The Queen Who Invented Disneyland.
Bonjour Parismarais Readers,
Indian summer in le Marais is wonderful, with temperatures hovering around 25 degrees celcius every afternoon and there are virtually hundreds of things to do in the beautiful weather. Paris has been hopping with visitors from all over the world attending fashion week, the world car show and other events. With so many people in the city these days the hotels are packed and there is little chance of finding a bargain on accommodations. If you’re planning a trip to Paris in November or December, we recommend that you book now before it’s too late.
The Expatica Welcome to France Fair takes place on October 15 at the Carrousel de Louvre, and if you’re thinking about life in France, you’ll want to attend. This fair will give you the opportunity to get information about house hunting, finding a job, immigration and permits, and more, and you’ll meet many people who can help you make the most of the expat life.
Le Marais is definitely becoming the area in Paris where everyone wants to be. There will surely be many investors at the fair who wish to purchase the perfect pied-à-terre in the narrow streets that once welcomed the kings of France. And where today there are still some queens, especially around rue Sainte Croix de Bretonnerie….
Speaking of queens… the film Marie Antoinette from Sofia Coppola is hitting the big screen in the U.S. this month, and you’ll see that this famous French queen spent her last days in le Marais. Scroll down to read Pamela Grant’s surprising but true story about the last queen of France…she was held in the Temple dungeon just 100 yards from my house!
There is so much happening in Paris in October that it’s difficult to know where to start! This is such a busy month in Paris and le Marais, and the perfect time to visit the City of Light. We first want to show you a popular event that took place last week – the annual Horse Guards Show featuring Mr. Jacques Chirac’s presidential guards in their Marais headquarters...
Here’s what our team has discovered for you this month :
BOUTIQUE HOTELS IN LE MARAIS
Hotel Bastille Speria
Hotel Bastille Speria is the latest 3 star hotel to join the ever-growing ParisMarais network. ParisMarais now offers you the choice of 18 fantastic hotels in le Marais. There is no need to mention that our selection includes only the most exclusive hotels, and those that are especially welcoming to Anglophone visitors and people of all walks of life, from all over the world.
Gay life in le Marais seems to be undergoing a real revival with so many exciting new places opening. And with a new, even friendlier attitude towards foreign visitors, we hope more people will be encouraged to discover Paris’ favorite district.
WELL BEING AND MASSAGE AT BASTILLE SAUNA
4, Passage Saint Antoine 75011 Paris
A NEW PERFUME COLLECTION MADE IN LE MARAIS!
They do smell wonderful and were created by top cosmetic industry designers who launched other perfumes before deciding to try something so daring. Welcome to their new chic boutique … a new perfume born in le Marais is definitely worth trying!
CHIC CONCRETE at Arts et Métiers Museum
60 rue Réaumur, 292 rue Saint-Martin 75003
A museum dedicated to furniture and art from the 18th century. The founders of the Samaritaine department store, Ernest Cognacq and Louise Jay, have gathered an interesting collection of furniture and paintings. This is the place where you can see Queen Marie Antoinette’s bed.
Conciergerie: The last residence of Marie Antoinette
CREATIVE SHOPS WORTH VISITING
LIZA GETS CRAZY FOR ROYAL STYLE
Until then, you can still get your own PARISMARAIS t-shirt with a fabulous gold fleur de lys, especially popular with our friends from New Orleans and Quebec, who also use the fleur de lys as their symbol.
Open Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
UNIQUE SCANDINAVIAN PAINTINGS AT ANDER’s HUS
To see pictures visit: http://andershus-kleno.monsite.wanadoo.fr
27 rue Charlot, 75003 Paris
VINTAGE PHOTOGRAPHY at « Au Bonheur du Jour »
Discover Chatelain works, a complete collection of rediscovered or erotic photographs
11, rue Chabanais, 75002 Paris
A DROP OF HISTORY
Did the woman who supposedly said “Let them eat cake” get her just desserts?
A shadow of infamy still surrounds the name of the French Queen Marie-Antoinette, guillotined October 16, 1793. Two centuries after her death, she deserves a break.
During her lifetime, the extravagant queen was dubbed “Mrs. Deficit”, the “Austrian Bitch” and even worse... Many slurs still linger to date. Wasn’t she the queen who said “Let them eat cake” when she heard the people were starving in Paris?
