4 hours ago
I'm in a reflective mood and thought I'd write about my encounter with the face of Marie Antoinette, last Queen of France, whom I can't help but have mixed feelings about. Antonia Fraser's brilliant biography is second to none in humanising the woman and the politics. I highly recommend it.
Antoine's frame of mind - her unwavering belief in monarchy, and dismissal of the evil the Bourbons had done to their country - made her impossible to negotiate with, in the end. But she was also a loving young mother and wife, incarcerated for years, knowing her peers and loved ones were being murdered violently and publically, and then she faced a guillotine herself. In her lifetime and in history since, she was the subject of voluminous, vitriolic, and sexist commentary. I do have sympathy for her.
This wax figure at Madame Tussauds London was made from the original death mask, made by Marie Tussaud herself, and so it is a dependable likeness. When I viewed it in person, I was covered in chills. It communicates her realness in a way that her regal portraits can't.
Something about the experience cemented the importance of studying history. It is easy to forget that it is real people we historians talk about; their mistakes, their pains, their passions. People made choices that shaped our reality; now we have the same efficacy, and responsibility.
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