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Antoinette's Forgiving Nature: How far would it have gone?
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Author:  Vive [ Sat Sep 15, 2012 5:52 am ]
Post subject:  Antoinette's Forgiving Nature: How far would it have gone?

This is a question that cannot be factually proven one way or another - it is raw, historical speculation based on what we think we know about Antoinette's personality. And it requires us to stretch our imaginations a bit and allow for a nearly impossible circumstance...

Let's just say that there was a royalist reversal in September 1793 (just to give us an exact time frame) and that Marie Antoinette is now in a position of power, perhaps as regent for her son. And now the Revolutionary leaders are where she had been just a short while ago: imprisoned.

Please ignore any political necessity, any pleasing the Comte d'Artois or some sort of royalist council. This is a fantastic situation where Marie Antoinette could choose to be vengeful or merciful without concerning herself with the whims of others.

So what would Marie Antoinette do? Would she have shown mercy to the Revolutionaries who had dethroned her and murdered her husband?

Author:  Madame Vigée-Le Brun [ Sat Sep 15, 2012 10:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Antoinette's Forgiving Nature: How far would it have gone?

That is a very good question... it's hard to say what she would do in a situation like that. I would like to think she would be merciful if the tables were turned, but she suffered tremendous emotional trauma in her final year... In her final letter to her sister-in-law, the Queen echoed her late husband's sentiment, that their son must not attempt to avenge their deaths. That is fairly persuasive evidence that she forgave her captors.
But still... one would think that the violence she witnessed would have made her bitter. Hmm... it is certainly food for thought.

Author:  Vive [ Sat Sep 15, 2012 10:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Antoinette's Forgiving Nature: How far would it have gone?

Madame Vigée-Le Brun wrote:
That is a very good question... it's hard to say what she would do in a situation like that. I would like to think she would be merciful if the tables were turned, but she suffered tremendous emotional trauma in her final year... In her final letter to her sister-in-law, the Queen echoed her late husband's sentiment, that their son must not attempt to avenge their deaths. That is fairly persuasive evidence that she forgave her captors.
But still... one would think that the violence she witnessed would have made her bitter. Hmm... it is certainly food for thought.

To play devil's advocate...

She may have wrote about forgiveness, but she could hardly have scribbed 'And when my son retakes the throne, kill everyone." That would hardly have been politic, and perhaps would have incited the Revolutionaries to mistreat the surviving prisoners even more. Moreover, it is fairly easy to be forgiving when you have no other choice. Forgiveness was a refuge of dignity for her.

Author:  Madame Vigée-Le Brun [ Sat Sep 15, 2012 11:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Antoinette's Forgiving Nature: How far would it have gone?

Yes, you do have a point. Hmm... I don't know what to say, as I am not used to being opposed on this subject.
I suppose my reason for saying that she would be merciful is because it fits nicely with my saintly vision of Marie Antoinette. When you have loved her as long as I have, you just accept her graciousness without question. :lol:
Yes I suppose her forgiveness before her death was her way of being at peace. One would think that, while sitting in a dark cell waiting to die, things become very clear. I would like to think that the answers to life's many existential questions become clear... But, again, that all fits nicely with my image of the Queen. :wink:

Author:  Ludy [ Mon Sep 17, 2012 7:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Antoinette's Forgiving Nature: How far would it have gone?

I have never heard of Marie-Antoinette's forgiving nature. The opposite is, in fact, well documented. If she did utter, famously "I have seen everything, understood everything and forgotten everything", her entire behaviour throughout was at odds with such a statement. Her spite, sometimes baseless, against people such La Du Barry and Rohan, to mention only a few of them, sparked off resentment and was the original cause of her unpopularity. Her mother underlined that she was prone to nurture prejudice towards people and was reluctant to change her mind about them, and Marquise de la Tour du Pin wrote that she foolishly antagonized people she could easily have coaxed into supporting her cause.

With regards to the French people, Marie-Antoinette had very naive and caricatural views, which was due to her limited intellectual abilities (whose origin is to be found in her slapdah academic background), which did not enable her to have a full grasp of the situation. As far as she was concerned, people in general were either evil or kind-hearted. And there was no justification whatsoever for the unpopularity she was faced with. Her letters, by the time of the Revolution, ooze despise for the populace and, if one wishes to extrapolate, for the French in general. The call for a military summit, which was meant to frighten the gutless revolutionnaries highlights the simplicity of her political vision and the scorn she felt towards the French revolutionnary leaders.

