Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Marie-Antoinette's Sense of Humor

There was so much sadness in her life that we forget that Marie-Antoinette had a genuinely happy disposition and the gift of seeing the droll side of every situation. She loved living and had the ability to laugh at herself. As Chateaubriand said, "She appeared to be enchanted with life."

Once the eighteen year-old queen dressed as a Grey Nun in order to see her busy young husband in his study, quite diligent and intent upon being a good king. Louis did not recognize the "good sister" at first and when he saw her convulsed with laughter, he thought she was ill. It was several minutes before he realized the nun was really his wife.

Another time, at a state banquet, she made pellets out of bread and threw them at Louis across the table. People were shocked, but much more so when she cheered very loud at the horse races on the Bois de Boulogne. Louis had to keep telling her to be quiet.

On the way to a soirée in Paris, Antoinette's coach broke down so she hired a taxi to get to the party on time. "I came in a fiacre!" she gleefully told everyone, but the Parisians did not view the
event with humor. She shocked Paris another time when she rode down the street in a sleigh with her good friend Madame de Lamballe, without an escort. Young ladies (even if they were married or widowed) were not supposed to be out and about without a chaperone. It was scandalous behavior, indeed.

It is sad that so many of these innocent instances of youthful high spirits were twisted into something vicious by people who did not understand humor that was not obscene or a sense of adventure that was not connected with dangerous intrigues. Few were indifferent to Marie-Antoinette, however. She was either loved with a reverence akin to piety, or hated with a fury.

Her childlike enjoyment of simple pleasures, of gardens, music and small children, was mingled with her compassion for others as well as the growing sorrow that increased with the death of loved ones. Despair never overwhelmed her, however, even amid the final debacles that brought about her murder and the destruction of her little family. Share


Anonymous said...

What a great woman and role model for women and girls of today. I pray she may one day be raised to the Altar.

de Brantigny
unrepentant counter-revolutionary

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful way to view life! Probably one of the reasons she still intrigues people. Public figures have to bear so much scorn from people who would never be able to cope with the same situation if the roles were reversed.

The North Coast said...

People hated her because she made them realize how dreary, rigid, quotidian, colorless, and loveless their own lives were, especially the hidebound members of the court who wasted their useless lives away vying for the right to occupy a tabouret or wear a ribbon of a particular color, and in engaging in endless intrigues. They were probably thinking secretly, why didn't I do that, or why can't i be like her?