Notes and Reflections on Books and Media
by Hannah Leitheiser
Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution
As the children's song by Aurelio Voltaire goes:
'Belle Marie Antoinette
"Love the pearls!"
They'll make a great tourniquet
Never did as you should and you claim
It was all for our very own good
'Twas a lie, a magnificent lie
Now, your subjects have turned on you'
It is interesting that it was not an immovable Monarchy against masses of subjects, exactly, that prompted revolution. This painting of Antionette holding a rose, while ornate to our eyes, is plain in comparison to the Rococo past. Marie Antoinette was embracing the new ideas of Rousseau's simplicity and natural goodness, eschewing the pomp of Royalty. But what looked wholesome in a peasant did not please people in a princess or queen.
And Antionette didn't quite rid herself of a love of jewels, especially not in the eyes of the public. The author Simon Schama claims, although I think it might be an error, that literacy in late 18th century France was comparable to late 20th century America. People were reading, and not just approved literature, but also thriving black market publications. These papers were not afraid to paint the Queen as a lesbian Dominatrix, fond of masturbation and ... hey, why not throw in some incest for good measure.
Fake news, I'm sure, but modern times indicate appetite, especially when there's trouble with government, and involved in austerity and taxes to try to pay war debt, and presiding a country where growing capitalism and the first hints of industrialization were creating regions of urban squalor, government struggled to look competent as the provider of bread, protection, and, in the growing consciousness, liberty.