History of the World According to the Movies: Part 29 – Bourbon France

Image

Whenever a movie takes place in Bourbon France, it will usually be an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers for some reason. Still, it’s kind of ironic that Charlie Sheen’s character later ends up a priest, but not a very good one. Of course, this is the 1993 Disney adaptation of the Dumas novel.

We come to an area of European history we like to know as the Cavalier years since a lot of swashbuckler movies usually take place at this time. However, this was also a period great artistic and scientific development. The 17th and 18th centuries were the times of the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment, a time of great literature and music, as well as other cultural feats like baroque and classical architecture. It was also a time that men wore wigs, tights, cosmetics, and flashy clothes but were still considered specimens of masculinity nevertheless. Yet, it was a time of civil war in England and Russia, colonial empire (which we covered already), and wars over political matters or just for the hell of it. Still, at least by the time France entered the 30 Years War on the Protestant side, Europe was no longer fighting over religion. Nevertheless, this is a highly romanticized period since many swashbuckling novels written in the 1800s also take place in this period, especially in France.

The Bourbon Dynasty would start late in the 16th century with Henri of Navarre and continue until the French Revolution for the most part. Still, this is the era of the Three Musketeers, Cyrano de Bergerac, and a lot of other elements we’d associate with Cavalier France. In cultural media, it seems that Cardinal Richelieu tends to be present in more Three Musketeers adaptations than he ever was at Mass as well as appeared in many, many films. Still, it’s no wonder why many swashbuckling movies take place in this period since this was a time when France enjoyed a cultural heyday with literature, music, colonies, science, philosophy, and architecture. However, despite all the beauty associated Cavalier France, money problems and absolute monarchy started by the Sun King Louis XIV would later come to bite the country in the ass and so would a French Revolution ensue but that’s for another post. Yet, as expected, there are plenty of things movies still get wrong about Bourbon France, which I shall list accordingly.

Bourbon France:

Cardinal Richelieu:

Cardinal Richelieu was a slimy and evil politician who tried to undermine King Louis XIII and taking France for himself. (In France, he’s actually a national hero who helped turn the nation into a seventeenth century world power and saved it from being encircled and destroyed by the Hapsburgs. Also, Louis XIII relied on him a great deal for good reason.)

Cyrano de Bergerac:

Cyrano de Bergerac was shy among women because of he was insecure of his long nose and managed to woo his cousin Roxane through a good-looking man named Christian. (For one, Christian and Roxane are fictional characters. Besides, the real Cyrano didn’t concern himself about being attractive toward women because he was gay and had a boyfriend.)

Cyrano de Bergerac had a huge nose. (It wasn’t as big as they make it out to be in adaptations nor did he obsess about it.)

Louis XIII:

Louis XIII was gay. (We’re not sure what he was. Most historians say he’s bisexual and leave it at that, which is fair.)

Louis XIII was a bumbling and incompetent king. (Louis XIII was dependent on Cardinal Richelieu to govern France {as well as smart enough to let him run the country}, but he wasn’t any way incompetent since they did put down a nobility revolt, established the Academie Francaise, and oversaw overseas expansion. Still, he ascended the throne as a child.)

D’Artagnan:

D’Artagnan was a victim of assassination in 1662. (Though he’s more remembered as being a character in The Three Musketeers, he actually did exist. However, he died in battle during a siege at Maastricht more than a decade later caused by a musket ball at his throat. Nevertheless, he does have a statue in France. Also, he didn’t have an affair with Anne of Austria. However, he really was captain of the Musketeers though. Still, he didn’t become a Musketeer until 1633, which was five years after Dumas’ famous novel ended.)

Monsieur Treville:

Monsieur Treville was captain of the Musketeers in 1625. (He didn’t become captain until after Dumas novel ends, and at this time, he’s actually starting out his career as one. Dumas sort of got some of the dates wrong.)

