Friday, 15 April 2016

Knowing One's Place: Proper Behaviour Towards Superior Nobles

In a social environment so heavily dictated by rank and according privileges it is clear that there must be rules for how to act when in the presence of a superior ranked aristocrat. These following principles are all taken from sources that might phrase things a bit differently - hence the "superior" and "inferior" which I have continued for clarity.

  • If a gentleman meets a superior outside he is not to put on his hat until the superior has done so himself or allows him to cover his head

  • If the inferior gentleman pays a visit to the superior (inside) the inferior is never to seat himself in a great armchair unless all chairs in the room are of such a type

  • If the inferior is offered precedence by the superior then it is a given that he takes it immediately. It was considered rude to halt. There is an (doubtful) anecdote of Louis XIV indicating to a gentleman that he can enter the King's carriage first but the gentleman hesitated so the King got in and left him there!

  • A superior may address the inferior with familiarity - actually it was considered rather normal - but the inferior may never use the same familiarity as it was seen as insolent

  • If a superior - or a lady - pays the inferior a visit it is good breeding to accompany them when they take leave

  • If the inferior is aware that a superior is coming to visit it he is expected to meet his visitor at the coach door and then lead him to the best room in the house. When the inferior seats himself beside the superior he must only sit in chair without arms

Etiquette at Versailles

The court of Versailles is almost synonymous with the rigid etiquette of the 17th and 18th centuries

Masterpieces of Etiquette

Louis XIV managed to turn everyday activities into masterpieces of etiquette; nothing was too insignificant if it meant that someone overstepped their rights. These events were all centred around the royal family whose members would become the main players on what can only be called a theatre. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

There Is Something In The Water: Fear of Poison at Court

The Affair of the Poisons still stands as one of the greatest scandals of Louis XIV's court. But there were other instances - unrelated to the Affair - where poison was suspected to have played a part. It was quite common that people could die young but some deaths sparked more suspicions that others. Ever since the unfolding of the Affair of the Poisons and the following punishment the fear of poisoning was never far from anyone's thoughts.
Here are five examples of how the fear of poisoning played a role in significant personages' deaths.

Henrietta, Duchesse d'Orléans
The death of Henrietta of England, Duchesse d'Orléans was immediately thought to be the result of poisoning. Her demise - at the age of just 26 - raised more than one eyebrow. Suspicions were soon directed towards the Chevalier de Lorraine who had had a long affair with Monsieur, her husband, and with whom it was well-known that Madame had had bitter feuds.
Henrietta herself believed that she had been poisoned. After suffering from severe consumption for a few days she fell violently ill after drinking a glass of water. Given her suspicions - which she voiced aloud - she was given antidotes and medicine for colic. However, it was all in vain and she died the following night. Following her death an autopsy was carried out in front of a remarkable number of spectators (her being the favourite sister of the King of England, there was a lot at stake). The doctor who performed the autopsy declared that she had died of gastroenteritis but several of those present declared that they most certainly disagreed.

Madame de la Fayette had been present when Henrietta had fallen ill and she declared that Madame's first lady of her bedchamber had also drunk some of it without troubles. Madame de Sévigné was a firm believer that the Duchesse d'Orléans had been poisoned but whether this had happened by the hands of the Chevalier de Lorraine or a jealous courtier she did not guess at.

Henrietta, Duchesse d'Orléans

The main theory (voiced by Madame de Sévigné) was that the Chevalier de Lorraine had become so angry with Madame for having him exiled from court that he had attempted to kill her. This he is supposed to have done through two men in Madame's household - Breuvron and Effiat - both of whom were followers of the Chevalier. One of these was suspected of having administered the poison which had been sent from Italy by the Chevalier.

At court those who believed her to have been poisoned also speculated as to what poison had been used. Generally, Madame was supposed to have died of a deadly cocktail of diamond dust and powdered sugar.

No formal request for an inquiry arrived from the English court which may have been due to diplomatic reasons. The English Ambassador, Montague, was himself convinced that she had indeed been murdered. Over time the case was hushed down which to many only served as a confirmation of their suspicions.

The Marquis de Louvois
Louis XIV's Secretary of State, François-Michel le Tellier, was usually known merely as Louvois which was derived from his title of Marquis de Louvois. He was not very well liked so when he died suddenly in 1691 the usual accusations of poisoning followed soon after.

