Let Them Eat Cake

‘Qu’ils mangent de la brioche’ or ‘Let them eat cake’, is a famous quite generally attributed to Marie Antoinette in popular culture and she is said to have uttered it after being told that the people of France had no bread. However, there is no evidence that Marie Antoinette ever said this. In fact, there is every proof that she never said it.

So when was it first attributed to Marie Antoinette? 1843- 50 years after her death and in the Victorian Era, notorious for historical inaccuracies. The Victorians were also the ones who decided that all rumours concerning the Tudors were true and laid the basis for the majority of widely believed historical inaccuracy today. Most modern historians would ever trust the things that Victorian historians made fact. Also, considering all of the gossip and pamphlets against her at the time of her reign and downfall I think if she did ever say it there would be an almost certain public outcry and much propaganda attacking her for the quote.

When was the phrase first introduced? It was written in book six of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions, written in 1765 (when Marie Antoinette was 9) and finished in 1769, before she was even in France. Rousseau doesn’t specify who said the quote, merely saying ‘some great princess’. As there are many inaccuracies in the Confessions anyway, it could be said that the quote never existed at all.

Does the quote fit Marie Antoinette’s character? Certainly not. We have much evidence that Marie Antoinette was a very charitable person. When some people were crushed to death at a display during her wedding celebrations, she visited the relatives of the victims and offered support. She very often gave food and money to the poor and if any particular cases in which she could help in were bought to her attention she’d be more than willing to help and would offer much support. She devoted much time to charity and this makes the quote very unlikely for her to have said.

Concerning the bread shortages which occurred during her reign (1775 and 1788), she wrote in a letter to her family (where she could have been entirely honest about events) that ‘It is quite certain that in seeing the people who treat us so well despite their own misfortune, we are more obliged than ever to work hard for their happiness’, which certainly doesn’t support the ‘let them eat cake’ thoughts of things.

There is no evidence that the quote belongs to Marie Antoinette and it would be lovely if  popular culture stopped attributing it to her. It’s become part of her identity today and really darkens her character. As Antonia Fraser states in her biography of Marie, ‘It was a callous and ignorant statement and she, Marie Antoinette, was neither.’

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Georgiana, Dutchess of Devonshire

Lady Georgiana Spencer was born to Earl and Lady Spencer on June 7 1757. Her family were supporters of the Whig party and she was married on her seventeenth birthday (1774)  to the strongest patron to the Whigs, William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire.

William was a man of very few words and was only really happy when with his dogs and the Duke is often refered to as ‘the only person not in love with his wife’.  Georgiana was extremely popular amongst the aristocrats as well as political personalities and was often seen as a fashion-icon for many women. She worked as an active political campaigner for the Whigs, using the great attention on her to her advantage. During the general election on 1784, Georgiana was rumoured to have exchanged kisses in favour for votes for a distant cousin, Charles James Fox, whom the Devonshires often campaigned with. In 1782, Georgiana met Lady Elizabeth Foster in Bath, who would become a lifelong confidant and later mistress to the Duke.

However, the marriage wasn’t playing out to be a very happy one. Early on in the marriage, Georgiana suffered a number of miscarriages early on in the marriage and William was very distressed not to have a son and heir. Their first surviving child, Lady Georgiana Dorothy Cavendish (known as ‘Little G’), was born July 12 1783, nine years into the marriage. Soon after, their second child, Lady Harriet Elizabeth (or ‘Harryo’ to the family), was born August 29 1785. At the same time Lady Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter by the Duke. Two years later Elizabeth had a son. The Duke finally got his legitimate male heir on May 21 1790, William George Spencer Cavendish (‘Hart’), Marquis of Hartington. She also brought up the Duke’s illegitimate daughter, Charlotte, who was conceived by a maid.

Georgiana found herself involved in a great scandal when she started an affair with Charles Grey (later Prime Minister) and soon became pregnant with his child. However, Georgiana refused to leave to Duke to live with Grey after the Duke said that if shee left him he would never let her see her children again. Her and Elizabeth went abroad where she gave birth to her illegitimate daughter, Eliza Courtney, who was bought up as Grey’s family.

In the mid-1790s her health rapidly deteriorated. She had an infection in her eye and doctors were worried that she would never regain sight. Leeches were often applied to her eyes. She died March 30 1806, aged 48. Crowds were gathered outside of her residence of Devonshire House though her final weeks.

