Does anyone understand Marie Antoinette? How someone, anyone, the queen of France could be so entirely oblivious about what was going on all around her entirely befuddles me. Every time I make excuses for her—she was too young for her role, her husband was supposed to be in charge—I can’t help but think of another female who was too young, whose husband was supposed to be in charge: Catherine the Great of Russia. Why couldn’t, why didn’t Marie Antoinette take charge during the revolution? Was she simply too intense a believer in the divine right of kings to rule? Did she just think that what was happening was entirely in God’s hands? Did she willfully choose not to control her own fate?
I keep trying to understand. Is there some blatant fact about her that I simply overlook? The more I learn about her, though, the more I slowly understand that Marie Antoinette might not have been thinking at all, at least not about the things she should have been pondering. Watching the 2012 film Farewell, My Queen with Diane Kruger as “‘Madame” Queen, viewers are treated to the Queen’s obsession, even in the waning days of the empire, with needlepoint and other trivialities. Interesting, too, to see how news traveled in the days when Twitter wasn’t around to track revolutions. Information was traded, whispered, by the court staff. It wasn’t too long before Marie Antoinette focused mostly on ensuring the safety of a woman who might have been her lover.
The images of Versailles in the film remind viewers of the lack of privacy the royal family had. Marie Antoinette was always surrounded. At Versailles, she lived in a gilded government office building; work might never leave home, but the queen never leaves home for work. She must have entertainment and pretty things about her. Until she didn’t.