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17 Jul, 2009

My revolutionary hour on the plinth

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On Bastille Day, I dressed as Marie Antoinette and stood in Trafalgar Square for Antony Gormley’s One and Other plinth project

Full coverage of the fourth plinth

It was Bastille Day. But I never really explained that. Nor did I exactly say that I was Marie Antoinette for the duration of my hour on the plinth. I hoped it would be clear. Or perhaps I hoped it would give people watching in Trafalgar Square or online something to wonder.

There was a vast range of cupcakes given out to the mob below me, donated kindly by Hummingbird Bakery. This was a key ploy. I bribed my crowd. This company are apparently at the crumb-caked serrated edge of baking fashion but some of those strangers on the square who were offered cake for free looked as if they could not trust their good fortune.

The ride across the square in the cherry-picker was my highlight. Or rather the ride back was, when I was at last relaxed enough to enjoy it. Before you pull away from the plinth the cherry-picker’s arm extends high above the rest of the square and that was the best bit.

The worst bit was dressing in haste in the cabin to one side of the square. I had plenty of time really, but was convinced I would lace myself up wrong. I had only tried the incredible outfit on once before, a week ago, in the dressing rooms at the costumier Angels, who I must really thank, and I could not remember which bits went on first. I had huge under-bustles.

Many have pointed out that Marie Antoinette did not really say “let them eat cake” and I know it is a disputed quote, but it seems a good enough premise for eating cake. She probably said brioche, which was the fine, eggy, cakey bread the royals ate at Versailles, if she said anything at all, but it has never been clear which “great princess” Rousseau was referring to when he attributed the quote.

I held up several strange revolutionary quotes during my hour – more than 20 in all. And had to speed up towards the end as the hour of my de-plinthing approached. One other quote I used is hotly disputed. “After me the deluge”, is thought by some to have been said by Mme de Pompadour, so I gave her a credit too.

The best responses from the crowd came for the straightforward revolutionary sentiments and for the feminist ones. Nancy Mitford’s comment that housework is much more frightening than hunting is my personal favourite, but I got a good response for the quote from the sitcom Porridge – “Born free, ’til somebody caught me” – which was, strictly speaking, a lyric.

I left the rabble wanting less of me, I fear, but at least they cheered to my last revolutionary slogan, the all-inclusive “Up the workers”.

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