It’s “fraternité”… It’s a feminine word, dontchaknow. ;->
Fact facts facts. I’m not interested in facts : P
Considering that the anecdote has been around at least since Marie Antoinette was 9 (and there is no evidence that she actually said those words), she probably isn’t even to blame for that:
Enfin je me rappelai le pis-aller d’une grande princesse à qui l’on disait que les paysans n’avaient pas de pain, et qui répondit : Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.
Finally I recalled the stopgap solution of a great princess who was told that the peasants had no bread, and who responded: “Let them eat brioche.”
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Confessions (1765)
Thought experiments about alternate histories are very interesting, but I’m not sure if the world would be better off without the French revolution.
Let us then refer to the other urban myth about the Chinese historian who was asked for the Chinese view of the French Revolution and replied “it is much too early to say”.
I bow to your superior scholarship. (Post deleted as I prefer not to leave erroneous posts lying around).
One good thing I can say about the French Revolution is that Robespierre went the same way he sent so many others.
In recent years, I believe the only “revolutionary leader” who got the justice he deserved was Ceaucescu.
What a pity that Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Pinochet died in their beds, and that Castro and Mugabe probably will.
As you included Castro in your list of the revolutionists that should die in pain - how to differentiate between “good” and “bad” revolutions (I use the word loosely)?
Marie Antoinette was apparently of the opposite opinion to that oft quoted phrase. She attempted to help the French better feed themselves by promoting the growing of potatoes.
I often feel sorry for her. I mean she was nobility, and likely clueless about many things, and she did do some extravagant things, but no more so than others of her peers. She didn’t deserve what she got. Nor her children.
What would the world look like if Louis hadn’t backed the American revolution? Such a thought experiment…
We could count the skulls and compare them to the populations at the time.
But that would put the Russian, Chinese and American revolutions too close to parity for some people’s liking. On that scale Castro would be a random dot from an inkjet.
Right? You can draw a direct line to the rise of democratization from the trio of republican revolutions at that time (the American, French, and Haitian) and gave us the language of civic-mindedness and rights that we still draw on today.
Worked out well for the Irish…
not only potatoes but also brioche
The thing about revolutionaries who “get what they deserve” is that their executioners get to frame their actions without any rebuttal from the defendant. The Thermidorians got to paint Robespierre as a blood thirsty tyrant, while they suppressed popular political movements with violence, repealed programs designed to tackle poverty, reinstated slavery (fortunately the Haitians would have none of that), and rewrote the French constitution to disenfranchise the common people. Robespierre has had a historical hatchet job done on him, and it’s mostly done to obscure the driving role of mass politics in the French Revolution; that the Jacobins simply whipped the peasants into hysteria, rather then that commoners really desired a political voice, and that Robespierre was their representative. Robespierre actually cultivated popular politics in opposition to the aristocratic intrigues that had ruled France until then, because that way the gains of the revolution could not be clawed back so easily. Thermidor and Napoleon even if they wanted to, wouldn’t have been able to reestablish things as they were before 1789.
Like the civil code introduced by Napoleon using many ideas developed in the revolution years. Though Metternich was rather successful in rolling back to pre-revolution standards after Napoleon was waterloo’ed.
None of the above is to deny that Marie Antoinette was indeed one of the great figures of the revolution. She was specially selected, as a virgin of noble stock, to marry the heir to the throne, had an illicit affair with an army officer, fell out with the royal family she’d married into, spent unfeasible amounts on clothes and jewellery, became obsessed with charity and lost her life abruptly in her thirties in the middle of Paris. You simply don’t get characters like that in modern times.
– Mark Steel,
From his book “Vive La revolution”.- a stand-up comedy history of the French Revolution.