She was also famous for her debts and love of gambling. She kept the extent of her debts secret for fear of the Duke’s reaction and they were discovered after her death. The debts accumulated to a total of today’s equivalent on around 3.7 million. When the Duke found out, he famously remarked, ‘Is that all?’

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Birth of the Tudors!

On this day, 22nd August (1485), we celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth and the birth of the Tudor Dynasty! I know the times to come aren’t great but the world would be just so different without the Tudors and I can’t help but get a little excited!

Also on this day, the death of Charles Brandon in 1545, which isn’t quite as nice…

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More Dolls & Thank You

I was feeling rather creative in the first few days of the holidays so decided to carry on making some of the dolls. These actually stand up, which I think is a slight improvement at least…

(The felt I used was made from recycled bottles!)

 

And now I want to say a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who’s viewed my blog. It is so greatly appreciated. I reached 2000 views today and am pretty excited about that! Just so I know, does anyone want more of Thy Kingdom Come posted on here?

Thank you everyone!

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Shakespeare Summaries – Hamlet

Those of you who know me well will know just how much I love Shakespeare, so I thought I’d spend some time talking about his great plays. I think some of the characters in various Shakespeare characters do reflect Elizabethan ideals and nightmares of women, much as many of the Regency Classics do with men. Hamlet is my absolute favourite play, so it’s what I want to start with…

So here is a brief summary of the play:

At the start of the play, we soon find out that King Hamlet of Denmark has recently died and his widow, Queen Gertrude, has married Hamlet’s brother, Claudius, within a month, a marriage which King Hamlet’s son, Prince Hamlet, has deemed incestuous and both Claudius and Gertrude quickly fell from his favour. The play opens with various servants and gentlemen were keeping watch over the Royal Court late at night and noticing a ghost-like figure in the form of the dead King.

Upon hearing from friend, Horatio, of the ghost, Hamlet goes to where the men were keeping guard and the ghost soon reveals itself. Refusing to talk to anyone, the ghost leads Hamlet to a secluded place and the ghost identifies himself as King Hamlet and reveals the truth that he had in fact been poisoned by Claudius. Hamlet decides to seek vengeance with some persuasion from the ghost.

In Act 1, Scene 3 we meet Ophelia (who is being courted by Hamlet) and hear more from her father and brother, Polonius and Laertes respectively. Laertes is leaving for France and Polonius is advising them both on how to behave. Soon after, Ophelia reports some rather worrying behavior from Hamlet, and this is soon confirmed my many acts we see of Hamlet. As Hamlet is still unsure about the accuracy of the ghost’s words, he decides to put on a play for the King and Queen which portrayed his father’s murder so that he could study Claudius’ reaction to determine his guilt. The play goes well with a running commentary from Hamlet and Claudius abruptly rises on the murder scene, which Hamlet takes as proof of his uncle’s guilt.

After the play has ended, Gertrude calls Hamlet to her for an explanation. Polonius eavesdrops on the conversation and cries out for help when he begins to worry that Hamlet will kill Gertrude. Mistaking Polonius for Claudius, Hamlet stabs at him.  He is by no means remorseful when he realises that it was Polonius he killed. The ghost appears again and urges Hamlet to be gentle with his mother, whilst reminding him of his mission to kill Claudius. Gertrude, unable to see or hear the ghost, interprets the conversation as further proof of Hamlet’s madness.

Deciding that Hamlet is a threat, Claudius sends Hamlet on what the Court thinks is a political mission to England. Alone he admits his true intentions of Hamlet’s death. Meanwhile, Ophelia begins to act with increasing insanity, wandering the castle and singing many bawdy songs. She gives out herbs and flowers to those present and then leaves. Laertes returns from France, obviously distraught due to the happenings in Denmark. Claudius persuades him that Hamlet is entirely responsible and proposes a fencing match between the two. Seeking revenge, Laertes plans to poison his sword so that even a scratch could succeed in killing Hamlet. Claudius says he will offer poisoned wine to Hamlet if that fails. Gertrude then enters with the news that Ophelia has drowned.

