Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Almsgiving of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette

Louis XVI visits a poor family

During Lent we recall the duties of every Christian to apply themselves more fervently to almsgiving. In pre-revolutionary France it was for the King and the Queen to give an example to everyone else in this regard. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette took this duty seriously and throughout their reign did what they could to help the needy.

At the fireworks celebrating the marriage of the young prince and princess in May 1774, there was a stampede in which many people were killed. Louis and Antoinette gave all of their private spending money for a year to relieve the suffering of the victims and their families. They became very popular with the common people as a result, which was reflected in the adulation with which they were received when the Dauphin took his wife to Paris on her first "official" visit in June 1773. Marie-Antoinette's reputation for sweetness and mercy became even more entrenched in 1774, when as the new Queen she asked that the people be relieved of a tax called "The Queen's belt," customary at the beginning of each reign. "Belts are no longer worn," she said. It was only the onslaught of revolutionary propaganda that would eventually destroy her reputation.

Louis XVI often visited the poor in their homes and villages, distributing alms from his own purse. During the difficult winter of 1776, the King oversaw the distribution of firewood among the peasants. Louis was responsible for many humanitarian reforms. He went incognito to hospitals, prisons, and factories so as to gain first-hand knowledge of the conditions in which the people lived and worked.

The King and Queen were patrons of the Maison Philanthropique, a society founded by Louis XVI which helped the aged, blind and widows. The Queen taught her daughter Madame Royale to wait upon peasant children, to sacrifice her Christmas gifts so as to buy fuel and blankets for the destitute, and to bring baskets of food to the sick. Marie-Antoinette took her children with her on her charitable visits. According to Maxime de la Rocheterie:
Sometimes they went to the Gobelins; and the president of the district coming on one occasion to compliment her, she said, "Monsieur you have many destitute but the moments which we spend in relieving them are very precious to us." Sometimes she went to the free Maternity Society which she had founded, where she had authorized the Sisters to distribute sixteen hundred livres for food and fuel every month and twelve hundred for blankets and clothing, without counting the baby outfits which were given to three hundred mothers. At other times she went to the School of Design also founded by her to which she sent one day twelve hundred livres saved with great effort that the rewards might not be diminished nor the dear scholars suffer through her own distress. Again she placed in the house of Mademoiselle O'Kennedy four daughters of disabled soldiers, orphans, for whom she said, "I made the endowment."
The Queen adopted three poor children to be raised with her own, as well overseeing the upbringing of several needy children, whose education she paid for, while caring for their families. She established a home for unwed mothers, the "Maternity Society," mentioned above. She brought several peasant families to live on her farm at Trianon, building cottages for them. There was food for the hungry distributed every day at Versailles, at the King's command. During the famine of 1787-88, the royal family sold much of their flatware to buy grain for the people, and themselves ate the cheap barley bread in order to be able to give more to the hungry.

Madame de la Tour du Pin, a lady-in-waiting of Marie-Antoinette, recorded in her spirited Memoirs the daily activities at Versailles, including the rumors and the gossip. Her pen does not spare Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, which is why I find the following account to be of interest. Every Sunday, Marie-Antoinette would personally take up a collection for the poor, which the courtiers resented since they preferred to have the money on hand for gambling. The queen supported several impoverished families from her own purse. As Madame de la Tour du Pin describes:
We had to be there before seven, for the Queen entered before the chiming of the clock. Beside her door would be one of the two Curés of Versailles. He would hand her a purse and she would go around to everyone, taking up a collection and saying: "For the poor, if you please." Each lady had her 'écu' of six francs ready in her hand and the men had their 'louis.' The Curé would follow the Queen as she collected this small tax for her poor people, a levy which often totaled as much as much as one hundred 'louis' and never less than fifty. I often heard some of the younger people, including the most spendthrift, complaining inordinately of this almsgiving being forced upon them, yet they would not have thought twice of hazarding a sum one hundred times as large in a game of chance, a sum much larger than that levied by the Queen. (Memoirs of Madame de la Tour du Pin: Laughing and Dancing Our Way to the Precipice, p. 74)



Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette contributed a great deal throughout their reign to the care of orphans and foundlings. They patronized foundling hospitals, which the Queen often visited with her children. Above is a picture of an occasion in February, 1790, after their removal to Paris, when the king, the queen and their children toured such a facility, where the nuns cared for abandoned babies and little children. As is reported by Maxime de la Rocheterie, the young Dauphin, soon to be an orphan himself, was particularly drawn to the foundlings and gave all of his small savings to aid them.

