It’s time once again for six word Saturday and today my six words are
“Let them eat cake, she said”
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I have just seen the movie “Farewell My Queen”. A French movie with a German actress in the starring role. Here we are shown (for the first time in my experience) the Revolution as seen by a servant.
We are introduced to Versailles in July 1789. Unrest is growing in the court of King Louis the XVI. The people are rebelling – a revolution is imminent. It is sweeping from Paris towards the court, and the bejewelled, befuddled aristocrats are only now awakening to discover that they are in the way of a growing and impressive movement of the people and it will not stop for them.
We are shown behind the facades of the royal palaces where fleeing is on everyone’s mind, including Queen Marie Antoinette and her entourage. The story is told through the eyes of one of her ladies-in-waiting Sidonie Laborde Sidonie is the Queen’s reader and has become quite intimate with her. We are shown this intimacy growing and a relationship of trust develops. With the Queen and with great amazement, Sidonie experiences the first hours of the French Revolution. Her misplaced loyalty and conscious self-sacrifice prove to be her undoing.
We all know that while France and its inhabitants have been starving, the court and its entourages /sycophants have been filling themselves with expensive delicacies. We are shown one scene where one of the maids complains about the bread and the retort is that whole families could live on that for a week. We are given glimpses of the relationship between the classes of French society and the way the lower servant classes spy on, fantasize about and interact with the other upper classes.
In Paris, a list has been drawn up of 286 aristo heads set to roll. And people on the street have not only stopped showing respect for the king, many are waving pitchforks and torches in his direction. It’s July 14, 1789, and within days, the world will be turned upside down. Once this list becomes known the nobles and gentlemen and ladies of the court fall over themselves int heir efforts to escape.
We see little of King Louis XVI whose surprising choice to return to Paris on his own and face down the insurrection puts him way above the cowardly fugitives in his court.
We are shown the Queen as a weak willed woman, led by her husband but also by her appetites for gratification. One of these leads her to an infatuation/love affair with Mme. de Polinac which she doesn’t try to hide. But when she tells her lover to flee the country and Mme de Polinac agrees she feels betrayed and abandoned by her. However, she convinces the young Sidonie to dress herself and act as Polinac so that an escape can be achieved.
This is a movie that is worth seeing even if only for the way it portrays the other side of the story of the Revolution. How it impacts on a lowly maid in the service of the Queen and her ultimate sacrifice for her.
- Farewell, My Queen: Palace Intrigue Before the Revolution (seattleweekly.com)
- Marie Antoinette’s Girl Friend, Mira Sorvino’s Bronx – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- A Humble Servant, Watching As The Throne Totters (wnyc.org)