Scientists in France devised a new method to uncover the original writing, separating out the chemical composition of different inks used on historical documents.

“Not without you.” “My dear friend.” “You that I love.”

Marie Antoinette sent these expressions of affection — or more? — in letters to her close friend and rumored lover Axel von Fersen. Someone later used dark ink to scribble over the words, apparently to dampen the effusive, perhaps amorous, language, the Associated Press reports.

Scientists in France devised a new method to uncover the original writing, separating out the chemical composition of different inks used on historical documents. They tested their method by analyzing the private letters between the French queen and the Swedish count, which are housed in the French national archives.

That allowed them to read the original words and even identify the person who scratched them out — Fersen himself.

“It’s always exciting when you discover that you can know more about the past than you thought you could,” said historian Rebecca L. Spang, who studies the French Revolution at Indiana University, and was not involved in the study.

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