de Versailles (until October 2023);
>  Jasmin Öberleitner, Curator, Archives d’État autrichiennes (Habsbourg-Lorraine collections) (Austria);
>  Alexandra Pioch, Scientific publications coordinator, Centre de recherche du château de Versailles;
>  Mélanie Traversier, Professor of modern history, université de Lille.


Carnet de recherche Hypothèses « LMA – Lettres de Marie-Antoinette »

Production planned

Electronic critical edition of active correspondence from Marie-Antoinette.

Website produced with the support of:
Château de Versailles
Conseil général des Yvelines