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 So Quiet! 
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Post So Quiet!
It is awful quiet around here... is anyone still around? ( I haven't used this forum in years... :oops: ! )
I've been revisiting my Marie Antoinette obsession these past few days after, shamefully, letting her slip my mind for, oh, a few years. Needless to say, I have felt quite restless and wanted to return to the forum to discuss her... Only to find it quite abandoned! Surely there must be some Marie Antoinette admirers here still... :wink:


Sat Sep 15, 2012 1:57 am
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Post Re: So Quiet!
I'm here but I admit that generally I just lurk in the background. I learn more than I contribute, which makes me a pretty useless member. But I am here, I've been speaking to the Baron via pm, and I'm sure there's others lingering. Someone just needs to start an intriguing thread to kick up some dust. :/

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Sat Sep 15, 2012 5:41 am
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Post Re: So Quiet!
Welcome back to the forum Madame Vigee-LeBrun! Although this forum has really fallen into a slump, rest assured that Administrators are here daily. There are still several regular members who visit here, but not much in the way of discussions.
Vive - ......never say that you're a useless member!! Quite the opposite is true. You have put forth great effort in being here consistently since you've joined. It is hard for me to believe that we are such a small group with a genuine interest in the Queen. There is much to learn here but we need contributors.


Sat Sep 15, 2012 9:18 am
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Post Re: So Quiet!
Well, I'm glad this forum isn't abandoned. We must pull ourselves out of this slump! I wish I could think of some fascinating, controversial thread to post... surely we cannot have already discussed everything related to the Queen! :wink:


Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:25 pm
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Post Re: So Quiet!
Awe, thank you Lilly! That really means a lot. But in regards to contributions, unfortunately I can't offer much in the way of substance about the queen. Oh, I can tell you facts, I could tell you about the marriage contract or the politics behind her execution, but everything I have to offer could be substituted with a glance at wikipedia. What I can't to is interpret, I couldn't describe Antoinette's personality or speculate about how she'd react in a given situation because I haven't studied her as assiduously as you other folks. On that note, I think that interpretation is probably the most valuable thing on the forum. As I implied before, Wikipedia can tell anyone all the facts they could ever want about the queen. But it's only her fans who can take those facts and use them as tools to paint her as a person, to flesh her out, to bring her back to life.

I think that threads like that, that interpret and speculate, would be the healthiest thing for this forum right now. And I know it's weird to say because I just admitted that I couldn't contribute very much in that regard, but I could certainly try. And one of the best parts about interpretation is that technically you can't be wrong.

For myself, I do have some thread ideas but I always get the impression that I annoy people when I make new threads. I think it's because, as I said when I made my introduction post a few months back, my principle interest is in the Revolutionaries. I came here to get the arguments from the 'other side' as well as to chisel out my knowledge of Marie Antoinette, because I feel that you have to know about both sides to form an intelligent opinion about anything. But it's not as though anyone's ever censured me for my activities (indeed, I get scolded more often when I try to post about Marie Antoinette because inevitably I bring up a point that has been belabored many years ago). I don't know. I suppose I'll try to make some threads as long as nobody minds terribly if my posts tend to force Antoinette to share the spotlight with certain Revolutionaries...

Heck, worse case scenario I'll piss someone off and maybe a debate will happen. Those really can't hurt much.

Edit: Also, I actually know a few Marie Antoinette fans on another site I often patron. Maybe I'll extend an invitation to them. New blood certainly couldn't hurt, amirite?

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Sat Sep 15, 2012 4:58 pm
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Post Re: So Quiet!
I hope no one has made you feel unwelcome, Vive. Lively debate is always welcome! It is a good thing that you bring a different perspective, it keeps things interesting! Besides, my understanding of the revolutionaries is limited... it will be an exchange of new ideas!


Sat Sep 15, 2012 5:38 pm
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Post Re: So Quiet!
No one's made me feel unwelcome. :) I think it's more that I'm just shy, especially since my personal beliefs are in direct contrast with everyone else's here. I keep waiting for someone to grow sick of my consistent refrains to Robespierre or Danton and demand, "Why are you here, anyway, Jacobin scum!?"