The main culprit was thought to be Madame de Maintenon with whom it was common knowledge that Louvois had fallen out.

Elizabeth Charlotte d'Orléans (Madame) was convinced that Louvois had been poisoned. She had her doubts as to whether to really was Madame de Maintenon who had ordered the assassination but was not willing to dismiss it either. She actually gives a possible motive: Madame de Maintenon had wanted to accompany Louis XIV on a trip to inspect his army which Louvois (being Minister of War) had opposed. This had angered Maintenon enough to seek her revenge through poison. It should be kept in mind that Elizabeth Charlotte and Madame de Maintenon was infamous for their intense dislike of each other.

Marquis de Louvois

Those who followed the point of view of Madame also noted that the King was not sad to see his minister die. It had not been a secret that Louvois' relationship with the King had soured considerably lately. Some claimed that Louvois had actually poisoned himself rather than falling into public disgrace. This was supported by the fact that Louis XIV's dealings with Nicolas Fouquet presented a bleak prospect for ministers out of favour.

The Marquis de Dangeau records in his journal that when the doctors "opened him up" on the 17th July they found no signs of poison. Generally, there were those who doubted whether this was a case of poisoning at all. However, Dangeau also makes a casual remark on the 21st of that same month. On this day a scullion was imprisoned for poisoning the minister via a water jug which Louvois had been seen to drink from on the day of his death. What became of the poor scullion is not known.

Another suspect was none other than the Duke of Savoy. Madame de Sévigné mentions him as being a suspect since he wanted to exact revenge upon Louvois. This accusation was borne by another rumour that Louvois had poisoned Seignelai.

In 1675 the composer Lully - a favourite of the King's - went to his protector with startling accusations. He believed that his rival Henri Guichard had attempted to poison him. Monsieur urged his older brother to start an investigation which was exactly what the King did.

The nervous Lully

It is believed that Guichard was aided by a corrupt police officer Sébastien Aubry who often saw Lully at the opera and thus had a means of poisoning him. However, they were (allegedly) found out by a third party who then raised the alarm. Whether or not this story happens to be true is known only to history; either way Guichard was not charged.

In a twist of irony Lully died from blood poisoning caused by gangrene.

The Duc and Duchesse de Bourgogne
The Duc and Duchesse de Bourgogne became Dauphin and Dauphine in 1711 after the death of the Grand Dauphin but just a year later they were both dead. Both being young and healthy (as well as popular) few people believed them to have died of natural circumstances.

Fingers were quick to point to the King's nephew, Philippe II d'Orléans, since he stood to gain the most from the couple's demise. With both the Duc and Duchesse de Bourgogne out of the way Philippe would most likely become Regent - which he did - at the death of Louis XIV.
Public opinion soon turned against the Duc d'Orléans as well. When he attended the funerals of the Bourgognes he was subjected to abuse from the spectators who made no attempt at hiding their convictions. To make matters worse, it was well-known that Philippe had laboratories both at Saint-Cloud and at the Palais-Royal which was immediately interpreted as evidence of his guilt.

Louis, Duc de Bourgogne

At both the autopsies both doctors Fagon and Boudin immediately declared that the cause of death had certainly been poison. Meanwhile others - just as in Henrietta's case - were adamant that it was not the case

Once again, a tale was linked to the demise of the Dauphine (who had died first). On the day of her falling ill she had received a beautiful snuffbox from the Duc de Noailles which contained snuff from Spain. She had used some but when the box was searched for afterwards it was not to be found. Naturally, this was immediately seen as conclusive proof of foul play.

There was another rumour which helped to fuel the accusations. Apparently, the Dauphine and the Dauphin should both had received warnings that there was a plot to kill them. The Dauphin is supposed to have received this warning from his relative, the King of Spain, while the Dauphine was warned by the doctor Boudin - who was also quick to announce the "cause of death" at her autopsy.

At court few people in such an advantageous social position had ever been shunned so much as the Duc d'Orléans. Philippe himself pleaded with the King to have the accusations against him investigated so that he could finally be cleared. The King was reluctant to grant such a request. In the beginning Louis XIV had seemed to somewhat believe the accusations against his nephew but that was clearly only short-lived. Just two years later the King expressed his clear opinion on the matter in which he thought the accusations were ridiculous.

