Friday, March 29, 2013

Louis XVI at The Temple

One of the most meaningful thing I did in Paris was to spend half a day at Musée Carnavalet. Among the treasures on display are the Royal Family's belongings from their time in the Temple, including religious relics that belonged to Louis, locks of their hair, games…

Louis-Charles' Schoolwork

At first, in the Temple, the family was able to be together most of the time although they didn't all sleep in one room.  They read, worked on lessons, played games, did needlework and tried to maintain a semblance of normal family life.  Sometime after Louis' execution,  Louis-Charles was taken from his mother, sister, and aunt -  beaten, neglected, taught to drink, sing revolutionary songs, curse and became so eager to please (a case of what we'd term Stockholm Syndrome today?) that he ultimately accused his mother and aunt (Louis XVI's pious sister, Elizabeth, who was confined with them at the Temple) of sexual abuse, a charge sprung on Marie Antoinette at her trial.

In her last letter, written the night before her execution, to her sister-in-law, Madame Elizabeth, Marie Antoinette wrote "…I have to speak to you of one thing which is very painful to my heart, I know how much pain the child must have caused you. Forgive him, my dear sister; think of his age, and how easy it is to make a child say whatever one wishes, especially when he does not understand it."

Marie Antoinette's Chou d'Amour, Louis-Charles, died in the Temple prison, at age ten.

I bought the portrait from an antique mall in Virginia when I was with Katherine, Mary, Micah.  Working on making our home into a shrine.  My husband is a tolerant sort.

The Royal Family's Temple Room and Belongings

This room is actually very cozy and nicer than I'd have expected.  Louis XVI read 250 of the books that were part of the library of the Knights of Templar. The bowl is made specially for placing against the neck to catch hair and powder when it was applied during the toilette.

Site of the Temple

Elissa, History Chaser Extraordinaire,  chased down site of the former Temple and she and Matt each stood on a circle that marks the location of the tower to illustrate how small the building was.  On the other side of the street (would be on the left side of the picture, but isn't visible) the eighteen-wheeler was almost exactly the length of the Temple.

Madame Royale

Marie-Thérèse Charlotte de France, known as Madame Royale, was the only member of the immediate Royal Family to survive the Revolution.  She was released from the Temple, ironically, as part of a prisoner exchange that included the release of Drouet, who had been a major player in the Varennes debacle.  He was one of the people along the Royal Family's escape route that recognized and exposed her and her family as they tried to escape France.

Petite Madame Royale's early life was normal and happy by court standards although she had a reputation as being a bit of a brat.  (That word was tossed around in descriptions of me as a child, too, so I think it's a compliment.  My mother even tentatively put forward the term when I was exasperatingly describing Micah when she was about five.  I was shocked!  Mom had a point, though.  Micah was a bit of a dominitrix.  Weren't you, Micah?  Don't worry, baby, I think it's a sign of intelligence.  That's what La Leche League told me.  Another bit of misinformation they fed me that led  to who you are today.  Haha.)  Madame Royale was about eleven, I think, when the family's trials began, in earnest, and she spent the next six years or so as a prisoner.  After her release, to Austria, and some wrangling over whom she'd marry, she became the wife of her French first cousin, Louis-Antoine, duc d'Angoulême.  She's been criticized as being old-fashioned, negative and cheerless.  How thoughtless of her not to play the role of carefree, charming Princesse after spending her teen years in a prison, standing by while her family was murdered.

The Temple

By the time Louis was sentenced to death, he had been separated from his family for some weeks.  When he was moved to a separate part of the temple, weeks earlier, the authorities told him he couldn't be in contact with his Marie Antoinette or his sister, Madame Elizabeth. They gave him the option of seeing Louis-Charles, but if he were to do so, Louis-Charles would no longer be able to be spend time with his mother.  Louis unselfishly declined to deprive Marie Antoinette of her son.

This painting depicts the parting scene before Louis XVI returns to his room to prepare, spiritually, for death.  Marie Antoinette begged him to return in the morning and he agreed to come at eight.  ("Why not at seven o'clock?" to which he replied, "Well, then, yes, at seven o'clock.")  The next morning, he was unable to put himself nor his family through another traumatic scene and charged Cléry with delivering his final farewell, as well as his seal to his son, his wedding ring ("Tell her I part with it with pain and only at the last moment.") to Marie Antoinette, and a packet of his hair.  He spent his last night hearing Mass, said by the Abbé Firmont, in his room with Cléry.  Not only was he not bitter, he even apologized for being sharp with one of the officers the day before, and thanked one or two of them for small kindnesses.  During his last days, he also met with and consoled his lawyer, Lamoignon de Malesherbes, who was distraught in saying good-bye.  (As usual, I can't remember the poignant words attributed to Malesherbes when he came out of retirement to defend the King, but will find and add them later.  After the trial he returned to the country, only to be guillotined later, along with his family, for the service he rendered the sovereign.)