The king and queen did not see helping the poor as anything extraordinary, but as a basic Christian duty. The royal couple's almsgiving stopped only with their incarceration in the Temple in August 1792, for then they had nothing left to give but their lives.

(Sources: Memoirs of Madame de la Tour du Pin, Marguerite Jallut's and Philippe Huisman's Marie-Antoinette, Vincent Cronin's Louis and Antoinette, Antonia Fraser's The Journey, Madame Campan's Memoirs, Mémoires de madame la Duchesse de Tourzel, Maxime de la Rocheterie's The Life of Marie-Antoinette)

Share

Uncomfortable Truths About Iran

From Ambassador Nikki Haley at the New York Times:
Last week, the United Nations published a report with news a lot of people don’t want to hear. A panel of experts found that Iran is violating a United Nations weapons embargo — specifically, that missiles fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels into Saudi Arabia last year were made in Iran.

The mullahs in Iran don’t want to hear this news, because it proves Iran is violating its international agreement. Die-hard defenders of the Iran nuclear deal don’t want to hear it because it proves, once again, that the Iranian regime can’t be trusted. And some members of the United Nations don’t want to hear it because it is further proof that Iran is defying Security Council resolutions, and the pressure will be on the U.N. to do something about it.

Yemen is the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis today. After three years of brutal civil war, 75 percent of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. The government has virtually ceased to exist. Terrorist groups like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are exploiting that lawlessness to pursue their barbaric agendas. (Read more.)
Share

The Parkland Massacre and the Air We Breathe

From Peggy Noonan at the WSJ:
A way to look at the question is: What has happened the past 40 years or so to produce a society so ill at ease with itself, so prone to violence? We know. We all say it privately, but it’s so obvious it’s hardly worth saying. We have been swept by social, technological and cultural revolution. The family blew up—divorce, unwed childbearing. Fatherless sons. Fatherless daughters, too. Poor children with no one to love them. The internet flourished. Porn proliferated. Drugs, legal and illegal. Violent videogames, in which nameless people are eliminated and spattered all over the screen. (The Columbine shooters loved and might have been addicted to “Doom.”) The abortion regime settled in, with its fierce, endless yet somehow casual talk about the right to end a life. An increasingly violent entertainment culture—low, hypersexualized, full of anomie and weirdness, allergic to meaning and depth. The old longing for integration gave way to a culture of accusation—you are a supremacist, a misogynist, you are guilty of privilege and defined by your color and class, we don’t let your sort speak here.

So much change, so much of it un-gentle. Throughout, was anyone looking to children and what they need? That wasn’t really a salient aim or feature of all the revolutions, was it? The adults were seeing to what they believed were their rights. Kids were a side thought.

At this moment we are in the middle of a reckoning about how disturbed our sexual landscape has become. This past week we turned to violence within marriages. We recently looked at the international sex trade, a phrase that sounds so 18th-century but refers to a real and profitable business.
 
All this change, compressed into 40 years, has produced some good things, even miraculous ones. But it does not feel accidental that America is experiencing what appears to be a mental-health crisis, especially among the young. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported as many as 20% of children 3 to 17 have, in any given year, a mental or emotional illness. There is research indicating depression among teenagers is worsening. National Public Radio recently quoted a 2005 report asserting the percentage of prison inmates with serious mental illness rose from less than 1% in 1880 to 21% in 2005. Deinstitutionalization swept health care and the psychiatric profession starting in the 1960s, and has continued since. The sick now go to the emergency room or stay among us untreated. In the society we have created the past 40 years, you know we are not making fewer emotionally ill young people, but more.

And here, to me, is the problem. A nation has an atmosphere. It has air it breathes in each day. China has a famous pollution problem: You can see the dirt in the air. America’s air looks clean but there are toxins in it, and they’re making the least defended and protected of us sick. Here is one breath of the air:

Two weeks ago the U.S. Senate blocked a bill that would have banned most abortions after 20 weeks. Exceptions were made—the life of the mother, incest and rape. Twenty weeks—right up to the start of the sixth month—seemed reasonable. But Democrats said it was an assault on women’s rights. So as far as the Senate is concerned, you can end the life of a 6- to 9-month-old baby that can live outside the womb, that is not only human but recognizably and obviously human.

