When I moved to Chicago it took me a long time to put together a new routine. For one, my commute shrunk by 3/4ths. Getting home before 5:30 pm felt like I was winning some kind of free time lottery. I do not miss my hours in the car, but after a few weeks I began to miss my trusty, traffic jam companion: podcasts.
Back in Virginia, my evening commute frequently topped out at an hour and a half, which gave my plenty of time to catch up on my stories. I loved listening to Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me (can’t wait to see the live show in Chicago!), The High Low, and My Favorite Murder (if you live alone and listen to this you’re braver than me). I miss punctuating my day with a these voices and I’ve slowly started to incorporate them into my new life.
Recently, I was introduced to In Our Time: History. The twenty year old BBC radio show hosted by broadcaster, author and parliamentarian, Melvyn Bragg dives into key historical themes, events, and individuals with a panel of experts. The episode that first caught my attention was the November 8th episode on Marie Antoinette. I was hooked! I’ve already devoured the episodes on Mary Queen of Scotts and Margaret of Anjou. I appreciate that the program assumes a general understanding of the topic at hand so that the experts can get straight to the core of the topic and provide listeners with a deeper knowledge and a fresh perspective.
The most fascinating part was the panelist’s explanation for circumstances which lead to Marie Antoinette’s poor reputation. As a native Austrian she had to compete against deep seated prejudices that had formed over centuries of conflict between France and Austria. The royal couple’s inability to consummate their marriage for seven years and the Louis XVI’s inability to take on an official mistress, a role which historically was used as a public scapegoat, opened Marie Antoinette up to an abnormally high amount of scrutiny.
While listening, I kept picturing scenes from Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. I saw that movie as a 13th birthday present on a Sunday afternoon when I was supposed to be doing homework. I fell in love with Coppola’s perfectly costumed retelling and I have been going back to that film for touches of inspiration ever since. And now I know the real story.
You can find In Our Time on BBC Radio 4 or on Apple Podcasts. Off to rewatch Marie Antoinette for the gazillionth time…au revoir!