Thursday, 2 April 2015

The Wedding Celebrations of the Comte and Comtesse d'Artois

The wedding of Charles-Philippe, Comte d'Artois and Marie Thérèse of Savoy took place on 16 November 1773 in the chapel of Versailles. Two days earlier Marie Thérèse had arrived in coach from Savoy; she had been greeted by her husband, Louis XV, Louis-Auguste and Marie Antoinette.

At 1 o'clock the bride and groom left their apartments and headed to the chapel where the ceremony took place. The couple knelt in front of the altar as was custom.
Louis XV led the procession that took the newly married couple back to their apartments where the Duc de Richelieu handed the couple the King's gifts. Or rather, the key to the King's gifts. Louis XV had had a chest of jewels prepared for the couple. Afterwards, the new Comtesse d'Artois was presented to her new household and each member swore an oath of loyalty to her.

At 6 o'clock in the afternoon the court moved into the Hall of Mirrors where tables had been placed for the royal family to play games at. So, the King and his family sat for games such as lansquenet. An hour later the party moved into a salon nearby where a dinner-table had been prepared for the wedding feast. The King took his seat at the head of the table and was followed by the rest of the royal family. People were not allowed to sit wherever they might want to; court etiquette demanded that they be seated according to their rank so that the Dauphin would take the place nearest the King.
While the dinner was being served a small orchestra performed several pieces by Francoeur who had created them just for the occasion.

When everyone had eaten their full, the King rose and headed for the couple's apartment for the bedding ceremony. Cardinal la Roche-Aymon stepped in front of the royal entourage and blessed the marriage bed by sprinkling holy water on the sheets. Louis XV handed the Comte d'Artois his chemise, as was custom, while Marie Antoinette gave the Comtesse hers - Marie Antoinette was the highest ranking woman since there was no Queen. Then, all that remained was for the couple to climb into bed and for the curtains to be drawn.

Originally, a display of fireworks had been prepared but the weather was so poor that it had to be postponed.

The wedding ceremony

The following days continued the string of celebrations:

On the 17 November the court went to the opera in the north wing to watch a production of "Ismeror which was scheduled for 18.00.

On 18 November the couple received their congratulations from the ministers and state deputies of foreign countries. The same day saw the corps of Paris in their finest livery paraded in honour of the union; the corps was headed by the Duc de Brissac who later gave the Comte and Comtesse gifts on behalf of Paris.

On 19 November a ball was held in the King's Grand Apartment. It was opened by Louis-Auguste who danced with his other sister-in-law, the Comtesse de Provence (who happened to be the actual sister of the new Comtesse d'Artois!). Marie Antoinette was supposed to have opened the ball with her husband but she had been indisposed and watched from the sideline with Madame Élisabeth. When the Comte and Comtesse d'Artois took to the floor for their first dance it turned out to be a huge disappointment. Unlike Marie Antoinette, Marie Thérèse was a poor dancer and Charles-Philippe was clearly irritated with his wife's clumsiness.

Later that evening the weather was finally clear enough for the fireworks to be fired. No less than a battery with 800 "rounds" as well as a staggering 700 rockets were fired and that was just the beginning of the spectacle. It was followed by an impressing show that had been arranged to show off the best features of the gardens.

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