Jean-Baptiste Cléry, Louis's valet de chambre, is pictured, with his eyes to the floor, behind the door, waiting to accompany his master from the room.  His is an interesting story that I'll tell some day. The revolutionary, wearing a red cap, is also waiting. I wonder if the artist made him smaller than the others in the room on purpose.

Cléry was first informed that he would accompany the King to Place de Revolution but, in the end, to his relief, only the Abbé Firmont was by Louis' side.  When Sanson, the executioner, approached him to tie his hands, Louis resisted until the Abbé said to him, with tears in his eyes, "Sire, in this new outrage I see only a final resemblance between Your Majesty and the Savior who is to reward you."  At this, Louis raised his eyes to heaven, and said, "Do what you wish;  I will drain the cup to the dregs."  He attempted to address his subjects and began, "I die innocent of all the crimes imputed to me.  I pardon the authors of my death and pray God that the blood you are about to shed will never fall upon France." but the revolutionary, Santerre, mounted on horseback, signaled for a drum roll to drown out the King's words.  After the blade fell, people rushed forward to catch his blood.  Very recently, DNA tests confirmed that blood stored in an engraved gourd, is that of Louis XVI, as believed.  I posted a picture of the gourd and a link to an article about it a couple of months ago.  I also posted a picture of Louis' long hair (against my better judgement, perhaps) that's on display at Musée Carnavalet.  This has been a somber enough post without re-posting it now.

Monster Unleashed!

It's Good Friday, school is closed, I'm not working, a/c installation at home, so I'm tied here with computer, Michael posted 24 pics of me on fb for my bday, horrified at exposure, but keep commenting and even added ANOTHER picture, took dogs out for walk to keep myself from posting more, but not totally safe, bc iPhone, with me, can access fb, so posting to blog, to vent, bc no one will see it there. Help. Full blown panic attack bearing down on me. Have unexpectedly gone insane on fifty-sixth birthday. Now on backyard deck, trying to pull myself together after seeing so many images of myself on fb - I have issues - flirting with the point of no return, look up and see little soldier guy hanging from lamplight on my house. Made me feel like laughing hysterically. My own little hanging-from-the-lamppost-person. Just like in the French Rev. What sick person did that?!

It's my birthday. Again.

Here I am, turning twelve, with my best friend, Kim, at my side.  She was the first person to call me this morning, forty-four years later.  That's a special friendship.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Héloise and Abélard

Through this book, some of my favorite Paris moments were possible.  On my last day, it led me to the site of "one of the greatest love stories of all time, that of Héloise and Abélard" at # 9 Quai aux Fleurs.

The author, Leonard Pitt, told the story better than I could so, again, I quote:
"In the early 1100s Canon Fulbert lived on this spot with his niece Héloise, age seventeen.  In 1118, the canon took in Abélard, age thirty-nine, to instruct young Héloise.  The tutor was handsome and talented, a poet and musician educated in rhetoric and dialectic.  Love between the student and teacher ensued.  By the end of the year, Héloise delivered a baby.  The canon, furious, had Abélard apprehended and - gulp! - castrated.

The two were separated.  Héloise took up life in a convent, while Abélard went to a monastery.  Their love endured for years through a correspondence that rings as fresh today as it did in the 12th Century.  When Abélard died at age sixty-three in 1142, Héloise had his body secretly transported and interred at her convent in Paraclet.  She died in 1164, also at age sixty-three.  The two lovers were placed in the same coffin and from there began a circuitous voyage.

About three hundred years later, with the convent in ruins, their coffin was moved to a church in Petit Moustiers.  In 1630, a well-intentioned yet misguided hand separated their remains into different coffins and re-interred them in a small chapel at a distance from each other.  In 1792, the bodies were placed in the same coffin, but were separated by a lead partition and take to a church in Nogent-sur-Seine outside of Paris.