Sofia Coppola’s latest film elegantly addresses these issues and attempts to restore the image of a young girl who grew to maturity in a court mired in political intrigue and oppressive etiquette for which she was ill-prepared.
Living in the public eye and the gilded cage of the dissolute court was not easy for the privacy-loving 14-year-old. Her 16-year-old husband’s lack of affection added still more pressure. He may have suffered from a physical deformity - phymosis (circumcision could have resolved his tight foreskin, but without anesthetic Louis was reluctant). Or perhaps he was just an awkward boy, escaping into his pastimes of hunting, lock-making, printing, etc. He was certainly resistant to assuming the mantle of power thrust upon him. In any case, their marriage remained unconsummated for 7 long years.
At first, Marie-Antoinette was beloved by the people of France as the embodiment of youth, beauty and promise... She gave generously to those in need. But, at court, factions were forming.
Tongues were wagging. Was her husband, Louis XVI impotent? Marie-Antoinette must be getting satisfaction elsewhere... from the king’s handsome younger brother... from her good friend Princess Lamballe, newly appointed Mistress of the Wardrobe, and later Madame Polignac, governess to her children (when she did finally produce them).
Irritated by the crushing court etiquette, Antoinette dismissed those whose positions had been a closely guarded privilege, and instead selected friends who amused her. As a result, enemies were piling up.
Louis, a bit of a slouch, wasn’t all that popular either. His cousin, Philippe d’Orléans, had his eye on the throne. So did Louis’ younger brothers... And they were all happy to criticize him, the indecisive fool, and his wife, the spendthrift shrew. They fueled demonizing broadsheets in Paris and printed some of their own.
These damning newspapers and pamphlets appeared with increasing frequency and virulence as the revolution was about to explode! By 1785, the once-beloved Antoinette was known as the “Autrichienne” (the Austrian bitch) after she pushed her influence on Louis to help her brother, the Archduke in a political fracas in Poland. Louis didn’t come to Austria’s aid, but the fear was there. Antoinette’s ulterior allegiance must be to her native country.
State bankruptcy was looming in France. The broadsheets printed stories of Antoinette’s huge expenses, inciting the new epithet “Mrs. Deficit”. Her expenditures were a concern and definitely over-the-top. The same could be said of Louis XIV’s mistress, Madame de Montespan and Louis XV’s mistress, Madame du Barry. However, nobody printed their extravagances...
Then came the fluke hail storm and crop failure of 1788. Already detested, mistrusted and dragged through the media mud, another smear came into print. The heartless queen was reported to have said, if there was no bread to be had, then the people should eat brioche (cake). She never said it, but people believed it. Her detractors took advantage of the suffering to fabricate another smear about her in the press. And it’s still taught in history books today – 2 centuries later – a testament to the power of the press in its burgeoning days.
After the Bastille fell in July 1789, and the revolution had begun in earnest with the battle cry: “liberty, equality and fraternity”, people were still starving. The women of Paris, disgusted and spurred by agitators and the press once again, marched to Versailles on October 5, 1789 to return the royal family to Paris (the crowds sarcastically called them the baker, the baker’s wife and the little crumbs)... And this is where Sofia Coppola’s film ends.
Her movie spares us the royals’ steady descent into hell. Taken to the Tuileries Palace (a section of the Louvre that was burned down in 1871), life went on for the family almost as it did in Versailles. But they were closely guarded. Their only hope was to flee France. In 1791, they did, but it was a botched attempt. Spotted and caught in Varennes, not far from the Belgian border, they were returned to Paris. The bungled escape probably sounded the death knell of royalty in France. Any idea of a limited monarchy, like in England, was squelched. Within days of their humiliating return, Marie-Antoinette’s hair went completely white – at age 35!
Things went from bad to worse. War against France’s invading enemies, Austria and Germany, was going badly. On two occasions, the Tuileries Palace was invaded by the Paris mob. June 20, 1792, the king faced the marauding crowds and managed to calm them. It was only temporary. More defeats on the front stirred up the people and on August 10, 1792, the Parisians attacked again. To avoid being torn to shreds, the royal family made their way to the legal body nearby, the Assembly, for protection. They escaped a massacre that would have surely finished them off. According to the reports, it was a ghoulish event. People played kickball with the severed heads of the Swiss Guard and worse.
The Assembly eventually voted to abolish the monarchy and the family was taken to a prison in the Marais on August 13, 1792. The prison, known as the Temple, was a medieval remnant that had belonged to the Knights Templar. These were the last poignant months the royals remained together as a family.
