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Women of Modern France By Hugo P. Thieme Characters: 42626

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

Marie Antoinette and the Revolution

The condition of France at the end of the reign of Louis XV. was most deplorable-injustice, misery, bankruptcy, and instability everywhere. The action of the law could be overridden by the use of arbitrary warrants of arrest-lettres de cachet. The artisans of the towns were hampered by the system of taxation, but the peasant had the greatest cause for complaint; he was oppressed by the feudal dues and many taxes, which often amounted to sixty per cent of his earnings. The government was absolute, but rotten and tottering; the people, oppressively and unjustly governed, were just beginning to be conscious of their condition and to seek the cause of it, while the educated classes were saturated with revolutionary doctrines which not only destroyed their loyalty to the old institutions, but created constant aspirations toward new ones.

Thus, when Louis XVI., a mere boy, began to reign, the whole French administrative body was corrupt, self-seeking, and in the hands of lawyers, a class that dominated almost every phase of government. In general, inefficiency, idleness, and dishonesty had obtained a ruling place in the governing body; the few honest men who had a minor share in the administration either fell into a sort of disheartened acquiescence or lost their fortunes and reputations in hopeless revolt.

Under these conditions Louis XVI. began his reign; and although peace seemed to exist externally, the country was in revolution. France was as much under the modern "ring rule" as any country ever was-a condition of affairs largely due to the nature of the young king, whose predominant characteristics might be called a supreme awkwardness and an unpardonable lack of will power. He was a man who, during the first part of his reign, led a pure life; he possessed good and philanthropic intentions, but was hampered by a weak intellect and a stubbornness which bore little resemblance to real strength of will. Also, he entertained strong religious convictions, which were extremely detrimental to his policy and caused disagreements with his ministers-Turgot, on account of his philosophical principles, Necker, on account of his Protestantism.

His wife had those qualities which he lacked, decision and strength of character; unfortunately, she wielded no influence over him in the beginning, and when she did gain it, she used it in a fatal manner, because she was ignorant of the needs of France. Throughout her career of power, she evinced headstrong wilfulness in pursuing her own course. Thus, totally incapable of acting for himself, Louis XVI. was practically at the mercy of his aunts, wife, courtiers, and ministers, who fitted his policy to their own desires and notions; therefore, the vast stream of emoluments and honors was diverted by the ministers and courtiers into channels of their own selection. There were formed parties and combinations which were constantly intriguing for or against each other.

At the time of the accession of Louis XVI., when poverty was general over the kingdom, the household of the king consisted of nearly four thousand civilians, nine thousand military men, and relatives to the enormous number of two thousand, the supporting of which dependents cost France some forty-five million francs annually. Luckily there was no mistress to govern, as under Louis XV., but, in place of one mistress who was the dispenser of favors, there were numerous intriguing court women who were as corrupt and frivolous as the men. These split the court into factions. As the finances of the country sank to the lowest ebb, odium was naturally cast upon the whole court, without exception, by the people; hence, the wholesale slaughter of the nobility during the Revolution.

In this period, the most critical in the history of France, the queen, Marie Antoinette, as the central figure, the leader of society, the model and example to whom all looked for advice upon morals and fashions, played an important r?le. Although not of French birth, she deserves to be ranked among the women influential in France, since she became so thoroughly imbued with French traits and characteristics that she forgot her native tongue. French life and spirit moulded her in such fashion that even the French look upon her as a French woman.

Before judging this unfortunate princess who has been condemned by so many critics, we must take into consideration the demands that were made upon her. Parade was the primary requisite: she was obliged to keep up the splendor and attractiveness of the French monarchy; in this she excelled, for her manner was dignified, gracious, and "appropriately discriminating. It is said that she could bow to ten persons with one movement, giving, with her head and eyes, the recognition due to each one." It is said, also, that as she passed among the ladies of her court, she surpassed them all in the nobility of her countenance and the dignified grace of her carriage. All foreigners were enchanted with her, and to them she owes no small part of her posthumous popularity.