And even if you are 100% for full-term abortion—even if you think this right must be protected lest we go on a slippery slope and next thing you know they’ll outlaw contraceptives—your own language might have alerted you along the way to your radicalism.

Imagine you are pregnant, in the last trimester, and suddenly feel movement in your belly, a shift from here to there. You say, “Oh my God, feel,” and you take the hand of the father, or of another intimate, and you place it on your stomach. You don’t say, “The fetus lurched,” or “A conglomeration of cells is making itself manifest.” You say, “The baby moved. The baby’s moving.” You say this because it is a baby, and you know it. You say it because in your wonder at it, and at life, you tell the truth.

I should add who used that example with me. A great liberal journalist who sees right through his party’s dishonesty on this issue.

The failure to ban late-term abortion is one of those central things we rarely talk about. And I’ll tell you what I think a teenager absorbs about it, unconsciously, in America. He sees a headline online, he passes a television in an airport, he hears the quick story and he thinks: “If the baby we don’t let live is unimportant, then I guess I am unimportant. And you’re unimportant too.” They don’t even know they’re breathing that in. But it’s there, in the atmosphere, and they’re breathing it in. And it doesn’t make you healthier.

The National Rifle Association too fears their slippery slope, and their fear means nothing common-sensical can be done regarding gun law. Concede anything and it will mean they’re coming for your hunting rifle.

Congress has been talking, at least recently and to some extent, of a trade on immigration. New protections for Dreamers on one hand versus increased border security on the other. This would be a good deal. Dreamers are integrated into American life, and a good many work in education and health care. And America is a great sovereign nation with not only a right but a responsibility to control its own borders.

Compromise is often good.

On gun law, Republicans oppose banning assault weapons such as the AR-15, the one the Parkland shooter used, because of the numbers, power and contributions of gun owners and the NRA. Democrats oppose banning late-term abortion because of the numbers, power and contributions of the rising left, feminists and Planned Parenthood. The idea: Trade banning assault weapons for banning late-term abortion. Make illegal a killing machine and a killing procedure. In both cases the lives of children would be saved. (Read more.)
Share

Monday, February 19, 2018

Lent at Versailles


Versailles is not usually associated with Lenten penance, but fasting and abstinence, as well as some mortifications, were observed there by many during the old regime. For one thing, there would be no plays or operas performed; all the public theaters were closed in France during Lent. The daughters of Louis XV were known for their scrupulous observance of fasting and abstinence, although Madame Victoire found such penance especially trying. According to Madame Campan:
Without quitting Versailles, without sacrificing her easy chair, she [Madame Victoire] fulfilled the duties of religion with punctuality, gave to the poor all she possessed, and strictly observed Lent and the fasts. The table of Mesdames acquired a reputation for dishes of abstinence....Madame Victoire was not indifferent to good living, but she had the most religious scruples respecting dishes of which it was allowable to partake at penitential times....The abstinence which so much occupied the attention of Madame Victoire was so disagreeable to her, that she listened with impatience for the midnight hour of Holy Saturday; and then she was immediately supplied with a good dish of fowl and rice, and sundry other succulent viands.
Their nephew Louis XVI was also known for his fastidious observance of Lent, as recorded once again by the faithful Madame Campan:
Austere and rigid with regard to himself alone, the King observed the laws of the Church with scrupulous exactness. He fasted and abstained throughout the whole of Lent. He thought it right that the queen should not observe these customs with the same strictness. Though sincerely pious, the spirit of the age had disposed his mind to toleration.
Some of the King's tolerant behavior included the permitting of certain games at court during Lent. During the Lent of 1780, the Austrian ambassador Count Mercy-Argenteau was shocked to discover Louis XVI playing blind man's bluff with Marie-Antoinette and some members of the Court. Count Mercy described the scandalous scene to the Empress Maria Theresa:
Amusements have been introduced of such noisy and puerile character that they are little suited to Lenten meditations, and still less to the dignity of the august personages who take part in them. They are games resembling blind man's bluff, that first lead to the giving of forfeits, and then to their redemption by some bizarre penance ; the commotion is kept up sometimes until late into the night. The number of persons who take part in these games, both of the Court and the town, makes them still more unsuitable ; every one is surprised to see that the King plays them with great zest, and that he can give himself up wholly to such frivolities in such a serious condition of State affairs as obtains at present.
Given the long hours that Louis XVI devoted to affairs of state and the fact that people often complained that he was too serious and reserved, it seems that Mercy should have been pleased to see the King come out of his shell a little and take some recreation. But then, Mercy often tried to cast Louis in an unfavorable light. As far as the Empress was concerned, however, Lent was not the time for any games. Louis' devotion was sincere all the same; he was constant in prayer and good works, observing the fasts of the Church for Lent and the Ember days even throughout his imprisonment.

