Chivalry & the French Revolution

Chivalry & the French Revolution:

One of the periodic articles about the alleged death of chivalry has garnered a strange reply from Stacy McCain. The reply is more interesting than the original post, which is well-traveled ground for us.

What Burke denounced as a “barbarous philosophy” was the spirit of modern radicalism — Liberté, égalité, fraternité — that rejects all tradition and custom as oppressive superstition. The mob that invaded Versailles in October 1789, insulting the Queen whose honor Burke thought should be avenged by “ten thousand swords,” was acting in accordance with this radical “scheme of things,” wherein “a king is but a man, a queen is but a woman [and] a woman is but an animal.”
If you want to know how to restore chivalry, you must forget the idea that chivalry is about manners. It is about sacrifice. The problem with this analysis is that it neglects the degree to which Marie Antoinette was always treated like an animal: a sacrificial animal. Let me quote here from Robert Calasso's The Ruin of Kasch, page 70-2.
Marie Antoinette... entered Strasbourg as a fourteen-year-old fiancee in a crystal coach.... On an island in the middle of the Rhine, the masters of ceremony had chosen the place where the archduchess was to be handed over, naked, to her husband's envoys. A special pavilion, in rooms decorated with tributes to the future queen, had been built to receive her.


On an island washed by the currents of the Rhine, a wooden pavilion had been erected: "the house of the consignment." There, Maria Antonietta, as she had been called in childhood, became forever Marie Antoinette. The consignment took place on an international border, which ran down the middle of the pavilion and through the great table in the center of the main hall. Marie Antoinette entered the pavilion from the Austrian side. In the last room before the border she was slowly undressed before the escort that had accompanied her from Vienna. Not even a ribbon or a hairpin was to remain in contact with her body. She was thus offered, naked, to fabrics woven in the new French land -- to the silk shift, the stockings from Lyon, the little slippers fashioned by the Court's shoemaker....

[T]he passage through ritual death was noted by the many eyes that were observing her and that would continue to observe her until her biological death. This act of sacrificial stripping effected her complete transfer to the land that was clothing her with destiny. Protocol is the last power for protecting abandoned symbols. It ensures that symbols, even when they are not perceived as such, can continue to act[.]
The French Revolution meant to tear down old symbols, but -- this seems to be Calasso's key thesis -- all it achieved by abandoning the rituals was to restore the blood to what long ago had become symbolic sacrifices. The ancient order raises its head once the rituals that placated it have been abandoned.
The archaeologist P.V. Glob believed that these were "offerings to the gods of fertility and good fortune"...

Many bog bodies show signs of being stabbed, bludgeoned, hanged or strangled, or a combination of these methods. In some cases the individual had been beheaded, and in the case of the Osterby Head found at Kohlmoor, near to Osterby, Germany in 1948, the head had been deposited in the bog without its body.

Usually the corpses were naked, sometimes with some items of clothing with them, particularly headgear. In a number of cases, twigs, sticks or stones were placed on top of the body, sometimes in a cross formation, and at other times forked sticks had been driven into the peat to hold the corpse down. According to the archaeologist P.V. Glob, "this probably indicates the wish to pin the dead man firmly into the bog." Some bodies show signs of torture, such as Old Croghan Man, who had deep cuts beneath his nipples.

Some bog bodies, such as Tollund Man from Denmark, have been found with the rope used to strangle them still around their necks. Some, such as the Yde Girl in the Netherlands and bog bodies in Ireland, had the hair on one side of their heads closely cropped, although this could be due to one side of their head being exposed to oxygen for a longer period of time than the other. The bog bodies seem consistently to have been members of the upper class: their fingernails are manicured, and tests on hair protein routinely record good nutrition.
The Catholic churches burned in the French Revolution had been the halls of sacrifice, where now only one victim was sacrificed: and when they drank his blood and ate his flesh, he was satisfied. Yet in the ancient order, the old order and the new one, there was always sacrifice.

All honor comes from sacrifice. Honor is sacrifice: and therefore the greatest honor is for the one who stands up and offers to be the sacrifice. This is why we honor those who put on the uniform of our military, which is nothing less than an offer to go forward into the ritual of sacrifice so that the rest of us do not have to do so. In this they are doing just as Jesus is said to have done for all mankind; as Beowulf did for Hrothgar.

It is important to realize exactly why the queen was not just a woman, and not just an animal. It is important to realize why the queen, above all, deserved ten thousand swords. She was the sacrifice. She was the royal child sacrificed by Austria to France after the Seven Years War, given over in ritual death so that other children would not have to be given over to war.

It is not for no reason that the words "sacrifice" and "sacred" are so closely linked. This was the order that the Revolution broke, and the reason the streets of Paris ran red with blood.

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