Marie Antoinette Online Forum

Anyone think that Marie Antoinette was wrongly beheaded.?
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Author:  Ludy [ Mon Jul 06, 2009 2:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Anyone think that Marie Antoinette was wrongly beheaded.?

First of all, the classical explaination making out that it would be an anachronism to consider MA's attitude as a betrayal is only partially true. This situation already occured when Anna of Austria sent information to her Motherland (Spain) regarding France's military decisions. This time, the leniency displayed towards her may accreditate the idea that patriotism was outshone by other considerations such as religion, family and that basically the idea of nation is not relevant in the XVII century. To a certain extent, it accounts for MA's attitude. There is a major difference of way of thinking between MA and revolutionnaries.
On the other hand, some seems to consider that the concept of nation, and the other ideas it entails (patriotism) emerged out of the blue during the revolution. I think that, on the contrary, it had been present and had been starting to prevail from the end of the XVII onwards, when the figure of the State statred replacing other institutions (1648, treaty of Westphalia). Especially in centralised France, borders, a certain form of protectionnism was appearing. Added to this, the preromantic era which started enhancing the idea of Nation and Motherland (Rousseau longing for Geneva). So there is nothing utterly anachronic about MA's behaviour, even though it remains true that nobilties were quite detached from these evolutions in mentalitites. Anyway, it does not utterly explain her betrayal -for, even according to the way of thinking of the period, it was one- which is mainly motivated by personal interests -totally understandable ones.
As regards to her exection, there is no denying that her trial was manipulated (lack, or absence of evidence, so on). It was not however, in spite of the abolition of torture, a more unfair kind of trial that the ones taking place under the Monarchy. There was, at least, the sketch of nowadays justice.
I feel that Marie-Antoinette was not directly a potential danger for the new regime, since she had, by herself, no right on the crown -and thus her execution is most horrible as Napolean noticed. It seems ludicrous however to imagine the execution of her son whithout her own. As for the Rumanovs, her execution was made necessary by the need to settle for once the new regime. Besides, we shouldn't be oblivious of the fact that France was devastated by civil and foreign wars : what country in such a situation would run the risk to free individuals accused of treasons ?

Author:  jimcheval [ Mon Jul 06, 2009 5:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Anyone think that Marie Antoinette was wrongly beheaded.?

It's rather fun to see how I find myself on different sides of this issue depending on the nuances of other posters. And so, to this last post, two responses:

- Yes, the killing of the Romanovs was a bit of RealPolitick, far more blatant than the pretense of justice in the case of the French royals, and many otherwise pacifist people will blithely say such "surgery" was necessary for a new beginning. But aside from the fact that the pragmatism of that is arguable (France did after all end up with two kings after Napoleon), it certainly doesn't make it right in terms of the individuals. To argue that it was right in terms of some greater morality, one would have to demonstrate that subsequent governments did better - a grim claim in the case of Russian communism and a dubious one in France, given that the Revolutionary governments were so chaotic the French people welcomed a military dictatorship (as is often the case after a period of chaos).
- While I don't know the specifics of MA's trial and suspect it was less than rigorous from a judicial point of view, I do know a fair amount about Old Regime justice, some cases (like that of the Chevalier de la Barre) in great detail. In fact, it was fairly even-handed, except in exceptional cases (and given that a football player was just given a few weeks in jail for killing someone here in America, I don't know that that has changed). The regime-neutral French love of structure and bureaucracy is especially visible in the very detailed steps of the standard trial and though there was no presumption of innocence, the judge was, in theory at least, supposed to show more leniency to first offenders (a principle that was grandly ignored in the La Barre trial). The most famous aberration of that system - the lettre de cachet - was very rarely used and then often at a family's request (I can imagine Paris Hilton's older relatives have often wished they could squirrel her away in the Bastille - or something like it - for a spell until she behaved). It also tended to affect members of the upper class, so it was of little import to the most oppressed (and they were, especially economically, oppressed) members of that society. Even some of the laws that seem shocking today - like death for sodomy, for instance - were typically applied in a far more benign fashion (typically, gay men were either locked up for a little bit or - ironically today - sent off to the army). A rape victim often had the option of not being named in court, albeit for reasons of family honor, just as today the press tries not to name these victims.

