"She was not a guilty woman, neither was she a saint; she was an upright, charming woman, a little frivolous, somewhat impulsive, but always pure; she was a queen, at times ardent in her fancies for her favourites and thoughtless in her policy, but proud and full of energy; a thorough woman in her winsome ways and tenderness of heart, until she became a martyr."
"We have followed the history of Marie Antoinette with the greatest diligence and scrupulosity. We have lived in those times. We have talked with some of her friends and some of her enemies; we have read, certainly not all, but hundreds of the libels written against her; and we have, in short, examined her life with– if we may be allowed to say so of ourselves– something of the accuracy of contemporaries, the diligence of inquirers, and the impartiality of historians, all combined; and we feel it our duty to declare, in as a solemn a manner as literature admits of, our well-matured opinion that every reproach against the morals of the queen was a gross calumny– that she was, as we have said, one of the purest of human beings."
"It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely there never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she had just begun to move in, glittering like a morning star full of life and splendor and joy. Oh, what a revolution....Little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fall upon her, in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor and of cavaliers! I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards, to avenge even a look which threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded...."
~Edmund Burke, October 1790
A Note on Reviews
Unless otherwise noted, any books I review on this blog I have either purchased or borrowed from the library, and I do not receive any compensation (monetary or in-kind) for the reviews.
I just finished watching The Tudors, Season 2, which deals with Henry VIII's struggle to marry Anne Boleyn and the disasters which followed. I resisted having anything to do with the Showtime series for a long time but I must say that I am deeply impressed by much of it, especially by how the religious issues are handled. In fact, Season 2 would practically be a martyrology except that it is punctuated by scenes of frantic copulation which detract from an otherwise magnificent production. The sets, the costumes, the music, the banquets, the dances, the firelight are all a history lover's dream. The plot takes into account many intricate diplomatic and political matters which makes the occasional glaring historical errors all the more puzzling. The fact that John Rhys-Meyers' Henry remains muscular and svelte is a bit bizarre but then it probably reflects how Henry saw himself in his increasingly deluded mind. Natalie Dormer is the best Anne Boleyn ever. Katherine of Aragon is shown as the great and holy queen that she was. I sobbed my heart out when she died. The sorrows and humiliations endured by Princess Mary, Henry and Katherine's daughter, are portrayed for the first time in any production that I know of, making the future Mary I a sympathetic, stubborn and tragic character. We see, as never before, Henry VIII overturning heaven and earth in order to make Anne Boleyn his wife and his queen. We witness that jewels, titles, executions and laws of man cannot make a mistress into a wife and that it takes more than a crown to make a queen. Nevertheless, Anne is a mesmerizing personage, played with bewitching grace and subtlety. The scenes of the sufferings and executions of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More are some of the most moving and deeply spiritual depictions I have seen in any drama. It is impossible not to be moved. It is strange that in these times inspiration is found in unlikely places.
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