A defeat at Verdun on September 2, 1792 created another backlash in Paris. An estimated 1,200 people were taken from prisons and butchered. Killed in any way the crowd chose, they were shot, burned alive, hacked to bits, torn to shreds... One unfortunate victim was Princess Lamballe, Marie-Antoinette’s close friend. Incarcerated at La Force, a prison on rue Pavée in the Marais (later destroyed to extend the street), she came to a brutal end. When she defended her friend, the Queen, she was stripped, raped, torn from limb to limb... her head and genitals were placed on a pike and paraded beneath the Temple window, about 2 miles up the road, and her leg was shot from a cannon. Marie-Antoinette must have trembled when the remains were paraded beneath her prison window.
December 11, 1792, the King was transferred to the Conciergerie, a medieval prison, considered to be the antechamber of death. He was convicted of treason, and by a majority vote of the Assembly (his cousin, Philippe d’Orléans, now calling himself Equality Philip, for the sake of the egalitarian revolution, voted for his death) he was to be executed... on January 21, 1793.
It was devastating for the family left in the tower. And things got grimmer still when the order came to separate young Louis (the royalists deemed him Louis XVII), from his mother on July 13, 1793. It was an agony she could not bear and the arguing went on for some time before the little boy was finally torn from his mother’s arms.
He was placed under the care of the illiterate Citizen Richard, a vulgar cobbler, who was told to re-educate the royal child. The little 8-year-old was naturally impressionable and vulnerable after the forced separation. Young Louis was taught revolutionary songs and learned to curse his mother, just upstairs.
Then came the order for Marie-Antoinette’s transfer to the Conciergerie on August 2, 1793. She wasn’t questioned until October 12 as her accusers tried to assemble conclusive evidence against her.
When the questioning did come, she answered with dignity and incredible intelligence:
“Do you think Kings are necessary for a people’s happiness?”
Then her old arch-enemy launched an attack that took her by surprise.
Hébert, the radical editor of the debauched and racy newspaper “Le Pere Duchêne”, the man who coined “l’Autrichienne”, accused her of incest with her son. Her only response was to look away silently. Surprised by her reaction, a juror pressed her for a response:
“Nature itself shudders at such an accusation made to a mother... I appeal to all mothers here!” Compassion for this frail woman filled the room. Even the vindictive tricoteuses (knitters) who sat through all the trials and executions, had pity for her.
But it was a foregone conclusion: “guilty of treason as charged.” Later that day, she was collected in a tumbril, an open wooden cart used for all commoners. Louis had been transported in a carriage. The years of stress, riots, violence, murder, execution and separation from her children had taken a toll on her. She was hemmorhaging badly. Antoinette had a moment of weakness before she stepped into the wagon, and relieved her bowels in the Conciergerie courtyard.
The painter Jacques-Louis David captured her wretched ride down rue St. Honoré. Hair cropped by the executioner, her hands tied behind her back, she looks dignified, haggard, stoic, courageous.
Marie-Antoinette went to the guillotine with poise and deportment. During the Terror, many of the revolutionary leaders themselves faced the “national razor”. Her foe, Hébert, went kicking and screaming. When it came time for Fouquier-Tinvilles, her prosecutor, to face the “widow maker”, he claimed he was just doing his job and whimpered, “I’m the axe, you don’t kill the axe!”.
Clearly the Revolution was fraught with excesses and thousands met an untimely end, but somehow in the popular imagination, Marie-Antoinette became the embodiment of all evils. 200 years later, can we cut the girl some slack!
For more information or a full tour on the Marais filled with even more scandal contact:
VIPs IN LE MARAIS
If you love Napleonic arts, you must visit La Malmaison: http://www.chateau-malmaison.fr
PARKING PROBLEMS IN LE MARAIS
How about a taste of Provence in the heart of Paris? We will soon be expanding our selection of vacation apartments in le Marais – here’s one of them, the charming Le Provençal, that includes everything you need to feel right at home, all in just 200 square feet!
Visit us soon at our newly updated rental section…
GREAT ESCAPES ON THE COTE D’AZUR
PARISMARAIS SPECIAL FOR OCTOBER:
Special is valid from October 8 to 29, 2006 inclusive
Last minute flat rental
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Copyright 2006, parismarais.com