Thursday, 20 June 2013

A Filthy King?

One of the rumours that has clung to Louis XIV's otherwise great character is of a less flattering sort. Rumour has it that the King only took 3 baths in his entire life!

If this is true then it is very strange that the King set an entire apartment at Versailles aside to be used as a bathroom (including at least two private bath tubs for the King); this was added to the palace in the 1670's.
Actually, Louis XIV had both cold and hot running water in these apartments. The rumour has only been made even more manifasted in the common understanding because many authors has chosen to write it in their history books - but in reality there is no proof of the King only having three baths in his life.

However, if it actually is the case then the King would not have been to blame. It was his doctors - who were still convinced that water was a direct hazard to your health - who told the King not to take a bath. There is one episode in which the doctors finally decided to prescribe a bath as a treatment when the King fell ill. But it was only as a final option; beforehand they had purged him and even given him an enema! No wonder the King did not fancy a bath if he connected it with that!
The King's personal physician - Guy-Crecent Fagon - tried the same method the year after but had to admit that "the King was never pleased to become accustomed to bathing in his chamber."

But the King's reluctance to bathe did not mean that he was basically covered in dirt - on the contrary. He was constantly rubbed with scented linen (which must have removed some of the filth), his clothes would be changed at least twice a day and his servants would change his night-shirt if it became sweaty. Also, the King washed his face, hands and neck since this was considered acceptable.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Fontainebleau: Apartment des Chasses

The Apartment des Chasses (or hunting apartment) was named so after large paintings (by Jean-Baptiste Oudry) from the 18th century depicting different hunts - one even includes Louis XV himself. Originally there was another room on the ground floor that was connected to the Apartment des Chasses but it has not been possible to restore it to its past state. The room was enlarged during the 18th and 19th century. Conveniently enough the "hunting room" is located as an extension of the Galerie des Cerfs or the Gallery of the Stags!

Detail of the ceiling

Fontainebleau: Apartments of Madame de Maintenon

Madame de Maintenon had her apartment right above a port-way called Porte Dorée (the Golden Gate) which used to serve as the main entrance to the château. Madame de Maintenon herself lived here between 1686-1715. One of the great events that took place in this very room was the signing of the Edict of Nantes from 1685. Most of the furniture dates back to the late 17th century or the 18th century.
It was Louis XIV who had the apartments modernized to match the styles of the age and it is noticeable that the maîtresse-en-titre moved in two years after her alleged marriage to the King .. Anyway, the King chose that the walls should be a simple white but adorned with golden ornaments.

Grand Salon
Passage linking Madame de Maintenon's apartments


Château de Fontainebleau was one of the favourite castles of the Kings of France and has been continuously inhabited by the royal family through seven centuries. This post will guide you through the apartments and halls but in a different way than in the Versailles post: since I have not been able to find a map of exactly where which apartment is, I think it is better to go through them without the reference on the map. But you should not be cheated of a floor plan nonetheless!

Plan of the château from 1682 which means the plan was created during Louis XIV

The entrance to the palace
View from the gardens

This should give you a pretty good idea of how big this palace really is!

Welcome to Fontainebleau:

The Main Apartments:

Guest Apartments (during Napoleon III)

The Galleries (the Château has surprisingly many):

The Chapels (there are three!):

The Chapelle basse Saint-Saturnin
The Chapelle haute Saint-Saturnin


The Cour de la Fontaine
The Cour Ovale
The Cour d'Honneur
The Cour des Offices


Jardin de Diane
Grand Parterre
The Jardin Anglais
The Grotte des Pins
The Pavillion de l'Étang
The Park

Monday, 17 June 2013

Louise Élisabeth and Philippe Charles

This affair is one of those that not much is known of but I chose to post it anyway.
Louise Élisabeth de Conti (Bourbon by birth) had been married off to her first cousin Louis Armand, Prince de Conti but engaged in a liaison with Philippe Charles de La Fare, Marquis de La Fare.
Philippe Charles was reported to be handsome while Louise's husband was known to be awfully unattractive - perhaps this triggered the affair? One thing that can be said with certainty is that Louise Élisabeth had had other lovers than Philippe Charles.

Philippe Charles - he does
not seem as handsome as
rumoured to be 
The affair was well-known at the ever-curious court but when Louise Élisabeth's husband found out, he reacted violently in such a manner that a doctor had to be called at least twice. Whether Louise's affair with Philippe Charles continued hereafter is unknown but after that episode with Louis Armand it is unlikely.

Louis Armand, Prince de Conti

Louis Armand de Bourbon was born within the walls of the Palace of Versailles and - as his surname indicates - was of royal birth which resulted in the title Prince de Conti. His parents were François Louis (Prince de Conti) and Marie Thérèse de Bourbon; the couple had seven children but Louis Armand was the only son to survive past the age of five.