Louis XIV:

King Louis XIV was remembered as a generous king who reigned in peace and prosperity. (He’s considered by the French public as an authoritarian and heartless king, if not a political genius. Also, he wasn’t replaced by his brother Philippe of Orleans. Not to mention, he spent a lot of his reign at war, especially in the later years. )

King Louis XIV was unmarried in 1662. (He was already hitched to the Infanta Maria Teresa of Spain. Not only that, he already had fathered at least two children to two different women by them.)

Louis XIV and Philippe of Orleans were twins. (Louis XIV was two years older and they weren’t born out of wedlock either. Also, neither of them looked like Leonard DiCaprio.)

Philippe of Orleans:

Philippe of Orleans was the Man in the Iron Mask. (Philippe and the Man in the Iron Mask were two totally different individuals. Heck, the Man in the Iron Mask was most likely a man named Eustache Dauger de Cavoye {as far the prison registry is concerned} who was held in various jails for 34 years. His imprisonment probably had nothing to do with some secret conspiracy. Oh, and the iron mask wasn’t really made out of iron but black velvet as well as worn voluntarily. Also, Philippe was very much in the open at the same time as a notorious homosexual who was able to marry twice and have several children.)

Louis XV:

Louis XV heard the music of Mozart’s Don Giovanni during a lavish ball. (Louis XV died in 1774 while Don Giovanni was composed in 1787. Thus, Louis XV could never have heard it.)

Louis XV was an ugly old fart. (He was known for being a very handsome man.)

Louis XVI:

Louis XVI was a tyrant. (He was more or less weak and indecisive as a ruler of France. His predecessors were though.)

Louis XVI was afraid of sex. (He wasn’t able to have sex with Marie Antoinette because he had a problem with his wee-wee, to put it in a family friendly context. However, he did have it fixed and they did have kids.)

Louis XVI was a weak man afraid of his shadow. (He was smart and socially awkward. Yet, he was too young and unprepared to be king as well as especially unprepared to contend with the responsibility of fixing France’s failing finances caused by his predecessors.)

Louis XVI grew fat during his marriage to Marie Antoinette. (He had been overweight even before he even met his wife, though he probably did pack on the pounds as he grew older, but not to the degree of his brother.)

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette shared a bedchamber. (They had separate rooms except when Louis was making one of his infrequent rounds to get Marie interested.)

Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI managed have sex a few months after their marriage. (It took them seven years to consummate it.)

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had 3 children. (They had four children but three only survived infancy.)

The marriage between Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette was a disaster. (Actually this would only apply to their sex life in their first seven years. However, both partners were faithful and they certainly had a relationship of mutual love and respect {better than how many royal couples had it}. Their marriage wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t a complete failure either.)

Marie Antoinette:

Marie Antoinette’s extravagant habits of shopping, gambling, partying, and building her country house bankrupted the French treasury. She was unpopular because she screwed other men and was manipulated her husband. (Actually France’s money problems had been the fault of her husband and his family, not hers since Versailles was home to an entire culture of great extravagance among the royalty and nobility {and the royal treasury was broke long before she arrived}. Not mention, more of France’s money was spent on the American Revolution than the Queen of France. Even if Marie Antoinette had a spending problem, she wasn’t the only one nor was she the first and she probably spent a lot to have friends as well distract herself from her unsatisfactory sex life with Louis XVI. Also, she never screwed anyone but her husband and they didn’t have sex in the first years of their marriage which was his problem not hers. As for what did her in, it was the fact she was the target of rumor and criticism as well as the fact she came from Austria which made her unpopular with the court. Oh, and she didn’t say, “Let them eat cake” either {Rousseau said this when she was a child}. Thus, Marie Antoinette was a scapegoat not an instigator.)

Marie Antoinette spoke in a French accent. (She was Austrian.)

Marie Antoinette was a typical teenage girl. (Who the daughter of a powerful Austrian Empress and married to the French heir to the throne at the time during the 18th century. Sorry, Sofia Coppola, but by 18th century standards, she wasn’t a typical teenage girl.)

Marie Antoinette was unpopular in France from the get-go. (She was actually extremely popular in France when she arrived. People liked how pretty and kind she was as well as the kind of charities she pursued. In some ways, they viewed her and Louis XVI as a chance to refresh the French monarchy and give it the life that had started to seep under Louis XV. Of course, this wasn’t to be since royal spending and common libels at the time as well as the changing political situation in France {while excluding the poor voices from government} would take a toll on her popularity.)