...Is 'I'm here to learn' an acceptable answer or ---

I'll just have to get over it. Yes, as you said, exchanging information would just be wonderful. I've noticed that people on both sides tend not to research the opposition, and I have a theory that this basic disinterest accounts for a lot of the calumnies that are still spread today, the "Let them eat cake" legend on the side of those of Revolutionary bias, and the Robespierre-Did-The-Reign-Of-Terror on the side of those of royalist bias. It really mucks the entire field up and I wish we could accept that the guillotine hasn't been used since the 1970s and we can all be friends now. Unfortunately, even otherwise respectable scholars are draw battle lines in their texts, and it just mucks up the whole affair...

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Sat Sep 15, 2012 5:52 pm
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Post Re: So Quiet!
If only people could see that the truth is multifaceted... As an ardent admirer of Louis and Antoinette, I am often tempted to see revolutionary leaders as barbarians... and the nobility as saints, but I know it is not as simple as that. I try to see the motives of both sides, but it is difficult to be fair when one feels so strongly!
After all, both Robespierre and Antoinette, despite being larger-than-life icons, were only human...
It would be so nice to call a truce, but the wounds of the revolution still sting for supporters of both sides. The French Revolution will never fail to be relevant... It never fails to get people talking!


Sat Sep 15, 2012 7:40 pm
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Post Re: So Quiet!
I've been here less often because :

1° Gosh such an exciting life.

2° It take a great deal of time for me to write an elaborated post, and I would get frustrated if it was just ignored. Now, it's very likely that it would be ignored anyway, because nobody's around. Besides I , am enticed by controversial debates, and there haven't been a lot of them lately, and maybe this forum is not the right place to argue after all...

3° I realized there were just too many things I disapproved of about MA, and the more I read about her, the worse it gets : I started to wonder if there is even at least ONE thing she did that I find right -and the answer is NO. I still find her fascinating as a person, in spite of my many disagreements or thanks to them, but I have qualms about being there flaunting my pro-revolution beliefs. I do not feel legitimate.

4° If the forum is going to die, then it is probably better to let it go rather than keeping it alive through artificial respiration.

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Sat Sep 15, 2012 9:34 pm
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Post Re: So Quiet!
Goodness... What exactly is it that you have come to dislike about her, Ludy?


Sat Sep 15, 2012 10:03 pm
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Post Re: So Quiet!
Madame Vigée-Le Brun wrote:
If only people could see that the truth is multifaceted... As an ardent admirer of Louis and Antoinette, I am often tempted to see revolutionary leaders as barbarians... and the nobility as saints, but I know it is not as simple as that. I try to see the motives of both sides, but it is difficult to be fair when one feels so strongly! After all, both Robespierre and Antoinette, despite being larger-than-life icons, were only human...
It would be so nice to call a truce, but the wounds of the revolution still sting for supporters of both sides. The French Revolution will never fail to be relevant... It never fails to get people talking!

You know, that viewpoint of yours is only human. Do you think that I don't sometimes roll my eyes at the arrogance of the monarchy? In all honesty, do you think that I don't want to believe Marie Antoinette was the spendthrift whore? It would actually make my life so much easier if she were, because my arguments would have so much more weight. As it is, I cannot in good conscience vilify her and, despite everything, I've garnered a grudging respect for her. (But don't tell the Committee; they'll have my head. ;) )

That said, it still irritates me when people take their opinions on the Revolution and use them to attack other people for their opinions. I had a particularly negative experience where I saw that someone was apparently a Marie Antoinette fan. Delighted and thinking I might make a new friend, I stirred up a conversation with this person, told them of my interest in the French Revolution, but I did confide that my personal ideology would fall somewhere between the Dantonists and Robespierrists because, hey, I wasn't going to lie. The person promptly told me that they thought Robespierre was "nothing but a mass-murderer who delighted in the blood of his countrymen," implied that I was something of that ilk, and vanished into the night before I could respond. And I ain't gonna lie, I don't think I ever understood the Jacobin Ideology more than in that one moment. If that could happen to a 'lil Jacobin today, I can only imagine what it would be like back in 1792.

