Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Famous Minuet of Mademoiselle de Lorraine

A very public scandal occurred at the French court in 1770 shortly after Marie Antoinette's arrival at court. And of course it was all about etiquette. The entire scandal was all about the Mademoiselle de Lorraine, daughter of the Comtesse de Brionne (Duc de Choiseul's mistress). Comtesse de Brionne was determined - like most other parents at court - to advance her children as far as possible even if that meant breaking a few rules of etiquette along the way. Thus the Comtesse de Brionne arranged for her daughter to open up a court ball but that was not the way this was done at Versailles; it was the right of a Duchesse to open a ball.

Joséphine de Lorraine, Princess of Carignan.jpg
Mademoiselle de Lorraine
To show their indignation at this presumption of Mademoiselle de Lorraine many of the Duchesses publicly declared that they would boycott the ball altogether - most only used this as an illustration because they went anyway. However, there was one way that the ball could be ruined and hereby also Mademoiselle de Lorraine's great moment: to be fashionably late. So, the Duchesses strolled around Versailles all through the afternoon instead of going to their toilette. Those who did attend were so late that the opening was over by far and due to their high rank most attention went to them. One of those who would demonstrate the most was the Madame de Bouillon who let everyone know what she thought of that idea!

It seems like a little trifle to us but at the time even the King was informed of this scandal by the Archbishop of Reims and the Bishop of Noyon. Louis XV hated the scandals and constant fuss over etiquette and shrugged it off. He said that he merely intended to please the Dauphine - who was related to the Lorraine-line through her father - by giving a special favour to this far-away relative of hers. And after all that fuss it all just faded out and the great triumph of Mademoiselle de Lorraine all came to nothing. The rest of the evening would come to show that etiquette was not followed strictly on this evening; for example the Comte d'Artois did not take to the dance floor until after Mademoiselle had danced. Normally, the Comte would have danced first because he was a member of the royal family as the younger brother of the Dauphin, Louis Auguste. Some said that Marie Antoinette got hold of one of Louis XV's notes on the occasion and kept it in her personal appartment - however this seems unlike since Marie Antoinette had just arrived at court and was desperate to please her new father-in-law and stealing his letter is not like her.

This was just too good not to make another one of the many small rhymes that often circulated the court, so after a while this little parody of the great nobles' note to the King:

Sire, the Great, one and all
see, with sorrow and pain,
a Princess of Lorraine
take the lead of the ball.
If your Majesty mean
such affronts to project,
such marked disrespect,
they will quit the gay scene;
and leave fiddlers and all;
then think what is said;
the agreement is made

No comments:

Post a Comment