Friday, 27 December 2013

Noble Nicknames

It has always been "fashionable" to bestow nicknames on those in the spotlight - both good and bad. In the l'ancien régieme this was no different and many of the courtiers had to put up with several nicknames that was not always particularly friendly.

Louis XIV is most famously known as the "Sun King" due to his position as the absolute centre of power in France - the entire kingdom "circled" around him, if you will.
Louis XV was for a time given the affectionate nickname "the Beloved" by his people but a series of military and political failures robbed him of the title - and his people's affection.
Louis XVI was given the offending nickname of "Louis the Last" by the revolutionaries - a scary thought considering what happened to him.

Marie Antoinette received countless nicknames by the French people but most of them was far from flattering. She was known as "Madame Deficit" and "L'Autrichienne" - the latter was a particular insulting combination of "Austrian" and "Bitch" (Chienne is French for a female dog). 

Philippe I, Duc d'Orléans had a special ability to marry his children into the Catholic royal families of Europe which earned him the nickname of "grandfather of Europe".

Marie Clothilde de France (younger sister of Louis XVI) was another one who did not escape the courtiers' vicious targeting despite her royal status. As with both her brother and his two successors Marie Clothilde was quite over-weight which meant that she was referred to as "Gros-Madame" - "gros" meaning large or in this case plainly fat Madame.

Louis XV himself was fond of giving his unmarried daughters - Mesdames Tantes - nicknames but not the affectionate kind you might expect from a father - on the contrary! Madame Victoire thus became "Coche" meaning an ageing sow, Madame Adélaïde was "Loque" meaning rag, the disabled Madame Louise was "Chiffe" which translates into bad silk while Madame Sophie was "Graille" or scrap.

It would seem that Madame Elisabeth - the youngest sister of Louis XVI - was among the very few whose nickname was actually flattering. Due to her natural sense of duty towards her tenants of her estate Montreuil and her charity she was called "the good Lady of Montreuil".

Couriters too could receive nicknames. As most people know Marie Antoinette named Comtesse de Noailles "Madame Etiquette" due to her insistence of keeping up the strict etiquette at all times. The daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette was nicknamed "Serious Mousseline" by her mother.

No comments:

Post a comment