The public scorn that now greeted Marie Antoinette is reflected in a pamphlet from working women who address her as familiarly as they would one another. Not only could royalty be the subject of this kind of pamphleteering, but members of the administration could also be denigrated in similarly disrespectful ways.

Locked in battle with their detractors, the eighteenth-century kings sought new ways both to exercise and to justify their power. Interestingly, the period of extreme turbulence from 1750 to 1776 was followed by a decade of quiet, with the exception of the attacks on women. A close scrutiny of the documents from this decade might suggest that the debates taking place just before 1789 resembled more closely arguments from the third quarter of the eighteenth century than the decade before 1789.

What can one make of this paradox? It would be reasonable to expect that the whole of the eighteenth century witnessed a rising crescendo of problems for the monarchy, but perhaps that chronology would be overly simplistic. Two possible interpretations present themselves to explain why French politics seemed less rather than more contentious in the 1780s. On one hand, the monarchy may have already become so weakened that there was no point in further debating its power. On the other hand, the King's popularity may have been buoyed by France's successful participation in the War of the American Revolution and the greater efficiency of His Majesty's government thanks to the reforms being carried out by his Enlightenment-influenced advisers. The documents presented here will allow a myriad of interpretations. Indeed, no single interpretation can ever be entirely complete or correct in explaining historical events as important as the outbreak of the French Revolution.



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