Marie Adélaïde, Duchesse de Bourgogne

There were those who defended Philippe. Those who knew him best asserted that he could never have committed such a crime. Over time the obvious fondness Philippe showed towards the sole survivor, Louis XV, was enough to persuade some people of his innocence. They argued that if he had really wanted to seized the crown for himself then he would not have hesitated to kill off this young boy whose health was never strong anyway.

Whereas the death of Henrietta is still a mystery, only few people today doubt the actual cause of death of the Duc and Duchesse de Bourgogne. At this time a particular malignant sort of the measles circulated the court which is consistent with the symptoms shown by both.

Madame de Pompadour
Although Madame de Pompadour did not die from poisoning - and no such suspicion was raised - she did come in close contact with that lethal weapon. Her position was one to always excite jealousy and the influence she had over the King all the more so.

One story tells us of a letter addressed to Madame de Pompadour which contained white powder that turned out to be a deadly poison. The letter was one of many threats made against the King's favourite following the disastrous Battle of Rosbach. The Marquise turned to the Head of Police, Berryer, who began an investigation but it went nowhere.

Madame de Pompadour

From the memoirs of Madame de Hausset we are informed that Madame de Pompadour herself was convinced that Berryer had saved her from dying of poison several times.
Some accused the Duc de Choiseul of having poisoned her although this is most likely merely a court rumour.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Louis Alexandre de La Rochefoucauld d'Enville, Duc de La Rochefoucauld

Louis Alexandre de La Rochefoucauld d'Enville was born into one of the oldest noble families in France. On 4 July 1743 he was born in Paris as the son of Jean-Baptiste de La Rochefoucauld and Marie-Louise-Nicole de La Rochefoucauld.

His first marriage took place in 1762 when he married Louise-Pauline de Gand de Mérode but the union was to remain without children. That same year also brought him the title of Duc de La Rochefoucauld with the death of his grandfather (his own father having died earlier). Eighteen years later Louis Alexandre found himself a widower still without an heir and decided to marry Alexandrine-Charlotte de Rohan-Chabot. What hopes he must have had regarding fathering an heir is unknown but his second marriage also remained without issue.

Through these years of marriage it would seem that Louis Alexandre fostered a keen interest in the natural sciences. Eventually, this led to him presiding as President of both the Royal Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of Medicine.
Besides his love for the sciences, the Duc was a well-travelled man. In his youth he had made his grand tour of Europe which brought him through Germany, Sweden, Savoy, England, Switzerland and Italy.

Portrait du duc d'Anville

After his second marriage, Louis Alexandre turned his attention to helping his close friend, Benjamin Franklin, whom he had translated several literary works for before. As it happens, Louis Alexandre was a great supporter of the American side in their war against Britain. Considering the circle which Louis Alexandre moved in he appeared to have been interested in some of the new enlightenment ideas. For example his circle of friends includes names such as Turgot and Desmarest.

By 1789 the revolution was stirring and Louis Alexandre took his seat as a member of the States General. Having originally supported the third estate - he had been one of 47 aristocrats who had openly laid their weight behind the third estate - the drastic turn of events unnerved the otherwise liberal Duc. He managed to keep a place in politics after the fall of the first Assembly but then made the political mistake of opposing Pétion.

Things were now getting too dangerous for Louis Alexandre to remain in Paris. Despite his well-known sympathies for the revolutionary cause he was still a nobleman and a high-ranking one at that. On 10 August 1792 he abruptly resigned his position and fled France to avoid the increasing hostile atmosphere. Despite his efforts, Louis Alexandre never made it out of France. At Gisors he was apprehended while trying to get his wife and mother to safety.

On 4 September Louis Alexandre was murdered by militants who had assembled to fight the Prussians - their other main task was to hunt down fleeing aristocrats.  

Élisabeth Thérèse de Lorraine, Princesse d'Epinoy

Élisabeth Thérèse de Lorraine was born on 5 April 1664 into a cadet branch of the House of Guise. Through her father she was related to King Henri IV of France as the late King's great-granddaughter.

At court she was known as Mademoiselle de Commercy which was a region within Lorraine.
Despite being from a large group of children Élisabeth Thérèse was the only one who married. That event took place in 1681 when she was wed to Louis de Melun, Duc de Joyeuse and Prince d'Epinoy, Later, Élisabeth Thérèse would add the title of Duchesse de Luxembourg-Saint-Pol to her already extensive collection when she bought the title from Marie d'Orléans. She and her husband went on to have two children.