Ludy wrote:
Besides I , am enticed by controversial debates, and there haven't been a lot of them lately, and maybe this forum is not the right place to argue after all...I realized there were just too many things I disapproved of about MA, and the more I read about her, the worse it gets : I started to wonder if there is even at least ONE thing she did that I find right -and the answer is NO. I still find her fascinating as a person, in spite of my many disagreements or thanks to them, but I have qualms about being there flaunting my pro-revolution beliefs. I do not feel legitimate.

This is precisely my feeling, although I think was failing to articulate myself properly. I for one would love a knitty-gritty down-in-the-dirt debate. Aside from the reasons I outlined above, that is one of the biggest reasons I came here: it's sort of a 'nest' of royalists, so to speak. On other sites I patron my Robespierrism is not only accepted but exalted. It is nice and comfortable and friendly, and while occasionally a royalist wanders in and we engage in a friendly debate, more-often-than-not my opinions are unopposed. It's wonderful...but it can be boring. I sort of like being questioned and challenged. That said, I wouldn't ever want to ruin someone else's 'comfort-zone' so to speak; I don't want to be the jerk who ruins the Marie Antoinette sanctuary, hence my reluctance to post anything too controversial. I also find Marie Antoinette fascinating as a person, like you Ludy, but I confess that most of what I would say about her could be perceived as hostile.

Ludy wrote:
4° If the forum is going to die, then it is probably better to let it go rather than keeping it alive through artificial respiration.

Eh, that's where I disagree. I actually have a lot of faith in this forum's versatility, despite my comparative neophyte status. I just feel that, having lived 10 years, with its healthy google position, and with its handful of still-active members who are posting in this very thread, the forum has the ingredients for near-immortality if we just put a little work into it. But perhaps I am just optimistic?

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Sat Sep 15, 2012 10:40 pm
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Post Re: So Quiet!
Quote:
In all honesty, do you think that I don't want to believe Marie Antoinette was the spendthrift whore? It would actually make my life so much easier if she were, because my arguments would have so much more weight.


Yes, it would be so nice to wrap it up in a nice little package. It is a story bound to garner sympathy from many... everyone hates a rich bitch. Why do you think "Let them eat cake" is repeated so often? It captures the imagination (and attention) of so many people. No one wants to consider the nuanced truth when it is so easy just to have a nice little story of the wicked King and Queen who got what was coming to them. People relate to heroes and villains, not complex enigmas. And don't you think I would love to disregard the revolutionaries as beasts of the guillotine? I would never find closure if I refused to have sympathy for them.


Sat Sep 15, 2012 11:16 pm
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Post Re: So Quiet!
Madame Vigée-Le Brun wrote:
Quote:
In all honesty, do you think that I don't want to believe Marie Antoinette was the spendthrift whore? It would actually make my life so much easier if she were, because my arguments would have so much more weight.


Yes, it would be so nice to wrap it up in a nice little package. It is a story bound to garner sympathy from many... everyone hates a rich bitch. Why do you think "Let them eat cake" is repeated so often? It captures the imagination (and attention) of so many people. No one wants to consider the nuanced truth when it is so easy just to have a nice little story of the wicked King and Queen who got what was coming to them. People relate to heroes and villains, not complex enigmas. And don't you think I would love to disregard the revolutionaries as beasts of the guillotine? I would never find closure if I refused to have sympathy for them.


Indeed: the truth tends to lie in between. But everyone rather imagines the world to be a simple case of black-and-white, a battle between good and evil. Tragic, but I do find it more forgivable when people like you or I indulge ourselves in this fantasy. It's when otherwise brilliant historians like Simon Schama or Albert Soboul (for balance's sake) purposefully twist and omit facts to prove their skewered thesis that my hackles rise. If we can't trust a historian to present the truth then who can we trust? Not that I expect historians to be robotic and to have no opinions of their own, but I do expect integrity and honesty. Because when a historian twists the facts, they bequeath false truths to their hundreds of readers and a new calumny populates the generation.

