I have just started to read Annette Vallon . This is a tale set against the turmoil of the French Revolution. It follows the life of the mistress and muse of poet William Wordsworth, a surgeon’s pampered daughter who transitions into a headstrong adventurer struggling with mental instability.
I have really only just started to read but already it is proving to be fascinating. In it, and through it, I am learning much about that time.
But as I read it I remembered a movie I saw 12 years ago. The movie showed another side of the French Revolution; as seen through the eyes of a servant.
In the movie, we are shown behind the facades of the royal palaces where fleeing is on everyone’s mind, including Queen Marie Antoinette and her entourage. The story is told through the eyes of Sidonie Laborde, one of her ladies-in-waiting. Sidonie is the Queen’s reader and has become quite intimate with her. We are shown this intimacy growing and a relationship of trust develops. With the Queen and with great amazement, Sidonie experiences the first hours of the French Revolution. Her misplaced loyalty and conscious self-sacrifice prove to be her undoing.
We all know that while France and its inhabitants had been starving, the court and its entourages /sycophants had been filling themselves with expensive delicacies. We are shown one scene where one of the maids complains about the bread and the retort is that whole families could live on that for a week. We are given glimpses of the relationship between the classes of French society and the way the lower servant classes spy on, fantasise about and interact with the other upper classes.
We are shown the Queen as a weak-willed woman, led by her appetite for gratification. One of these leads her to an infatuation/love affair with Mme. de Polinac which she doesn’t try to hide. But when she tells her lover to flee the country and Mme de Polinac agrees she feels betrayed and abandoned by her.
We see little of King Louis XVI whose surprising choice to return to Paris on his own and face down the insurrection puts him way above the cowardly fugitives in his court.
I thought this was a movie well worth seeing even if only for the way it portrays the other side of the story of the Revolution.
And still today the words of that wise old man Aristotle, ring true
“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.”
Now Goodnight, on a wild, windy, Wellington night.