Sunday, July 14, 2013

French Nobles and Bastille Day

Duc et Duchesse d’Estissac
Yes, some aristocrats escaped the wholesale slaughter and their descendants are still alive today. To quote:
Because he was grand master of the royal wardrobe, the presence of François Alexandre Frédéric de La Rochefoucauld was required when Louis XVI dressed in the Palace at Versailles. One morning 224 years ago – some accounts place it before the storming of the Bastille, others immediately after – the king asked de La Rochefoucauld if it was true there was a revolt in Paris.

“No, majesty. It is not a revolt; it’s a revolution,” de La Rochefoucauld replied. He was the first to define the founding event of modern French history.

De La Rochefoucauld’s grandson, nine generations removed, Pierre-Louis de La Rochefoucauld, duc d’Estissac, lives a block away from the Champs-Élysées, where the French republic will celebrate its revolution tomorrow. This year, as every year, the duke, aged 65, will pay it no notice. “We had to run away, hide or get killed,” he says. “It’s not a date I want to remember.” The family has proof of its lineage for the last 1,000 years, back to Foucaud the 1st in 1019. In the 17th century, François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld, became a famous writer of maxims and memoirs, whose pithy observations on human folly are still quoted today.

Some 15 de La Rochefoucaulds were guillotined in the revolution. The present-day scion has a special fondness for Pierre-Louis de La Rochefoucauld, Bishop of Saintes. “Because I bear his name, I feel close to him.” The duke never passes the intersection of the rue d’Assas and Vaugirard without thinking of his namesake, who was detained in a Carmelite chapel there with 150 other clergy on September 2nd, 1792.

“They were ordered to recognise the new status of the church under the revolution,” the duke recounts. “All of them said No. One by one, they were shoved into the garden where dozens of ‘patriots’ fell upon them, killing them with hammers and knives.”

Pierre-Louis de La Rochefoucauld was declared a blessed martyr in 1920. He would have been canonised, the duke believes, had the church not been intimidated by the government. “In France, the legal government considers that the revolution was a marvellous thing,” he says bitterly. (Read more.)


Reinette said...

How dare this man be so dismissive of an amazing chapter in his country's history!Yes it's true there were many innocents killed but how about the millions of peasants who starved because the nobles wouldn't agree to pay a little extra tax?The French Revolution was a model and root for future civil right,human rights,feminism etc. movements.Or would the Duke rather he was still the master and to hell with the plebs?

elena maria vidal said...

Dear Reinette, I am afraid that I agree with the Duc, who is obviously well-versed in his country's history. First of all, the famine was caused by bad harvests and grain speculators who bought up the grain and kept it from getting to the cities and towns. This was done deliberately to stir up the people. It was the nobles who, in many cases were able to get food to their people. And yes, there were many nobles who joined the Revolution because they did not like the tax which Louis XVI wished to impose on them. They were rebelling against the king. More people were starving AFTER the Revolution than starved during the rule of Louis XVI. In the mass killings ordered by the State the French Revolution was model for all totalitarian dictatorships including the bloodbath of the Russian Revolution and other Communist regimes, including that of Pol Pot in Cambodia. For that matter, the Nazis borrowed many ideas from the French Revolution, especially the idea of getting rid of the surplus population. Are you aware that more peasants than nobles were murdered during the French Revolution? Have you ever heard of the massacres of the Vendee? And what did it lead to? Freedom and Democracy? NO. The end result was Napoleon Bonaparte who had more absolute power than any French king. Everything I have written here can be read in Simon Schama's book CITIZENS which is a must read for anyone who wants the truth about the Revolution, the Revolution which was the blueprint for every case of modern tyranny.

elena maria vidal said...

As for feminism, in 1794 the Committee of Public Safety decreed that all single women either had to marry or be committed to a brothel. The Revolutionaries were not very pro-woman, as many women discovered, even those who had favored the Revolution.

Here is a great post by author Stephanie Mann on the French Revolution and liberty:
"The French Revolution established a pattern of State control over and interference with Church and religion, combining those efforts with violence and destruction in the name of secular unity on earthly ideals. In 2012, the film For Greater Glory dramatized the Cristeros War in twentieth-century Mexico, during which the revolutionary government followed the French Revolution’s example to attempt again to destroy Catholicism. As often noted, of course, we are not facing life and death decisions like the recusant Catholics of England, the non-juring priests of France, or the Cristeros in Mexico. Catholic individuals, organizations, universities, and dioceses have access to legislative and judicial means to avoid either compromising our beliefs or paying fines. Nevertheless the French Revolution’s attack on the Catholic Church provides us with a fascinating historical parallel to the modern secular state attempts to impose its will on Catholics and other Christians in the name of the common good."

Feddy said...

And, even so, the killing of some people (noble or just common people) should never be a reason to celebrate for.
Celebrate the newborn Republic, maybe.
But I'd still prefer that people "remembered" that day (and all its consequences), more than "celebrate" it.

lara77 said...

Thanks Elena Maria for your respones to Reinette. The French really believe the myth of their revolution; that all was darkness until the likes of the murderers Danton and Robespierre let their forces of "progress" on the nation.Someone recently wrote in our Boston paper about our American Revolution and we still have the same FIRST American Republic. The French on their FIFTH Republic after how many changes in government? The French could never agree on anything. When the Duc d'Estissac talked about how his ancestor was butchered outside the chapel; my stomach turned. Makes one think how when the Nazis were rolling through France in 1940 the leaders of the Third Republic crammed into Notre Dame to pray for France to be saved. Karma.....Karma is an amazing thing. I have been watching the recent festivities in Great Britain celebrating Queen Elizabeth's Jubilee; thank God Britain kept her glorious traditions. France is an embarrassment.