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Fondness for Benjamin Franklin
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Author:  History Detective [ Fri Jan 11, 2013 2:21 am ]
Post subject:  Fondness for Benjamin Franklin

Hi, all! Here's a couple of nice anecdotes about Marie Antoinette's fondness for Benjamin Franklin from the book The Story of Versailles by Francis Loring Payne (New York: Moffat, Yard & Company, 1919). I really like these little glimpses of her life. I can imagine her enjoying Franklin's company--probably a refreshing person to be with, a person who was not of the court. Here's the quote...

Franklin next appeared at the Court of Versailles upon the momentous occasion of the ratification of the alliance signed in 1778 by France and America. Dressed in a black velvet suit with ruffles of snowy white, white silk stockings and silver buckles, the emissary of the United States appeared in a gorgeous coach at the portals of Versailles. It is related that the chamberlain hesitated a moment to admit him, for he was without the wig and sword Court etiquette demanded, "but it was only for a moment; and all the Court were captivated at the democratic effrontery of his conduct." Franklin and the four envoys that accompanied him were conducted to the dressing-room of Louis XVI, who, without ceremony, assured them of his friendship for the new-born country they represented. In the evening the Americans were invited to watch the play of the royal family at the gaming-table, and Dr. Franklin, so Madame Campan relates, "was honored by the particular notice of the Queen, who courteously desired him to stand near to her, and as often as the game did not require her immediate attention, she took occasion to speak to him in very obliging terms."

During the Revolution in America the newspapers made much of Marie Antoinette's liking for Benjamin Franklin. Among others, the New Hampshire Gazette printed this story, which went the rounds of the States. "Franklin being lately in the gardens of Versailles, showing the Queen some electrical experiment, she asked him in a fit of raillery if he did not dread the fate of Prometheus, who was so severely served for stealing fire from Heaven. 'Yes, please your Majesty' (replied old Franklin, with infinite gallantry), 'if I did not behold a pair of eyes pass unpunished which have stolen infinitely more fire from Jove than I ever did, though they do more mischief in a week than I have done in all my experiments.'"

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