But it is more than 'let them eat cake.'

If I see one more Marie Antoinette biography reference Robespierre as that dictator I will fly into the sun.

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Sat Sep 15, 2012 11:35 pm
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Post Re: So Quiet!
Allow me to ask you... do you not find the violence of the Reign of Terror to be stomach-turning? Are you not moved by the bleak fate of Louis and Antoinette? I am trying to understand your opinion better.


Sat Sep 15, 2012 11:57 pm
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Post Re: So Quiet!
Madame Vigée-Le Brun wrote:
Allow me to ask you... do you not find the violence of the Reign of Terror to be stomach-turning? Are you not moved by the bleak fate of Louis and Antoinette? I am trying to understand your opinion better.


This is a rather delicate question so forgive me if I spiral into a loooong rant. But I have to be careful lest I present myself as Stalinistic, so I can't make a blanket statement without explanation, especially since I am not aware of how much research you have done into the Terror as a whole.

I believe that the Reign of Terror, as it played out on the historical stage, was appalling. That said, I do support the Robespierrist Terror. I do support a minimal amount of repression largely because I don't see an alternative given France's situation in 1793 - that situation being foreign invasion by the European Allies and Civil Wars.

What we need to remember, and what isn't often studied properly, is that the Jacobins were not the only ones terrorizing their enemies with threats of violence. The royalists weren't exactly gathering together, holding hands, and singing kumba-yaa while those "evil Revolutionaries" sharpened their guillotine blades. No, read the correspondence between the royalists: They were also discussing a holocaust of violence, but the victims were intended to be Jacobins - and these discussions happened well before the Jacobin Terror was ever born. This royalist dream would in fact come to fruition during the White Terror which lasted longer than the Reign of Terror and, according to some historians like Lefebvre, killed more people. But very few get outraged when they hear about it, because the Jacobins "deserved it" and we know they deserved it because their oppressors said they did. To me, that sounds suspiciously like the scapegoating that was favored by dictators in the 20th century and I find it immensely frightening that people don't question this legend. But in regard to this particular discussion it does serve as an illustration of an alternative.

One alternative to the Terror was to die.

Before the Terror began, violence was being applied on all sides by all sides. To use some big-names, Napoleon Bonaparte was nearly lynched in Corsica by a Catholic mob because he had dared be vocal about some of the Revolutionary reforms (and this is a separate incident from the Prioli debacle if some Napoleon scholar is about to get on my tail). Maximilien Robespierre was nearly lynched shortly after the Champ de Mars Massacre. The hunt was so intense that he was forced to suddenly change his address and seek refuge with strangers lest he be found and killed in his apartment. Later, he had the dubious honor of hearing the thundering march of a mob demanding his head and that of two of his political allies. If this mob could have got hold of him, no doubt they would have decapitated him themselves.

...Do you suppose, after Robespierre escaped from these incidents, and locked the door behind him in whatever sanctuary he sought, he might've been frightened? Do you think he maybe thought to himself, 'If I don't kill them, they'll kill me'?

Do you think he was wrong?

Seriously. Do you think he was? If we could bend time and speak to him, could you sit him down and tell him honestly that he doesn't need to fear a royalist reaction? That no harm will come to him? That no harm will come to his little sister, his fiance, his family? Could you tell him that his enemies would be as peaceful as he? Because I couldn't. Not if I was being honest with him, anyway.

I reiterate, these incidents of attempted mob-violence were all well before the Terror began. Robespierre, for his part, had done nothing to indicate that he could one day threaten the lives of monarchists. In fact he was one of the last Revolutionaries to forsake the monarchy and rally for a Republic.

It might be worth asking what changed his mind.

Robespierre would later speak in support of the Terror, but let us not forget who taught him what Terror was.