She was reproached by French women for being exclusively devoted to the society of a select, intimate circle. Moreover, her conduct brought slander upon her; as her companions she chose men and women of bad reputation, and was constantly surrounded by dissipated young noblemen whom she permitted to come into her presence in costumes which shocked conservative people; she encouraged gambling, frequented the worst gambling house of the time, that of the Princesse de Guéménée, and visited masked balls where the worst women of the capital jostled the great nobles of the court; her husband seldom accompanied her to these pleasure resorts.

During part of the reign of Marie Antoinette the country was waging an expensive war and was deeply in debt, but the queen did not set an example of economy by retrenching her expenses; although her personal allowance was much larger than that of the preceding queen, she was always in debt and lost heavily at gambling. Generally, she avoided interference with the government of the state, but as the wife of so incapable a king she was forced into an attempt at directing public matters. Whenever she did mingle in state affairs, it was generally fatal to her interests and popularity. She usually carried out her wishes, for the king shrank from disappointing his wife and dreaded domestic contentions.

He permitted her to go out as she did with the Comte d'Artois, her brother-in-law, to masked balls, races, rides in the Bois de Boulogne, and on expeditions to the salon of the Princesse de Guéménée, where she contracted the ills of a chronically empty purse and late hours. When attacked by measles, to relieve her ennui-which her ladies were not successful in doing-she procured the consent of the king to the presence of four gentlemen, who waited upon her, coming at seven in the morning and not departing until eleven at night; and these were some of the most depraved and debauched among the nobility-such as De Besenval, the Duc de Coigny, and the Duc de Guines.

While in power, she always sided with extravagance and the court, against economy and the nation. If we add to all these defects a vain and frivolous disposition, a nature fond of admiration, pleasure, and popularity, and lending a willing ear to all flattery, compliments, and counsels of her favorites, her Austrian birth, and as "little dignity as a Paris grisette in her escapades with the dissipated and arrogant Comte d'Artois," we have, in general, the causes of her wide unpopularity.

It will be seen that as long as she was frivolous and imprudent, she was flattered and admired; as soon as she became absolutely irreproachable, she was overwhelmed with harsh judgments and expressions of ill will. The first period was during the first years of the reign of Louis XVI., while he was still all-powerful and popular; the second phase of her character developed during the trying days of the king's first fall into disfavor and his ultimate imprisonment and death. From this account of her career, it will be seen that Marie Antoinette, as dauphiness and queen, was rather the victim of fate and the invidious intrigues of a depraved court than herself an instigator and promulgator of the extravagance and dissipation of which she was accused.

We must remember the atmosphere into which Marie Antoinette was thrust upon her arrival in France. One of the first to sup with her was that most licentious of all royal mistresses, Mme. du Barry, who asked for the privilege of dining with the new princess-a favor which the dissipated and weak king granted. Louis XV. was nothing more than a slave to vice and his mistresses. The king's daughters-Mmes. Adela?de, Victoire, and Sophie-were pious but narrow-minded women, resolutely hostile to Mme. du Barry and intriguing against her. The Comtes de Provence and d'Artois were both pleasure-loving princes of doubtful character; their sisters-Mmes. Clotilde and Elisabeth-had no importance. The family was divided against itself, each member being jealous of the others. The dauphin, being of a retiring disposition and of a close and self-contained nature, did little to add to the happiness of the young princess. Thus, she was literally forced to depend upon her own resources for pleasure and amusement and was at the mercy of the court, which was never more divided than in about 1770-the time of her appearance.

At that time there were two parties-the Choiseul, or Austrian, party, and those who opposed the policy of Choiseul, especially in the expulsion of the Jesuits; the latter were called the party of the dèv?ts and were led by Chancellor Maupeau and the Duc d'Aiguillon. This faction, with the mistress-Mme. du Barry-as the motive power, soon broke up the power of Choiseul. The young and innocent foreign princess, unschooled in intrigue and politics, could not escape both political parties; upon her entrance into the French court, she was immediately classed with one or the other of these rival factions and thus made enemies by whatever turn she took, and was caught in a network of intrigues from which extrication was almost impossible.

Here, in this whirl of social excesses, her habits were formed; hers being a lively, alert, active nature, fond of pleasure and somewhat inclined toward raillery, she soon became so absorbed in the many distractions of court life that little time was left her for indulgence in reflection of a serious nature. Her manner of life at this time in part explains her subsequent career of heedlessness, excessive extravagance, and gayety.