For Élisabeth Thérèse it had always been her destiny to make her career at court. There she had spent her youth and there she would spent the majority of her life. Her position at court was one of some prestige; she was placed in the service of Marie Anne de Bourbon (a legitimised daughter of Louis XIV) where she would quickly assert herself as a part of the Grand Dauphin's inner circle.

It was through that very circle that she met Louise Françoise de Bourbon (another natural daughter of the King) whom she would become very close friends with. However, not everyone was convinced that Élisabeth Thérèse was there solely for her own amusement. The ever critical Duc de Saint-Simon was convinced that both Élisabeth Thérèse and her sister reported back to Madame de Maintenon on everything that happened in the Grand Dauphin's apartments.

In 1721 Élisabeth Thérèse's fortune was enlarged when her aunt, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, died and left Élisabeth Thérèse her inheritance. Sadly, Élisabeth Thérèse would have no children to leave her own titles and fortune to; both her children died before she did but her daughter had given her five grandchildren.

When she was not at court Élisabeth Thérèse lived in Paris at the Hôtel de Mayenne. Here both she and her husband would die in 1748.

A Royal Mésalliance

Of the four marriages arranged by Louis XIV to the advantage of his illegitimate children the one that brought on the greatest scandal was that of Françoise Anne de Bourbon. Known at court as Mademoiselle de Blois, she was the natural daughter of Louis XIV by Madame de Montespan and had been legitimised at the age of four. Her bridegroom, Philippe II d'Orléans, had no stain of illegitimacy which caused quite a scandal. Not only was he a member of the royal family, Philippe II was the only legitimate nephew of Louis XIV and therefore one of the most eligible bachelors at court.

It was clear from the beginning that one of the greatest opponents of the match was the mother of the bridegroom, Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate.

Elizabeth Charlotte, "Madame"

Louis XIV realised that he could not persuade his sister-in-law to accept the match and began a tactic meant to coax her instead. The method adopted by the Sun King can only say to be undignified: as the new year of 1690 was celebrated the King neglected to pay Elizabeth Charlotte's pension which she was totally dependent on. Even this trick could not sway the proud German-born Princesse.

As to the father of Philippe II, the King's brother (Philippe I or simply "Monsieur"), he was no less displeased with the match. Here, however, Louis knew who to turn to. Monsieur's affair with the infamous Chevalier de Lorraine was well-known and the King had no scruples turning to his brother's lover. Consequently, the Chevalier suddenly received a far better treatment by the King which prompted Madame (Elizabeth Charlotte) to write in a letter to her aunt that she was sure the Chevalier had promised the King to persuade Monsieur.

Françoise Anne - the bride who caused all the

The bridegroom himself was not pleased with the match. He had always been partial to his prospected wife's sister which definitely complicated matters. Here, too, Louis XIV was convinced that he could apply pressure to the right source and achieve his desired goals. The tutor of Philippe II was Abbé Dubois who acted as that very source. Added with the pressure of his tutor, Louis XIV himself laid in a word. With the war going on it was impossible for the King to find a suitable bride abroad and so Philippe II should be honoured that he was offering his own daughter.

Eventually, Philippe II answers the King that it is not up to him but rather his parents to make the final choice. Monsieur realises that he cannot win against his august brother and relents but not without showing his displeasure. Now the problem of Madame remained to be solved and that can easily be said to be the hardest one.

If anyone had doubted the Duchesse d'Orléans' feelings on the subjects those doubts were cleared away when she slapped her son across the face in the middle of the hall of mirrors and then turned her back on the King as he bowed to her. The courtiers could only watch in utter astonishment at the spectacle but there was nothing to be done. Once the papal dispensation had arrived (the couple being cousins) the wedding took place.

Elizabeth Charlotte never forgave her brother-in-law this match which she thought so demeaning. To her daughter-in-law she was equally resolute in avoiding a close relationship.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Marrying a Royal Bastard

Although the courtiers of Louis XIV had grown accustomed to the King having his own way there was one particular decision (or rather several) that send a wave of indignation through his court. One thing was that the King had had his illegitimate children legitimised - that had been done before - but it was a whole other thing to have them married into the most powerful families.

