In October, two dozen Hamilton alumni, parents, trustees followed in the footsteps of the last queen of France, Marie Antoinette, from the fabulous palaces of Vienna and Versailles to her final rat-infested Paris prison.
Led by President Emerita Joan Hinde Stewart and Vice President for Advancement Lori Rava Dennison ’87, P’16, participants viewed a wonderful 2006 documentary by David Grubin ’65 and then, over the course of the trip, refined their own understanding of the queen’s role in the events of the French Revolution and of the way her destiny was shaped by rumor, misogyny, and lies. The outrageously fashionable queen came to a terrible end.
The name of Marie Antoinette seems suddenly to be on every tongue. Two days after the group’s arrival in Europe, the Paris Conciergerie (where she spent her wretched final days) inaugurated a major exhibition, Marie Antoinette: métamorphoses d’une vision. Two days after the trip ended, a “docu-fiction” about the queen premiered on French television: Ils ont jugé la reine (They judged the queen). And upon their return home, the Hamilton travelers found enthusiastic press reviews of a just-released biography by historian John Hardman, reassessing the queen’s role in events that helped to define the modern world.
“The Hamilton group cannot realistically be credited with launching a trend,” Stewart insists.
But how else would you explain the resurgence of interest in a queen who has been dead for two-and-a-quarter centuries? As the late Professor of Economics Sid Wertimer liked to say, “Hamilton is the center of the universe.”
Hamilton travelers joining Stewart and Dennison included Shirley and Skip Allen P’15; Ann and Russ Bantham ’63, P’89,’92; Sara K’77 and Henry Bedford ’76; Abby Rhame Coffin ’81 and Peter Breckenridge Coffin ’81, P’14; Pamela Craig and Bob Delaney ’79; Lori and David Hess ’71; Beth and Joel Johnson ’65, P’93; Karen and Kevin Kennedy ’70; Mary McLean Evans ’82; Sid and Amy Owens Goodfriend ’82; Jennifer Murphy Hill ’87; and Susan E. Skerritt K’77.