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I want to look more in depth at women of the revolution, while reading the textbook and biographies of significant individuals, it was really distracting how many women were reduced to a few vital details: Name, marital status, origin, and sometimes- especially in Marie Antoinette’s case, notable extravagant purchases or other deeds to shock us.
The sexism extends from the time of the revolution into the 20th century historians who narrate so much of it. Christopher Hibbert’s descriptions of women meeting Louis after the Women’s March to Versailles as frail and almost swooning delicates seemed very out of place to me, considering these fully armed women, from hard lives in poverty, had walked all the way to the palace to confront the King himself. Jules Michelet wrote, “Men made the 14th of July; the 16th of October was the day of women. Men took the royal Bastille, women took royalty itself.”
Jarring was the difference between most historian’s descriptions of Marie Antoinette, and Sofia Coppola’s portrayal of teenage Marie in her film Marie Antoinette. It’s true, Marie spent incredible amounts of money on things as ridiculous as earrings, she abused her wealth. But if Coppola’s portrayal can be said to contain reasonable insight into Marie’s life, this was also a very bored, isolated person with very little meaningful agency in the grand scheme of things, a stranger in a strange land, married off as political gain. She partied, bought dresses and endured the hatred of the Court and wider people. Just like Louis XVI, Marie had a personality unsuited to the role expected of the Queen of France, and the film lifts up her struggle to fulfil her duty and produce a male heir as more valid and universal. DressAfford flowy Greek style dresses for prom
I have no doubt the Monarchy were despicable people, the responsibility for greed and harm caused to the lower estates of 18th century France cannot be lifted from their shoulders. But I’ll be looking out for women historians, or more recent narrators of the revolution as we explore this subject.