There were aberrations of course, but we live in a time when a democratic government has held people without trial for years in a less than transparent prison and when numerous examples can still be found of the powerful getting different justice from the poor, so we should probably check our glass walls before hurling hard objects.

Author:  Ludy [ Tue Jul 14, 2009 5:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Anyone think that Marie Antoinette was wrongly beheaded.?

I don't think that comparing Tsarist and communist regimes would be appropriate dealing with such a question and by and large previous and following regimes.

1) Because results can't justify a posteriori an action. Pinochet's regime for instance was quite successful economically speaking. Thus could we make out that this success eventually justify the violence exerted by this regime and its initial illegitimacy ? Then, it seems to me that saying : 1) USSR was not successful 2) it means that the killing was all the least legitimate, is not quite a relevant way of seeing things. Then I am not saying that the killing was legitimate. God knows how horrible such a deed was. I am merely saying that it was necessery to put an end to Romanovs' succession and settle the regime.

2) How to compare two regimes ? Upon what criteria ?

It seems to be taken as read that USSR was a disaster compared to the idyllic tsarist period. But as regards to economics, it seems to me that comparing the two performances is also ludicrously irrelevant, since it is oblivious of the two worldwide conflicts which occured on the very Russian soil. Then you have to determine what goods and what period you take into account, and also conjecture what would have become of the Tsarist regime hadn't it collapsed. Same for France, if you ask me is the Revolution in France was more successful, I would answer yes, were I to allow for all the regimes that stemmed from it, including the Vth Republic. But I would ride roughshod over the difference in time periods.
As for Russia, it was hardly catching up with European countries at the beginning of the XX century. The least that can be said of Tsars following Alexander II is that they were not reformers. Also USSR growth was widely due to massive industialization which did not improve the population level of life significantly, Russia rapidly became an industialized country whi could compete with Western World.
The human legacy of USSR is appalling, however, one shouldn't be oblivious either that, first, camps already existed, although living conditions were far better, and then because it is Nicolas II who conducted his country to the War, which also entailed terrible human losses.
On the human legacy side, one should also add social reforms implemented by the Soviets, for instance, regarding women's education and work.
I am not taking the cudgels for USSR, which is not a regime I approve of. I am just trying to dwell a bit on what seems to be here considered as Gospel truth.

Author:  jimcheval [ Tue Jul 14, 2009 8:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Anyone think that Marie Antoinette was wrongly beheaded.?

Really, I think it can be boiled down much more simply: if you say that the Romanovs had to be executed to end that regime for good, then you are implying that ending that regime with finality is a desirable end in itself - no matter what follows.

Unfortunately, ending bad regimes without some clear thought about what follows has very often lead to worse. So, without going into critiques of Communism per se, the question remains: why was it such a great idea to end the previous regime in such a thorough way without being able to guarantee that what followed was better?

It's a natural human impulse to think "if I end bad, then bad will end", much as a teenager thinks that in leaving home they will leave all the problems associated with home. When in fact most of us to some degree relive our family dynamic down the road. In terms of human regimes, what does seem to be true is that the way the previous regime was ended is too often a signpost to how the resulting regime will act going forward - quite often, by killing more "counter-revolutionaries" (the label applied to most victims of the guillotine).

I happened to be with an older Romanian woman the week that Ceaucescu was overthrown. She had escaped long ago and had every reason to hate that regime. But when he was shot, she frowned and said, "We've seen all this before - summary trials, executions." She was not encouraged.

Whatever the intent in killing an entire unarmed family, the ultimate effect was not to bring a better life for the people in whose name it was supposedly done. Ending the previous regime means nothing if you don't install a better one. Nothing, that is, except that you've now committed murder.

Author:  Ludy [ Thu Jul 16, 2009 2:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Anyone think that Marie Antoinette was wrongly beheaded.?

I am afraid I can't see your point. Bolsheviks, revolutionnairies had such thing as an ideology, and in their book, the society they meant to settle was better than the past one. Now, whether or not the suggested society was better is an other kettle of fish, and in dealing with that question, you're bound to encounter the contradictions I have mentioned. So such a killing is legitimated in any way by the regime that made it until it collapses, I guess ...
I am merely saying that this killing was a necessety for this regime to settle, I fail to see was it would imply that I deem its end desirable. I guess that, like Machiavelli, you can look at things in being detached from all moral considerations and draw general rules on how a regime, whatever it is, can settle its power ... :roll:

Author:  jimcheval [ Fri Jul 17, 2009 1:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Anyone think that Marie Antoinette was wrongly beheaded.?