All in all, I do think that, had Marie-Antoinette survived, she would have fallen back on an avengeful and foolish political line à la Charles X. She did not understand that once liberty is granted, you cannot take it back. Louis XVI did understand that there was no way to reverse the situation, so will Louis XVIII. But Marie-Antoinette was an overly narrow-minded person, who lacked basic political intelligence, at least when it came to a broad understanding of a given situation.

Marie-Antoinette is among those people whose abysmal ignorance and despise for others make them shrug off everything that happens to them, and who keep rolling without rethinking their own attitude to life. Those people usually trigger a love/hate reaction from others : you can't help admiring their charisma and self confidence but they are incredibly irritating, because they will never ever change or learn anything.

Author:  baron de batz [ Tue Sep 18, 2012 9:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Antoinette's Forgiving Nature: How far would it have gone?

Ludy wrote:

Marie-Antoinette is among those people whose abysmal ignorance and despise for others make them shrug off everything that happens to them, and who keep rolling without rethinking their own attitude to life.

That really is pushing things far too far and is completely at odds with both what she wrote (which showed up her knowledge of the politics of the time.....look at her correspondence with Barnave, however scheming it was and also her proven kindness to those in her direct circle around her) and also with what others wrote of her, including those not necessarily in favour of her. As far as rethinking her attitude to life all biographers concur that she changed enormously after the birth of her first child and that adversity just served to enhance that transformation.

As far as the question of mercy is concerned I do believe that MA would have condemned the revolutionary leaders to death or imprisonment, but after a trial with legal representation. For her they were guilty of treason, just as for them she was rightly guilty of treason too.

Author:  Ludy [ Tue Sep 18, 2012 10:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Antoinette's Forgiving Nature: How far would it have gone?

I did read her correspondance and I think that the political line she pursued with Barnave and namely egging on the King to resort to a phony policy of double game was abysmally stupid. As far as I am concerned, this in not only my personal opinion but the bare truth. Because the facts speak for themselves. To the question : was this policy successful or not ? The obvious answer is no, and this is in fact undeniable. In fact many historians, if not most of them, agree on that.

She squandered a great deal of time deceiving everyone, and naively believing that the Austrians were genuinely willing to bail her out, to no avail. Any right minded person would have understood they had no interest in doing so. Yet, even in the Conciergerie she was still cleaving to the mantra of the Austrian solidarity no matter what. At the end of the day, she lost everyone's esteem (providing there was some esteem left in the first place) and the Austrians did not lift a finger to free her. She also contributed to cast a young man such as Barnave, who was genuinely willing to help, to death.

I can understand to a certain extent that the constitution was not viable, but a wiser course of action would have been to genuinely strive to draft a better constitution, instead of abiding by a constant policy of deceit.

Her insistence on having a military summit is a prove of her lack of basic political insight. She should have forseen the reaction of the revolutionnaries. Instead of that, she figured out they would be frightened by the threat of a military intervention.

I never saw any real sign of her understanding why the Revolution happened and why she was unpopular, in spite of counteless warnings. I never read any word showing that she understood that the changes were irreversible. All I read is a self-satisfied aristocratic scorn, an abysmal ignorance, and a baffling good conscience. The bottom line is that she lacked the intelligence to have a comprehensive understanding of the political situation. I believe she had some strategic intelligence and a great deal a common sense (I usually call that an animal intelligence), which enabled her to make wise and effective short-run decisions, like when she advised to have the General Estates in Province, or to crack down on the rebellion in the Tuileries. But she lacked real political insight because she was never trained to have any, nor was she willing to make any effort in that direction.


Amongst everything that was written about her, the best description ever to me, was given by Francois Furet "her personnality is completely closed. She never heeded any warning or advice, and for this reason her behaviour is difficult to comprehend". From her first step onwards, she was warned and cautioned off. She never really changed, nor did she rethink her attitude to life. She remained in that state of self complacent satisfaction, believing that the revolutionnaries were the bad guys and that the Revolution was a conspiracy. And until the very last day, she never understood a damn thing of what was happening to her and around her.

Author:  baron de batz [ Tue Sep 18, 2012 2:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Antoinette's Forgiving Nature: How far would it have gone?

In a sense what you're saying is a bit like buying a central defender and asking him to play centre forward. France went out to Vienna and found itself a princess from the age old Habsburg dynasty, and was then upset when she didn't behave like a tricoteuse...

I can understand her behaviour with Barnave, she was under house arrest and her children had already witnessed at least two mortal lynchings in front of their very eyes. Barnave was part of that fateful and quite disgraceful journey back from Varennes, and I for one can understand that she had "la haine" (hate). Try doing what they did to her children to any mother, sans culottes or Queen. You'd get the same reaction. Barnave was naive and she saw that straight away and got him round her little finger. Good for her, it was war.

