Marie Antoinette's Redacted Love Letters Finally Uncensored With X-Ray Tech
01:14 GMT 03.10.2021 (Updated: 06:04 GMT 03.10.2021)
Scientists have shed new light on secret letters between the doomed French queen, Marie Antoinette, and her long-rumoured lover, after successfully uncovering portions of their affectionate 230-year-old correspondence through the use of X-ray technology.
Historians have been diligently working for centuries to decipher the surviving letters from Antoinette's clandestine love affair with Swedish count Axel von Fersen. Thanks to a team of conservation scientists,
the mystery behind the secret letters has been solved.
Scientists detailed in a study published on Friday that they have deciphered the contents of a letter using X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, an analytical technique that, among other benefits, can be used to detect the chemistry of very old ink without damaging a document.
This well-proven method helped reveal what was written under time-worn censored lines that were done with iron-gall ink.
The uncensored contents of the letters reportedly show the depth of Antoinette's affection for her close friend during a time of great turmoil.
But even more surprising within the findings was the discovery by scientists that the mysterious censor of the queen's letter was none other than her beloved Fersen himself, as indications suggested that he had rewritten the royal's letters and later redacted portions.
The letters further revealed sentimental displays of affection between the French queen and the Swedish count, with words such as "beloved", "tender friend", "adore", and "madly" littered throughout the writing.
"Very clearly, Marie Antoinette has a very deep affection for von Fersen, who at this stage of her existence is one of the pillars of her affection", Catriona Seth, a French literature professor at the College of Oxford who was not involved in the study, told The New York Times.
Seth described the revelations as "absolutely fantastic", adding that "science is educating us on issues we couldn't have guessed".
Executed in 1793 in the wake of the French Revolution, Antoinette wrote many letters in her life, and these controversial documents are said to have captured some of the more extreme moments of her life.
"She's under house arrest, she fears for her life, she may be killed", Seth said. "She is writing with this awareness of her fate".
The letters had remained in the custody of the count's family until 1877, when they were publicly aired by von Fersen's great-nephew. Years later, the letters were acquired by France's National Archives.
The research findings were published in the journal Science Advances