Sunday, 28 May 2006

Off with their heads!

The French Revolution has always been my favourite historical period. After years of learning about the Merovingians (oh, yes!) and about this or that war mostly against la perfide Albion, I remember it as a refreshing change to be taught about exciting events actually taking place in France and not involving military strategy (I could have told soldiers what to do – in Latin and French – at the age of 15). It became even more fascinating when, after we all took the Gaston Berger personality test in class, I discovered I was Robespierre’s alter ego. His nickname was L’Incorruptible so he was a hard act to follow (as if!). And I don’t have the time right now to even hint at the influence Marat has had on my life.

Anyway, however flawed those revolutionaries may have been, they were instrumental in having Marie-Antoinette guillotined. And for that I have to applaud them. Although, I suppose, she and that ninny of a husband of hers, could have been sent away into exile somewhere, if they hadn’t had so many supporters abroad. They did try to escape, but were caught and brought back to face the music.

Marie-Antoinette was a silly woman. She was sent to France from Austria as a very young girl and did nothing but spend spend spend. She was the Queen and it wasn’t in her remit to bother about her subjects’ welfare so she didn’t. The people got fed up with her and with all the other freeloaders who were making their lives a misery, and executed them all. End of story.

Unfortunately, that airhead pops up again and again, and now there’s a new film about her. There’s also a new book about the perfumes she used. I love perfume but I couldn’t care less about her tastes in that respect. I want to know about truly great women. Women who have achieved something; who have done something for humanity; who are role models; whose lives are uplifting. Spare me the aristocrats and the courtesans: they have nothing to teach us.

I don’t know why Sofia Coppola’s film was booed at Cannes. Let’s hope it’s because it’s a bad film not because the tide is turning and the French are getting all misty-eyed about Marie-Antoinette again and resent anything disparaging said against her. I don’t keep up with those things but I expect there still is a Comte de Paris (the so-called heir to the throne) waiting for the monarchy to be restored in France. So far, luckily, he’s been a figure of fun, but who knows?

The Tsar and his family had a similar fate. Tough. The Romanovs never showed any mercy towards anyone, why should they have been spared? (Even today I can hardly bring myself to call St Petersburg by its old name: it conjures up so many horrific pictures).

Forgive me for not shedding tears over tyrants. Those people were bad. And the fact that they died in terrible circumstances does not make them better. Given half a chance they would have become even worse and their heirs would have followed in their footsteps.

A slap to anyone who romanticizes and mythologizes oppressors!


  1. I'm only sad that the French never would give that guillotine a rest even after their deaths.They went on a murderous rampage with their killing machine putting probably many innocent people to death too.That's also my favorite period of history and the period with Napolean that followed.

  2. You're right,of course, CH: they went too far. But revolutions are hardly ever 'clean': they're a time for people to settle old scores, unfortunately. It's quite easy to start a revolution, much less to put an end to it.

  3. 'And I don’t have the time right now to even hint at the influence Marat has had on my life.'

    You're not so fond of baths?

    There is indeed a Comte de Paris; I know someone who knows him.

  4. That's it, L, I don't like baths: I'm afraid I'll find someone looming over me with a knife... Luckily, Psycho hasn't affected me so much. LOL!

    Does he/she have a de in their name? If so, drop them immediately: he/she is a pseudo-aristocrat. Blech!

  5. The von in my name is knowingly pretentious, arch and ironic: just so there's no doubt about that!

    I'm very much against the monarchy, and have applauded at the executions without mercy. (Not literally, I'm not that old!) However, is killing ever justified? I'm feeling childish for thinking causing a death can be supported by politics.

    But some people just won't keep their stupid mouths shut and are therefore too dangerous to stay alive.

    Slapping all naive romanticisers.

  6. LOL, JvS! I adore your name; it certainly wasn't a dig at you. There's something unpleasant about French 'aristocrats' (and it's not just their stupid names). There are so many now in politics; they never used to be so prominent; wonder what it all means.

    Of course, killing is hardly ever justified. I can't say 'never' because killing Hitler, for instance, would have been totally justifiable, don't you think? Of course, one runs the risk of turning those people into martyrs - just like Marie-Antoinette and the Romanovs.

    What gets me is the fact that, when they think about kings and queens, most people get dazzled by the beauty that surrounded them - the clothes, the jewels, the gorgeous buildings - and see nothing else. I have been to Versailles several times and ooohed and aaahed like everyone else because everything is jaw-droppingly wonderful and I can appreciate the skills of whoever created such beauty, but I try not to get sentimental about the people who used to live there.

  7. I do feel some killing of tyrants is justified - I'm with John Stuart Mill on the theory (greatest happiness of the greatest good). But it concerns me who gets to decide. It's really only with long, long hindsight that we can make any sensible judgements about what was a good thing to have happened, and even then those judgements must surely be affected by our own culture and agenda. Removing a tyrant may leave a power vacuum that gets filled by something worse.

    And the Mill theory in practice puts people in horrific positions, as in the concentration camps when one Jew would be asked to kill aother to prevent twenty being killed. Of course it was the right thing that he do it, but I bet it didn't feel right.

    I think it might be like Communism - can't fault the theory, doesn't work with human nature in practice.

    Agree about the romanticisation of the beauty, though. We shouldn't idolise anything that comes only from luck of birth and money.

  8. "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." --Thomas Jefferson

    The hard part, sometimes, is figuring out who are the patriots and who the tyrants.

  9. "...Robespierre’s alter ego." It's all so very clear now. heh. xoxo

  10. I feel fairly certain it was not the glorification of the monarchy that caused the movie to be panned as much as it was the dubious and truly poor choice of Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette. I loathe the idea of the monarchy, but HONESTLY, is there anyone less appropriate for that role than a pre-pubescent little irritant on a boil like Kirsten?

  11. Many good and stimulating comments. What a good choice of slap.

  12. Indeed, L, hindsight is the key, although we very often give people the benefit of the doubt for too long and appeasing tyrants never works. Of course, there has to be forethought as well about what comes next, but the eradication of evil has to be the prime concern, I think.

    It's all very tricky, D. The patriots of today are sometimes the tyrants of tomorrow.

    Drat, M, you will read me like a book now. LOL! zockso

    As far as I know, I've only seen Kirsten Dunst in one film (don't ask me which one it was: I can't remember). I find her annoying. She may well become a Tête à claques in the near future if I can work out exactly what annoys me about her. Sofia Coppola, who was so bad in Godfather III, is now a highly acclaimed director but I disagree with her choice of actresses (Scarlett, now Kirsten, blech!).

    Thanks, JvS!

  13. J, I can offer you this explanation of what annoys ME about Kirsten Dunst: It's that half-closed-eyes look she ALWAYS has - I'm guessing she thinks it's seductive, but really she just looks dumb - or stoned.

  14. Well, how about Romanoff family getting canonized in the Orthodox Church? I read a lot about the history of that period, and the more I read, the more it was clear how horribly oppressed were the people. The Bloody Sunday alone when people (lots of children among them) who walked to meet the Tsar and were massacred by his troops justified the outrage Bolsheviks felt. Of course, one dictatorship was replaced by another, but that is a separate story.

    And yes, I find the whole fuss over Marie-Antoinette to be annoying. Apparently, a perfume of hers was recreated as well.


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