Honestly I can't tell at this point if you're lost in abstractions so unrelated to real life, they're like chess games, or if we're still talking about real world effects on real people.

There are two questions implied in your answer:

1 - Was wiping out an entire family the only way to "settle" a regime?
2 - Was "settling" a regime in itself a desirable end?

As for the Bolsheviks' intent, well, I'm sure, like many ideologues they had all kinds of expectations, just as some in our own recent government here thought that if we sent in troops to overthrow a tyrannical Iraqi government, those troops would be welcomed with open arms.


So the misapprehensions of ideologues of any stripe are rather beside the point. They may well have expected a good outcome, as they also expected good outcomes from various Five-Year Plans. Their faulty analysis doesn't justify the resultant crimes.

As for the two questions, well, we've managed to displace quite a few questionable regimes in recent years without wiping out those concerned. Idi Amin and the Duvaliers probably both deserved something less pleasant than the luxurious exiles they got, but those who provided the latter were looking to minimize death all around, and one way to do that, strangely enough, is.... not to kill people.

At the least, the Czar himself could have been killed, without all his relatives. Or exiled. If in fact the regime was one that needed to go, it was unlikely to spring back no matter how much plotting (inevitably) followed. But if the Bolshies chose to decide the question irrevocably, it was probably precisely because they weren't sure the country overall would accept their "analysis".

As for "settling" a regime completely, that is a very dubious solution in most cases. Again, my own government thought it best to completely displace the army that was in power when Iraq was invaded, and only realized belatedly it would have been better to keep that infrastructure, even at the risk of allowing some criminals to get away (instead they got a whole new crop of criminals, and chaos to boot).

So I don't see, in the real world, that any of this reasoning excuses the actual murders or made them in any way beneficial to the groups supposedly served. As to what a bunch of theoreticians expected the outcome to be, we should all be wary of abstract thinkers who gain power, be they Lenin, Henry Kissinger or Robert MacNamara.

All of this would be theoretical mind games, or musty history, if there weren't still people out there who think that wiping out human beings is the best way to wipe out the ideas they represent. Unfortunately, I doubt we've seen the last of that idea's being applied. But we certainly should do our best to condemn it thoroughly - as futile as that effort may ultimately be.

Author:  Ludy [ Fri Jul 17, 2009 8:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Anyone think that Marie Antoinette was wrongly beheaded.?

The obvious reason is that a new regime needs to suppress the succession of the previous one, especially when a civil war is looming -and in Russia, women were, as far as I know, allowed to reign. Full stop. I don't think that I am lost in abstraction but thank you for this polite and delightful comment. At least this discussion did happen peacefully, although I have not much to add to it.

Author:  Christophe [ Wed Feb 24, 2010 10:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Anyone think that Marie Antoinette was wrongly beheaded.?

The killing of the Tsar and his immediate family may have seemed to the Bolsheviks at the time as a political necessity to stamp out any questions of succession; however, this act did not end the line of succession, as so many members of the Romanov family had already escaped (a few are still around today) to other countries, and this must have been known at the time of the murders.

Author:  Christophe [ Wed Feb 24, 2010 11:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Anyone think that Marie Antoinette was wrongly beheaded.?

By my own record, MA was illegally executed not only by monarchial standards, but by the laws of the Revolution itself. My rationale is as follows:

1) As has already been stated above, no credible evidence was presented during her trial to support any of the charges against her.

2) The jurors were cherry-picked to make sure of a conviction regardless of evidence---by all legal standards, then as now, this alone made the trial illegal.

3) It has been argued that the National Convention (1792) was not a democratically elected body, as it is suspected the elections were rigged through political intimidation and voter disenfranchisement (to oust the Girondean and royalist factions), and thus was not a true representative of the French people's will. Whether or not this was so, there is ample evidence that a large number (if not majority) of citizens were against the execution of Louis XVI---and by extension, MA.

4) As has also been stated previously, her death had very little political value; it may even be argued that it caused the Revolution more harm than good, as both MA and Louis's deaths pretty much ended foreign sympathy for the Revolutionary cause.