Author:  Ludy [ Tue Sep 18, 2012 2:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Antoinette's Forgiving Nature: How far would it have gone?

I do not understand the first paragraph of your post.

I am not saying I cannot understand her reaction from a human point of view. All I am saying is that it was a stupid and doomed political line that proved fruitless. And about having La Haine, it might be understandable, but to be a good leader one must have a cool head.

Barnave was not naive. He was in favor of a Consitutional monarchy and believed the monarchs had come round to his view point. Unfortunately they were deceiving him, and they turned out to be fooled by their foreign allies in turn.

You say "Good for her it was war", but what did this policy bring to her ? It was stupid, badly thought out and doomed from the beginning onwards. Or else you can prove how this strategy of deceit contributed to improving her situation, along with the situation of her children, whom she was so keen to protect.

Author:  baron de batz [ Tue Sep 18, 2012 3:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Antoinette's Forgiving Nature: How far would it have gone?

I think she knew she was doomed either way.

Refuse the Constitution and be obstructive in all things, you are doomed.

Play the game, sign everything and hope for leniency, you are doomed likewise, as you have just signed away your legitimacy as sovereign rulers and no-one is at all frightened of you anymore.

Author:  Ludy [ Tue Sep 18, 2012 3:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Antoinette's Forgiving Nature: How far would it have gone?

I am not saying that one should accept everything. Between this and being obstructive there was a great deal of leeway and a lot of people willing to help. They did have monarchist supporters within the Assembly and could have drafted another constitution, and have striven to make it prevail. I am not saying this was easy, but it required sincerity from the beginning onwards. And there was an obvious lack of honesty on their side from the beginning. The gist of it is that she refused any change whatsoever and any consitution whatsoever.

In a few other countries, the powers of the monarchy were curtailed and that the monarch himself consented to it.

Author:  Queen Margot [ Wed Oct 24, 2012 7:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Antoinette's Forgiving Nature: How far would it have gone?

I don't think the queen's actions were unreasonable. I agree that she should have been more open to change. Then again, the king seemed to have been and it didn't help him any. It is perhaps unreasonable to have expected Marie Antoinette to trust any of the new revolutionary leaders. Her experience of the revolution was not its ideals and visions, but only extreme violence and coercion, which were exploited by one group of leaders after the other. Any person is unlikely to be completely sincere and cooperative in such a risky situation. Had she not at least tried to regain control through military means, she would have been left only with accepting whatever policies they asked the king to rubberstamp. And the king's enemies baited him in that regard. Perhaps her strategy of asking for military help was stupid, but if she thought she needed to regain control of the dangerous situation (instead of meekly trusting others who often had their own agendas), I think she was right. I'm not sure if she really in any case believed that help would come. She was trying everything and it was indeed something the revolutionaries feared - they too could foresee a situation in which the monarcy was completely reestablished and they would probably suffer a dire fate. So that tells me change was not necessarily a foregone conclusion for them either. In the end someone did eventually use military might to regain control of France's government.

Anyway, to get back to the original question: I don't think Marie Antoinette would have spared the lives of the revolutionary leaders. In this imaginary situation it would have been dangerously stupid. But this is probably based on what I would have done. I wonder what would have happened to Philippe Egalite in this situation...

Author:  Marie Louise [ Sun Nov 25, 2012 8:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Antoinette's Forgiving Nature: How far would it have gone?

Vive wrote:
This is a question that cannot be factually proven one way or another - it is raw, historical speculation based on what we think we know about Antoinette's personality. And it requires us to stretch our imaginations a bit and allow for a nearly impossible circumstance...

Let's just say that there was a royalist reversal in September 1793 (just to give us an exact time frame) and that Marie Antoinette is now in a position of power, perhaps as regent for her son. And now the Revolutionary leaders are where she had been just a short while ago: imprisoned.

Please ignore any political necessity, any pleasing the Comte d'Artois or some sort of royalist council. This is a fantastic situation where Marie Antoinette could choose to be vengeful or merciful without concerning herself with the whims of others.

So what would Marie Antoinette do? Would she have shown mercy to the Revolutionaries who had dethroned her and murdered her husband?

Well,the time that Marie Antoinette spent in captivity she most likely learned a lot. If she DID become regent for her son she would have tried to make the people forgive and forget, some still may remember the horrors of their family member dying in their arms and such but enlightenment could be achieved. She would have probably been able to change a lot had the revolutionaries let her and her children go.

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