Marie Antoinette’s Head: The Royal Hairdresser, the Queen, and the Revolution

Entertaining . . . captures details of an extraordinary time and place. An engaging...narrative of a celebrity hairstylist, circa 1789. Biography buffs and lovers of historical fiction will enjoy this work.
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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?

Winner of the Adele Mellen Prize for Distinguished Scholarship, Marie Antoinette’s Head: The Royal Hairdresser, The Queen, and the Revolution charts the rise of Leonard Autie 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, French History professor and expert Will Bashor, tells Autie’s mostly unknown story. Bashor 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.
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Oh Leonard! The man behind Marie Antoinette's fabulous hairstyles finally gets his spot in the limelight thanks to this enlightening take on the hairdresser's history. As a fan of the French Revolution, I found this intimate take on the events to be both insightful and interesting. Leonard's rise to fame is almost as intriguing as his rising hairstyles, but it is his importance in significant events like the Flight to Varennes and other episodes that I found to be the pinnacle of the book. I loved the inclusion of illustrations and portraits, but if I had to complain, I would say that at times the author jumped around and mentioned significant events in passing. If you are a fan of Marie Antoinette, 18th century fashion or just want to read about a flamboyant hairdresser, this is certainly the book for you!

-- Lynn Dressbac

This was one of the most interesting and intriguing books that I have read in a very long time. I was not sure before I began this story if it would hold my interest but as I soon found out, this book is written to perfection with as much research done by the author that it seems that no even one small detail has not been told. The author has certainly taken a person that we would probably would not think twice about and did so much background information on him and his life with the Queen that you swear that Leonard Autie had talked directly to the author and told him all of the secrets of this time period. From a hairdresser/hair stylist and basically a fashion expert for a Royal, to what you find out is much MUCH more of a story that you should not miss if you have any interest in France, and the Revolution and also Versailles, Queen Marie Antoinette, or anything pertaining to "hair fashion" during this time. To find out what people went through to be able to have this man do their hair in these elaborate styles was almost unbelievable, With so much documentation provided by the author from all of his varied sources, this book to me is a historical biography but also tends to be a bit of a suspense and mystery when I let myself dig deeper into the events. I truly was engrossed with Will Bashor's writing style and his professional style. I would recommend this book to everyone, even younger adults studying psychology as there are many things to ponder in this book about human nature and the belief that if one person does something strange and odd that others seem to NEED to follow that path as well even in 1769. From the very imaginative front cover on the hardcover copy that I received from winning the book online, there is also a family tree, a map of Paris in the 1770's as well as a list of historical characters and dates, with a brief description of their role and in chronologic order and I definitely enjoyed the color prints that were also in the book. All of this and more summed up how educated the author is and a very good reason for you to get this book as soon as you can. this is a superb book that I am so fortunate to have read and from which I learned so much about this time period. I also will never feel that the word POUF for the style of Autie will ever fully describe his artistic and creative hair masterpieces!!!!! As I final word, I wish to say that In no way did winning this book influence my opinion about this novel and for this review.. Cynthia

-- Cynthia

About the Author ▸ Will Bashor

Will Bashor, MBA, Ph.D., also has a B.A. degree in French and an M.A. degree in French literature from Ohio University. He earned his Ph.D. in International Studies from the American Graduate School in Paris where he gathered letters, newspapers, journals, and plays during his research for his trilogy on Marie Antoinette. Professor at Franklin University and Southern New Hampshire University, he is also a member of the Society for French Historical Studies. In 2013 he attended its annual meeting at Harvard University where he presented the political importance of the role of Leonard Autié, Marie Antoinette’s coiffeur, in the royal family’s unsuccessful flight to Varennes. Visit him at www.willbashor.com