Je méprise la poussière qui me compose et qui vous parle; on pourra la persécuter et faire mourir cette poussière. Mais je défie que l’on m’arrache cette vie indépendante que je me suis donnée dans les siècles et dans les cieux. – Louis-Antoine de Saint-Just
As I already explained a couple of posts ago, I had a bit of a weird upbringing which involved not being allowed to read children’s books and other stuff too tiresome to write here. I have a learning disability, which is boring so let’s not talk about that, BUT it did mean that I dealt better with some aspects of my childhood than many others might have done – in particular the way that my grandparents cut me off from society and blatantly encouraged me to become a bit of a nerdy history geek weirdo who felt much closer to people who’d inconveniently died hundreds of years ago than to my family and schoolmates.
However, even my grandparents got a bit alarmed when I started having thumping great crushes on various people from history, which is a bit hypocritical really as Richard III was the great love of my grandmother’s life. No, seriously, he could do NO WRONG and, well, I’ve spoken before on here about the peculiar horror of being taken to the site of the battle of Bosworth as a small child to stand in mute and incredulous silence as my grandmother stared into the distance and wept for poor old Dickon.
As an aside, I also remember my Cockney grandmother taking my cousin and I to the Tower of London when we were very little girls and telling us that if we didn’t behave ourselves we’d end up buried under the stairs like the ‘poor little princes’. I’ll forgive her though as she also taught me lots of proper Ooh Let’s Have A Proper Knees Up Around The Joanna type Cockney songs, so that’s okay.
Back to the historical crushes though…
Louis-Antoine de Saint-Just, who was born on this day in 1767, was the BIG one, the mother and father of all historical crushes. Oh my. Okay, I have gone past my hormonal adolescent passion now and recognise that Saint-Just was actually A Very Very Bad Person but oh dear, I was OBSESSED for years to quite a tragic degree. I even carried a little photo of the David portrait of him in his dashing, natty red waistcoat with what I thought was a winsome smile but what was actually, CLEARLY a psychotic grimace, in my purse for years.
I remember being thrilled when I first read about him, Saint-Just the soldier’s son who had been a teenage delinquent, at the battle of Valmy, riding ahead of the Revolutionary forces with his top hat balanced on top of his sword and a grin of wild excitement on his face. In fact, I remember weeping a bit when I read a biographical entry about him somewhere that described him as ‘SAINT-JUST, Antoine (1767-1794) – politician and soldier.’ I think, having read a fair bit about him over the years, that ‘soldier’ is precisely how he would have liked to have been remembered.
My heart, I must admit, still gives a teensy tiny little rapturous sigh when I look at his portrait and I have, on occasion, toyed with fantasies of inserting myself, Marie-Suzette like, into a novel about the French Revolution so I can have my way with him then presumably get carted off to the guillotine as he wipes away a tear of regret from behind a hidden vantage point overlooking the Cour du Mai. Or maybe I could visit him in the Conciergerie before HE is carted off to his splendidly stoic demise alongside Robespierre and oh, well, it would be quite romantic, wouldn’t it as I fling myself weeping into his powerful arms and he quotes Roman poetry at me until I can’t take any more and have to run away and leave him to his fate.