Monday, February 10, 2014

The Royal Hairdresser, The Queen, and the Revolution {Giveaway}

Marie Antoinette's Head by Will Bashor
: October 16, 2013 by Lyons Press
I think when anyone, myself included, pictures Marie Antoinette you think of her over-the-top hairstyles. Except, I never really thought about how they happened. Was she the one who wanted it done? Was she following the trend? No, it turns out her personal hairdresser, Léonard Autié, was the man responsible and this book is his story.

You wouldn't expect there to be a lot known about a hairdresser, and it seems that's actually the case. However Léonard did publish his own memoirs based on his journals which is where a lot of the information comes from. It is interesting reading a biography that includes quoted conversations between people, but the author clearly indicates that this comes from the memoir, and before that diary entries. Except when you write in your diary, and include quotes, how clearly do those quotes reflect actuality? That is a potential issue with this book, but it is one that the author is very upfront about.

Not too surprisingly there wasn't much about Léonard's early life. Although that was fine with me, because I thought it really picked up once he got to the court of Versailles. I thought it was fascination hearing why and how all of Marie Antoinette's hairstyles evolved. And I loved the intimate look and conversations we were able to hear of Marie Antoinette's from Léonard's perspective.

There is still quite a bit of story after the Queen's death, and while there is a lot here, I wasn't a huge fan of it. I did still enjoy parts, but overall there was so much going on, and so much politics with it all, that I couldn't quite keep up.

This isn't the first non-fiction book I've read about Marie Antoinette, but it is the first in a long time. There were definitely details I felt as if I was learning for the first time, or others that came back to me once I read them. For these reasons I do think that even if you aren't that knowledgeable about Marie Antoinette's time as queen you'll enjoy this. But if you are, you should still enjoy this since it's a from such different and somewhat unexpected perspective.


I'm excited to announce I'm giving away a copy of Marie Antoinette's Head to one lucky reader! (Giveaway is limited to the US and Canada.) Please use the rafflecopter form below to enter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Marie Antoinette has remained atop the popular cultural landscape for centuries for the daring in style and fashion that she brought to 18th century France. For the better part of the queen’s reign, one man was entrusted with the sole responsibility of ensuring that her coiffure was at its most ostentatious best. Who was this minister of fashion who wielded such tremendous influence over the queen’s affairs? Marie Antoinette’s Head: The Royal Hairdresser, The Queen, and the Revolution charts the rise of Leonard Autié from humble origins as a country barber in the south of France to the inventor of the Pouf and premier hairdresser to Queen Marie-Antoinette.

By unearthing a variety of sources from the 18th and 19th centuries, including memoirs (including Léonard’s own), court documents, and archived periodicals the author, Professor Will Bashor, tells Autié’s mostly unknown story. He chronicles Leonard’s story, the role he played in the life of his most famous client, and the chaotic and history-making world in which he rose to prominence. Besides his proximity to the queen, Leonard also had a most fascinating life filled with sex (he was the only man in a female dominated court), seduction, intrigue, espionage, theft, exile, treason, and possibly, execution. The French press reported that Léonard was convicted of treason and executed in Paris in 1793. However, it was also recorded that Léonard, after receiving a pension from the new King Louis XVIII, died in Paris in March 1820. Granted, Leonard was known as the magician of Marie-Antoinette’s court, but how was it possible that he managed to die twice?

Author Bio
Will Bashor has a doctorate in International Relations from the American Graduate School in Paris, and he teaches at Franklin University, Columbus, Ohio. His interests have ranged over many fields, among them the study of international law and business, linguistics, cultural anthropology, and European history.

As a member of the Society for French Historical Studies, he attended its annual meeting sponsored by Harvard University in Cambridge in 2013.

Disclosure: I was provided this book through France Book Tours. All opinions expressed are my own.


  1. I love to read and I'm in need of a new interesting book. :)

  2. thanks for your nice and honest review. glad you liked it. it certainly is a nice refreshing view at things. Emma

  3. I've read such great reviews and this sounds like a book I'd definitely enjoy! I love Marie Antoinette and all her debauchery...just an intriguing time period. Thanks for the giveaway!

  4. I really like reading books like this. What a unique perspective on that time period!

  5. I love historical fiction and find Marie Antoinette to be fascinating!

  6. I love Marie Antoinette, and i love the history of that time!

  7. Such a fascinating era in French history!