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Burke on Women

November 8, 2010

Burke takes an interesting approach in this piece and takes time to focus on the role that the queen plays and her significance.  Burke refers to October 2 of 1789 at the Palace of Versailles.  In this tragic event filled with murder, Burke implies that the Queen was left out of most of the story by taking the time to highlight her role in the situation.  From reading the text, I came to understand that Burke disapproves of the way the Queen is viewed in society.  Her role and position is undermined.

I guess one could argue that maybe she was not left out of the story but the Queen receives little sympathy regarding the situation in comparison the King.  I think that people definitely understood that the Queen was present for the brutality, but maybe didn’t understand that the consequences she was facing were not in response to her own actions.  The Queen lives in the shadows of the King, both literally and figuratively.  In the literal sense, the Queen always stands behind the King, and where the King goes, the Queen must go as well.  In addition, the Queen is merely the wife of the King, but her role to society exactly is more or less undefined.  Some would argue that the Queen is a figurehead.  In being a figurehead one could assume that she is respected for her position in society, but not necessarily her role.  She would be respected as a figurehead due to her relation to the King.  But is that true of every Queen?

When the King is the recipient of humiliation, threats, and the brunt of the attacks, people fail to recognize the way the Queen too is affected by this.  People do not notice how the Queen is also threatened, and forced to move or go into hiding.  The Queen is the one who has the power to create the next heir to the thrown, and one could argue that it the one true responsibility she actually holds–having to bare the future face of the country.  Even though the anger was not directed at the Queen, because she is not the ruler, the battle that she too faces is overlooked or not fully recognized.  Every consequence that the king must deal with us due to his responsibility as ruler, the Queen also faces even though she does not hold the same power.  Burke states “that she bears all the succeeding days, that she bears the imprisonment of her husband, and her own captivity, and the exile of her friends, and the insulting adulation of addresses, and the whole weight of her accumulated wrongs, with a serene patience, in a manner suited to her rank and race…”(p. 516).  This demonstrates Burke’s true feelings about the significance of a Queen and how she is so much more than merely a woman.  She is held to a higher standard than an average person (or maybe even specifically a woman) and is always sure to follow that.

In this section he focuses on how despite the fact that in the written law, the Queen’s role is minimal, the Queen still carries much significance.  In this, I think that Burke feels it necessary that a Queen be thought of as much more than a woman.  While she does not hold the power of the country, she is still forced to hold the responsibility and bear the consequences, and must do so with grace.  For this, she must be thought of on a higher level, and placed upon that pedestal.  This is not a role that any woman would be able to assume, and the Queen, being that woman, is magnificent, and must be thought of as so.


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