If a Republic was to be born, a Terror was necessary. This might not say much for the human race, but the situation was kill-or-be-killed. Danton would later heroically declare that he would rather be guillotined than guillotine, and lay down his life to prove his devotion to that ideal, but I don't begrudge Robespierre nor any other Revolutionary for opting for an alternative.

And so that is why I support the Terror in theory, as a tool of self-defense and consolidation.

But the Terror as it played out was an atrocity.

I mentioned I supported a Robespierrist Terror. This might now seem like a contradiction, but not all of the Terror was Robespierrist. Quite the opposite, most of the true horrors of the Terror that blemish the Revolution, that is, the Nantes Drownings, Vendean Burials, or Lyonnais Genocide, were not only performed by Robespierre's political enemies, but were condemned by Maximilien Robespierre himself! Most of the atrocities during the Terror were performed by Hebertists or (and this is ironic considering Danton's personal desire for moderation) Dantonists.

It was Hebertist Carrier who drowned thousands in the Loire River. It was the Hebertist Collot d'Herbois who succeeded Couthon and butchered 2,000 people in the city of Lyons. It was the Dantonists Barras and Freron who killed hundreds of people in their regions because their victims were suspiciously wealthy. It was the Dantonist Tallien who was torturing women to death for weeping at their husband's executions. And so on. I think these events are abominable. In fact, you as a Royalist and me as a Robespierrist can actually join hands and synchronize our disgust over these horrors. I will not defend these atrocities. But understand that Robespierre had no authority over Collot: they were equals in government, and Robespierre could no more dictate to Collot than Collot could dictate to Robespierre. Robespierre for his part did recall Carrier, Barras, Freron, and Tallien from their posts when he heard about their crimes and did try to put them before the Tribunal. He couldn't have done more.

What is the Robespierrist Terror?

The Robespierrists are my ideal. It is hard to begrudge Georges Couthon's behavior at Lyons from a Revolutionary perspective - Couthon executed thirty rebel leaders at the very most after giving them fair trials (at least I am presuming they were fair from how many acquittals Couthon's customized Revolutionary Tribunal doled out.) Robespierre's younger brother, Augustin, was a virtual saint in Vesoul, where he spent most of his Reign as a Terrorist releasing hundreds upon hundreds people from prison who he had thought were wrongly arrested. Antoine Saint-Just's Terror, while stern, was employed practically and fairly, and it whipped his soldiers into shape, won their respect and adulation, and allowed him to lead his army to victory - and military historians are practically unanimous in their confession that, without the Terror, France would have lost her wars, so Saint-Just was employing the Terror precisely how it was meant to be used.

In other words, the Robespierrist Terror tended to kill dozens of people when it was practiced. Dantonist and Hebertist Terrors killed hundreds or thousands. The Robespierrists are not the cause of the 'stomach-churning' tragedies of the Terror.

But the Robespierrists could not plant their Terror throughout all of France because, contrary to legend Robespierre was never a dictator; I complained about this common trope earlier because if Robespierre had been a dictator, if he could have bent the Committee of Public Safety to his will, the Terror would have been much more lenient. To use a picturesque example, Robespierre did suggest the creation of a Committee of Clemency which was meant to examine all detainees in the prisons and "promptly free the innocent." We can only imagine how many lives would have been spared from this suggestion, but unfortunately Robespierre's plan was vetoed by other members of the Committee of Public Safety, such as Billaud-Varene and Bertrand Barere. But Robespierre just went and tried to at least moderate the Terror in other ways; although, being human with limited authority, he couldn't stop all the bloodshed. On a purely personal level, although Robespierre did order arrests, we find Robespierre constantly demanding more information before he would put his signature to the warrant - he was careful and wouldn't ruin lives without being certain. This careful nature on this front probably accounts for a lot of the legends around him. It is absolutely true that Robespierre spent more time doing police work than he spent on any other faction in government. But he had to devote so much time to it precisely because he was being so careful - the other Committeemen, although they were spending less time policing, arrested many more people, sometimes twice as many! Do we want a worker who is being careful and assiduous in his studies, or do we want a worker who is flippantly ordering arrests with little research? Robespierre fell into the former category.