In 1800, their coffin and monument were transported to Paris, to the Museum of French Monuments, where they were first buried in a garden then moved to a courtyard.  In 1817, the museum closed and they were moved for a short time to Church of Saint-Germain des Prés and then finally to
Pére-Lachaise cemetery;  where they reside today and hopefully forever after."

My favorite line:  "Their love endured for years through a correspondence that rings as fresh today as it did in the 12th Century."  Is that not a beautiful concept?  I do love letters.  Like everything else, they're are available online...

#9 Quai aux Fleurs

Abélard and Héloise

The picture of the entire house was marred by the fact that an orange delivery truck was parked in front of it, so it's not worth posting.  It's not the house they lived anyway - just at the location of the house.

G. Fouquet Bijoux

Michele and I went to Musée Carnavalet only to find that the French Revolution section was closed.  I'm glad it was, though, because it forced me to see the rest of the museum.  There's a cool restored 19th (or, maybe it's 20th - probably) jewelry store in the museum.   I love this picture of Michele peeking out the door.

I went back the next day, by myself, and did the total French Rev immersion visit.

All three precious

My beloved niece, Jessica, with her Eliza and my mother.  Michele gave this to me.  Every time I see a picture of my mother that I've not seen before, it's like getting another moment with her.  Thank you, Michele, for that.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Metro Map

The real reason I walked everywhere.

Tournez à Gauche

Anytime anyone pulled out a map, I got busy doing something else to avoid any involvement in navigation.  My internet friend, Elissa, and her husband, Matt, Chef/Coast Guard member/photographer, were in charge of all map-reading during the two days we spent together.

Snow Day

This was a magical day.  Every day and night was magical.  As soon as I woke up and saw falling snow, I was out the door.  I walked all day and evening (with a couple of breaks at the hotel), smiling at the snow hitting my face, practically giddy with joy.  This was at about nine in the morning before much had fallen, from the Tuileries Garden, looking through the gates toward the Obelisk.  The last snow picture is from the Obelisk toward where I was standing in this one.
The American Embassy is the only place in Paris that I've been told not to take a picture.  It was last year and I kind of liked that they were so cautious.  I took this one at about eleven at night, while it was snowing, from too far away for them to object.  The U.S. flag is barely visible above the center of the picture.
From my hotel room window.  It turns out that the nice woman at the boulangerie down the street lives in this building.  I learned this during a friendly chat with her and was immediately alarmed at what she might've seen through my wide open windows.  That night, back at the hotel, noticed that her drapes were closed for the first time since I'd been there.  I guess she had the same immediate thought.
A quick stop at Shakespeare and Company to buy a book for a friend where I offended the salesman by responding to his assertion that they had had a copy in their Antiquarian section, but it had recently sold and, as a "rare" book, it's no longer available.  My son was an English major, so I mean this in the most affectionate way possible, but the British accented voice of bearded English Lit  major chilled noticeably when I blurted out that it's available on Amazon.  Which it is, but a copy from Shakespeare and Co. would've been cooler.

French police sirens sound much better than American ones.

Police vans dusted with snow.  I paid my respects at the Conciergerie at least once a day.  It's the least I can do for those that passed through those gates.
Falling snow looks like Dementors attacking this section of the Louvre.
The waterproof shoes that I ran out and bought, after I saw the snow forecast the night before I left, on the site where the Tuileries stood. Hallowed ground.
My waterproof shoe choice would've banned me from access to polite society in 18th Century France.  Probably from 21st Century France, too.  I might get my foot in the door if I wore one of these Marie Antoinette-inspired ones.
This dog reminded me of the beast I'd (happily) left at home.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

From the Obelisk looking toward the site of the former Tuileries Palace

The first snow picture I posted was taken from the other side of these gates, looking toward the Obelisk, where I was standing when I took this one, at about 11:00 p. m..  This view, by the way, is one of the last of Marie Antoinette's views before she was killed.  The Obelisk stands, now, where the guillotine stood then… The story is that she was completely composed en route to the guillotine, stepped lightly up the step, and only betrayed her emotions when she looked toward the Tuileries, and paled, perhaps thinking of the time she had spent there, in good times and bad.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Door

Marie Antoinette escaped through this passageway in the early morning hours of October 6, 1789, ran to the King's bedchamber, and pounded on the door, desperate for refuge from the mob that had overpowered (beheading one in the process) the guards outside her bedchamber. When I think if this event, I'm reminded of an account that claims that the Duc d'Orleans was seen standing on the staircase motioning the way to the Queen's bedchamber. There are other accounts that claim he was in the crowd that had marched to Versailles from Paris, but from every chaotic scene there are false reports, so I don't want to perpetuate what is probably not true. I'm just saying that the idea that the King's cousin had such a direct hand in these events (there's no doubt he had an indirect hand in them) would make him even lower than I'd supposed. These are the kinds of questions I'd like to ask of our knowledgable tour guide, but we'd already left him when we were in this room.