We next see two ‘clowns’ digging Ophelia’s grave as a coroner ruled that the death was incidental and therefore she deserves Christian burial. However, the gravediggers argue that Ophelia must have committed suicide and that is what is generally believed. Hamlet and Horatio talk with the gravediggers, unaware that they are digging Ophelia’s grave. They unearth of skull, giving the famous quote ‘Alas, poor Yorick; I knew him, Horatio.’, commonly mistaken for ‘Alas, poor Yorick; I knew him well.’ The funeral procession enters the graveyard, lead by Laertes, who, overcome by grief and upset further by the lack of ceremony (due to the suicide possibility), leaps into the grave and curses Hamlet as the cause of her death. Hamlet soon interrupts, declaring his own love and grief for Ophelia. Hamlet and Laertes begin to fight, but are prized apart by Claudius and Gertrude.

Later that day, a courtier invites Hamlet to the fencing match against Laertes, which Hamlet accepts against persuasions from Horatio to decline. The fencing match begins and soon after Gertrude toasts to Hamlet against warnings from Claudius, and drinks the poisoned wine. Hamlet is injured by the poisoned sword, but in  struggle manages to use Laertes’ sword against him. Gertrude falls, announcing that she had been poisoned in her dying breath.

As they die, Laertes and Hamlet reconcile and Hamlet reveals the truth about Claudius. Hamlet then injures Claudius with the poisoned sword then makes him drink some of the wine to make sure he dies. Horatio tries to kill himself by drinking the remainder of the wine but is stopped by Hamlet as Horatio is the only person alive who would know what had happened and could reveal the truth about the deaths and how Claudius had killed King Hamlet. Prince Hamlet names an heir in his final moments, the Prince of Norway, and he arrives shocked at the scene, with Horatio telling him everything that had happened.

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The friends of King Henry VIII

Firstly, my apologies for not posting for ages. I’ve been kept very busy…  And just to prove the point, it’s been exactly a month since I worked on Thy Kingdom Come, which I think may be the longest I’ve ever left between writing. I’m hoping to post more frequently over the next few weeks and hopefully pick u where I left off!

Back to Henry VIII now though… We all know about Henry’s women- the legendary six wives, multiple mistresses, two daughters who would cause much fascination later on and two surviving sisters who are attracting more and more attention just to name a few (and that’s not even mentioning his ancestors!)- but how much do we really know about the men who served him company? Today (by this I mean the day I started this post before my laptop started acting very weirdly) marks the anniversary of the execution of Thomas Cromwell in 1540, so I think it’s a good time to start learning…

It is now agreed by most historians that in his early years, Henry was kept int the same household as his sisters, headed by his mother, Elizabeth of York. As the second son, it was expected that Henry would be granted an important clerical position and for the first decade of his life he was educated as such whilst Henry’s elder brother, Arthur, was being prepared for kingship. Henry’s only other brother, Edmund, died just after his first birthday. Henry had four sisters, of whom two lived into adulthood (Margaret and Mary), with one, Elizabeth, dying aged three (when Henry was four) and the other , Katherine, dying at just eight days old. This meant that Henry started life under much female influence, which would perhaps affect some of his choices later on. However, when he was ten years old Arthur died, quickly followed by the birth and death of Katherine and of Elizabeth of York, who fell victim to a post-birth infection and died just a day after Katherine. This completely changed Henry’s life and sent him into the very male-dominated world of the crown.

Henry found much support throughout his reign by many people, the most famous of which are perhaps: Wolsey, More, Cranmer and Cromwell. Here are the basics…

Thomas Wolsey was born in Ipswich around 1475 and was in fact the son of a butcher. He received a good education and went on to study at Magdalen College, Oxford. Wolsey was ordained in 1498. He became chaplain to the archbishop of Canterbury and later chaplain to Henry VII, who employed him on diplomatic missions. He son became known as a highly efficient administrator, both for Church and Crown and quickly established himself in Tudor politics. When Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509, Wolsey’s rapid rise began. Five years into his reign, Wolsey was created Archbishop of York, Cardinal and Lord Chancellor in quick succession. Wolsey’s power and influence was undisputed, with some even calling him ‘the other king’. He controlled almost all of England’s foreign policy and arranged the Field of Cloth of Gold. Perhaps his greatest legacy is the building of Hampton Court Palace, which was given to Henry by Wolsey at the height of his power. He also founded Cardinal College (now Christ Church), Oxford. However, he was also gaining many enemies and was extremely unpopular at Court.  His failure to give Henry his annulment triggered his downfall. He died in Leicester on his journey south to face trial.

