As part of our study of the French Revolution we have come across many references to the “innocence” of the last French Queen, Marie-Antoinette and to the alleged “savagery” of the French revolutionaries who ordered her execution in 1793. Ever since the day of her execution she has been the subject of hagiographic publications that extol her beauty, her romantic nature and her alleged “kindness” and which portray her as a victim of the “excesses” committed by the revolutionary leaders of the French Revolution.
These romanticised portrayals of this haughty and treacherous monarchist are to be expected of the writings of the deposed French aristocracy who were Marie’s contemporaries. But what can we say of the modern-day writers on this subject, who live in nation-states whose working classes long ago deposed the royal excrescences and established bourgeois republican rule on the ashes of their respective monarchies? How depraved does one have to be to pine for the “good old days” of the absolute monarchs? These vicious swine lived in luxury, squeezing every penny they could out of the peasantry, leaving the peasants to starve year after year. Though the legend of Marie-Antionette’s statement “let them eat cake” may be apocryphal, Kropotkin (in his “The Great French Revolution”) tells us of how similar brutal statements made by other representatives of the landed aristocracy were commonplace: he quotes the Governor of Dijon telling a gathering of starving peasants: “The grass has sprouted, go to the fields and browse on it”! During the final years of the Bourbon monarchy of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, the entire French nation was reduced to starvation while the royal family, the nobility, proprietors of landed estates and the clergy feasted on delicacies – while the workers and peasants were denied even scraps of bread to subsist on. Only those who have forgotten, or who never learned of the extreme misery that was imposed by the Kings and Queens of old upon the vast majority of the population of their respective countries can shed tears over the well-deserved fate of Austrian Marie-Antoinette, whom the French workers and peasants dubbed “L’Autrichienne” – “The Austrian Bitch”. The French workers and peasants did not reach that level of hatred for the Queen and the entire French aristocracy overnight: it took well over a decade of brutal suffering at the hands of the Bourbons and their ruthless tax collectors, jailers and executioners before their hatred of the monarchy reached its breaking point.
The many letters written by Marie-Antoinette that still exist are the subject of a great deal of this romanticism of the French Queen hated by the vast majority of her subjects; hagiographers focus on the alleged “romantic” escapades of this Austrian despot as if she was just a beautiful and frivolous victim of her noble birth and an innocent voluptuary. But in fact, those very same letters reveal what a vicious, treacherous and deadly threat Marie and her royal court were to the workers and peasants of France. Her hagiographers would have us believe that as the French Revolution progressed, Marie-Antoinette became more and more a pitiable, helpless victim of the events that swirled around her. In fact she was one of the very centers of counter-revolutionary intrigue plotting the execution of the revolutionary French workers and peasants who had launched the Revolution and who were working inexorably to throw off the yoke of the French monarchy that had enslaved and brutalized the masses for centuries – and it is these same letters that prove this fact beyond doubt.
History has produced many interesting personalities representative of the same social classes that appear and reappear in different countries in different epochs but often with surprising similarities so profound that if you were simply to describe the machinations of these people without stating who they were or what country they were from you might well identify any one of them with the works of the others. As Marxists know, this is because there are roles that are played out by the representatives of the various actors in any class society that are delimited by the levels of development of the productive forces of that society in a given stage of its development. Thus, the roles of the various elements of feudal societies tend to act in strikingly similar ways, constrained as they are to play the roles history has assigned them. So it is we find amazing similarities between three Queens who lived and died in three consecutive centuries, who never had occasion to meet their immediate predecessor and could not have been personally influenced by them outside of the study of their histories: Queen Henrietta-Maria of England (wife of the doomed Charles I, born in France, died in 1669); Marie-Antoinette (Austrian born 1755, executed 1793); and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia (born in German Empire in 1872; executed 1918). The last two of these vicious despots have had mountains of bullshit published about them romanticising their lives and making martyrs out of these women who urged on their respective King and Tsar to ruthlessly crush the workers and peasants who opposed their monstrous reigns. They would have happily seen the land of their adopted nations soaked in the blood of millions of peasants and workers if that was necessary in order to save their monarchies. These are not idle claims; they are incontrovertible truths preserved in the private letters they exchanged with their husbands and with other representatives of their respective court camarillas who were actively conspiring to drown the rising of the masses in blood.
Readers of this blog will know that we have published a chapter of anarchist Peter Kropotkin’s excellent 2-volume history “The Great French Revolution” recently, in honor of Bastille Day. The book is excellent, and throughout the book Kropotkin quite accurately describes the treachery of Marie-Antoinette, often referring to her letters sent to various co-conspirators among the French aristocracy in exile as well as to her benefactors in Germany who were preparing to invade France to save the Bourbon monarchy. What Kropotkin does not make clear is that those very letters contain irrefutable proof that, far from being a frivolous innocent victim of the times, Marie-Antoinette was an active conspirator against the Revolution: from 1789 to her execution four years later she was writing in multiple ciphers in invisible ink to her co-conspirators throughout Europe, using ciphers she had personally worked out and maintained with those correspondents. These letters reveal that she was in direct contact with the German generals who were preparing to invade France and who had vowed to slaughter every revolutionary worker and peasant they could lay hands on.
In undertaking this profound act of conscious treason against the citizens of France, it is astonishing to see that she was imitating the treachery of Charles I’s consort Henrietta-Maria, who a hundred years before had carried on a secret correspondence with her doomed husband in the years leading up to his execution – even while he was imprisoned and under 24-hour surveillance. How these secret communications of the two Queens were carried out are described in detail in two very interesting monographs we have run across on the Internet.
And here is the astonishingly similar evidence against Queen Henrietta-Maria:
In both cases these resourceful women were able to carry out their secret correspondence while either they or their correspondents were under tight security and 24-hour surveillance. The many ways in which Charles I was able to bribe and convince multiple servants, guards and other visitors to undertake this very dangerous work is a case study in the threat posed by a deposed member of the ruling class of any era, showing how capable they are of manipulating weak members of the revolutionary classes to carry out espionage activities on their behalf. Truly, there was only one way to put an end to Charles I’s endless plots against the Cromwellian revolutionaries. Likewise with Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI: they maintained their correspondence with their aristocratic relatives and French exiles who were preparing to invade France from neighboring countries in order to drown the Revolution in blood and restore the monarchy. Nothing short of their executions could have put a final end to their truly monstrous conspiracies against the people of France.
Perhaps it is no coincidence in the case of Marie-Antoinette that she followed so closely the methods used by her historical doppelgänger in the English Civil War of a century and a half earlier. Kropotkin notes that Louis XVI, on being imprisoned at the Tuileries on 6 October 1789 by the heroic revolutionary masses of Paris, ” asked for the history of Charles I to be brought to him from his library”.
Only the Bolsheviks were stalwart enough revolutionaries who had studied these lessons of history so well that they fully recognized the living threat posed by the captured Tsar and Tsarina and thus completely isolated them from their supporters inside and outside of revolutionary Russia. But as every living monarch poses a direct threat of the restoration of a deposed monarchy should the counter-revolution gain the upper hand against the revolution, it became necessary to end the ruthless Romanov dynasty in the only way a hereditary despotism can be truly ended. We shed no tears over these despots who, in all of their cases, presided over the wanton torture, execution and massacre of thousands of peasants and workers during their brutal reigns. And we publish this as a warning to all future worker-revolutionaries that, in a revolution, one of the worst mistakes that can be made by the revolutionaries is to be too magnanimous to the mortal enemies of the working class.