Marysville News

'Royal Hairdresser' is topic for local author's book

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Harold "Will" Bashor has always been a Francophile.

A professor at Franklin University in Columbus, he is a member of the Society for French Historical Studies. He received his doctorate the American Graduate School in Paris and his master's degree in French from Ohio University.

"I've always been interested," Bashor said.

A 1969 graduate of Grove City High School and currently a downtown Columbus resident, Bashor is the author of the recently released Marie Antoinette's Head: The Royal Hairdresser, the Queen, and the Revolution. The book details the life of Leonard Autie, Marie Antoinette's hairdresser and confidant.

It involves intrigue, espionage, theft, exile, treason and seduction in the female high society inner circle of pre-Revolutionary France, where Autie was the only man.

"This hairdresser was pretty uncanny," Bashor said. "He had a lot of tricks up his sleeve."

Bashor said Autie started out as a provincial barber in the south of France, fashioning the hairstyles of actresses, before moving on to work for nobility.

He was a man driven to achieve fame and fortune.

Wigs weighing up to 30 pounds, featuring elaborate scenes such as miniature naval battles, were hallmarks of his ostentatious stylings.

"He was someone who came from nowhere," Bashor said. "He really worked his way up, becoming wealthy until the Revolution. Then he lost everything. ... It's kind of tragic."

Initially, Bashor said, Autie's work with Marie Antoinette in developing her style made her the envy of French society. But by the time of the Revolution, her elaborate hairstyles he fashioned became associated with the scorned decadence of the French aristocracy.

"When the Revolution comes and he's had this friendship with the queen, his head is at risk, too," Bashor said.

The book is based on a number of different sources, including Autie's autobiography, court documents and archived periodicals.

"He supposedly died twice," Bashor said, with one account of his execution, at the time of Marie Antoinette's, being incorrect. "It sparked my curiosity."

The book was released Oct. 16, the anniversary of Marie Antoinette's trip to the guillotine in 1793.

It was published by Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press, and in October, the book was selected by the New York Post as a must-read book of the week.

"It was a labor of love, and I really enjoyed writing it," Bashor said. "It was a big project."

Bashor said he is working on a follow-up book that would explore Marie Antoinette's time in prison and her trial for treason.

"There were so many things I wanted to include," he said. "So many stories."

For more information, visit willbashor.com.

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