Thomas More was born February 1478 in London. His father was a successful lawyer and as a boy More spent much time in the household of the Archbishop of Canterbury. He later studied at Oxford and qualified as a lawyer. In 1517 he entered the King’s service, becoming  Henry’s most trusted civil servant, advisor, friend, interpreter and diplomat. He was knighted in 1521 and in 1523 became speaker of the House of Commons. He was a close friend of Erasmus and wrote ‘The History of Richard III’ and ‘Utopia’. He quickly gained a reputation as a scholar and pious Catholic, defending the papal orthodoxy and writing many pamphlets against heresy, even taking responsibility for the interrogation of heretics. More replaced Wolsey as Lord Chancellor in 1529, at a time when Henry was determined to get his divorce and was coming very close to breaking with the Catholic Church, all of which More strongly disagreed with. When Henry declared himself supreme head, More resigned the chancellorship. He was arrested in 1534 after refusing to swear the oath of succession. He was executed on Tower Hill on July 6 1535.

Thomas Cranmer was born July 2 1489 in Nottinghamshire. Thomas and his younger brother joined the clergy as their father only had enough land for their elder brother to inherit. Cranmer was given a fellowship at Jesus College, Cambridge in 1510, which he lost when he married the daughter of a local tavern-keeper. She died in childbirth and he was re-accepted by the college. He took an active role in the beginnings of the Reformation, presenting the case for the divorce to Rome in 1530 and was made ambassador to Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, in 1532. At one point he was sent to Germany to learn more about Lutheranism. It was then he met Margaret Osiander, a niece of a reformer, who he married. In 1533 he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. He declared Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon void and married him to Anne Boleyn four months later. He survived Henry VIII and headed many religious reforms throughout the reign of Edward VI. He supported Lady Jane Grey as Edward’s successor. However, when Mary I was declared Queen, Cranmer was presented with quite a problem. In the Act of Supremacy, Cranmer had argued that monarchs are appointed by God and therefore must be obeyed. But would he stretch as far as his faith? At his heresy trial he recanted his Protestantism and publicly acknowledged his error in accepting it. However, Mary owed Cranmer a strong grudge for his role in the Reformation and how he had personally divorced her parents and decided that he should burn, although it was against Church law. It was planned to be quite an event, with a public reenactment of the recantation before being taken to the stake, intended to humiliate Cranmer further. Instead, Cranmer repudiated the recantation and for the last time expressed his beliefs and declared the Pope as antichrist. On the stake, he put his right hand, which had signed the recantation, into the heart of the fire, saying that it had sinned so should be punished first. It was just one act which would work as propaganda against Mary, giving the basics for her reputation as ‘Bloody Mary’.

Thomas Cromwell was born in London in around 1485. He spent much time in Europe working as a merchant, accountant and soldier, returning to England in 1512 to study Law. In 1520 he became legal secretary to Cardinal Wolsey and became a MP in 1523. He quickly rose to favour under Henry VIII and was made the King’s Chief Minister in 1532. He played a great role in the Reformation, accompanied by Cranmer. He led the dissolution of the monasteries with a great efficiency and was rewarded by Henry VIII when he was created Earl of Essex in 1540, despite being a target for much hatred in England and a key cause of the Pilgrimage of Grace. In 1540, Cromwell triggered his downfall by helping to persuade Henry to marry Anne of Cleves, which was a complete disaster. Henry had an increasingly ill temper and blames Cromwell for the marriage. He was executed July 28 1540, the exact same day Henry married Kateryn Howard.

In conclusion, I think Henry just used men  to get what he wanted. If they failed in doing Henry’s bidding, the chances are they’d be charged with Treason and executed. If they dared to disagree with him, he’d fly into a rage. I certainly wouldn’t want to know him!

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Are we forgetting the past?

This is something that’s been bugging me personally for the past few weeks and I just have to make this point. Really, how many of us are prepared to put the people of the past first or even takes events and people of the past seriously at all?

The amount of people I’ve seen messing about and refusing to work when the aim of the lesson was studying the Holocaust or sniggering when they hear of some of the traumatic details of the personal lives of various characters.

Somehow, I think we need to find more respect for the past. It’s a fact that one day the present and future will be the past too. Remember that. Do you want to be forgotten too?

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