Marie Antoinette: Ever majestic, though anxious as she discerns the approaching Revolution

February 2, 2012

After his presentation to Louis XVI, Chateaubriand passed through the gallery to meet the Queen returning from chapel. “She soon came in sight,” he says, “surrounded by a large and brilliant suite; she made a dignified courtesy, appearing enchanted with life. And those fair hands, which then held so gracefully the scepter of so many kings, were, before they were tied by the executioner, to patch the rags of the widow, the prisoner of the Conciergerie.”

Marie Antoinette engraving drawn by FJ Collignon engraved by WH Mote

Unhappy Queen! The moment was drawing nigh when she was to be abandoned even by her courtiers. At the last court ball in 1788, no one wanted to dance with her. Madame Vigée-Lebrun, who was present, speaks of the festivity most sadly: “The box in which I happened to be was so near the Queen’s that I could overhear what she said. I saw in her some agitation inviting the young men of the court to dance, among them, M. de Lambeth, who belonged to a family which she had overwhelmed with deeds of kindness, and others, who refused her; so that it was impossible to make up the sets for the square dances. The indecorous conduct of these gentlemen struck me; their refusal seemed to me to be a sort of revolt. The Revolution was approaching; it broke out the next year.”

Imbert de Saint-Amand, Marie Antoinette and the End of the Old Régime, trans. Thomas Sergeant Perry (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1914), pp. 4-5.

 

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 148

 

 

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  • Marie Antoinette had been frivolous, but the first roars of the French Revolution stirred her to noble action. All of the dignity, indeed majesty, of the Habsburg race shone through her as she confronted the hurricane of unbridled passions that toppled the throne of France. Once, Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira commented that some things give the best of themselves when they are about to die. Thus, the sun fills the sky with its beautiful red and gold hues. The leaves of Autumn dazzle us with their variety of color and brilliance. So too are we filled with admiration at Marie Antoinette's unique majesty when overwhelmed by hatred, abandoned by those who should have defended her, and crushed by tragedy.

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