Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Who is More Tragic?

Marie-Antoinette or Alexandra Feodorovna?
They are two of the most tragic consorts in history, both having the blood of Mary Stuart. Women of great beauty, passion and taste, both martyrs.

Pope Pius VII said that Louis VXI fulfilled all the qualifications of Christian martyrdom. He and Marie-Antoinette were both often referred to as the "Martyr-King and the Martyr-Queen" by faithful Catholics in the years immediately following the Revolution. Like Nicholas and Alexandra, they were killed because of what they represented, not necessarily because of what they had done. The people who killed them would have found any excuse. Most of the ordinary French people were horrified that Louis and Antoinette were killed; even many Revolutionaries thought they should have been exiled rather than executed.

Marie-Antoinette was hemorrhaging during her trial because she may have had ovarian or uterine cancer. That is just a theory. She may also have been anemic. She had suffered great emotional trauma. She was only 38 years old.

I think that the Queen of France had the more tragic life. Alexandra got to marry her great love and that makes all the difference in the world. Louis and Antoinette loved each other, but few loves can compare with the grand passion of Nicky and Alix.

Both women were devoted to their children and tried to have a real family life with them. Both loved the "simple life" and tried to create quiet refuges amid the splendor of the court.

Both women were vilified in ways that transcended all reality by their political enemies. In order to pull apart a family, destroy the image of the mother; in order to bring a nation into revolution, then destroy the reputation/ image of the queen/ empress, who was the mother figure of the people. If they could convince the people that the queen/empress was evil and that the king/tsar was an idiot, then it meant the children were no good and the entire family should be gotten rid of. It was a deliberate ploy. Antoinette and Alexandra are tragic because no matter what they did it played into the hands of their enemies.  The Great Catherine outwardly had lovers and no one held it against her and she was loved by the people. Napoleon's Josephine spent more money on clothes in one year than Marie-Antoinette did in her entire life and yet Josephine was popular with the French people. It is sad that two women of virtue like Antoinette and Alexandra should be so terribly misunderstood.


Jessie said...

Both these women withstood suffering beyound what any of us can imagine, but I think Marie-Antoinette's story is a bit more tragic. She had to bear the death of her husband and had her children taken from her. Alexandra, at the very least, had her family with her until the end.

The North Coast said...

Hate to say this, Maria, but neither one of these likable, thoroughly sympathetic queens had the temperamental make-up to be in public life.

The sorry truth is that both these fine women were "non-dominant" or "amiable" personalities- easy-going people who are not vested in manipulating and dominating other people. They were very intelligent, very honest, highly emotional, rather impulsive, and wore their hearts on their sleeves. They were not interested in manipulating other people, but reacted spontaneously and honestly to situations. People like this get destroyed by public life.

Successful politicians, on the other hand, are VERY dominant and very manipulative. Marie Antoinette's mother, for example, never said a word nor made a gesture, I'm sure, before considering what effect it would have on other people. She was a very good woman who was also a very dominant personality.

Non-dominants are often scapegoated and vilified, because other people around them sense their weakness and go in for the kill like predators on the weaker members of the herd. And when they have to perform in high-profile positions in public life, they get slaughtered, sometimes literally.

Julygirl said...

They were also both considered 'foreigners' by the people even though they both embraced their adopted countries and its' people. More importantly they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Christina said...

Great post, and great food for thought. As I've commented before the similarities between these two queens are striking. It is hard to say which is "more tragic" but one must admit that Alexandra's difficulties were somewhat of her own making - namely, her devotion to and elevation of Rasputin. Certainly Marie Antoinette had her own favorites, and the Polignacs were pretty unpopular, but I don't think you can compare the Duchesse de Polignac to Rasputin at all. Alexandra also tended to be quite stubborn and "tone deaf" to the social implications of her behavior, not thinking about how her actions would be perceived by others. I think MA had more of a sense of such things, being the daughter of the great Maria Theresa. Alexandra was a grown woman when she married and didn't have the excuse of youth that MA had. Then again, both Alexandra and MA were criticized repeatedly for breaches of etiquette and a perceived lack of royal propriety, so who can say? The qualities of spontaneity and sentimentality which endeared them both to the members of their inner circle, sadly opened them up to public criticism.

Julygirl is right, both of them were despised as foreigners. Compare Marie-Antoinette's nickname "L'Autrichienne" to Alexandra's nickname "Nemka" - essentially the same meaning.

Jack B. said...

I would have to sat M-A is more tragic. Alexandra had her husband and children with her to the end. Marie Antoinette did not. Many of Alexandra's friends (minus her sister and Rasputin) lived on - in M-A's case she had to witness the brutality done to the Princess Lamballe under her window. Until they got to Ekaterinberg, even the Romanov's "house arrest" together in Tobolsk was not without comforts. M-A had none of that.