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Blackmailers made up Marie-Antoinette naughtiness: academic


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Marie-Antoinette, France's last queen, owes her reputation for loose living to London-based French blackmailers who made it all up, according to a British academic.

"Marie-Antoinette, like Louis XV's mistresses, was the victim of master blackmailers working from London who wrote untrue things in order to get money out of them," Simon Burrows of Leeds University told AFP on Friday.

Burrows has written a book about how the blackmailers -- around fifteen of them -- made their living by producing pamphlets that never reached the public, being intercepted by the king's agents when they got across the channel.

But some copies of the pamphlets were hidden in the Bastille fortress and discovered when the building was stormed on July 14 1789.

"That's when the rumours started to circulate among the people. they say Marie-Antoinette's dissolute lifestyle sparked the revolution but these stories -- made-up stories at that -- were only discovered afterwards," Burrows said.

Marie-Antoinette was guillotined in 1793.

The blackmailers were not motivated by political concerns, according to the lecturer -- they were simply criminals, or perhaps "reformist patriots" at the most, most of whom were in favour of a constitutional monarchy.

Burrows's book "Blackmail, scandal and revolution; London's French libellistes 1758-1792" is published in Britain on October 30.

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AFP 291726 GMT 09 06

COPYRIGHT 2006 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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