At first her aunts-Mmes. Adela?de and Sophie-succeeded in partially estranging her from Louis XV., who had taken a strong fancy to his granddaughter; but this influence was soon overcome-then these aunts turned against her. Her popularity, however, increased. Innumerable instances might be cited to show her kindness to the poor, to her servants, to anyone in need-a quality which made her popular with the masses. In time almost everyone at court was apparently enslaved by her attractions and endeavored to please the dauphiness-this was about 1774, when she was at the height of her popularity.

However, there developed a striking contrast between the dauphiness and the queen; Burke called the former "the morning star, full of life and splendor and joy." In fact, she was a mere girl, childlike, passing a gay and innocent life over a road mined with ambushes and intrigues which were intended to bring ruin upon her and destined eventually to accomplish their purpose. By being always prompt in her charities, having inherited her mother's devotion to the poor, she won golden opinions on all sides; and the reputation thus gained was augmented by her animated, graceful manner and her youthful beauty.

Little accustomed to the magnificence that surrounded her, she soon wearied of it, craving simpler manners and the greater freedom of private intercourse. When, as queen, she indulged these desires, she brought upon herself the abuse and vilification of her enemies. While dauphiness, her actions could not cause the nation's reproach or arouse public resentment; as queen, however, her behavior was subject to the strictest rules of etiquette, and she was responsible for the morals and general tone of her court. This responsibility Marie Antoinette failed to realize until it was too late.

Upon the accession of Louis XVI., a clean sweep was made of the licentious and discredited agents of Mme. du Barry, and a new ministry was created. The former mistress, with her lover, the Duc d'Aiguillon, was banished, although Mme. Adela?de succeeded in having Maurepas, uncle of the Duc d'Aiguillon, made minister. Marie Antoinette had little interest in the appointment after she failed to gain the honor for her favorite, De Choiseul, who had negotiated her marriage.

The queen then proceeded to carry out her long-cherished wishes for society dinners at which she could preside. Her every act, however, was governed by inflexible laws of etiquette, some of which she most impatiently suffered, but many of which she impatiently put aside. With this manner of entertaining begins her reign as queen of taste and fashion, for Louis XVI. left to his wife the responsibility of organizing all entertainments, and her aspiration was to make the court of France the most splendid in the world. From that time on, all her movements, her apparel, her manners, to the minutest detail, were imitated by the court ladies. This custom, of course, led to reckless extravagance among the nobility, for whenever Marie Antoinette appeared in a new gown, which was almost daily, the ladies of the nobility must perforce copy it.

Tidings of these extravagances of the queen and her court in time reached the empress-mother in Vienna. Marie Thérèse severely reproached her daughter, writing: "My daughter, my dear daughter, the first queen-is she to grow like this? The idea is insupportable to me." Yet, "to speak the exact truth," said her counsellor, Mercy, when writing to the empress-mother, "there is less to complain of in the evil which exists than in the lack of all the good which might exist." It is chronicled to her credit that all her expenditure was not upon herself alone, but that she was equally lavish when she attempted charity.

Her first political act, the removal of Turgot, was disastrous. She thought she was humoring public opinion, which was strongly against the minister on account of his many reforms, but her primary reason was rather one of personal vengeance. Turgot had been openly hostile to her friend and favorite, the Duc de Guines. She was then in the midst of her period of dissipation; "dazzled by the glory of the throne, intoxicated by public approval," she overstepped the bounds of royal propriety, neglecting etiquette and forgetting that she was secretly hated by the people because of her origin; her greatest error was in forgetting that she was Queen of France and no longer the mere dauphiness.

Under the escort of her brother-in-law, the Comte d'Artois, she was constantly occupied with pleasures and had time for little else. The king, retiring every night at eleven and rising at five, had all the doors locked; so the queen, who returned early in the morning, was compelled to enter by the back door and pass through the servants' apartments. Such behavior gave plentiful material to M. de Provence, the king's brother, who remained at home and composed, for the Mercure de France, all sorts of stories, from so-called trustworthy information, on the king, on society, and especially on the doings of the queen.

