Luxury, lines and love: three different aspects for two similar lifestyles. The luxuries were unlimited, the lines were addictive (as well as necessary) and the love was just a losing game. Queen Elizabeth I and Françoise Sagan put the ‘I’ in intelligence as they always placed themselves first, leaving no room for second or third. Hide away your feminist prejudgements as we explore the true meaning of independent woman.
Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) and Françoise Sagan (1935-1604) both pushed to the surface what surrounding society was trying to sink. From birth to death, these two ladies rotated the spheres of male-dominated society and crowned themselves the ultimate V.I.P. This week we explore what goes on behind the closed doors of the court and the cigarette.
He who placed me in this seat will keep me here.
Sorry to use a bit of favouritism this week, but Queen Elizabeth is my all time idol. Not only did she single handily re-invent the image of female rule in Tudor England, but she also played her court like a game of chess; moving her councillors like pawn here, there and everywhere. As we all know, her mother Anne Boleyn set the tone for Elizabeth’s life to be as conventional as Saatchi is. Elizabeth carried a load on her back before she even tied the first ruff around her neck. The first piece of baggage was her illegitimacy which of course immediately prevented any flexibility with the House of Lords. The second, her religion, which ticked off neither the Catholic nor the Protestant check list. Thirdly, her love for herself. Yes that’s right, this Queen was not going to be tied down for the sake of foreign allegiance, instead she survived till the end as a single lady (take that match.com!).
I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too.
So, what makes her so special? Well, in an age where women lived by the motto video et taceo (see and say nothing) Elizabeth played what goes behind-the-scenes as a full stage drama. Her skill of indecision brought forward numerous suitors, yet she never married. Her attribute of a moderate religious settlement signalled an excommunication from Rome, yet there was a mere total of three (quelled, may I add) rebellions. Finally, her “heart of a man” showed no fear to the public when she was sucked into war with a man who owned most of Europe. Elizabeth nurtured the seeds of English modesty and she really did keep calm and carry on. Oh and she was always one to throw more oil on the unconventional fire when she danced the “scandalous” volta dance at her accession...
Il est plus urgent de vivre que de compter.
You will now see why I’ve rambled on about Elizabeth as Françoise Sagan was almost her reincarnation. Françoise Quoirez rose to fame in a post-war society where familial ties and gender roles were going back to their conservative roots. Starting well, Sagan failed her baccalauréat in 1953 and was notoriously known for her bourgeois lifestyle. However, she turned a negative into a positive by living hedonistically to the letter.
Il m’arrive de trouver que la vie est une horrible plaisanterie.
And that really paid off. Her first book “Bonjour Tristesse” sold 500,000 copies in the first year despite the polemic content. Sagan captures the dryness of the desert in Camus’ L’Étranger and makes a mélange with the sense of imprisonment in Sartre’s Huis Clos. Sagan was gifted in shaking up what the French government were trying to sweep under the carpet and all in the name of female self-determination. However, her fragility was her flaw. Sagan tread a fine line between Carpe Diem and destruction which sadly made her legacy queue the violins.
As we can see, the luxury of diamonds in court and fast cars in Monaco, the lines of Tudor monarchy and illegal substances and the love of power and literature are all thrown into the mixing pot of willpower. Now we only need a little motivation to “break free” ourselves...