Marie Antoinette was Louis XVI’s puppet master. (Her mother Empress Maria Theresa wished she was this but she had no influence whatsoever on her husband’s policies nor did he even consult or inform her on matters of state.)

Marie Antoinette had a strong lesbian relationship with her courtier Gabrielle de Polastron, duchesse de Polignac. (They did have a strong relationship but whether it was anything more than platonic is unclear since close female friendships weren’t uncommon in this period.)

Marie Antoinette was blond. (She was a strawberry blonde since Madame du Barry referred to as, “the little redhead.”)

Marie Antoinette’s rift between her and Cardinal Rohan was over an inappropriate joke about her mother. (Actually it had more to do with Rohan being the ambassador to Austria at a time when Poland was being torn up. He sent word to Marie Antoinette about how her mother was crying over Poland’s woes with a handkerchief in one hand and a sword in another. Unfortunately, she wasn’t on good terms with Madame du Barry who read Rohan’s letter aloud at a dinner party. Marie Antoinette’s relationship with the Cardinal went downhill ever since. )

Marie Antoinette was nasty, demanding, and confident queen. (She was just a naïve party girl who didn’t have the opportunity to develop into a ruler during her short reign but did try to live up to her role.)

Marie Antoinette was born during the spring time. (Yes, she was assuming if her birthplace was Argentina because she was born in November and was from Austria.)

Marie Antoinette was a frivolous woman. (She was a teetotaler who ate frugally as well as was notorious for modesty {but this was pre-revolutionary France}. She had high moral standards and prohibited uncouth or off-color remarks in her presence as well as exercised a special vigilance over anyone in her care. She was also a charitable woman as well as a devoted mother to her children, despite being a party girl in her youth.)

Marie wasn’t a virgin when she married Louis XVI. (She was and would remain so for seven years until she and Louis XVI managed to consummate it.)

Marquis de Sade:

Marquis de Sade was a shadowy and villainous rapist. (He was a little more than an S&M enthusiast and pervy fiction author. He was also a writer, philosopher, revolutionary, and politician. He was a proponent of extreme freedom unrestrained by morality, religion, or law. I’m not sure what he’d think of Fifty Shades of Grey though.)

The Marquis de Sade was a martyr to the oppression and censorship of church and state. (He wasn’t. Also, his initial incarceration had nothing to do with his writing but with sexual scandals involving servants, prostitutes, and his sister-in-law. The reason why he was at Charenton was because he abused the hell out of the insanity defense in order to get a cushy sentence. He was deeply unpopular with the inmates there because of his special treatment and kept under constant police surveillance for good reason.)

Marquis de Sade’s chambermaid served as his liaison to a publisher. (She was actually a woman de Sade had a sexual relationship with since her early teens until close to his death in which she was paid 3 francs for every sexual encounter she had with him. She was 17 at the time and wasn’t murdered by anyone.)

Marquis de Sade was at the height of his literary powers at Charenton as well as tall and trim. (He was past his prime as well as of middling height and perhaps morbidly obese near the end of his life with his writings rather tame but not particularly good.)

Marquis de Sade died a hideous death at middle age. (He died peacefully in his bed at 74.)

The Reign of Terror was caused by de Sade’s best writing of 120 Days of Sodom. (It was written before the French Revolution even took off at the Bastille as well as his other scandalous works that got him in prison. Oh, and Justine wasn’t one of his smuggled works at Charenton but conventional novels as well as a number of plays he worked on throughout his life in hopes they’d be performed. Yet, most of them were soundly rejected by publishers. However, he was involved in theatrical productions there but they were conventional Parisian dramas.)