Marie Antoinette's fondness for the chase and the English racing fad, for gambling, billiards, and her petits soupers after the riding and racing, gave ample opportunity to the gossipmongers and enemies. In spite of the vigorous remonstrances of her mother, the empress, she persisted in her wild career of dissipation and extravagance, and drew upon herself more and more the disrespect of the people, especially in appearing at places frequented by the disreputable of both sexes, by entering into all noisy and vulgar amusements, by her disregard and disdain of all the conventionalities of the court. She increased her unpopularity by reviving the sport of sleighing; for this purpose she had gorgeous sleighs constructed at a time when the population of France was in misery. Such proceedings caused libels, epigrams, and satirical chansonnettes to flow thick and fast from her enemies. Her one idea was to seek congenial pleasures: she appeared to be wholly oblivious to the disapproval of public opinion.

The slanderous tongues of her husband's aunts, the "jealousies and bitter backbiting of her own intimate circle of friends," the infamous accusations brought against her by her sisters-in-law, the attacks of the Comte de Provence, and the indifference of the king himself, all helped to increase her unpopularity.

Among her personal friends was the Princesse de Lamballe, whose influence was preponderant for several years; she was not a conspicuously wise woman, but one of spotless character. Her ambitions, personal and for her relatives, often caused much trouble, for she became the mouthpiece of her allies and her clients, for whom she "solicited recommendations with as much pertinacity as if she had been the most inveterate place hunter on her own account." Her favors were too much in one direction to suit the queen, for, much attached to the memory of her husband, the princess naturally sympathized with the Orléans faction. As superintendent of the household of the queen, replacing the Comtesse de Noailles, she gave rise to much scandal. Her salary, through intrigues, had been raised to fifty thousand écus, while her privileges were enormous; for instance, no lady of the queen could execute an order given her without first obtaining the consent of the superintendent. The displeasure and vexation which this restriction caused among the court ladies may be imagined; complaints became so frequent that the queen tired of them, and her affection for her friend was thus cooled.

She sought other friends, among whom Mme. de Polignac was the favorite and almost supplanted the Princesse de Lamballe in the regard of the queen. To her she presented a large grant of money, the tabouret of a duchess, the post of governess to the children of France; and her friends received the appointments of ambassadors, and nominations to inferior offices. She was not by nature an intriguing woman, but was soon surrounded by a set of young men and women who made use of her favor and took advantage of her influence; the result was the formation of a regular Polignac set, almost all questionable persons, but an exclusive circle, permitting no division of favor, and undoing all who endeavored to rival them. This coterie of favorites may be said to have caused Marie Antoinette as much unpopularity and contributed as much to her ruin, and even to that of royalty, as did any other cause originating at court. Mme. de Lamballe was no match for her rival, so she retired, a move which increased the influence of Mme. de Polignac, to whose house the whole court flocked. The queen followed her wherever she went, made her husband duke, and permitted her to sit in her presence.

By spending so much of her time at the salons of Mme. de Polignac and the Princesse de Guéménée, the queen excited the displeasure and enmity of many of the court and the people; at those places, De Besenval, De Ligny, De Lauzun,-men of the most licentious habits and expert spendthrifts,-seemed to enjoy her intimate friendship, a state of affairs which caused many scandalous stories and helped to alienate some of the greatest houses of France. This injudicious display of preference for her own circle of friends also fostered a general distrust and dislike among the people. The first families of France preferred to absent themselves from her weekly balls at Versailles, since attendance would probably result in their being ignored by the queen, who permitted herself to be so engrossed by a bevy of favorites and her own amusements as scarcely to notice other guests.

Her eulogists find excuse for all this in her lightness of heart and gay spirits, as well as in the manner of her rearing, having been brought up in the court of Louis XV., where she saw shameless vice tolerated and even condoned. Although she preserved her virtue in the midst of all this dissipation, she became callous to the shortcomings of her friends and her own finer perceptions became blunted. Thus, in the most critical years of her reign, her nobler nature suffered deterioration, which resulted fatally.

Despite many warnings, she could not or would not do without those friends. She excused anything in those who could make themselves useful to her amusement: everyone who catered to her taste received her favor. M. Rocheterie, in his admirable work, The Life of Marie Antoinette, gives as the source of her great love of pleasure her very strongly affectionate disposition,-the need of showering upon someone the overflowing of an ard

ent nature,-together with the desire for activity so natural in a princess of nineteen. As a place in which to vent all these emotions, these ebullitions of affections and amusements, the king presented her with the chateau "Little Trianon," where she might enjoy herself as she liked, away from the intrigues of court.

