Monday, February 10, 2014

Marie Antoinette's Head: The Royal Hairdresser, The Queen, And The Revolution by Will Bashor

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? 

Hardcover, 320 pages

Published October 16th 2013 by Lyons Press
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I love history and I tend to concentrate mostly over in England. Knowing very little on the history of France, let alone Marie Antoinette I was thrilled to be invited to review this book.  This book really grabbed my attention right from the beginning.  Though it is nonfiction it does not always read that way. I was engaged right away with this story and had a hard time putting this book down.  The pictures really enhanced the story and many a time I wondered how on earth Leonard could do those hairstyles without modern conveniences.

The author has a writing style that I really like, easy to read and to follow the story (though at times I was a little confused with all the French names, but I think that might be just me).  This book clearly shows that the author has done a lot of research and knows his subject matter.  Using Leonard Autie's own personal diaries and other court documents Will Bashor not only told an enticing story from Autie's point of view, but it also told so much about Marie Antoinette, her life and French culture during that time period.  Not only was Leonard the hairdresser but he was also a confidant to Marie, which resulted in an intimate look at her life.

I learned a lot about the history of France and am really glad to have read this book. Another thing that I love about this book is the cover, how cool is that?  It's original and a real eye catcher.
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PRAISE FOR Marie Antoinette’s Head:The Royal Hairdresser, The Queen, and the Revolution
 “Bashor continues to offer original perspectives on the last Bourbons and those who served them. In this dual biography, Marie Antoinette emerges through the eyes and “magic comb” of Léonard Autié, her gifted hairdresser …Marie Antoinette’s Head not only entertains, it conveys both the events and the character of the age.”
Reed Benhamou, PhD, Professor Emerita, Indiana University
“This is a new and riveting account, in a clear and attractive style, of significant historical events that lead to the French Revolution of 1789, as seen through the eyes of Marie Antoinette’s ambitious hairdresser…”
Aleksandra Gruzinska, School of International Letters and Cultures, Arizona State University
“I have nothing but praise. The book is so well researched, so well written, so totally readable that it will appeal to a very wide public….”
David Wingeate Pike, American Graduate School of International Relations and Diplomacy, Paris 


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.

 Visit his website, and connect with him:


1 comment:

  1. thanks for highlighting so well the quality of this book. I say Amen to all of the above. Emma. This is definitely the best nonfiction I have read this year so far