Wednesday, January 27, 2010

When the king returns...

From NPR, a fascinating piece about a Royalist memorial Mass for Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette at the Church of Saint-Denis. They talk briefly about the Royalist movement in France, albeit with a little scorn. But I think there is something wonderful, noble, and dare I say, romantic about their loyalty to a long-gone king, improbable as the restoration of the French monarchy may be. "When the king shall come again" and all that. I very much like the way the story is centered on the requiem Mass (in Latin - an Extraordinary Form Mass, most likely). It highlights the ancient identity of France as royal and Catholic.

Although I am thoroughly American and as such believe in a government "of the people, for the people, and by the people," I admit I have always had a fascination with doomed royalty. In high school I was thoroughly obsessed with Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family. The story of the mild autocrat, his strong-minded, religious wife, and their five children captured my imagination. I even have a term paper I wrote for 10th grade world history on the reign of Nicholas II - I seem to remember summing him up as a good man but a poor ruler.

Now my interest has turned to France, thanks to Antonia Fraser's bio of Marie Antoinette, which I've read so many time that it is starting to get quite worn and wrinkled. She was very far from the harpy she is often portrayed as - she was actually noted for her good works and her concern for the poor. There are certain similarities between Nicholas and Louis XVI - both inherited problems from their predecessors which they were ill equipped to deal with, their foreign-born wives became the center of the people's bitterness and discontent, and their deaths were and are considered as martyrdom by some. For those who are interested in learning more about the Catholic Monarchs Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the blog Tea at Trianon has a wealth of information.

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