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Marie-Antoinette’s Tree Goes Boom

Marie-Antoinette’s Tree Goes Boom

Marie-Antoinette's been dead for 215 years but her legend as spendthrift fashionista indifferent to peasants' misery lives on in metaphor for the current crop of bloated, corrupt, fuck-you-I-earned-this-over-the-top-bonus-because-well-
because-I-say-I-did financiers who see nothing amiss in their million-dollar office remodel being paid for by homeless taxpayers.

You know their names, these guys who made money out of money without creating anything of value, snookered billions from millions and have yet to apologize for anything to anyone. Apologize? Why should they apologize? Isn't money the ultimate test of success? Didn't they make more money than anyone else? I don't see a problem, do you see a problem?

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Even Barbie wants to look like Marie-Antoinette.

At least Marie-Antoinette took a personal interest in the fabrication of gorgeous silks and porcelaine and furniture. Limoges, Gobelins, Sèvres, anyone? At least she insured the robust health of the trades that became industries and still create revenue and reputation for la Belle France. She also was actually Queen, a devout Catholic and, for all she knew, had a divine right to do whatever-the-fuck-she-pleased within the limits of her job description.

These guys, on the other hand, inhabit the post-Revolutionary age. What's their excuse? They're in it for themselves. Their loyalties extend to... what, who? Not the country, not the currency, not their clients. They couldn't care less about Congress, their fellow citizens. The grief, the suicides, the bank failures worldwide? Qu'ils mangent de la brioche! (Let 'em eat doughnuts!)

Marie-Antoinette invested in infrastructure: she gave the most gifted artisans and artists steady employment creating beautiful objects and décor everyone in the world immediately wanted a piece of. How much did she cost France? A drop in the bucket compared to war. War ruined France. Even today, this verity isn't broadcast. Aesthetics don't bring down empires; dealing death and destruction does.

Marie-Antoinette was a figurehead, a role model, a trendsetter. A devoted wife and mother, she also... wait for it... liked women. She chose a woman as court painter. The passionate attachment of her favorites to the Queen gave rise to rumors of sapphic proclivities. When the Revolution needed a scapegoat, lesbianism was used to defame her. As things heated up, the Princesse de Lamballe's head was stuck on a pike and brandished at her window in hopes she'd catch a glimpse. Well, that's what happens when you let people starve in the streets. Davos, listen up.

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Marie-Antoinette's faux farm, where she fantasized the peasant's life.

Marie-Antoinette is also in the news because a purple beech tree planted at Versailles in 1789 fell down in a storm that killed a few dozen people in France and Spain last week. The tree, part of the faux farm where she used to play shepherdess, was 80 feet tall with a 70-foot canopy. Top-heavy, with roots that were rotten. Spot the metaphor.