It’s been a rough week for people who vote with their lady parts. First, the whole outrage over Mike Pence’s entirely rational decision not to open himself up for easy hit jobs by not eating out alone with a woman when his wife is not present has kind of dissolved into a laughingstock as the left just got more and more hysterical about it. Then, the same Mike Pence cast a tiebreaking vote allowing the states to reallocate funds that were previously earmarked for Planned Murderhood, causing the left to hoarsely scream in outrage while most of the country just turned up the volume on the TV ’cause they’ve gotten really tiresome.
So originally, I was thinking I would follow up last week’s entry about the successful and very well behaved Pharaoh Hatshepsut with an entry about the last Pharaoh of Egypt, Cleopatra. But upon doing a bit of research, it appears that Cleopatra really doesn’t fall into the badly behaved category and as a matter of fact borders on well behaved except for the matters of her promiscuity (bearing children for both Julius Caesar and Marc Antony) and on picking the wrong side in the civil war that followed Julius Caesar’s assassination (which when it comes right down to it is not actually “bad behavior,” it’s just “losing”). It actually appears Cleopatra was not only very intelligent and in different times might have been a very successful ruler, but many accounts hold that her legendary beauty was not actually a thing so much as it was her charm and wit that gave people the perception she was stunningly gorgeous. I can’t in good conscience put her on the naughty list nor can I put her on the good list really, though she most definitely did make history.
Therefore we’re looking elsewhere for this week’s special guest, and sticking to the theme of royalty, I thought a good place to go (especially in light of their elections coming up soon) would be to France to pay our respects to Queen Marie Antoinette. As any historian will tell you, the causes of the bloodbath known as the French Revolution were numerous but King Louis XVI and Queen Marie didn’t help their own cause at all. Marie in particular stood out as a stunning (and at times shocking) example of the utter cluelessness of the elites and the profligate, debauched lives they led at the expense of the nation. Please note, I’m not saying they were rich and that was bad. These were the king and queen, their whole lives were paid for by the government by mere virtue of who they were or who they married (which also happened largely because of who they were). In essence, they were on the receiving end of a system of socialism. That is, they were until the commoners decided they’d had enough of their nonsense.
Marie Antoinette is credited with having replied to a complaint that “the peasants have no bread” with the utterly tone-deaf response “well then let them eat cake.” This is actually derived from the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who is far from an entirely credible source in my opinion and who himself did not name the “great princess” who supposedly uttered the phrase, so it’s questionable whether or not this was an actual quote. However, as a description of Marie’s sense of entitlement and her reckless spending on a gaudy, overstuffed lifestyle it encapsulates her perfectly. The common people loved her at first–she was sweet and pretty but she quickly found out it was really fun spending tons of money on silly stuff and fancy dresses, and in a time of financial crisis she was an all too visible example of what was wrong with the French monarchy. Rumors also abounded that all was not well in the royal marriage and that Marie had more than her share of men on the side, again flaunting the (gah I hate using this word) privilege that her title conferred. Compounding this flagrant behavior is the fact that both Louis and Marie ought to have damned well known better. Not only was Marie’s mother regularly corresponding with her about her outrageous spending habits and how she really needed to dial it back, but Louis’ predecessor (Louis XV) clearly knew the situation was headed downhill as he said not long before his death, “After me, the deluge.” Nevertheless, she persisted.
Some historians think Marie should be given credit for the “bravery” she displayed when facing execution. Personally I call that her final failing and in a way it reassured the revolting masses that they were doing the right thing by exterminating the nobility. Looking back, many students of history believe that watching these nobles and royals walking quietly to the guillotine without a word or a plea solidified the idea in the mob’s mind that there was something very different, very wrong, almost inhuman about them. It’s telling that after one such execution, years later, when the noblewoman being executed struggled and cried and begged for her life to the extent that the assembled crowd (who usually loved these shows) couldn’t stand to watch her beheading, the executions stopped soon after. Bravery my posterior–if she’d fussed more and been less worried about “dying like a queen” maybe fewer heads would have rolled, but arrogant and elite to the last she and many others like her died.
So next week, we’ll talk about someone positive again. Got plenty more still to go (hoping that we get to add Marine LePen’s name to the good list in the near future).