Anyway, the other things that stand out when I look at this is that, the next day, the King, Queen, their family, members of the Court, and others, including Axel Fersen, left Versailles forever to go to Paris. In a letter to his father, on Oct. 9, Fersen described the scene:

"All the public papers have told you, my dear father, of what happened at Versailles on Monday, 5th, and Tuesday, 6th, and of the coming of the king to Paris with his family.  I was witness of it all and I returned to Paris in one of the carriages of the king's suite;  we were six hours and a half on the way.  God keep me from ever again seeing so afflicting a sight as that of those two days.  The people seem enchanted to see the king and his family;  the queen is much applauded, and she cannot fail to be when they know her, and do justice to her desire for the right, and to the kindness of her heart."

Also, I think of the fact that Marie Antoinette had been hurriedly summoned from the peaceful grotto, in her fantasy land, Le Hameau, as the crowd from Paris approached the Chateau. As alarmed as she must've been, she couldn't have possibly conceived of how pivotal the moment was and what the next few years held.

And, I can now think the happier thought that the gentleman (see post, below) that showed us around the Chapel restored the gilded railing between Elissa and the doorway.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A new friend

This kind man came down from his studio, where he restores gilding on furniture for the Château de Versailles, and took Elissa, Matt and me into the Chapel.  Into. The. Chapel.  Where Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were married.   It was wondrous.

The reason he graciously gave us a private tour is that he and Elissa, my new best friend, have recently exchanged emails and become fb friends.  People take to that girl right away.  He just left his important work and came down to meet her and, next thing I know, he's moving aside the rope that holds back the crowd looking into the Chapel, and we're acting like we own the place.

I was probably too much of a coward to take his picture while he was facing me, so you're unable to see how handsome a Versailles craftsman is.

The view that the average tourist gets

This was taken on a previous visit.  Back before I was cool enough to know a Versailles artist, artisan, gilding expert.

And, the view one gets to see, if one knows Elissa

I'm thinking that I was standing about where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette knelt on the day of their marriage.   Actually, it was probably closer to the alter, but I didn't take a picture from up there.  Madame Royale was baptized in this chapel. I only know of a few of the many significant events that took place here over a couple of centuries.  Researching them all could be an interesting life's work.  I like that it's designed so that the alter sits somewhat as an island, with space behind it, rather than completely up against the wall.

Behind the alter

Versailles 2013

Elissa, appropriately blurry, as she chases history through the halls of Versailles, captivating all in her path.  Our tour guide, a thirty-two year veteran at the Château, took a small group of maybe ten people,  through the King's apartments, the Royal Opera House, the Queen's game room, a dining room, all devoid of other visitors.  He shared anecdotes, described protocol,  highlighted pieces of furniture, showing with every word, every gesture, that he values Versailles and what has come before us.  When he invited questions, I asked The Question:  Does he believe that Marie Antoinette and Count Axel Fersen were lovers?  His response:  Absolutely not.  Impossible.  And, then went on to explain why.  I was happy to hear that, not so much that I care, from a moral standpoint (which I do), but also because I don't think they were (for reasons already mentioned) and to learn that I'd misread the situation would be undermine my already fragile confidence.

Describing dinner etiquette

An ordinary hallway is extraordinary when it's in Versailles.  Who strode, glided, charged, snuck, tip-toed, sauntered, slithered, sashayed down this corridor?  I can only imagine.

Comfort in symmetry

The picture is a slightly off-center. Sorry.

Marie Antoinette's game room

Monday, March 18, 2013

Marie Antoinette's favorite chocolate store was next door to my hotel.

They, no doubt, delivered her orders. (I didn't buy any candy. In fact, I didn't buy anything while I was in Paris except food. Wasn't even tempted.)  There have been several Debauve and Gallais locations around the city.  This one has been here for a long time, maybe since the 18th Century, but I don't remember the exact year.  I'll check on that.