MCM: Axel von Fersen

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Hans Axel von Fersen (1755-1810) was a Swedish count and Swedish general who spent time in France as a diplomat, where he became close to Marie-Antoinette, and served in the American Revolutionary War. His relationship with Marie-Antoinette is the usual focus of popular interest, as the two of them were probably in love and JUST SLIGHTLY POSSIBLY lovers. He also played an important part in the Flight to Varennes, in which the royal family tried to escape the French Revolution (but were caught, a real negative turning point for them). When the Swedish Crown Prince died in 1810, Fersen was falsely suspected by political opponents of poisoning him, and a mob attacked and killed him in Stockholm Square (right, I may add, where there’s now a fabulous museum of Swedish royal costumes).

Axel Fersen by Carl Frederik von Breda, c. 1800, Löfstad Castle, Sweden.

Axel Fersen by Carl Frederik von Breda, c. 1800, Löfstad Castle, Sweden.

Let’s run down the screen depictions of this real-life 18th-century heartthrob!

L’Enfant Roi (1923)

A silent French short about the dauphin, son of Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI. Fersen is played by Georges Vaultier.

1923 L'enfant roi

Ah, the 1920s Marcel wave/18th century wig combo!

1923 L'Enfant du Roi

One of Charles Bétout’s costume designs for Fersen | University of Calgary Theatrical Scene & Costume Design Collection

 

Marie Antoinette (1938)

Tyrone Power as Fersen is a major focus of this classic starring Norma Shearer. We’ve analyzed Fersen’s hair in this film, soon we’ll do a deep dive on the whole shebang.

Power is pretty and gives a solid performance.

Yes, there’s a lot of melodrama!

Fersen is the unpowdered, manly opposite of the French courtiers.

And he’s the chivalrous loverboy of your dreams!

Royal Affairs in Versailles (1954)

Wait! Editing this post to add Jean-Claude Pascal as Fersen in this multi-episodic wander through French history. Because I am a completionist! And I forgot him!

1954 Royal Affairs in Versailles

Shadow of the Guillotine (1956)

A surprisingly entertaining, surprisingly well-costumed French film, with British actor Richard Todd as the Swedish count.

Shadow of the Guillotine (1956)

Trust me, that’s not all he wants to express!

Shadow of the Guillotine (1956)

Looking sharp in uniform.

Shadow of the Guillotine (1956)

Even sharper!

 

Marie Antoinette (1975)

A French TV miniseries that I really plan to watch and review sooner than later. Henri Déus plays Fersen.

1975 Marie Antoinette

I don’t hate this!

 

Waffen für Amerika (1976)

A German TV movie, which was an adaptation of a historical novel focusing on Beaumarchais and Benjamin Franklin. Argentinian actor Sky du Mont (EXCELLENT name!) plays Fersen.

1976 Waffen für Amerika

I still have so many questions about this film. It looks potentially pretty?

 

La nuit de l’été (1979)

This looks potentially baaaaad — like, entertainingly bad? A French TV movie about the French royal family’s failed escape to Varennes, with Gérard Chambre as the Swedish count leading the effort.

1979 La nuit de l'été

This just looks Snark Week-worthy! Is that Marie-Antoinette? Why does Fersen have CHiPs hair?

 

Lady Oscar (1979)

SO BAD IT’S GOOD live adaptation of the animated Rose of Versailles, in which a female soldier lives as a man. She has a flirtation with Fersen (Swedish actor Jonas Bergström).

Lady Oscar (1979)

So it’s not too bad, you’re thinking!

THINK AGAIN.

1979 Lady Oscar

Especially because Fersen is weirdly creepy.

 

La Révolution française (1989)

A strong attempt to tell the story of the French Revolution from both the monarchy’s and the leading revolutionaries’ perspectives. Fersen is only a bit part, and he’s played by Jean-Yves Berteloot.

Only here to be pretty.

Although that wig is SUPER swoon-worthy!

 

Les jupons de la révolution (1989)

A French TV series, with six episodes focusing on different people involved in the French Revolution; Laurent Le Doyen plays Fersen in the episode focusing on Marie-Antoinette.

1989 Les jupons de la révolution

He looks like Heath Ledger?

 

Marie Antoinette la véritable histoire (2006)

A docudrama about Marie-Antoinette, timed to be released at the same time as Sophia Coppola’s fictional account (below). Canadian actor Danny Gilmore plays Fersen.

2006 Marie Antoinette la veritable histoire

I THINK that’s Fersen, but I have no certainty.

 

Marie Antoinette (2006)

Sophia Coppola’s young and hip take on Marie-Antoinette, with American Jamie Dornan looking mighty fine as Fersen.

Marie Antoinette (2006(

He flirts well!

2006 Marie Antoinette

He looks manly well!

2006 Marie Antoinette

He makes your toes tingle!

2006 Marie Antoinette

He’s right out of a romance novel!

 

Which cinematic Axel von Fersen makes you swoon?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

12 Responses

  1. Lily Lotus Rose

    Based on these pictures. 1st: Jean Yves Berteloot (he’s always yummy). 2nd: Jonas Berstrom. 3rd: Jamie Dornan.

    Reply
  2. NuitsdeYoung

    Amusing connection: at time he made ‘Marie-Antoinette/Shadow of the Guillotine’ and other major costume films, Richard Todd was m. to my grandmother’s cousin (they’d met as young actors working at Dundee Rep Theatre). Visited all the family when back in the Highlands filming ‘Rob Roy’.

    Reply
  3. damnitz

    Fersen played a major role in “Le Gerfaut” from 1987. Although I thought that the performance was stiff and the whole production very much looked like a soap opera the costumes were not too bad for French TV. The actor was Patrice Alexsandre.

    I suppose that there was Axel von Fersen in “La comtesse de Charny” from 1989 too, which had some good costumes although I didn’t found him on imdb.

    Reply
  4. Teka Lynn

    The wonderful Hanna Schygulla is the actress in the shot from La Nuit de Varennes. She plays a lady in waiting to Marie Antoinette. The royals are never shown directly. The movie is about the people in the coach that follows in the wake of Louis and Marie Antoinette on their disastrous journey. I love this movie and fully recommend it.

    Reply

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