Colours from the 18th century

In the 18th century, the masked balls were very fashionable – and we can’t forget that this century was also a masked century…
When we think of that era, there are several things that come to our mind. Fabulous and rich clothing and elaborate (and high!) hairstlyes too, noble persons having fun, the magnificent palaces like Versailles, the great luxury of the court, and also the informal little places like the Trianon.

We think about the divertissements of the court, the opera, the concerts, the balls and banquets, from the minuet to the walks in the garden.
But, when I think about that century, there is another word that comes to my mind: Revolution! And there’s the true content of the century.

The rest is a a mask, the face of good life, of the esprit bon vivant, and that was not the reality. Because, if the Revolution exploded with such violence, something not very nice was happening during the whole century… In fact, same as always for the poor: hunger, misery, extreme poverty, wars. That was the face behind the mask.

However, much more is to be said about this century. Facts to be explored and commented, truths to be put to question. The 18th century, and especially in France, was a mixture of crisis at court and in the middle of the people, of victories and miseries, so much so that sometimes I feel confused when I study about it.

For example, the court was part of a big community mask. People knew that this or that was happening, that Lord X did this and Lady Y did that, but did they admiti t? Oh no they didn’t. The favourite way of information were mean little papers that were distributed to whoever woud like to read them (I mean, everyone wanted to read them). Like mean cartoons with lots of lies saying ill of the Marquis or the Duke or the Queen.

The interesting thing is that even the “true face” hidden behind the mask, the Revolution and the misery that started it, is also a mask! What do you think of that? That’s because the Revolution was for them the same thing as freedom. Well, the years of the Terror are one of the times in France history that are more different of freedom… the guillotine would chop hundreds or even thousands of heads per week, and you could get your head chopped off that same way for anything, even for the tiniest insignificant misunderstanding! In the walls of Paris you could find messages that said things like: “Anyone clapping the Kind will be whipped; Anyone booing the King will be hanged”. Now that was a bit of a problem. Depending on the state of minds, no matter which side you were on, you would get to visit Madame Guillotine sooner or later if you were active even a little bit.

And after so many fights and bloodsheds to get rid of their monarchs, the people of Paris and of whole France ended up with… an Emperor! Big deal.

Of course the Revolution was indispensible, but it was not only a victory, and something that should be a time of freedom and happiness was during a looong time a reign of terror and misery – again.

Exploring a century beyond these masks can be a true challenge, but i tis also fascinating, and some dare to do it.

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