In my opinion, while Louis was executed for largely political purposes, MA and Madame Elisabeth's deaths were motivated more by malice and a kind of idiotic symbolism: making a clean break with monarchy and all that. It was a ploy that failed and hastened the collapse of the Revolution.

Author:  baron de batz [ Thu Feb 25, 2010 3:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Anyone think that Marie Antoinette was wrongly beheaded.?

Absolutely, it was more to repky to Hébert's lust for blood who said he had promised the "bitch's" head to the people. It only served to antagonize the foreign powers. Napoléon to his credit considered this execution to have been completely without purpose and a cowardly act.

Author:  jimcheval [ Thu Feb 25, 2010 4:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Anyone think that Marie Antoinette was wrongly beheaded.?

Hebert would be the same guy who went screaming and whimpering to the guillotine - after gleefully calling it the "Revolutionary window".

Author:  baron de batz [ Fri Feb 26, 2010 9:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Anyone think that Marie Antoinette was wrongly beheaded.?

Or the national razor!

Author:  Queen Margot [ Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Anyone think that Marie Antoinette was wrongly beheaded.?

This is a fascinating thread – I’m only sorry I’m a latecomer to it! The way I see it is as follows...Firstly, we can all probably agree that from any just legal standpoint Marie Antoinette’s trial was a sham and that therefore she was illegally executed regardless of whether she was actually guilty of treason or not. And, as has already been pointed out, whether you believe she was guilty of treason depends on whether you acknowledge the revolutionary regime as legitimate. This is where I think there are some points that haven’t been brought up yet.

I think that our idea of what is legitimate obviously changes over time. For centuries people accepted the French monarchy as a perfectly legitimate form of government and no one would have dreamed of replacing it with democracy. People probably would have been horrified at the thought of everyone having a say in government. Even at the onset of the revolution most people did not imagine a France without the monarchy – they only wanted reform. Times change though and Marie Antoinette lived at a time when people changed their minds about what constituted legitimate government. And it happened fairly quickly: one day the monarchy is legitimate, a short while later it wasn’t. Can one really expect someone who was born and raised to be at the heart of the old (once accepted as legitimate) regime to embrace its extreme opposite? Today’s law is based on what can be expected from reasonable people – is it reasonable to expect someone like Marie Antoinette to do a complete 180 like that? Furthermore, long before her trial – or the trial of the king – the royal family’s lives were in danger because of the new regime and its supporters. When your life is threatened by a regime – not because you’re a criminal, not because of anything you’ve done, but because of who you are, your social class – can you still be expected to be loyal to that regime? When does treason become the common sense thing to do in the name of survival?

Also, by today’s standards the revolutionary regime (as well as the early American democracy) would be no more legitimate than Apartheid South Africa. While these movements may have been initiated in the name of equality and freedom, these things meant something different back then. It didn’t REALLY mean equality for EVERYBODY now did it? It meant a small group of (usually white) men had the power to elect and be elected. It favoured an elite group of people and marginalised the majority. So by today’s standards these “democratic” governments should be illegitimate (just as illegitimate as absolute monarchies?) and yet this kind of limited, discriminatory democracy was widely accepted until fairly recently (and it’s still accepted in some parts of the world). Even today we still don’t allow EVERYONE to vote and we have our reasons for that. So I think that there is nothing inherently legitimate about any system of government – a system is legitimate as long as the people accept it as such and eventually everyone changes their mind and tries something else. Our current democracies will no doubt be changed or even replaced with something else in the future. History doesn’t stand still. So basically, I don’t think values like “equality” and “freedom” make one regime inherently more legitimate than another. In many ways the revolutionary regime with its democratic values was no fairer than the monarchy. As long as people accept or are happy with their rulers (or can’t imagine an alternative), that regime is for all intents and purposes legitimate. I think lol. Sorry for the long post!

Author:  Délicate fleur [ Sun Jun 12, 2011 7:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Anyone think that Marie Antoinette was wrongly beheaded.?

All valid and intelligent points, Queen Margot!

Author:  Queen Margot [ Sun Jun 12, 2011 10:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Anyone think that Marie Antoinette was wrongly beheaded.?

Délicate fleur wrote:
All valid and intelligent points, Queen Margot!

Thank you so much

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