Marie Antoinette has become better known as the queen of "Little Trianon" than as a queen of Versailles. At the former place she gave full license to her creative bent. Her palace, as well as her environments, she fashioned according to her own ideas, which were not French and only made her stand out the more conspicuously as a foreigner. From this sort of fairy creation arose the distinctively Marie Antoinette art and style; she caused artists to exhaust their fertile brains in devising the most curious and magnificent, the newest and most fanciful creations, quite regardless of cost-and this while her people were starving and crying for bread! The angry murmurings of the populace did not reach the ears of the gay queen, who, had she been conscious of them, might have allowed her bright eyes to become dim for a time, but would have soon forgotten the passing cloud.

There was constant festivity about the queen and her companions, but no etiquette; there was no household, only friends-the Polignacs, Mme. Elisabeth, Monsieur, the Comte d'Artois, and, occasionally, the king. To be sure, the amusements were innocent-open-air balls, rides, lawn fêtes, all made particularly attractive by the affability of the young queen, who showed each guest some particular attention; all departed enchanted with the place and its delights and, especially, with the graciousness of the royal hostess. There all artists and authors of France were encouraged and patronized-with the exception of Voltaire; the queen refused to patronize a man whose view upon morality had caused so much trouble.

Music and the drama received especial protection from her. The triumph of Gluck's Iphigénie en Aulide, in 1774, was the first victory of Marie Antoinette over the former mistress and the Piccini party. This was the second musical quarrel in France, the first having occurred in 1754, between the lovers of French and Italian music, with Mme. de Pompadour as protectress. After Gluck had monopolized the French opera for eight years, the Italian, Piccini, was brought from Italy in 1776. Quinault's Roland was arranged for him by Marmontel and was presented in 1778, unsuccessfully; Gluck presented his Iphigénie en Aulide, and no opera ever received such general approbation. "The scene was all uproar and confusion, demoniacal enthusiasm; women threw their gloves, fans, lace kerchiefs, at the actors; men stamped and yelled; the enthusiasm of the public reached actual frenzy. All did honor to the composer and to the queen."

Marie Antoinette, however, also gave Piccini her protection. Gluck, armed with German theories and supporting French music, maintained for dramatic interest, the subordination of music to poetry, the union or close relation of song and recitative; whereas, the Italian opera represented by Piccini had no dramatic unity, no great ensembles, nothing but short airs, detached, without connection-no substance, but mere ornamentation. Gluck proved, also, that tragedy could be introduced in opera, while Piccini maintained that opera could embrace only the fable-the marvellous and fairylike. This musical quarrel became a veritable national issue, every salon, the Academy, and all clubs being partisans of one or the other theory; it did much to mould the later French and German music, and much credit is due the queen for the support given and the intelligence displayed in so important an issue.

All singers, actors, writers, geniuses in all things, were sure of welcome and protection from Marie Antoinette; but she permitted her passion for the theatre to carry her to extremes unbecoming her position, for she consorted with comedians, played their parts, and associated with them as though they were her equals. Such conduct as this, and her exclusiveness in court circles, encouraged calumny. Versailles was deserted by the best families, and all the pomp and traditions of the French monarchs were abandoned. The king, in sanctioning these amusements at the "Little Trianon," lost the respect and esteem of the nobility, but the queen was held responsible for all evil,-for the deficit in the treasury, and the increase in taxes; to such an extent was she blamed, that the tide of public popularity turned and she was regarded with suspicion, envy, and even hatred.

In the spring of 1777 the queen's brother, the Emperor Joseph II. of Austria, arrived in Paris for a visit to his sister and the court of France. The relations between him and Marie Antoinette became quite intimate; the emperor, always disposed to be critical, did not hesitate to warn his sister of the dangers of her situation, pointing out to her her weakness in thus being led on by her love of pleasure, and the deplorable consequences which this weakness would infallibly entail in the future. The queen acknowledged the justness of the emperor's reasoning, and, though often deeply offended by his frankness and severity, she determined upon reform. This resolution was, to some extent, influenced by the hope of pregnancy; so, when her expectations in that direction proved to be without foundation, so keen was the disappointment thus occasioned, that, in order to forget it, she plunged into dissipation to such an extent that it soon developed into a veritable passion. Bitterly disappointed, vexed with a husband whose coldness constantly irritated her ardent nature, fretful and nervous, there naturally developed a morbid state of mind which explains the impetuosity with which she attempted to escape from herself.

