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Marie Antoinette's Head: The Royal Hairdresser, the Queen, and the Revolution Hardcover – October 16, 2013

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Marie Antoinette's Head: The Royal Hairdresser, the Queen, and the Revolution + Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; First edition (October 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762791535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762791538
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A New York Post "Must-Read" Book
A Mental Floss "Favorite Read"

"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..." - Library Journal

[Starred Review] "An informative examination of a little-known player on a great stage...An entertaining, well-researched work that will particularly interest students of cultural history and the French Revolution." - Kirkus Reviews

" ...[G}ives you plenty of bang for your buck...: thirty-pound wigs, mouse-infested coiffures, and the occasional miniature naval battle all make appearances. But it is also a scholarly history not merely of the vagaries and politics of Versailles court fashion, but the rise and fall of Léonard Autié, a man of modest background who rose to become hairdresser to the queen, and whose fortunes were inexplicably tied to that of the doomed monarchy. — Sadie Stein, The Paris Review

"...most intriguing and immaculately researched" - France Today

"Compelling....Bashor weaves history, politics, French court customs, into a movie-worthy tale of ambition, luck, romance, and tragedy..." - The Santa Fe New Mexican

"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

About the Author

Will Bashor has a doctorate in International Studies from the American Graduate School in Paris. He is currently a professor of Global Issues at Franklin University. As a member of the Society for French Historical Studies, he presented at their annual meeting presented by Harvard University in Cambridge in 2013. Visit him at

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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See all 36 customer reviews
I feel the author did a great job with his story.
Overall Leonard is a very talented man in styling hair.
Linda Schwanger
This book is very informative and is a very fun read.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By markymark on October 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
LOVED this. A fun and informative read through Versailles and 18th century France with all the backstabbing and fashion and sex and in-fighting. Brings a 'fly on the wall' feel to history through Marie Antoinette's hairdresser, Leonard Autie, a fun, witty character who was the only hetero male in the court, it seemed. The writer does an amazing job setting the world up and giving us a peak into characters' interactions from a time long past...Marie A comes off as much more human than you'd expect--a bit clueless, but not horrible. Just trapped. And almost sympathetic, to an extent. Leonard's life is fascinating and as far as I know, not really covered before. Great read! Loved this book!
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This enjoyable and informative biography looks at the life of Leonard Autie, the celebrated and famous hairdresser, who personally cared for the locks of Queen Marie Antoinette. Just when you thought that you had read every possible volume about Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution, this entertaining book comes along - which focuses on a minor player in events, but nevertheless one who found himself in the very heart of the action.

Leonard Autie arrived in Paris in 1769, as a young man in his mid twenties, armed only with his luggage and a "big bundle of vanity." Talented as a hairdresser, he felt he had artistic genius - he certainly had charisma - and he was "greedy for gold and fame." His parents were domestic servants in a small town, and Leonard's arrogance masked the fact that he was all too aware of his provincial status. Still, through a friend, Fremont, he was introduced to a young actress at the Nicolets Theatre. She was a minor and less than successful member of the company, but once Leonard had dressed her hair, she found herself a sudden sensation. The onset of sudden applause gave both her and Leonard newfound fame. It wasn't long before Leonard was introduced to the Court, where he became a favourite of Madame du Barry. Later, he witnessed the arrival of the young dauphine, Marie Antoinette, and eventually became her personal hairdresser.

This book has all the intrigue of Versailles, along with the Court's many excesses. Leonard's hairstyles were so elaborate that women risked their hair catching fire, or had to lean their heads out of the carriages on the way to attend the theatre or masked balls, in order to have their hair styled in one of his amazing creations.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Emmanuelle Cazabonne on February 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I started oohing and ah-hing when the book came in the mail. As one reader of this blog already commented, first of all the cover is gorgeous. Yes, it does count to have nice cover art, accompanied here with a smart title as well!
Then when I perused this hardcover copy, I noticed a family tree, a map of the Paris of the time, a chronology, a list of historical characters and dates, with a brief description of their role, some notes on the sources and titles of nobility, plus 16 fabulous color prints. All positive signs for a me of a serious scholarly work. I was sold. I started reading Marie Antoinette’s Head right away.

Many people I know are familiar with Marie Antoinette’s crazy hairdos. But for the life of me, I never ever had thought of wondering whose creation it was. I am sure glad Will Bashor had the idea one day of asking himself this question –see further his fascinating answer about this in the interview. So this book is about Marie Antoinette’s super talented hairdresser, Léonard Autié.

Though he started rather low in life, he had an enlarged ego, and managed to do really well for himself, thanks to his talents, but also it seems for being almost always at the right place at the right time. I was struck by this when he arrived from Bordeaux to work in Paris, how he met so quickly very instrumental events and people for his success; and how he met again some of these same people later in life, in different contexts and even countries!

This young man must come to see me at Versailles,, and I shall take care of his future.”
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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Errol Levine on December 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Few historical royal personages have had as much nonsense written about them as the tragic Queen Marie Antoinette. There is, for example, the untrue allegation that she made the remark "Let them eat cake" (Qu'ils mangent de la brioche) during the bread riots of her husband's reign. This silly remark, which may have been made long before Marie Antoinette's birth by the wife of Louis XIV, is repeated ad nauseam whenever the Queen is mentioned in the media, for example. Stefan Zweig in the post face of his wonderful biography of the tragic queen "Marie Antoinette" points out multiple instances in which events in the Queen's life have been misrepresented and how forgeries purporting to be letters written by her had been in wide circulation. Indeed, he states: "It is usual at the end of a historical work to append a bibliography of the sources utilized, but in the case of Marie Antoinette it seems to me that it would be more appropriate to mention which sources have not been utilized and why." This book "Marie Antoinette's Head" by Will Bashor simply adds to the mythology surrounding Marie Antoinette and should I believe be classified as a work of fiction rather than a book of history. To his credit, Mr. Bashor in his "A Note on Sources" indicates that he relied largely on Leonard's published memoirs "Souvenirs de Leonard, coiffeur de la reine Marie-Antoinette." These so-called memoirs were published 18 years after Leonard's death by one Baron Lamothe-Langon. However, there is no evidence really that Leonard left any memoirs. It is possible that the Baron conjured the memoirs up from thin air. Indeed, even if the memoirs were genuine they are so absurd that no one with any knowledge of Marie Antoinette can possibly attach any credibility to them.Read more ›
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