Louis Armand - there is no hint
of a hunched back in this portrait
Louis Armand de Bourbon became the Prince de Conti in 1709 when his father died; Louis was thirteen years at the time. His inheritance was not bound to land areas but to a large fortune and an influential name. Two years later on New Year's Day the title of Knight of the Order of the Holy Spirit was added to his name. On July 9, 1713 Louis married his first cousin Louise Élisabeth de Bourbon as a part of a double marriage pact. Louise Élisabeth might have been considered to be unfortunate with her new husband since he was considered very unattractive - rumours had it that he was hunchbacked. The marriage was not quite stable. Louis' wife had an openly acknowledged affair but the marriage was not without affection. When Louis contracted smallpox in 1716 it was his wife who nursed him through his illness even at the price of her catching the disease herself.

A Step From the Edge

This particular pamphlet dates from around 1791 and is aimed at targeting Marie Antoinette in particular. The dethroned Queen is seen stepping from the Tuileries to safety carrying the King and the Daupin. Behind them are Madame Royale and Madame Élisabeth waiting for their turn. The pamphlet is filled with references to the many cruel rumours personified by the people beneath her. The King and Queen is both carrying a part of a broken sceptre - to the far left the Comte de Province can be seen encouraging the royal couple while holding a purse filled with money.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

A Royal Gift

This hunting suit was a gift for Christian VII of Denmark and Norway from Louis XV in 1768 when Christian VII visited France. The Danish King received the gift in connection with the Saint Hubert hunt at Fontainbleau on November 3. Louis XV even ordered a second hunting outfit for the hunt on November 29 but it has not survived till the present.
The entire ensemble consists of a coat, trousers, a waist-coat, three-cornered hat, tall boots, cross belt, sword, whip and a knife. It consists of wool coloured in red and blue and trimmed with chamois. The hunting set is currently stored at Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen.

Petit Trianon: Silverware Room

Today this room derives its name from the exhibition of precious china displayed in large cabinets - they are marked with the special "Petit Trianon-style". The room was a part of a massive restoration project during which the walls were painted in a pale grey/blue shade. The simple lantern is keeping with the décor used for Marie Antoinette's little retreat.

Petit Trianon: Queen's Bathroom

The bathroom of the Queen was transformed into a bathroom for the Duchesse d'Orlèans in 1837. The room is not very large but it is still a testimony to the rising awareness of personal hygiene. The bath tub is complete with two taps for hot and cold water. As can be seen on the floor plan there are some small rooms near the bathroom - one of these is a toilet. I love that even the toilet is made of polished wood!

Notice the shelf for the candlestick - imagine just having that as a light source

Petit Trianon: Salon of Empress Eugénie

Once again the tapestry has been reconstructed to the state it would have been in when Marie Antoinette occupied the mansion. It was Empress Eugénie who decided that the room should pay tribute to Marie Antoinette herself - consequently the room has been named after the Empress. The Empress had furniture and other objects from Marie Antoinette's time (even some of the decapitated Queen's personal belongings) brought back to the Petit Trianon in 1867 as a part of the World Fair. In total Empress Eugénie managed to gather 144 objects with a reference to the last Queen of the l'ancien régieme.

One of the objects referring to Marie Antoinette
A bust of the Empress herself

Friday, 14 June 2013

Petit Trianon: 2. Staircase

There really is not much to say about this particular part of the Petit Trianon so instead I am just going to show some pictures of the 2. staircase - perhaps you have not seen them before.

Petit Trianon: Queen's Library

The Queen's library does not contain nearly as many books as her library at Versailles does. But the ones that survives to this day still bears the Queen's arms as well as the letters "CT" (Château Trianon) on the calfskin binding. The main tone in this library is a pale apple-green used for the walls, the curtains and the chairs. The cupboards were lost in the 19th century but were restored in 2008 according to the original drawings by Mique dating back to 1780. One thing that is the same as at Versailles is the idea with the curtains within the book cabinets.

Petit Trianon: Room of the First Lady-In-Waiting

This room was last used by the Princesse de Lamballe who always remained close to the Queen. The tapestry is not original but has been reconstructed after the patterns used in the 18th century - the same pattern has been used for the curtains. This room is a mixture of the simple style at Petit Trianon (the plain walls and furniture) and the high style of Versailles (the pattern of the wooden floor). The chairs are lined with red silk that has been embroidered with white thread (there is a close-up at the bottom of this post).

Lovers and Friends

Louis Philippe (first Duc de Chartres, then Duc d'Orlèans) was the husband of Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon but after the first attachment to his wife had faded, he began an affair with one of his wife's ladies-in-waiting: Stéphanie Félicité Ducrest de St-Albin. Stéphanie Félicité was a noblewoman herself and was known at court as the Comtesse de Genlis.