The King's sister, Madame Elisabeth, also steadfastly kept the discipline of Lent in both good times and bad. In the Temple prison, the jailers mocked the princess' attempts to keep Lent as best she could. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette's daughter, Madame Royale, who shared her aunt's imprisonment, recorded it thus:
Having no fish, she asked for eggs or other dishes on fast-days. They refused them, saying that in equality there was no difference of days; there were no weeks, only decades. They brought us a new almanac, but we did not look at it. Another time, when my aunt again asked for fast-day food they answered: "Why, citoyenne, don't you know what has taken place? none but fools believe all that." She made no further requests.
As for Marie-Antoinette herself, she did not fast and abstain through every day of Lent as Louis did; her health did not permit it. However, after baby Madame Sophie died in 1787, it was noted that the Queen became more fervent in her devotions, especially during Lent. Jean Chalon in Chère Marie-Antoinette (p.235) notes that in 1788 she gave orders that her table strictly comply with all the regulations of the Church. Even the Swedish ambassador remarked: "The queen seems to have turned devout."

(Photo: http://www.cyrilalmeras.com/)

Share

Young Black Conservative Women

From The Western Journal:
These women want to bring home a message of empowerment, not only to black women across the country, but also to the black community at large. Women such as Antonia Okafor, the founder of gun rights advocacy organization EmPOWERed, Ayshia Connors, a senior policy adviser to a Pennsylvania congressman and president of the Black Republican Congressional Staff Association and Candace Owens, the director of Urban Engagement for Turning Point USA, all work tirelessly in advocating for their community and to make black conservative voices heard.

“Essentially, I believe in this day and age, for whatever reason, there is a largely ignored, growing group of voices which is essentially black conservatives. We’ve been largely dismissed and de-legitimized in the media as something that is not allowed to exist,” Owens, who labels herself an independent thinker, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Owens is currently working on creating the first black leadership summit for Turning Point USA with the intent to bring young black conservatives from across the country to hear from other black leaders on how to become trailblazers and entrepreneurs within their community. Owens especially wants these young black conservatives to hear from fellow black leaders who don’t carry with them the same message the mainstream media does. Okafor and Connors are also trying to make big strides within the conservative movement. (Read more.)
Share

When Societies Fall

From Tremr:
Published in a highly underrated 1934 book called "Sex and Culture," the anthropologist J.D. Unwin found a universal correlation between monogamy and a civilization's "expansive energy." His aim in the book was to test the Freudian thesis that advanced civilizations were founded upon repression of sexual desire, and a re-channeling of this energy through a defense mechanism Freud called "sublimation." 

A non-Christian, and as relativistic as any modern anthropologist, he insisted that he offered "no opinion about rightness or wrongness" concerning sexual norms. Nevertheless, among the 86 different societies he studied, he not only found monogamy to be correlated with a society's strength, but came to the sobering conclusion that "In human records there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence." (Read more.)
Share

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Recipes for Late Afternoon Tea

From Victoria:
A plate of distinctively shaped sandwiches creates a hearty mix of options that will satisfy late-afternoon appetites. Clockwise from bottom right: Wrapped in thin strips of English cucumber, rectangular Roast Beef Tea Sandwiches are layered with provolone cheese and Horseradish Cream. Egg-and-Olive Salad mixed with whole-grain mustard is spread between triangles of pumpernickel bread garnished with egg slices and fresh dill. Round Smoked-Salmon Tea Sandwiches topped with fresh oregano feature stacked bread slices slathered with creamy dill spread and pancetta. (Read more.)
Share

Why Trump’s Right

From The Conservative Tribune:
Hilario Yanez, a native of Mexico, a man who was brought to the United States at the age of 1, and a DACA recipient, blew a hole on Saturday in the mainstream media’s narrative about President Donald Trump, telling “Fox & Friends” interviewers that Trump had shown “leadership and compassion” towards those affected by the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. What’s more, Yanez had a few choice words for those “compassionate” Democrats the media wants us to believe are out there. Yanez’s praise for Trump centered around Trump’s work to find a solution to the plethora of issues DACA recipients face in the United States, an issue Democrats claim to champion. (Read more.)
Share