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June 5, 2015

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POST-GAZETTE, JUNE 5, 2015 Page 5 THOUGHTS BY DAN o A Frank De Pasc uale Venture c, ABOUT THIS 8< THAT with Daniel A. DiCenso MARIE ANTOINETTE (November 5, 1755 - October 16, 1793) A Victim of Circumstance Oh the tragedy that was the life of Marie Antoinette. If ever there was someone whose life seemed headed for a tragic crash course al- most from birth it was the fifteenth child of the Em- press Maria Therese of Aus- tria. Even if upon her birth on November 15 th of 1755 her mother was open to anything other than her being Queen, the events of the following year sealed both the Em- press's commitment to rais- ing a future monarch and, sadly, the fate of Marie Antoinette. The Seven Years War, which began the following year, proved a critical time for Austria as it found itself allied for the first time with France in its battle with England for colonial terri- tory. It was a thin alliance, but one that Austria was determined to keep even after the end of the War in 1763. During that time, the Em- press took charge of Marie's schooling, always with the emphasis on the aspects (politics and etiquettes} that she would need to learn to one day be queen. The young Marie Antoinette, however, seemed to take more naturally to the arts than languages and tradi- tional lessons. She often entertained the royal fami- lies with her harp playing and dance Skills. Marie Antoinette men- tioned fearing her mother and, from the looks of it, had good reason to. The Empress afforded her little room for free-will and as the Seven Years War dwindled she ar- ranged her marriage to Louis-Auguste, grandson of France's Louis XV. It wasn't until April of 1770 that the Empress sent her 14 year old daughter to meet her husband and on the way to becoming one of the most famous queens in history. It's hard to tell what Marie Antoinette thought of this, given her free-spirited na- ture as a child. In France, however, the marriage caused a stir that may have taken her by surprise as many French citizens re- mained distrustful of outside unions. The main thing to recog- nize here, however, is the impossible responsibilities that were placed on the young bride. Here was a 14 year old woman who demon- strated little interest in poli- tics and governing but with an affinity for the arts, thrown into ruling not only a country but a country that up until relatively recently had been Austria's enemy. She was, as can clearly be seen, a young woman set up to fail. In this regard, her execution can only be seen as a tragic inevitability. She was a scapegoat to the poor and struggling working-class of France, which was grow- ing increasingly agitated with the structure of the French government toward the end of the 16 th century. To them, she was the symbol of everything that was wrong with the French monarchy and executing her was more a statement than a solution. It's hard to imagine Marie Antoinette understanding much of what was going on outside the pal- ace or of the complex causes and solutions to poverty and inequality in a political sys- tem. Nor is it likely she had the political knowledge to find much of a solution. In the end, she was a clueless child put into a deadly situ- ation they had no knowledge of how to control. Tellingly the first years of her marriage to Louis XVI were occupied with frivoli- ties which had little to do with the state of France. She preferred the life of parties, music, and social events Raore so than the court, par- liament, and government. The poor French citizens were understandably en- raged at the lavish expenses of the royal family while they struggled to feed their families, but the main thing to remember is that poli- tics were never in Marie Antoinette's conscience and as offenSive as her clue- lessness may seem, she too remained in the dark about how her decadence was per- ceived. Neither she nor King Louis could have guessed that outside of their palace walls a revolution was brew- ing. To be sure, her joyous lifestyle also gave pause to the French aristocracy as did her inability to give her husband a child until eight years into their marriage when she gave birth to Marie Therese Charlotte. As animosity toward the Queen mounted, she found happiness in her growing family. Between 1781 and 87 she gave birth to three more children. By all ac- counts she was a loving mother and devoted most of her free time to her children. But to the starving peasants, this was simply another ex- cuse to ignore their situa- tion. Once again, her eccen- tric behavior made her no friends amongst the nobility who spread gossip about her character out of spite. Unfortunately, 1787 proved a disastrous year for the royal family when a poor harvest season created a shortage of crops and made their cost prohibitive for many, bringing France (the most populous country in Europe at the time) close to bankruptcy. This, how- ever, did inspire Louis XVI's first action in response to France's struggling Third Estate (the majority of the citizens, which were nei- ther a part of the clergy or nobility) allowing them sim- ply as much voting power as the noble-class majority. We've seen this story over and over and continue to see it today. When a poor major- ity remains ignored they form a group which starts out with noble intentions before forgetting what they were fighting for to begin with. Case in point, after the Estate-General meetings in Versailles in 1789 where the nobility, the clergy, and the general populace united to reach a compromise, the Third Estate became the Jacobin Club, a more vocal and organized group than what they had been before. Of course, they started out simply as a look-out for the poor, fighting for better wages, more rights under the king, and better living conditions. But their impa- tience grew and they be- came increasingly violent, moving toward a full-fledged revolution inspired by the one they saw having success in America. Of course, Louis XVI did little to prevent their radi-calization. When the nobility locked out the Jaco- bin Club from the Estate- General, they rebranded themselves as the National Assembly, meeting in pri- vate, defying the king's orders, and vowing not to back down until a new con- stitution was adopted. A revolution was inevi- table in the climate of France from early on and Louis XVI's tactical moves against the New Assembly (he swore to uphold the new constitution, the Declara- tion of the Rights of Man too late and by force, after the storming of Bastille) only added flame to the fire. The final breaking point may have been the King's dis- missal of several Jacobin ministers, replacing them (Continued on Page 13) Quattro Grille, Rosticceria & Pizzeria ooo 266 Hanover St. 617.720.0444 Bricco Boutique Italian Cuisine ooo 241 Hanover St. 617.248.6800 Mar( Seafood & Oyster Bar ooo 135 Richmond St, * 617.723.MARE Trattoria II Panino Boston's 1st OrigJnal Trattoria 000 11 Parmenter St. 617,720.t336 Umbria Prime 5 Story Steakhouse Oyster Bar & Night Club OOO 295 Franklin St. * 617.338.1000 Bricco Panetteria Homemade Artisan Breads OOO Bricco Place 241 Hanover St, 617,248.9859 Bricco Salumeria & Pasta shoppe Over 50 Varieties OOO Bricco Place 241 Hanover St. - 617,248.9629 (next to Bricco Panetteria) Lounge & Night Club Coming Soon OOO 150 Kneeland St. Gelateria & Cannoli Factow Homemade Oelato & Cannolis OOO 272 Hanover St, * 64 Cross St. 617.720.4243 FRANKLIN ROTARY CLUB FI 24 Annual Senior Pasta Supper The Franklin Rotary Club will be holding thei# 244 annual Senior Pasta Supper on June 25 th at 5:00 pm at the Franklin Housing Authority Hall at Central Park ter- race. 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