21 February, 2007

...she never said "let them eat cake!"

My husband and I recently watched "Marie Antoinette" directed by Sophia Coppola, with Kirsten Dunst. The more I think about it, the more I realize I really liked it. Even as it is overflowing with bright pops of colour and loud up-to-date music, and fun pastry treats, the story is obviously a very sad one, a time of revolution and a rockstar queen that can't stop spending every one's money, but there is so much more to it than what you would see on the surface. Beneath the surface of teensy, floral gowned little girls and boys is history.

I love history. I love history because we can all learn from the mistakes and the successes of those who have had them before us. I love that! It is fun to read about people and what they were like, what influenced them, and what they were involved in. I love the history of people, the history of what made them do what they did, and why the things that happened actually happened. I don't like dates, and colorless facts-I want to know about people! Reading books and books about Rousseau and Hume and the kings and queens of Europe is okay, but really understanding why the people of a period revolted, understanding why they believed in science or religion or why they got sick, that amazes me. We can learn so much from it all...and it intrigues me more than much else.
Then who was this Marie Antoinette? Was she more than some careless queen?For many years she was viewed as being very superficial, lacking in character, shallow and weak, but recently this notion has changed. The trend in recent years is to acknowledge her strengths, and not focus entirely on her weaknesses. We now take her on more as a real person than the creation of an unnecessary revolution-due to an overly extended shopping/gambling spree.Much has been said about this woman, in 1933, Stefan Zweig wrote a biography about Marie Antoinette: The Portrait of an Ordinary Woman, in which he argued that the queen achieved greatness during the final years of her life thanks to her extraordinary courage.
She was called to something that she was not prepared for, and in so made many mistakes. Marie Antoinette's journey began at the age of 14, when she was to marry the prince of France Louis XVI. In parting her mother said:"Farewell, my dearest. Do so much good to the French people that they can say that I have sent them an angel." When the teen princess reached the border of Austria she was asked to remove all of her Austrian encumbrances (clothes, jewelry, mementos, servants and friends) and leave them behind, as she would not serve France properly if she were allowed to keep them. She was asked to remove her Austrian attire in front of the entire Austrian Delegation, causing her to cry. She was then re-dressed in French clothing and brought into a country she did not know.

Her reign was hard, the people admired her, but soon decided that she was much to extravagant. They blamed her for the financial problems of France, even though realistically she did not have much to do with it. Louis XVI (her hubby) was the king who aided the US in the American Revolution in order to prove to Europe that they could afford it, that did leed France to ruin. Really though, the point is that they tried to do things the right way, they had their problems, but they were probably just an exaggerated version of our own problems. You know what they say: "the more money you have the bigger your problems are!". Munro Price, in his political study on the fall of the French monarchy, wrote "Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette have often been portrayed as weak and vacillating. Far from it; their policy between 1789 and 1792 was entirely consistent, and highly conservative. They were prepared to die for their beliefs, and ultimately did so."oh, yah and she never said "let them eat cake!" the line that she is most famous for. That line and many other ideas about this queen was just a revolutionary propaganda scheme of the current day to sour her image.

I guess for me it seems easy to cast blame on someone when you don't know them, or care to. It is much more difficult to do so after walking in their beautiful pink shoes and spending two hours getting to know them a little better. Can we all learn something from history then? even those of you who are not "into" history? We can learn that it is easy to judge when someone is not close to us, or when we put up walls...but when we let that same person in it becomes much more natural to forgive faults and recognize that they are struggling too.

Anyway, I was trying to write a non-serious blog. They don't ever really end up the way that I expect anyway. Here's to Marie Antoinette so much more than just an amazing movie!!

If you are interested in more info about the historical Marie Antoinette, check out this site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Antoinette

1 comment:

Ellyn Canfield said...

I heard they used like 500 hundred pairs of Manolo Blahniks in that movie! I liked it too.
Did you see the one pair of Converse? YAY!