On a happier note, we find Robespierre's signature on warrants of release more often than we do on warrants of arrest. Numerically speaking from the 'Terror is an unforgivable monstrosity' perspective, Robespierre did more good than harm.

As I touched on, Robespierre ordered less arrests than any other member of the Committee of Public Safety aside from Saint-Andre, who was almost always absent with the Navy...and Couthon and Saint-Just. Couthon and Saint-Just were Robespierrists. (Saint-Andre may have been as well but I dare not say for certain because his political allegiance is foggy. )

Regardless, Robespierre did save innumerable lives with his protection of Christians, merchants, Girondin supporters and deputies, and petitioners of the king's life (this final addition can be measured; there were 28,000 signatures on the petition, each of whom would have been victimized by the Terror without Robespierre's interference), and recall of the most ruthless Terrorists - and when we add these contributions of mercy together, we find that Robespierre cut the casualties of the Terror in half.

The charge commonly made against Robespierre is that he should have done more to curb the Terror. To this I reply that he was not a dictator and it is ludicrous to expect one man to have done more - indeed, numerically speaking, Robespierre did more to hem the bloodshed than any other singular human being. Rather, we should be pointing our accusing fingers at his colleagues. Why did no one else try to curb the Terror? Why is Maximilien Robespierre standing alone?

This final question is where the legend of his dictatorship stems from. Robespierre was acting different than everyone else. But although he was often accused of tyranny throughout his lifetime, tellingly nearly all his accusers were even more radical than he. They accused him of tyranny because (and I will be absolutely blunt here) they wanted to kill more people and Robespierre stopped them.

I don't disapprove of that sort of "tyranny" and I question the moral integrity of anyone who does. Maybe France needed a more tyrannical Robespierre. Vive Robespierre.

When I say I support the Robespierrist Terror, it means that I both support the Robespierrists' Decisions when they were in positions to reign without interference from their political rivals (see Augustin Robespierre, Georges Couthon, and Antoine Saint-Just whose exploits I outlined previously) and I also support the theories behind Robespierre's dabbles in mercy: I would have supported his proposed Committee of Clemency...which unfortunately, was never created. The Robespierrist Terror technically never existed or gripped all of France. I wish it had because it appears to have been minimal, to have harmed the fewest number of people possible while still saving the Republic.

Now, to go to your second question, I do lament the death of Marie Antoinette. She certainly did not deserve to die and I do feel pity for her. Far from applauding her execution, I find it both a blunder on a diplomatic scale as she would have theoretically been a durable bargaining chip, and since frankly I have a personal affection for her that colors any possible attempt on my part to justify her death. As any member on this forum could tell us, she had not been the apathetic spendthrift whore who had delighted in the starvation of the populace; she had had no legitimate power and cannot with any fairness be blamed for the atrocious situation of the monarchy. What crime had she committed? Oh, yes, it's since been proven that she had been a "traitor" to the Revolution (if indeed you can ever betray a government that you were never loyal to) but it was not proven at the time.

Louis XVI... Louis XVI is a different story.

I pity Louis XVI as well, but I have no moral qualms with his execution. I believe it was foolish of the Revolutionaries to kill him, considering it enraged Europe, and I personally would have spoken against it from a diplomatic perspective, but I do not look at it as a murder or miscarriage of justice. To butcher a Cromwell quote, if the French would have won a hundred battles against Louis XVI he would still be a king. But if Louis won one battle against the French then they would find themselves on the scaffold - in theory, at least (we can debate Louis's kindliness later).

To butcher a Saint-Just quote, Louis had to reign or die and he failed to reign.

That said, I am moved by the accounts of both their deaths, because they were human beings - and good human beings at that - and I am saddened by what they had to go through. I place the execution of Marie Antoinette into the category of unforgivable atrocities I outlined earlier. But I understand the feeling behind Louis XVI's execution, just as I understand the practicality behind the Robespierrist Terror.

...Does that answer your question?

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Sun Sep 16, 2012 3:52 am
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