How a doomed queen, a guillotine and prepaid passage to America helped created a beloved breed
It is 1793 and the French Revolution is raging. King Louis XVI has already been executed by guillotine, and his Queen, Marie Antoinette awaits her fate in a very dark, dank prison cell.
The royals have been blamed for the bad economic times by many ordinary citizens and national anger is mounting. Fuel is added to the fire after the hapless queen is misquoted with the infamous statement, “Let them eat cake.”
She languishes for months before her final court date with the blood thirsty Revolutionary Tribunal on October 16th.
There are lots of pets running about the palaces besides the queen’s beautiful Angora cats. The cats are given tons of freedom and are allowed to wander about tables during dinners. However, the downside for the royal cats is that they are forced to compete with parakeets and monkeys, not to mention, dogs.
And there are even more animals at Marie’s pretend farm. It has been created so she could play at farm life whenever she grows bored with the intrigues of court life.
The cats’ natural sweet dispositions and playfulness endear them to Marie who makes certain they will be well taken care of when hard times hit.
A French Connection?
By autumn, Marie is desperate for an escape. One plan is hatched by an American sea captain from Maine, Captain Samuel Clough. It may have succeeded -had the queen cooperated. Captain Clough had sailed to France aboard his schooner, Sally, when his ship is captured and held by the French.
His daughter, Sally, ends up in the same prison as Marie and comes in contact with the queen. After lots of briberies, a deal is made through Chevalier de Rougeville to get Sally (the ship) back as well as Sally (the daughter) sprung, along with Marie. Marie’s possessions and six cats are secretly taken aboard the Sally.
Just as the ship is ready to sail, Sally the daughter manages to get released from prison. Marie is given the lifesaving chance to also escape but turns it down. She does not want to leave her son behind.
She will face the guillotine on October 16, 1793. The schooner travels on to America arriving in Wiscasset, Maine with the cats but without Marie. Since their queen was no longer there to provide for them, the cats are left on their own.
Did they breed with local short-haired cats to produce the future spectacular Maine Coon Cats? It is still speculated by many experts that they did.
Maine’s Official State Cat
The Maine Coon Cat has the distinction of being one of only three official state cats. Coonies represent Maine while Maryland has the Calico and Massachusetts’ official state cat is the Tabby. As of this writing, no other states have their own state cats.
Both Maryland and Massachusetts have choices which are technically color patterns. A tabby sitting in front of a fire place is an ageless New England scene and a calico from Maryland goes well with the state dog, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, none the less.
But only Maine can boast of its very own cat, a fascinating and intriguing breed, unique and captivating, which has won the hearts of cat lovers around the world.