Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Phrygian Cap

I just finished the book Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution for school and I'm not going to lie by the end of the book I was in tears! Of course I knew Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were guillotined but I wasn't aware of all the details that surrounded the execution. 

The piece of history that most brought me to tears was that the guards at the Temple, where the royals were imprisoned, took absolutely everything away from the Queen that they could. Marie Antoinette's husband had just been executed and those in charge decided to take the last thing from her that mattered, her son Louis Charles or Louis XVII. 

Louis Charles or Louis XVII
Painting by: Alexander Kucharsky

The young boy, only 8 at the time was ripped from his mother's side. Marie Antoinette was so opposed to his being taken away that it took the guards over an hour to to remove him from her. The young boy was then placed into the hands of a fanatic revolutionary, alcoholic cobbler who was tasked with deroyalizing the boy. 

The drunk cobbler, Simon, made Louis XVII drink, beat him whenever he called for his mother, and made him curse the monarchy loud enough that his mother could hear him in her room above his. Marie Antoinette was not allowed to see her son but could sometimes catch glimpses of him through a crack in her wall. Louis was clothed in filthy rags and wore a phrygian cap or liberty bonnet on his head. 

Phrygian Cap Above. 
Photo Credit: Jon Goldstein
18th Century French Liberty Bonnet. 

The phrygian cap has a long history. The cap's meaning originated in Ancient Rome where it was used to signify freedom earned by a slave of war. The caps were cheap and easy to make. 

Phrygian caps can be spotted on various decorative arts throughout history but you will see it used religiously during the French Revolution. 

It sits atop the head of Liberty in Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People.

It appears center-stage on this coin from Ancient Rome. 

It even adds a splash of red to this French gravy boat. 

It should be noted that during the French Revolution that phrygian cap became such an important symbol of the revolution and revolutionaries that if you weren't wearing it or other revolutionary inspired accoutrements you could be murdered on the spot. Children as young as eight lives where taken because of trigger-happy revolutionaries. 

Louis XVII died mysteriously 2 years later in the care of the Temple guards. He never saw his mother again. 

Source: Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution. Caroline Weber. 2006.

- Grace

1 comment:

  1. I am really not surprised the French adopted the Phrygian Cap and the Americans did not during the revolution. The cap seems to symbolize the idea that freedom is a gift that's given rather than it being an unalienable right. The colonists fought for the rights of man while the French revolutionaries seemed to be fighting just to get rid of their monarchy.


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