In December, 1778, a daughter was born to the queen, and she welcomed her with these words: "Poor little one, you are not desired, but you will be none the less dear to me! A son would have belonged to the state-you will belong to me." After this event the queen gave herself up to thoughts and pursuits of a more serious nature. In 1779 the dauphin was born, and from that period Marie Antoinette considered herself no longer a foreigner.

After the death of Maurepas, minister and counsellor to the king, the queen became more influential in court matters. She relieved the indolent monarch of much responsibility, but only to hand it over to her favorites. The period from 1781 to 1785 was the most brilliant of the court of Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette, one of dissipation and extravagance, the rich bourgeoisie vying with the nobility in their luxurious style of living and in lavish expenditure. "The finest silks that Lyons could weave, the most beautiful laces that Alen?on could produce, the most gorgeous equipages, the most expensive furniture, inlaid and carved, the tapestry of Beauvais and the porcelain of Sèvres-all were in the greatest demand." Necker was replaced by incompetent ministers, the treasury was depleted, and the poor became more and more restless and threatening. Once more, and with increased vehemence, was heard the cry: A bas l'Autrichienne!

During the American war of the Revolution, Marie Antoinette was always favorable to the Colonial cause, protecting La Fayette and encouraging all volunteers of the nobility, who embarked for America in great numbers. She presented Washington with a full-length portrait of herself, loudly and publicly proclaiming her sympathy for things American. She assured Rochambeau of her good will, and procured for La Fayette a high command in the corps d'armée which was to be sent to America. When Necker and other ministers were negotiating for peace, from 1781 to 1785, she persisted in asserting that American independence should be acknowledged; and when it was declared, she rejoiced as at no political event in her own country.

Her political adventures were few; in fact, she disliked politics and desired to keep aloof from the intrigues of the ministers. She may have been instrumental in the downfall of Necker-at least, she secured the appointment, as minister of finance, of the worthless Calonne, who, it will be remembered, brought about the ruin of France in a short period. In time, however, the queen recognized his worthlessness and would have nothing to do with him, thus making in him another implacable enemy.

Events were fast diminishing the popularity of the queen. When, after the long-disputed question of presenting the Marriage of Figaro, she herself undertook to play in The Barber of Seville in her theatre at the Trianon, she overstepped the bounds of propriety. Then followed the affair of the diamond necklace, in which the worst, most cunning, and most notorious rogues abused the name of the queen. That was the great adventure of the eighteenth century. Boehmer, the court jeweler, had, in a number of years, procured a collection of stones for an incomparable necklace. This was intended for Mme. du Barry, but Boehmer offered it to the queen, who refused to purchase it, and he considered himself ruined. It may be well to add that the queen had previously purchased a pair of diamond earrings which had been ordered by Louis XV. for his mistress; for those ornaments she paid almost half her annual pin money, amounting to nine hundred thousand francs. The jeweler, therefore, had good reason to hope that she would relieve him of the necklace.

An adventuress, a Mme. de La Motte, acquainted at court and also with the Prince Louis de Rohan, who had incurred the displeasure of the queen, informed the cardinal that Marie Antoinette was willing to again extend to him her favor. She counterfeited notes, and even went so far as to appoint a meeting at midnight in the park at Versailles. The supposed queen who appeared was no other than an English girl, who dropped a rose with the words: "You know what that means." The cardinal was informed that the queen desired to buy the necklace, but that it was to be kept secret-it was to be purchased for her by a great noble, who was to remain unknown. All necessary papers were signed, and the necklace turned over to the Prince de Rohan, who, in turn, intrusted it to Mme. de La Motte to be given to the queen; but the agent was not long in having it taken apart, and soon her husband was selling diamonds in great quantities to English jewelers.

