This story is by Samantha Memi, a writer whose work consistently makes me snort in an unladylike manner.
I was Marie Antoinette with my hair done up so high I couldn’t lean over in case I toppled and fell. A little bird who had a nest in my hair flew out and said: Think less of your hair or you’ll lose your head, and I thought, what does a little bird know about fashionable coiffure.
One day I was in my boudoir and a servant rushed in, all flustered and wild-eyed and I glared at her and shouted: How dare you enter my boudoir, what do you want? and she said: Your Majesty, the peasants are revolting, and I said: I know they’re revolting, they’ve always been revolting, which I thought was quite witty so I made a mental note to remember it to tell Louis, and the servant, who looked nervous, said: They say they have no bread, and I said: Give them some cake, which I thought was very kind of me because I was rather fond of cake but due to my expanding waistline I decided to eat less of it and the servant ran off, and I settled down to having my hair powdered and built up even higher when suddenly this band of cut-throats calling themselves revolutionaries crashed into my room and I shouted: Guard! Guard! but no guards came because the cut-throats had cut all their throats, and there was one of the guards, a Captain Ferson, who often told me witty things which made me laugh and I hoped his throat hadn’t been cut.
Marie Antoinette, you’re under arrest, said the mean-eyed leader, and he looked at my hairdresser Léonard, and said: Now you can be free, Vive la révolution, and he left. Then Louis and I were taken from Versailles and put in the Tuileries which was cold and damp, and most inconsiderate because it was hunting season and Louis could imagine the forest and all the handsome stags he could be hunting and he sulked because he missed charging along on his charger. So Louis and his secretary worked out an ingenious plan; escape! I thought, how exciting! and they told me I would have to change my hairstyle. I refused and Louis said if I didn’t I would be recognised and we’d be captured and brought back to Paris and I said: The people love me and if they recognise me they will remember the cake I gave them and they will shower me with rose petals and direct us on our way. So off we went and we left the palace in our carriage and trundled through France and no one cheered because they were all asleep because it was three o’clock in the morning, and I said: Where are we going? and Louis said: Montmédy, I’ve already told you, and he sounded awfully grumpy and I said: No need to be so rude, and I sniffled for a bit with my handkerchief but he didn’t seem to notice, then I got bored and asked: Are we there yet? Then another band of cut-throats stopped our carriage and we were taken back to Paris, and I was so frightened when the carriage was stopped I wet myself and called: Louis Louis, which apparently was later turned into a song by the Kingsmen but I didn’t know that at the time, though in fact king’s men were what we most needed, and we were thrown in prison. I have never seen anything so filthy and disgusting in my life and I said to Louis: Whatever have things come to when our servants are taken from us? and he said: I told you to change your hairstyle but would you listen? No, not you. Which wasn’t true, I did listen, I just didn’t do it. I couldn’t. And I cried, why should I get the blame for the predicament we were in, and then they came and took us out to the Place Louis XV and I saw madame guillotine and I thought my God they’re going to chop my head off and I wet myself (which was horrible because in the 18th century we didn’t have Tena pads) and I had to climb the steps of the scaffold and all the crowd shouting: Death to the Queen, Death to the Queen, and I thought, if only I hadn’t married Louis and then I thought, no, I’ve been happy with him and not many people have years of happiness in their lives, some only have a few weeks of happiness and all the rest is misery. Then, distracted by fear, I inadvertently stepped on the executioner’s foot. Sorry, I said, I did not mean to do that, and he made me lie down with my head over this filthy piece of wood all bloodstained and I saw a cockroach and I wanted to scream but my throat was paralysed and I heard the blade sliding, then clunk my head rolled away from my body and my eyes looked at the blood gushing from my neck and a little bird flew out from my hair and hovered and said: So now you decide to do something about your hair.
Note: ‘Bouffant’ was first published at Every Day Fiction. This is a revised version accompanied by a historically accurate portrait of Marie Antoinette, which is still in draft form because, as it turns out, I can’t draw any better.
Samantha Memi is an eminent historian and author of How I Won The American War of Independence and Driving the Romans out of Britain was Difficult but with my Trusty Kalashnikov I Succeeded. She is currently working on the 376th volume of her classic, History of the Mary Celeste, which is written from the point of view of a plank of wood. Other acclaimed historical works can be found at: http://samanthamemi.weebly.com/.