Paris / In the last hours of Marie Antoinette, a figure rose with special force in her life: the Swedish count and soldier Axel de Fersen. His fidelity marked him as one of the beheaded queen’s most loyal allies, but a shadow still rises, two hundred years later, over their relationship. Were they lovers or not?
Although science has not yet found the secret formula for traveling through time and clearing this mystery with total truthfulness, the doubt is further removed today thanks to the study of a group of French scientists who have analyzed the letters among the most advanced technology the queen, wife of Louis XVI, and the Swede.
Fersen, who also suffered a tragic death (he was lynched and stoned by the Swedish people in 1810 in the midst of a crisis), had been the subject of rumors in the life of the queen, after meeting her in 1779 at an Opera dance.
They were joined by an almost familiar treatment and was, especially in the last years of the kings’ lives, a close member, a favorite.
He was in charge of organizing the failed escape from Varennes and for this he did not hesitate to sneak into the Tuileries Palace, where the monarchs lived practically as prisoners.
But his figure transcended the tragic end of the marriage, especially when the letters between him and Marie Antoinette of Austria came to light at the end of the 19th century, published by the military nephew’s grandson.
The mystery of the erasures
Then began a fierce intellectual battle between those who assumed that he was the queen’s lover and those who, defending the virtue of the Austrian, left him in a platonic and in no case carnal romance.
The reason for the doubt? The letters had been censored and dozens of erasures prevented certain passages from being seen. Curiously, the caped parties were at the beginning and at the end of these political letters, as if someone had tried to hide the private relationship that united them.
The 15 letters analyzed by the team of the Rex II program, financed by the Heritage Science Foundation and with the support of the National Archives, owner of these missives dated in 1791 and 1792, have passed two processes that help to clear up the unknown.
The analyzes, started in 2014, were abandoned two years later when they found that a more innovative process was required to read the layers of writing – the text and the hidden part.
The answer came with a 2 D XRF scanner that allows different inks to be separated based on the presence of metallic elements, such as copper or zinc, used at the time.
Was there or was there no romance?
That scanner finally allowed to see the censored fragments and to end in part with the discussion of generations and generations that have tried to decipher those letters.
“Your whole person is linked to my existence,” reads one of the researchers, Fabien Pottier. The scanned letter brings the thesis of a romantic relationship closer than ever.
Instead, it is more difficult to confirm that the relationship was physical, as Stefan Zweig bet in the biography he wrote of the queen, where he accused Fersen’s descendants of having participated in the stream of Puritanism that censured the relationship to defend honor. of the Queen.
“These passages show a clear closeness, but no evidence of a physical relationship. These are phrases that, with our current vision, seem clear to us, but it is not necessarily necessary to call someone ‘my dear and tender friend’, ”one of the researchers, Anne Michelin, from the National Center for Research and Museum, tells EFE Natural Natural History.
The letters also help to better understand her characters: she, whose writing evolves in this troubled period; Reputed for his meticulousness, he now reveals himself so devoted as to reject an offer from the Swedish king and continue to be close to it.
“I don’t want to be tied up. Seeing her, loving her and comforting her is all I want ”, he writes, in an extract that reveals“ Le Monde ”.
If it was not the objective of the investigation, the analysis has managed to end the mystery about who hid the romantic parts.
Although seven of those 15 letters were from Marie Antoinette, scientists have verified that five of them had been transcribed by Fersen, since the queen sent them encrypted.
By separating the two layers of ink, the famous scanner shows that the ink component of the text and the studs not only have the same metal proportions, but was added shortly after the transcription of the letters.
“There is an agreement that allows us to think that it was he himself who censored a part of his letters. Our hypothesis is that it was Fersen who did it and that there was some information that he did not want others to see, ”says Michelin.
The result of the investigation should have been released in March, when the group wanted to establish contact with the Swedes, who keep a large part of the letters, but the confinement by the coronavirus has delayed the process.
Those letters, a lock of the queen’s hair, and a watch with the initials of both were the only objects that the Swede kept. He was holding the watch and that lock in his fists the day he was killed, twenty years later, on the streets of Stockholm. (June 3, 2020, EFE / PracticaEspañol)
The related video news (April 16, 2020):