In time, as no payments were received and no favors were shown by the queen, an investigation followed. The result was a trial which lasted nine months; the cardinal was declared not guilty, the signature of the queen false, Mme. de La Motte was sentenced to be whipped, branded, and imprisoned for life, and her husband was condemned to the galleys. Nevertheless, much censure fell to the share of the queen. It was the beginning of the end of her reign as a favorite whose faults could be condoned. She was beginning to reap the fruits of her former dissipations. In about 1787, when she least deserved it, she became the butt of calumny, intrigues, and pamphlets.

During these years she was the most devoted of mothers; she personally looked after her four children, watched by their bedsides when they were ill, shutting herself up with them in the chateau so that they would not communicate their disease to the children who played in the park. In 1785 the king purchased Saint-Cloud and presented it to the queen, together with six millions in her own right, to enjoy and dispose of as she pleased. That act added the last straw to the burden of resentment of the overwrought public; from that time she was known as "Madame Deficit." Also she was accused of having sent her brother, Joseph II., one hundred million livres in three years. She was hissed at the opera. In 1788 there were many who refused to dance with the queen. In the preceding year a caricature was openly sold, showing Louis XVI. and his queen seated at a sumptuous table, while a starving crowd surrounded them; it bore the legend: "The king drinks, the queen eats, while the people cry!" Calonne, minister of finance, an intimate friend of the Polignacs, but in disfavor with the queen, also made common cause with the enemies, in songs and perfidious insinuations. Upon his fall, in 1787, the queen's position became even worse.

The last period of the life of the queen, La Rocheterie calls the militant period-it was one in which the joy of living was no more; trouble, sorrows upon sorrows, and anxieties replaced the former care-free, happy radiance of her youth. At the reunion of the States-General, while the country at large was full of confidence and the king was still a hero, the queen was the one dark spot; calumny had done its work-the whole country seemed to be saturated with an implacable hatred and prejudice against her whom they considered the source of all evil. Throughout the ceremonies attending the States-General, the queen was received with the same ominous silence; no one lifted his voice to cheer her, but the Duc d'Orléans was always applauded, to her humiliation.

Whatever may have been the faults and excesses of her youth, their period was over and in their place arose all the noble sentiments so long dormant. When the king was about to go to Paris as the prisoner of the infuriated mob, La Fayette asked the queen: "Madame, what is your personal intention?" "I know the fate which awaits me, but my duty is to die at the feet of the king and in the arms of my children," replied the queen. During the following days of anxiety she showed wonderful courage and graciousness, "winning much popularity by her serene dignity, the incomparable charm which pervaded her whole person, and her affability."

Upon the urgent request of the queen the Polignac set departed, and Mme. de Lamballe endeavored to do the honors for the queen, by receptions three times a week, given to make friends in the Assembly. At those functions all conditions of people assembled, and instead of the witty, brilliant conversations of the old salon there were politics, conspiracies, plots; instead of the gay and laughing faces of the old times there were the worn and anxious faces of weary, discouraged men and women. There was, indeed, a sad contrast between the gay, frivolous, haughty queen of the early days, and this captive queen-submissive, dignified, "majestic in her bearing, heroic, and reconciled to her awful fate."

Her period of imprisonment, the cruelty, neglect, inadequate food and garments, her torture and indescribable sufferings, the insults of the crowd and the newspapers, her heroic death, all belong to history. "The first crime of the Revolution was the death of the king, but the most frightful was the death of the queen." Napoleon said: "The queen's death was a crime worse than regicide." "A crime absolutely unjustifiable," adds La Rocheterie, "since it had no pretext whatever to offer as an excuse; a crime eminently impolitic, since it struck down a foreign princess, the most sacred of hostages; a crime beyond measure, since the victim was a woman who possessed honors without power."

Because Marie Antoinette played a romantic r?le in French history, it is quite natural to find conflicting and contradictory opinions among her biographers. The most conflicting may be summed up in these words: the queen's influence upon the Revolution was great-her extravagances, her haughty bearing, her scorn of the etiquette of royalty, her enemies, her prejudices, the arrests which she caused, etc. Then her pernicious influence upon the king, after the breaking out of the Revolution-she caused his hesitancy, which led to such disastrous results, and his plan of annihilating the States Assembly; the gathering of the foreign troops and his many contradictory and uncertain commands were all laid at her door, making of her an important and guilty party to the Revolution. Another estimate is more humane and, probably, is the result of cooler reflection, yet is not always accepted by Frenchmen or the world at large. It represents her as neither saint nor sinner, but as a pure, fascinating woman, always chaste, though somewhat rash and frivolous. Proud and energetic, if inconsiderate in her political actions and somewhat too impulsive in the selection of friends upon whom to bestow her favors, she is yet worthy of the title of queen by the very dignity of her bearing; always a true woman, seductive and tender of heart, she became a martyr "through the extremity of her trials and her triumphant death."

