Description of the Royal Menagerie (1789)

A common theme in libels was to compare the royal family to animals. This pamphlet parodies the Queen and her entourage as animals in a zoo, emphasizing how the courtly way of life at Versailles seemed bizarre to the rest of the French people. (The references to "royal veto" refer to the debate that took place over the power that the King should have under the new constitution to veto laws passed by the Legislative Assembly; by referring to all members of the royal family members, the pamphlet mocks the reduced powers of the crown under the new form of government.)


A very curious menagerie has been living in Henri IV's castle for a while. A very curious menagerie because of the rare animals living in there, and because it costs such an excessive fortune to the French nation to maintain these animals.

The public has examined the fierce animals who were in the cages of the Versailles park. It is possible for the same public to observe some quadrupeds gathered at the Louvre, without going too far. We are going to mention the most remarkable ones. We will indicate their habits, their tendencies, the way they eat, and finally their properties.

I—THE ROYAL VETO

This animal measures about five feet and five inches. He walks on his back feet, like the humans do. His hairs are fawn. His eyes are like the ones of a beast, his mouth is well cut, and he has a red muzzle and big ears. He does not have much hair. He screams like a pig, and HE DOES NOT HAVE A TAIL.

He is naturally voracious. He eats. Rather, he devours in a dirty way everything people throw at him. He is a drunkard and does not stop drinking, from the time he gets up until he goes to bed.

The royal veto is as shy as a hare, and as stupid as an ostrich. Finally he represents a big animal nature created with regret.

His food costs around twenty-five to thirty millions [livres] a year, and he is not grateful for it. On the contrary, he only tries to harm. His deceitful and rude genius often leads him against the walls of the national terrace, where he sometimes breaks his nose.

He is thirty-four or thirty-six years old. He was born in Versailles and he was given the nickname Louis XVI.

II—THE ROYAL VETO FEMALE

The female of the royal veto is a monster who was found in Vienna, Austria, in the Empress Maria-Theresa's wardrobe. This female monkey with a crown probably had a craving against nature. She probably had sex with a tiger or with a bear and gave birth to Marie Antoinette.

This thirty-three-year-old monster was brought to France when the incestuous Louis XV was King. From her country she brought duplicity, and she also added treachery to it, which represents a natural feature of people like her. First she behaved like a very soft person in front of the people. They were screaming: LONG LIVE THE QUEEN! When she was assured she could appear friendly with a few fake smiles, she lifted her mask and was known for what she exactly was.

Her marriage to a boor was a political treaty. Her husband was spending all his time making locks and bolts. Like Denis of Syracuse, she soon manages the ways to have fun at the expense of the people. Parc-au-Cerf, Bagatelle, Trianon, Decampativos, and the famous parties were the centers of all attention. During these parties the royal veto was always the chamber pot. The Artois and the Polignac females, the Vaudreuil and the bodyguards, the King and his chipmunk, the Cardinal and Cagliostro, the necklace and the unfortunate Oliva, who was poisoned, represented the main subjects of discussions. The Austrian was being punished for her crimes and the horrors she had committed. But she did not care about it and about the Nation. The people rise up, and the Austrian Siren carries in her arms a child (it is the Prince), and she runs away. Then the Versailles Menagerie is transferred to Paris. . . . The female of the Royal Veto hatches a trip to the frontier with an animal named Lafayette. The chameleon lets the Baronne of Korff go, as well as Louis XVI, King of France and his valet. . . . Then the group is arrested and escorted back to Paris. This is the way Marie Antoinette of Austria takes pleasure in disturbing the peace of a free France.

Lately a prostitute was condemned to six months in jail for having insulted a citizen. . . . If Marie Antoinette was being judged the way she deserves it, she would meet good friends at the Salpetrière.

The female of the Royal Veto is tall, ugly, wrinkled, used, faded, hideous, awful. As the Nation wrongly promotes its tyrants, she eats the French money in the hope of devouring French people the one after the other.

Source: Anonymous, Déscription de la Menagerie Royale d'Animaux Vivants (n.p., n.d.).