I thought it was best to put this rant in one convenient place to be linked in the future. You’re welcome!
Marie Antoinette was many things and not always blameless, but she never said, “Let them eat cake” (“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”). I can. not. abide when people say that she did.
The saying originated (in print) with Jean Jacques Rousseau in Les Confessions [handy Google books link to the page here] as something once said by a “great Princess.” Some think he was quoting Marie Thérèse (queen to Louis XIV), but my gut tells me that that’s as much a myth as attributing it to Marie Antoinette.
Marie Antoinette and her dresses and pearls were not to blame for France’s ills – you can thank decades of nonstop war waged by Louises XIV and XV for that – but Antoinette was a woman and a foreigner, hated by the French, and all that made her an easy target.
Been reading a lot about the Marquis de Lafayette lately. I choose strange forms of escapism.
Overall, in all the biographies, articles, and treatises on the man, one fact stands clear: historians can. not. stand. him. He’s a problematic character in any story, and people just don’t know where to put him. Lately, they either dismiss him as unimportant or leave him out altogether.
This is a shame because he really was such a catalyst. From age 19 until he died at age 76, he started a lot of trouble and inspired others to cause exponentially more than he himself managed to do. He was right in the thick of the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and most of the successive changes of French government from Napoleon on. Whether or not people think he was important, it cannot be argued that he was at least supremely interesting.
If there ever was such a thing, he would definitely be in the running for Patron Saint of Broken-Hearted Idealists everywhere. That I can definitely identify with right now, which is probably why I’m reading so much about him.
There’ll be more here. It’s hard to know what to say. He’s not an easy character to pin down.
Kate Beaton’s done a series of strips on the French Revolution. As usual, they are glorious and Wrong.
And, yes, TJ. That Revolution was super creepy.