Although history makes Marie Antoinette a central figure during the reign of Louis XVI. and the period of the Revolution, yet her personal influence was practically limited to the domain of the social world of customs and manners; her political influence issued mainly from or was due to the concatenation of conditions and circumstances, the results of her friends' doings, while her social triumphs were products of her own activity. The two women-her intimate friends-who during this period were of greatest prominence, who owed their elevation and standing entirely to the queen, were women of whom little has survived. In her time, Mme. de Polignac was an influential woman, wielding tremendous power, contributing largely to the shaping and climaxing of France's fate; yet this influence was centred in reality in the Polignac set, which was composed of the most important, daring, and consummate intriguers that the court of France had ever seen. She escaped the guillotine, and by doing so escaped the attention of posterity.

Mme. de Lamballe, who wrote nothing, did nothing, effected nothing, is better known to the world at large, is more respected and honored, than is Mme. de Polignac or even the great salon leaders such as Mme. de Genlis or Mlle. de Lespinasse. She owes this prominence to her undying devotion to her queen, to her marvellous beauty, and to her tragic death on the guillotine. She was not even bright or witty, the essentials of greatness among French women-not one bon mot has survived her; but she may well be placed by the side of her queen for one sublime virtue, too rare in those days,-chastity. She was Princess of Sardinia; upon the request of the Duke of Penthièvre to Louis XV. to select a wife for his son, the Prince of Lamballe, she was chosen. A year after the marriage the prince died; and although the marriage had not been a happy one, because of the dissolute life of the prince, his wife forgave him, and "sorrowed for him as though he deserved it."

When in 1768 the queen died, two parties immediately formed, the object of both of them being to provide Louis XV. with a wife: one may be called the reform party, striving to keep the old king in the paths of decency; while the other was composed of the typical eighteenth century intriguers, endeavoring to revive the "grand old times." The candidate of the former was Mme. de Lamballe, that of the latter, the dissolute Duchesse du Barry. This state of affairs was made possible by the disagreement of the political and social schemes of the court and ministry. Soon after, in 1770, the king negotiated the marriage of Marie Antoinette and the dauphin, and from that time began the friendship of the future queen and the Princesse de Lamballe. Entering the unfamiliar circle of this highly debauched court, the young dauphiness sought a sympathetic friend, and found her in the princess. No figure in that society was more disinterested and unselfishly devoted. In all the queen's undertakings, fêtes, and other amusements, she was inseparable from the princess, who was indeed a rare exception to the majority of the women of that time.

The friendship of these two women was uninterrupted, save for a period extending from 1778 to 1785, when Mme. de Polignac and her set of intriguers succeeded in estranging them and usurping all the favors of the queen. When the outside world was accrediting to Marie Antoinette every popular misfortune, when she lost by death both the dauphin and the Princess Beatrice, when fate was against her, when the future promised nothing but evil, she found no stauncher friend, better consoler, more ardent admirer, than her old companion. Learning of the removal of the royal family to the Tuileries, she rejoined the queen. In 1791, with the escape of the royal fugitives, the princess left for England, to seek the protection of the English government for her royal friends.

Mr. Dobson says she was scarcely the discrète et insinuante et touchante Lamballe, with a marvellous sang-froid, hardly the astute diplomatist, that De Lescure makes her. "She was rather the quiet, imposing Lamballe of old, interested in her friends and what she could do for them, but never shrewd and diplomatic." In November she returned to France, to meet her queen and to suffer death for her sake,-and for this unswerving devotion she has a place in history. She stands out also as the one normal woman in the crowds of impetuous, shallow, petty, and, in many cases, pitifully debauched women of the time. Not majestic greatness, but a direct, unaffected sweetness and consistent goodness entitle her to rank among the great women of France.

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