restricted access 4. Of Rabbits and Kings
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Of Rabbits and Kings Hunting and Upward Mobility La chasse est un remède souverain pour bien des maux qui affligent notre triste humanité, mais jusqu’à présent on n’a pu rien trouver pour guérir de la chasse. Elzéar Blaze, Le chasseur conteur In a pamphlet published six weeks after the July Revolution of 1830, a subject of the former monarch, Charles X, outlines numerous blunders made by the king—blunders that eventually led to the king’s ouster. The pamphlet criticizes Charles X for appointing farceurs (pranksters) and canaille (rabble) to high ministerial positions, for “always having thirty dishes on [his] table while [his] subjects were dying of hunger,” and for sending troops to Spain to help an unworthy king (Ferdinand VII)—a “soft pear” of a Christian—regain the throne.1 The pamphlet’s author further insults the former king as impotent and unable to read. But the author ’s strongest criticism, the accusation repeated time after time, is that Charles X spent far too much time hunting: “When a sovereign likes . . . hunting too much, he exposes himself to the danger of being hunted off the throne.”2 And who was the author with enough chutzpa to publish such virulent attacks against a recently deposed monarch? None other than Jeannot, the “philosophizing rabbit,” whose pamphlet is entitled “Letter from a Rabbit at Saintfour | Of Rabbits and Kings 86 Cloud to Charles X, on the Significant Drawbacks of Loving the Hunt too Much, Contaning Moral and Political Reflections Concerning the Royal Hunt of July 29, 1830.” One might argue that Jeannot wrote from the perspective of a rabbit to avoid potential fines or prison should the former monarch return, but it is more likely that he adopted this perspective for comic effect, to take advantage of the symbolic potency of the hunt.3 The “rabbit” asks Charles X what good he has done since being put on the throne: Did you work even one hour for the happiness of your subjects? . . . They were certainly worth taking care of. They gave you a very agreeable employment; you were perfectly housed, well fed, furnished with heat and light and with forty million of annual revenue on top of it all. What did we ask in return? The only work we wanted you to do was to not be mean. It was not too tricky, and yet you did not want to complete such an easy task. What did you spend your time doing instead? In the morning you went fasting to Mass in order to be forgiven of your old sins. Then, you ate an excellent lunch. . . . Finally, to aid your digestion, you would come into our woods accompanied by several two-legged animals to chase poor, innocent, defenseless beasts.4 Our rabbit goes on to lament that he was wounded by “lead that your royal hands administered to me during one of your amusements ” and repeats several times that the king had failed in his duties because he spent too much time hunting.5 Jeannot tells the king that if he had taken the time to read the paper, he would have discovered that something was amiss in the government: “Perhaps you would have taken a few moments away from hunting to dis- Of Rabbits and Kings | 87 cover what was brewing. Perhaps you could have thereby avoided the great debacle of July 29.”6 The rabbit goes on to compare Charles X to another famous monarch who shared both the king’s name and his love of the hunt: “You neglected to learn the needs and wishes of the nation that would have happily entrusted you with its future. It is a mistake for which Lucifer will hold you accountable when he puts your old soul into the furnace where he has already placed your worthy ancestor Charles IX.”7 (This comparison will be examined in detail below.) Of the July Revolution Jeannot writes: “Oh! I will remember the twenty-ninth of July my whole rabbit life. When we heard the shooting we believed, we residents of your royal domain, that you were once again coming to pay us one of those friendly visits during which, as a pastime, you would slaughter a hundred innocent creatures. Soon after, we learned that we were not the ones being hunted, rather it was our eternal hunter. . . . No more hunting rabbits, no more hunting rabbits!”8 The rabbit concludes: “The man who replaces your majesty will...


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