Saturday, August 18, 2007

Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette
Originally uploaded by hannahkarina.

The story of Marie Antoinette is interesting on several levels. It's kind of a reverse fairy tale - which is sort of tragic, but fascinating. Many little girls dream of growing up to be a princess. Marie always was a princess and grew up in Austria, then at 15 she was shipped off to France to marry Louis the Sixteenth, who was sort of a big nerd, but someday to be king of France. And in the meantime, while she was waiting to be Queen someday, she used her time really getting into fashion, decorating, and generally hanging out with her friends in the palace. I don't think she even really wanted to be Queen - she did in the sense that she had a religious conviction about it, but I don't think her desire ever was to really rule France. And once she did become Queen her fall was sort of a foregone conclusion, because by then, with all her exhorbitant spending during a time when most of the people in France were literally starving - well, it was a revolution. That's a huge simplification of what really happened.

But it's an interesting and cautionary tale I think about what it really means to be a princess...or a prince.

It's also kind of a tale about what happens when you get EVERYTHING you want. Not always good. Sometimes there are really awful consequences to that, which catch up eventually.

But ulimately you can't sort of help but feel a little sorry for old Marie Antoinette, who was really just a product of her time, and her circumstances. She unrealistically idealized the concept of peasant life, even to the point of building a small recreated Hamlet on the grounds of Versailles where she could have goats, and crops and cows and pretend to be common. But all the while she was doing that she had other people out there milking the cows for her and keeping everything up for her so she could flit around in her cotton frock and "pretend" to be a milkmaid. It's sort of pathetic. But it's not really her fault either. How would she know anything of a peasants life? She lived her entire life inside the walls of palaces and castles, only passing through the countryside in her fabulous carraige.

Sometimes this makes me think of people here in the United States, people who we vote for, people who end up ruling our country. Often, these people were raised wealthy enough that poverty is merely a concept. They have no practical experience with it.

It's easier to feel sorry for Marie Antoinette and hard for me to feel sorry for say, George Bush though. Mainly because Marie Antoinette had absolutely no choice in the matter. She could not refuse to be a princess or a Queen.

I have other thoughts on this too ---

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