‘There, there’, I said, patting Clarissa on the – arm -. ‘I’m sure she died proudly, knowing what a difference she’d made.’
You will recall that Clarissa’s niece has been doing the family history. She’s found out more about Clarissa’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great- great-great-great-grandmother, Fi Fi, and her role in the French Revolution. Thus far all Clarissa knew was that Fi Fi, who had been Marie Antoinette’s dummy, was saved herself from the guillotine. Now more has been uncovered.
It transpired that Madam Defarge took a fancy to Fi Fi and kept her there, right in the front row before the guillotine, where she knitted. Evidently Madam Defarge realised the usefulness of Fi Fi to a knitter. Often Fi Fi would sit there wearing some recently finished garment knitted by her new mistress and she felt terrible as she watched dummy after dummy, facing a terrible death, with their aristocratic owners.
She decided she had to try to save them. Some she helped escape with the aid of Alex von Fersen the Younger. At the same time she convinced the other knitters in the front row of the guillotine’s audience that they too could find benefits from the use of a dressmaker’s model. As these knitters spent some of their time making socks for Robespierre and other members of the Committee of Public Safety, they had only to say what they wanted and it was theirs.
Still, this state of affairs could not go on forever. Robespierre felt that the knitters – the front line of the revolution – were being corrupted by this taste for the property of the aristocracy. No matter that their jumpers fitted better for the use of the dummies. No matter that the saved dummies, sitting and watching the bloodshed would cry ‘Vive La France’ whenever a head rolled off the stage. His mind was set.
Madam Defarge was publicly dressed down. And Fi Fi was put in the dungeons. Count Alex made a heroic attempt to help her escape, but it was not to be. She was betrayed by a fellow dummy, it is believed, a dummy she thought was her friend. She languished in prison and eventually died there, a lonely, forgotten figure.