The last queen of France and I have absolutely nothing in common. Still, through the hardest years I look to her. It started in my mid 20’s, when I was alone one evening in a tiny two room attic apartment. I had rented a movie from Blockbuster, Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. I watched it twice that evening.
It had the kind of pulsating soundtrack and vivid imagery that swept me away. Her dresses, the shoes, the over the top extravagance of Versailles. She was adored, and hated, and eventually she would become a captive queen.
When asked about Marie Antoinette, most people will undoubtedly respond “Let them eat cake.” I smile. There was never any real record of her uttering these words. Her love was more for hot chocolate, a luxury at the time, than it was for cake. All letters and biographical information paint a portrait of a woman who only longed to be a mother, not just to the children she had and lost, but to her country. She was trained in submissiveness.
I fell in love with a queen because her husband didn’t want her. He didn’t know her. He was promised a 12 year old girl, by the time they met and were married she was 14 years old. She was stripped naked and her belongings ransacked. Nothing pertaining to her old life was allowed to cross the borders into her new beginning as the Dauphine of France.
She was given the distinct name of “Madame Deficit” in tabloids. She was accused of having relationships with men and women. The libels (tabloids) failed to mention her constant admiration for children. The home she created for the poor, or the many times she “adopted” children into the palace and paid for their housing, clothing, and education. And history forgets she was a mere child herself when she arrived in a foreign court. Naturally, she gravitated to people closer to her age.
Maybe there is a natural energetic pull to people we relate to. So we take sides. We divide friendships, households, and families in the name of similar interests. We argue, subject, relegate, and hold hostage others who disagree with our manner of thinking.
It is a trend growing stale and moldy in my eyes, and the fad is not new. If the last two years has taught me anything; it is how we are a bitter, aggressive society with too many loudspeakers on our thoughts. We are offended, pissed off, and too easily angered. When something happens where it shocks us back to reality, we argue.
Bicker to the point where nothing is ever accomplished.
And I look to my husband and say, “One day will you take me to Paris?” He says “yes” every time. No arguments, he supplies me with a few hours of dreaming. He builds hope inside of me. I see the belief swirling in my head where I could one day have the chance, on my own free will and desire and choice, to leave my home and travel into foreign country. Not because I am forced to do so.
I may never get on a plane and fly to the City of Lights. I’ve spoken the little French I know to my son since the day he was born. I want my son to love his home, but I want him to love people more, all people. There should be no barrier or preconceived limitations on who we should love, help, or decide worthy. May the recipients of his love never depend on a person’s race, political affiliation, or religious devotion. May he just love.
A queen thought enough of foreign prince who she was forced to marry, and she stayed. She was given many chances to flee, and she stood present, devoted and steadfast to her family.
I know that I must die, and I am prepared for it. If the King and my children cannot escape with me, I remain; for my place is at the side of my husband and my children.
L. Múhlbach, Marie Antoinette and Her Son
When a monarchy was overthrown during these reigns, the kings were executed while the queens were often sent to convents. Marie Antoinette stayed in France. She stayed with her children. Today, I sit clinging, hoping to protect my offspring from the world and the atrocities happening outside my front door. The ones I see every night on the evening news.
I, too, am a mother.
The last queen of France who was also a mother, stayed in a foreign land because she believed enough in the thought that France was her home. Her land beheaded her even though she’d lived in France longer than she had lived in her birthplace of Austria. She gave birth to four children; 2 daughters and 2 sons of France. Only her eldest daughter survived into adulthood.
Wars seem to accomplish one definitive ending, death. Bloody pits splattered with the innocent carcasses of civilians. There will always be men who think they have a better solution, and yet their solution involves more killing, more annihilation, more hatred and innocent bloodshed. Good, evil, darkness and light are the seemingly futile duality doomed to forever shape our world.
Looming questions tick around a clock as my mind keeps repeating questions:
Will my son know a time without war?
Will my child know a time without rampant hate and bigotry?
Will we choose to rise above and create a better future for our children, and their children?