The Abbe de Coulmier was a young and handsome priest when he met de Sade. (Sure he’s played by a young Joaquin Phoenix, but he was four-foot tall 60-year-old man with severe scoliosis at the time he met de Sade. In many ways, he more or less resembled Yoda than Joaquin Phoenix. Still, he was a pretty corrupt guy at Charenton who gave special privileges to de Sade while the rest of the inmates lived in squalid conditions and were treated very poorly {they were only given minor parts in plays while the major roles went to professional actors}. Coulmier actually ran the place like his own personal palace and was a committed Bonarpartist. He didn’t care about curing the patients since the terror baths and other cruel outdated techniques {like bloodletting and purges} were his ideas and he was deeply unpopular with the inmates. He received complaints from the French medical establishment, largely because he was grossly unqualified. Yet, he never cut out de Sade’s tongue {nor did anyone}.)

Dr. Royar-Collard was a Bonapartist who introduced terror baths and tried to stop plays at Charenton. (The man did neither since it was Coulmier who introduced the terror baths and it was the French authorities who closed the Charenton theater a year after de Sade died, which was before he had any influence on the place. Also, he was a monarchist as well as a reasonable authority figure whose only mistreatment of de Sade was trying to get him thrown out of Charenton because he wasn’t mentally ill and got institutionalized in order to avoid jail. Oh, and he didn’t rape and marry a teenage girl unlike in Quills.)

Life and Times at Versailles:

The Palace at Versailles was a glamorous, elegant and classy place. (It was also a place Louis XIV had built in order to create his cult of personality in order to keep French high ranking nobles in line. Royal residents had no privacy whatsoever. Also, people didn’t bathe and wigs were prone to pest infestation.)

Princess Louise of France was 13 in the year 1765. (She was 28 at the time. She would later become a famous nun. Of course, with an embarrassing dad like Louis XV who could blame her.)

The Palace of Versailles was constructed at the time of Cardinal Richelieu. (He was dead before the palace was even in the planning stages.)

Princess Victoire had a pet Pekingese in 1768. (Europeans didn’t keep these dogs until after the Second Opium War. At this time, the only person who owned a Pekingese was the Chinese Emperor.)

The Comte de Provence (future King Louis XVIII) was the father of the duc d’Angoulême. (This boy was the son of the Comte d’ Artois {future King Charles X} while the Comte de Provence never had any kids with his wife. Interestingly, the duc d’Angoulême would later be Princess Marie-Therese’s husband and pretender Louis XIX.)

Poor servants dressed the residents at the Versailles Palace. (They may have dressed lower nobility but certainly nobody at Versailles. Nobles dressed the royalty there.)

No one at the Court of Versailles was fat. (There were a number of people who were overweight there or even obese. For instance, Louis XVI was kind rotund as a socially awkward young man even when he and Marie Antoinette were married. His brother Comte de Provence {future Louis XVIII} was even fatter {to the extent he was clinically obese} and his weight might have been the reason he had difficulty consummating his marriage with his wife {explaining why they didn’t have kids}. He later ended up becoming too fat to walk and later developed gout. The Polignac set were known for being rowdy, witty, and overindulgent in too much as well as might’ve had members who were overweight.)

Madame Gabrielle de Polignac was a loud, vulgar slut. (She was raised by nuns and was a very refined lady who was an attentive mother to her kids and governess to Marie Antoinette’s children. She wasn’t a saint but she was a woman of charm and discretion who loved simplicity and country life. But Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette kind of slanders her.)

Swedish Count Axel von Fersen and Marie Antoinette met at a masked ball and had a brief affair. (They met at the opera and he was a steady presence in her life, living near Versailles while in France. He even assisted the royal family in their escape to the country. Whether they had sex was unsure {though Fersen was a Casanova in his day} but he certainly didn’t father any of her children nor would they have conducted it without using any kind of discretion. Nevertheless, Marie Antoinette remained completely dutiful to her husband and stuck with him even under the threat of death when people advised her to leave.)

Madame du Barry was banished from the French Court at Versailles in 1786. (She had been banished from Versailles since 1774, the year Louis XV died from smallpox.)

Anne of Austria was Austrian. (She was a Spanish princess. Thus, her name is a misnomer since her name should really be Anne of Spain. Still, why the hell is she called Anne of Austria if she’s from Spain?)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s