Marie Antoinette and Count de Fersen’s censored letters deciphered

The Archives Nationales de France announced that love letters between queen Marie-Antoinette and her lover, which contain key passages rendered illegible by censor marks, have been deciphered using new techniques.

The now readable passages are further confirmation of the loving relationship between Marie-Antoinette and Count de Fersen, who were writing to each other two years after the 1789 French revolution. At the time, the queen and King Louis XVI were living under surveillance in the Parisian Tuileries palace and had just failed to escape their house arrest. Marie Antoinette ended up being executed in October 1793.

The deciphering project used a scanning technique called XRS (x-ray fluorescence system) to analyse the composition of the inks used. The project leaders were able to bring to light the content of 8 letters over 15; for the others, the ink used to write and to censor was the same, rendering the task of revealing the redacted content impossible.

You can read the original letters, indicised and digitised by the Archives Nationales de France, on Archives Portal Europe: http://www.archivesportaleurope.net/ead-display/-/ead/pl/aicode/FR-FRAN/type/fa/id/FRAN_IR_050236/dbid/C348463266/search/0/Hans+Axel+von+Fersen+Marie+Antoinette

Screenshot 2020-06-26 at 11.30.03
Cyphered letter by Marie Antoinette to Fersen, 8 July 1791. Available on Archives Portal Europe at this link

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