A marriage suggested by the King was more of an order than an actual suggestion. No one could successfully deny the King's marriage plans no matter how demeaning a match may seem. In total Louis XIV married four of his legitimised children into the power-elite at court:

Marie Anne de Bourbon was the daughter of Louise de La Vallière and was known as Mademoiselle de Blois. She was married to Louis Armand, Prince de Conti in 1680 but the marriage remained childless and she was widowed at a young age.

Louis Auguste de Bourbon received the title of Duc du Maine when he was legitimised. In 1692 he married Anne Louise Bénédicte de Bourbon which proved to be a disaster. Anne Louise Bénédicte was deeply ashamed of being made to marry a bastard and was never faithful to her husband.

Louise Françoise de Bourbon, known as Mademoiselle de Nantes, was married to Louis de Bourbon, Duc de Bourbon in 1685. As compensation for marrying beneath his rank the Duc de Bourbon received not only a dowry of one million livres but also the promise of the post of surintendante of the King's household after the death of his father.

Françoise Marie de Bourbon or Mademoiselle de Blois undoubtedly won the marriage lottery. In 1692 she married the King's only legitimate nephew, Philippe II d'Orléans, who would rule as Regent during the minority of Louis XV. As it turned out the greater the match, the greater the scandal.
The bridegroom's mother - Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate - was far from pleased when she heard of the betrothal; she slapped her son in full public and even turned her back on the King when he saluted her. Many would probably have done the same, had they dared, since "the bastards" as the Duc de Saint-Simon used as a reference for the King's children were little liked and their elevation was widely detested.

One way that Louis XIV attempted to compensate for the lack of actual legitimacy was through his daughters' dowries. Each of his daughters received an immense dowry: Louise Francoise's hand was given with the sum of 1.000.000 livres while her younger sister was sent off with twice that sum.

Madame de Maintenon was another driving force behind the illustrious matches of the King's bastards. Never having any children of her own, she had been governess to the children of Madame de Montespan by the King and had grown very attached to them. Consequently, she dedicated her life to their advancement and especially the marriage between Françoise Marie and Philippe II is considered to be her doing.

Another attempt at raising the prestige of the ceremonies was the presence of the exiled King of England. At both the weddings of Mademoiselle de Blois and the Duc du Main the English King was present and even handed the latter his chemise at the bedding ceremony.

Marie Anne de Bourbon, Duchesse de Vendôme

Born on 28 February 1678 Marie Anne de Bourbon did not have the greatest prospects for a happy family life. Her father, Henri Jules, Prince de Condé, was notorious for his abusive nature and it was a well-known fact that he often beat his wife, the Bavarian Anne Henriette. Sadly, her Marie Anne would also become a victim of her father's abuse as was the case with her siblings.

What she did not have in family happiness Marie Anne could "make up for" in her status. She was born a Princess of the Blood and was known as Mademoiselle de Montmorency before her marriage. Her father was the First Prince of the Blood which meant that there would be no shortage of suitors even though she was the ninth child to her parents.

Originally, her father had wanted to marry her off to the Italian Duke of Mantua but that never came to be. Instead, Marie Anne remained at the Hôtel de Condé where she had been born and spent her entire life so far. Her father died in 1709 which can only have been a relief to her mother as well as those of her siblings still living at home.
Now, it would normally have been up to her mother or eldest brother (who died around this time too) to negotiate a marriage for her. Given that her siblings had married grandly as was expected (her eldest sister married the Prince de Conti while her eldest brother wedded a legitimised daughter of Louis XIV) it was in the cards that she would too.

Marie Anne de Bourbon, Duchess of Vendôme.jpg

This, however, was not to be done the normal way. Marie Anne had no intentions of marrying her mother's choice and was aided by her sister, Louise Bénédicte, in arranging a match for herself. Consequently, Marie Anne married Louis Joseph, Duc de Vendôme on 21 May 1710.

The couple was only united for two days since Louis Joseph left for his château d'Anet while Marie Anne remained at the château de Sceaux where the ceremony had taken place. In the end the marriage was to be a short one. Marie Anne was widowed already two years after her marriage and had had no children. Despite the short marriage it would seem that the couple was on good terms; Louis Joseph died he left his wife the title and dukedom of d'Étampes which meant that she now held that title in her own right.

