Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Etiquette of Marly

The little Château de Marly was a true haven for Louis XIV especially in the later years of his life; you can say that it was to the Sun King was Petit Trianon was to Marie Antoinette. But it was not for everyone. To get access to Marly one would have to be invited by the King himself which made it possible for the monarch to avoid tedious courtiers. And - of course - there was a set of etiquette even at this place of retreat though it was far less strict than the one used at Versailles. So, here is a little bit of what you were in for if you went to Marly:

First of all, there was no table plan for the dinner table (I know, outrageous) but a few simple rules mostly concerning who could sit next to the King. Anyone who had been invited to stay for dinner - not guaranteed by an invite to the gardens of Marly. Strangely enough the conversation at the same dinner table was almost mute since the King hardly spoke at his dinner and thus the conversation was mostly carried out in whispers.

Then there is a rule which must have made a few husbands smile. If a lady was invited to Marly, her husband immediately had the right to go too - even if he had not received a similar invitation. During the daytime the limited rooms of the château were all (save the King's) open to the courtiers who were free to use them as regular salons.
M. de Vaudemont had difficulty walking and even standing was a struggle. He was allowed to sit down at Marly even though he was in the presence of courtiers of higher rank who did not. However, when he returned to Versailles it was made clear that this exception was not to be repeated here - he had to stand like everyone else.

This was a place for pranksters to practise their jokes. At Versailles practical jokes were highly frowned upon and simply did not happen. However, the rules were different at Marly and some courtiers loved it. Especially the Duchesse de Bourgogne (mother of Louis XV) had a particular passion for practical jokes and it was she who alongside her friends one winter night broke into the room of the Princesse d'Harcourt and threw snowballs at the sleeping Princesse!

Marly at the time of Louis XIV
With all these liberties it was no wonder that especially young courtiers desperately wanted to receive the coveted invitations from the King himself.

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