When Mao was asked to comment on the French Revolution, he said that it was too early to tell. Well, it looks like it is my turn now. And so, look at this! This is the place where all the real men meet: the nobility, the clergy, and what is it? ah, the Third Estate. When all those men were in the same room, wow! this was the moment for a girl to walk in, to bring them refreshments or something. Anyway, whose idea was it to get them all here? Well, Necker was our guy in the government of Louis XVI. And here we have the first commemorative china made for the occasion!
Necker’s idea was to make them vote by estate, one estate got one vote. This meant that clergy and the gentry would always out-vote the Third Estate two to one. Brilliant, provided that everyone else is as brilliant and just doesn’t get it. Democracy is always something like this. But to Necker’s surprise the Third Estate had figured it out: they wanted everyone in the room to have a vote! Then Necker had another brilliant idea, oh it was necessary to do some repairs in the building right there and then, so would you guys just go home? Well, the the Third Estate went and found another building.
The Third Estate representatives were the melodramatic lawyer types who had sworn a solemn oath not to leave until they gave France its constitution. This event is known as the Oath of the Tennis Court. My all time favorite is this picture of Robespierre by David. I think it illustrates perfectly the event. Fortunately for all of us we have it right here posted on the wall of the historic building.
So they had their National Assembly, they wrote the constitution, but Louis XVI wouldn’t sign it! Well, some of them, probably the faction headed by the king’s brother, Phillip Egalite, thought of a way to persuade the king; their great idea is known among the historians as the March on Versailles. The Women of Paris, some of those women were transvestites, but who cares, went to Versailles to ask for bread; not only they made the king sign everything, but took him a hostage, because, in spite of Phillip Egalite’s wishes, Louis XVI refused to flee.
Marquis de Lafayette, the hero of the American Revolution, was playing a major role there, he had invented and headed the French National Guard. The National Guard was following the women and since Louis XVI was too much of a gentleman to order his loyal troops to fire upon them, Lafayette, promising to quiet things down, talked the king into sending the loyalists away, and re-placing the guard, allowed the “women” to invade the palace.
The whole drama is allegorically represented on this piece of fabric preserved at what used to be a textile workshop and now serves as a Textile Museum, 4 km east of Versailles. There Liberty hands Louis a guide-on, the National Guard is to the right and to the left of the scaffold, the royal family is below, on the left is Marie-Antoinette with the kids (see the detail). Lafayette is that equestrian figure, with his sword bared!
One thing you could do with this cloth was to upholster your furniture or at least make yourself a bedcover.