After her husband's death, Marie Anne moved to Paris where she settled in the Hôtel de Vendôme. Here, she initiated several improvements to the hôtel which would remain her residence until her death. Sadly, that event was not long in happening. Marie Anne died on 11 April 1718 at forty years old.

The Bourgogne Faction

The Bourgogne Faction was centred around Louis, Duc de Bourgogne and by extension his popular wife, Marie Adélaïde of Savoy. The faction was convinced that France was in great need of reform as to the governmental system. This shared opinion was what sparked the faction; the Duc de Bourgogne had developed into an intelligent young man who himself was greatly in support of reforming his grand-father's (Louis XIV) system.

Billedresultat for duc de bourgogne
The Duc de Bourgogne

The main protagonist of the faction was the Duc de Bourgogne's tutor, Abbé Fénelon. The Abbé (or Archbishop) was outspoken to say the least. He authored several letters and treatises which were harsh in their critics on the Sun King's regime and nothing short of absolutely adoring of the Duc de Bourgogne. However, in 1699, the King had had enough of Fénelon's critics. He banished him from court and forbade him from having any contact with the royal family.

Other members included the Colbert family such as the Duc de Chevreuse and the Duc de Beauvilliers. The infamous Duc de Saint-Simon has also been connected to the faction.

Duc de Chevreuse (Colbert's son)

The circle around the Duc de Bourgogne remained steadfast. High moral principles were the trademark of the faction which included several of the most progressive philosophers of the time as well as aristocrats who sympathised with the lower classes. The development towards a less absolute monarchy was a main agenda for the factions; rather than the all-mighty King they were in favour of delegation some aspect of governmental power to the provinces.

The disgraced Fénelon
During the life of the Grand Dauphin the group had little to no influence. Then, in 1711, the Grand Dauphin died which meant that the Duc de Bourgogne was now Dauphin. Suddenly, the Bourgogne faction stood to gain everything. The chance of reform seemed to be within reach. The ageing King's health was deteriorating so those who looked to the future sought the next in line. Yet, an ageing King is still King and the Dauphin had not nearly enough influence to achieve the faction's goals.

The end of the Bourgogne Faction came just a year later. The Duc de Bourgogne and Marie Adélaïde both fell ill and died to the great horror of the court. Officially, this was the end and the surviving members would themselves follow their idol to the grave soon after. The ideas did not die out though. During the regency of the Duc d'Orléans government was indeed divided into several sectors which had been one of the main goals of the Bourgogne faction.

Sedan Chairs at Versailles

The vast complex of buildings which Versailles and the growing city around had turned into meant that getting from one place to another could be quite a hassle. In came the sedan chairs or chaise à porteur which is basically a seat in a box which is carried by two men; one in front and one in the back.

Those who did not have the Honneurs de Louvre were obliged to disembark their carriages at the gates but did have the opportunity of hailing a sedan chair for the remainder of the way up to the palace itself. Of course, to have this option also meant that sedan chairs had to be available immediately around  the royal residence. In 1674 Louis XIV gave his veteran servicemen as well as the abounding number of homeless and wounded ex-soldiers monopoly on the work as carriers of sedan chairs around the royal palaces.
The sedan chairs for rent were all painted blue; a colour which was shared by livery of the men who carried them. The fare from the gate to the palace was 6 sous.

A chaise à porteur from the King's household

Inside the palace only royalty had the privilege of using a sedan chair in the Grand Apartments. In August 1715 Louis XIV was carried to the apartments of Madame de Maintenon in such a one.

When Louis XV established the Parc-aux-Cerfs chaises à porteur was used to transport the young girls to a hidden door leading up to the King's private chambers. These chairs would always have their windows covered. The same secrecy was often adopted by Louis XV when he went on night tours to balls; on these occasions he preferred to use a kind of sedan chair which was fitted on a wheel and dragged by a single porter.

Even Marie Antoinette's brother, Emperor Joseph, used a sedan chair when he paid his sister a visit in 1777.

As fashion became an ever more important aspect of court life so did the chaise à porteur. To keep the ladies' ever-rising hairstyles intact and the lush silks and velvets of the gentlemen dry every courtier with respect for himself had one. It was the norm to have one's coat-of-arms painted on the sides and back of the sedan chair. Naturally this meant that everyone could tell who was going where. It created quite a bustle of gossip when Madame de Pompadour's sedan chair - with its mistress inside - was seen paying a visit to Maurepas who had never been a friend of hers.

