This blog is about my travels. At home in New Zealand, in other parts of Oceania, North, Central and South America and in Europe.
From Paris, I took the train out to Versailles to see the famous palace. I wasn't the only one headed there either! It sure it mighty popular, and even with a pre-booked ticket, there is a long queue to get in. But get in I (eventually) did. I once read a book about the life of Marie Antoinette, the most famous resident of the palace. She was born in Austria and married to Louis XVI of France when she was only a young teenager.
Life at the court was accompanied by countless rituals and protocol. It was wildly extravagant. Marie Antoinette was under pressure to produce an heir, something that took seven years to achieve. In the meantime there were countless entertainments to be had at the Court. Marie Antoinette was a patron of the arts (particularly music), she was also patron to female painters, (including Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Brun), she started lots of fashion trends and even had a replica peasant village built in the gardens of Versailles (so the court could dress up as peasants for fun). Meanwhile, thunderclouds were brewing on the horizon. Most of the population lived in terrible poverty. Taxes kept rising, and the wild spending of the court was well publicized in the popular press. The French coffers were under further strain when the King decided to support the war of Independence in America.
The decadent opulence of the palace is almost overwhelming, as well as disturbing considering it was paid for out of taxation and the level of terrible poverty that most of the French population lived in at the time. At the time the church and the nobility (who owned most of the property) were not taxed at all, it was all the other people, the workers who were taxed. The aristocracy were certainly very out of touch, palace life was all the King and Queen had ever known. And yet they did encounter poverty, at least on occasion, for instance, the King and Queen did participate in an ancient ritual of washing the feet of beggars. Although the King had the majority of the political power, the Austrian born Queen became the focus of the general anger towards the aristocracy, and one tax increase after another (which flowed up to the richest). The King and Queen were in many ways clueless about the wider state of things in France, and not really suited to rule. They lived in a bubble, and were not sufficiently engaged in the welfare of their subjects to either rule well or see the danger they were themselves in. Whether or not Marie Antoinette did make the famous statement 'let them eat cake' when told that the people were starving, is not really clear. But the outrage of the general population at the extravagance of the aristocracy eventually boiled over and it ended in violence. On the 5th of October 1789, an angry horde made it's way to Versailles, the royal family were imprisoned and later executed by guillotine.
I am a traveller from New Zealand. My blog is to inform friends and family about my adventures. I hope you enjoy it!