Madame de Genlis 1780.jpg
Stéphanie Félicité

The romance began in 1772 but lasted for a remarkably short period of time - in 1773 the relationship had already died out according to court rumours. During their affair Stéphanie became known as a woman of bad morals since a liaison with a married man (a man married to a friend even!) was considered bad behaviour and certainly not becoming of a Comtesse. On the other hand Louis Philippe's involvement in the affair did not come as quite a shock to the court; Louis Philippe was known as leading a "loose" lifestyle. However, the end of their romance was not the end of their relationship as friends. It caused a lot of talk in the corners when Stéphanie Félicité was promoted to governess of Louis Philippe and Louise Marie Adélaïde's children in 1781.

Louis Philippe
It was through her love affair with Louis Philippe and her marriage that Stéphanie developed her own career and even published a few books. The strange thing about this affair is that not only did the couple remain friends afterwards but Stéphanie's friendship with Louise Marie Adélaïde was not ruined by it - on the contrary it remained good until
Stéphanie's teaching took on a path that did not suit Louise Marie Adélaïde.

Rumours would later hint that a woman by the name of Stephanie Caroline Anne Syms was in fact the daughter of Louis Philippe and Stéphanie Félicité - the rumour was made even stronger by the fact that she was considered an adopted daughter of Stéphanie Félicité. To this day no one really knows if she was the result of the short-lived affair.

Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon, Duchesse de Chartres

Born on March 13 1753, Louise Marie Adélaïde was the daughter of the Duke of Penthièvre and the Princess of Modena. As it was custom with noble-born daughters, Louise Marie was sent to a convent - in this case the Abbaye de Montmartre - where she would spent twelve full years. However, her status would change when her brother died in 1768 which left her the richest heiress in France; a suitable bride for any nobleman.

One of the suitors was Louis Philippe Joseph d'Orlèans, Duc de Chartres. The match was made in spite of Louis XV's insistent warnings that Louis Philippe would make a poor husband; the King described him as a "libertine" with a bad temper. After her presentation to the King on December 7 (1768) Louise Marie was married to Louis Philippe at the chapel within Versailles. She was a beautiful girl (of 15 years old!) who charmed the courtiers with her good, decent behaviour. Even her husband liked her and the marriage was a success - or at least for the first few months. After this Louis Philippe returned to his earlier lifestyle.

Maria Anna Victoria of Bavaria, Dauphine of France

Maria Anne Victoria was born on November 28 1660 to the Elector of Bavaria (Ferdinand Maria) and his wife Princess Henriette Adélaïde de Savoy - her mother was a French princess which meant that Maria Anna already had roots in the French house of Bourbon. Maria Anna was betrothed to Louis, Grand Dauphin (the only surviving son of Louis XIV) when she was merely eight years old. Since her family already knew where Maria Anna would spend her life, the young girl was educated with all the graces that would be expected from a French Dauphine. In 1680 Maria Anna travelled to Châlons-sur-Marne where she would meet her future husband on March 7.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Petit Trianon: Bedroom of Marie-Louise

The beautiful blue chairs - lined with blue silk - were commissioned by Empress Marie-Louise and created by Marcion. The "golden" edging of these chairs creates a nice contrast to the blue; the chimney is made of campan marble. Empress Marie-Louise was a part of the restored royal family and the sparse remodelling of this room was a "present" from her husband Louis Philippe in 1837. However, the change in style from when Marie Antoinette lived here is obvious: the rather bright blue is too strong for what would have been used in the 18th century and there is a clear "lack" of decorative ornaments to the furniture.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Petit Trianon: Small Salon of Madame Élisabeth

The most striking feature about this room is the floral tapestry that covers the walls. However, it is not the original tapestry but a reconstruction based on those chosen by the Queen's Furniture Keeper from the 1780's. The fireplace is of genuine marble with grey lines. A portrait of Madame Élisabeth herself hangs on one of the walls. The same fabric used for the tapestry has been used for most of the remaining furnitures: the curtains, the chairs and even the fireplace-screen has been lined with this reproduction. The window overlooks the English garden.

And here we have her: Madame Élisabeth

Petit Trianon: Bedroom of the Duchesse d'Orlèans

The walls are pale green to match the chairs lined with green lampas. The fireplace is made of grey and pink marble and the wooden floor repeats the same pattern that was popular at Versailles. The curtains has also been decorated with an apple-green fabric.

Close-up of the fireplace

Petit Trianon: Small Salon of Madame Royale

Though formerly used as a bedroom (I do not know whose) it was transformed into a salon for the very young Marie Thérèse, the daughter of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. The fireplace is not made of marble but has been painted to assume the looks of it. The tapestry is decorated with flowers (the same fabric has been used for the curtains) and the walls are painted with a pale yellow.

Close-up of the tapestry

Madame Campan's Room

Madame Campan - or Jeanne-Louise-Henriette Genet - was the maid of the first lady of Marie Antoinette. It was her responsibility to arrange everything connected with what was known as the "chamber service" (this included overseeing the levées, the walks and the travels). Madame Campan occupied this room from 1786. The room is not very large but has a clean and neat feeling to it due to the neutral and undecorated wood-work panels combined with the large grey marble fireplace. Surprisingly, the floor is done in the same style as the floors at Versailles.