Saturday, August 18, 2012

John Adams' description of Marie Antoinette and the royal meal


John Adams was an unpretentious man as indicated by this sign displayed at his farm outside of Boston.  Here's what he had to say about the day in June 1778 after he witnessed the Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette eating their meal at "le grand couvert.":  Adams was turned out in attire "becoming the station I held, but not to be compared with the gold and diamond and embroidery about me."  Seated in close view, he said Louis XVI "ate like a king and made a royal supper of solid beef and other things in proportion."  Years later, he said of Marie Antoinette:  "She was an object too sublime for my dull pen to describe…  Her dress was everything art and wealth could make it.  One of her maids of honor told me she had diamonds upon her person to the value of eighteen million livres, and I always thought her majesty much beholden to her dress….  She had a fine complexion indicating her perfect health, and was a handsome woman in her face and figure…  The Queen took a large spoonful of soup and displayed her fine person and graceful manner, in alternately looking the company in various parts of hall and ordering several kinds of seasoning to be brought to her, by which she fitted her supper to her taste.  When this was accomplished, her Majesty exhibited to the admiring spectators the magnificent spectacle of a great queen swallowing her royal supper in a single spoonful, all at once.  This was all performed like perfect clockwork, not a feature of her face, not a motion of any part of her person, especially her arm and her hand could be criticized as being out of order." Complimentary words from a man who prided himself on his simplicity.  The idea of John Adams in Paris reminds me of a song my father-in-law quotes about soldiers returning from Europe during WWI... "How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?"  How indeed.

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