Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Royal Interests

I thought it would be interesting to see what the members of the royal family was interested in and what they did as a hobby. The royals were not just swagging around Versailles all day and drinking champagne at night but they had real passions, just like everybody else.

Louis XV was fond of science. Not only was he a patron to many scientists and engineers the King would also take an active position towards the many new discoveries made during his time. When electricity caught the attention of scientists the King was not prepared to stand by; instead he had the Abbé Nollet perform an experiment where electrical discharges would be created in a jar in 1746. Among other things Louis would heartily support the experiments and missions of the French Academy of Science. The King once met with Angélique Du Coudray as a midwife was horrified over how little most French women (including other midwives!) actually knew about pregnancy and giving birth. She created a model of a fætus made of linen and presented it to Louis XV; the King was so impressed that he sent her all over France to spread her knowledge and hereby help his many female subjects. It was also in Louis XV's vegetable gardens that the first successful growth of French pineapple was grown.

Marie Leszczynska loved music and even took singing lessons herself. Due to her Polish origins the music in the chapel at Versailles changed towards more Polish and Polish-inspired music pieces. It was she who received a little up-coming music genius by the name of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart when he visited Versailles as a child in 1763. During that visit the young prodigy was given the great honour of "standing next to her Majesty the entire evening". The Queen also loved painting. Water-colours were a favourite of hers and she would often use the painting technique herself. This love of the painted art also meant that the Queen would employ the most talented artists to paint some of the beautiful images still seen at Versailles today.

Louis XVI at his forge
Louis XVI had a fascination with locks. He had his own forge installed in his private apartments at Versailles where he could do what he did best: locksmithing. The King would be assisted by the professional locksmith François Gamain; however Gamain betrayed Louis when the French revolution broke out. Louis would not only make locks for fun but also simpler mechanical furniture including a metal chest which he used to store papers. Apparently, this hobby was seen as something positive - or at least when he was a child - because the young Louis was often encouraged to pursue this interest.

Marie Antoinette was also a great lover of music. In Vienna she received music lessons by Glück himself and she would later be his patron in France - her entire Austrian family all loved music. Her favourite instrument was the harp and she would often take lessons on it when at Versailles. When her son, Louis Charles, was born she would play lullabies to him on this harp. Another huge interest of Marie's was that of acting. She often took to the stage at her private theatre at Petit Trianon where she was a brilliant actress (on one occasion her husband got to his feet and applauded her performance). In Austria she had also participated in small plays which was also a tradition at Versailles. The Queen adored children too and always took a keen interest in her ladies' offspring. She would often ask her ladies-in-waiting to bring their children with them to court when they were to serve her.

Louis XIV had many, many interests - so many that instead of going into detail with every single one I am just going to list his main ones: art, dancing, literature, theatre, music, hunting, architecture, science etc.

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