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Old July 21st, 2013, 01:03 PM   #11
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Back when France was an absolute monarchy, wasn't it illegal to insult royalty? Or perhaps enforcement of these laws was ineffective?
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Old July 21st, 2013, 01:39 PM   #12

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Back when France was an absolute monarchy, wasn't it illegal to insult royalty? Or perhaps enforcement of these laws was ineffective?

Actually one of the few things that Louis XVI did that were good, included giving more freedom to the press and abolishing all forms of torture, as well as giving more civil rights to Protestants and the Jews.

Because of the freedom of press (or at least limited freedom) the media was able to pretty much material. I'm sure there were also many underground political groups that gathered to spread rumors and trash talk the royals and then spread that to the public.
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Old July 21st, 2013, 03:23 PM   #13

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such tabloids were becoming ever more common, as there was a huge increase in pamphleteering in the late 18th century. These tie in to the revolutionary elements of the Enlightenment. It is also notable that there were surprisingly high literacy rates in Paris at the time. The effects of these pamphlets were significant, for example 'what is the third estate?' by Abbe Sieyes was particularly influential.

Along with the political nuances there was a considerable amount of political sleaze in these pamphlets as shown by Axel's examples. I have no doubt that these would have stirred huge rumours, and resulted in loss of respect for the monarchy. But again, this was in tune with the ever more popular theories such as popular sovereignty as proposed by Rousseau in the Social Contract.

As for Marie, I tend to attribute her final demise for the her own treachery toward France. That of providing her brother (Austrian Emperor) with precious information at a time of war. The pamphlets also fueled her frivolous reputation. But once again I would assert my disdain for her poor advice to her incompetent husband. Marie and Louis' brothers definitely made Louis assert his authority at the wrong time. I wonder how much influence she had over Louis's disastrous decision to rally 20,000 troops in Paris to close the Estates General, resulting in the storming of the Bastille by the disgruntled sans-culottes.
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Old July 21st, 2013, 05:34 PM   #14

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Back when France was an absolute monarchy, wasn't it illegal to insult royalty? Or perhaps enforcement of these laws was ineffective?
I think much of the problem stemmed from the fact that a lot of the subversive literature of the day was actually printed abroad (I believe the Low Countries were a particular hotbed in this regard) and then transported across the border into France.

I believe in the end if anyone was prosecuted for distributing subversive/anti-royal literature it was usually the low level colporteur (street seller). It probably would have been very hard to trace these things back to the source.

As mentioned earlier, this kind of tabloid abuse was not really new. One need only look back to the Mazarinades during Louis XIV's minority (the period of the Fronde), then right through the Jansenist pamphleteering backlash against Royal/Papal church policy/persecution in France. Louis XV was roundly castigated in the underground press during the later part of his reign, and there were also attacks on royal mistresses from Montespan to Pompadour to Du Barry, as well as on individual government ministers.

However, I believe that with Marie-Antoinette we can say that it reached epidemic proportions. Events (like the Diamond Necklace Affair) and circumstances (wider ones like the increased pamphleteering mentioned by sans-culottes, and more narrow ones like the absence of a royal mistress to absorb some of the negative attention) fuelled this fire of abuse for much of the reign.

Marie-Antoinette was the target of abuse for those opposed to the Austrian alliance (the physical manifestation of which she was), those who were unable to break into her faction, and also those generally opposed to the role of women in politics. I am sure the King's inner circle (men like Maurepas, Calonne*, Miromesnil and Vergennes) were at pains to keep her influence at arms length, but I am not too sure if they would have actively connived in the tolerance of such tabloids, as they generally reflected very badly on Louis XVI himself (the cukolded husband).

*Following his rise to high office.

Last edited by Danton; July 21st, 2013 at 05:47 PM.
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Old July 21st, 2013, 10:19 PM   #15

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Not wishing to go totally off topic, but Jacques Necker's first fall from office was the result of something akin to an 18th century "tabloid leak":

In April 1781 the memo which Necker had written to the king in 1778, supporting the idea of provincial assemblies and hostile to the parlements, was leaked by the Comte de Provence. The document included passages in which Necker had favourably compared such bodies with the parlements and Intendants. Uproar broke out in Paris, among the parlements and at the heart of the royal administration. A pamphlet war was joined, in which sundry doubts were cast on the reliability of the glowing figures in the Compte Rendu. At this juncture the king asked Vergennes to provide him with reasoned arguments about the desirability of the Compte Rendu. Vergennes poured withering scorn on the document as a Genevan manoeuvre, and, twisting the knife, condemned “the innovatory spirit” of Necker’s whole ministry: “your majesty finds himself in the situation he was in with M. Turgot, when he decided to speed him on his way: the same dangers and problems flow from the nature of their analogous systems.” Necker tried a last throw of the dice to bolster his position. On 16th May 1781 he petitioned the king for entry into the State Council, and control over spending on the armed forces and the navy. Had Louis granted the request, he would have effectively placed his Finance Minister over and above fellow ministers, and lost the king the unqualified support of Vergennes and Maurepas. Louis said no. Stunned at the refusal, Necker resigned on the spot.
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Old July 21st, 2013, 10:43 PM   #16
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No doubt a lot of people have researched that quote. Is it now the consensus that she never said it?
I think the 'let them eat cake' quote was from an earlier time - the battles of the Fronde, during the early years of Louis XIV - I remember reading about this years ago, but can't remember where.

There is also the view that 'cake' actually refers to 'brioche' which is more like a bun than cake.
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Old July 21st, 2013, 11:04 PM   #17

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No doubt a lot of people have researched that quote. Is it now the consensus that she never said it?
she never said it. She was not unaware of the hardships of the poor, and in fact by the standards of the time, she and Louis showed more concern for the poor than most aristocrats.
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 12:08 AM   #18

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I believe it has been attributed to Anne of Austria as well, although it is probably apocryphal, like Louis XV's "apres moi, le deluge" ("after me, the deluge/flood")
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 12:53 AM   #19

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Marie Antoinette was a misfit, a round peg in a square hole. Almost from the start her nickname at court was the `The Austrian woman.` the elder courtiers shunned her, the younger ones gossiped and spread rumors. It was against this backdrop of growing isolation that the young queen began to gamble and spend excessively.
The merest hint of impropriety was magnified out of all proportion by the pamphleteers who fed the peoples growing discontent with ever more outrageous accusations.
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 01:18 PM   #20
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I can't say I've studied the French Revolution much, but it's not at all surprising that the people vilified the queen. It seems to be a common thing that people do when they are upset at their government; they over vilify the powers in charge (although sometimes it is warranted)
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