The design of the private sedan chairs became evermore intricate. In the reign of Louis XV it was hard to find one that was not gilded with gold and had a comfortable seat inside rather than a mere plank with a flat pillow.

As Marly became Louis XIV's favourite retreat the popularity of personal chaises à porteurs once again came into play. The distance could be considered somewhat far - especially considering that the King was not as young as he had been - and it was quite normal for the King together with Madame de Maintenon and the Duchesse de Bourgogne to go in this manner.
Speaking of Louis XIV he had a particular fondness for the man employed to carry the front poles of his personal sedan chair. This man was named d'Aigremont and it also fell to him to open the door for the King.

A French sedan chair currently at Compiègne

Occasionally, the sedan chair was taken outside the environs of Versailles. When Louis XIV went to inspect his troops he always took his court with him. Madame de Maintenon was given the luxury of been transported there and viewing the troops through the three glass panes in her chaise à porteur.

A beautiful example from 1720

Undoubtedly, the use of sedan chairs came as a relief to a great deal of people. The elderly courtiers was spared the need to walk the immense gardens and considering that - depending on their rank - they would often not be allowed a seat when the King was there, it must have been a relief. For those who struggled with their health it was good news too. In his later years, Louis XIV often took to seeing his gardens in this way since he often suffered from pains in his legs. When Marie Adélaïde, Duchesse de Bourgogne had had a hard delivery of her first son, she too, took advantage of it.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Table Decoration of the Prince de Condé

A solid silver (almost) table decoration which was created in 1736 for Louis Henri, Duc de Bourbon and Prince de Condé. This objet d'art appears to have been dedicated to the pastime of hunting; a stag is seen being attacked by hunting dogs and a wolf has caught its paw in a trap. It is likely that it would have been placed at the centre of the table.

Elizabeth Charlotte d'Orléans and Madame de Maintenon

Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate had been established as Madame at the French court for some years when Madame de Maintenon suddenly usurped Madame de Montespan's place as royal favourite. To the courtiers this change marked the beginning of a gloomy time at court with no entertainment and little to do other than attending Mass. To Elizabeth Charlotte it was a catastrophe; she had never liked the strict and austere governess and was loath to see her rise so high.

It is mainly through her letters and memoirs that one finds Elizabeth Charlotte's honest opinion on the King's last mistress. Describing her mainly as "the old woman" the Duchesse d'Orléans does not shy away from naming her adversary even harsher terms - "the piece of filth" is another reoccurring name. On one occasion Liselotte (as Elizabeth Charlotte was nicknamed) writes on the death of an acquaintance that she would have been far more pleased if it had been Madame de Maintenon who had gone.

Madame de Maintenon

Madame de Maintenon herself was not any fonder of the King's sister-in-law. Whenever the royal family went to Marly she made sure that Elizabeth Charlotte never received an invitation to walks around the grounds with the King. This trick of keeping the King away from was one generally used by Madame de Maintenon. Whereas Louis XIV had hitherto liked his sister-in-law for her brash and honest ways his attitude towards her drastically changed for the worse when Madame de Maintenon came along.

One particular incident which permanently ensured that the two would never see eye to eye was the marriage of Elizabeth Charlotte's son. The German-born Liselotte was a very proud woman and knew what was due to both herself and her offspring. Consequently, when it was rumoured that the King intended to marry her son to one of his bastards, Mademoiselle de Blois, she was furious. Madame de Maintenon had always supported the King's illegitimate children and continued to do so in this case. It soon was obvious that the King's favourite was a great supporter of the match which nothing seemed to be able to prevent. In the end the marriage did take place but Elizabeth Charlotte never forgot or forgave Madame de Maintenon for her role in the matter.

Elizabeth Charlotte, Duchesse d'Orléans

Another thing that rubbed Elizabeth Charlotte the wrong way was the social standing of Madame de Maintenon. Liselotte was convinced - as was the general world-view - that the ranks were separated for a reason and for royalty to marry beneath themselves was an utter disgrace.

It has been suggested that Elizabeth Charlotte was in love with Louis XIV which could be another reason for her dislike of the favourite. However, there is little to suggest that Elizabeth Charlotte actually was in love with the King.

After the death of Elizabeth Charlotte's husband, the Duc d'Orléans, there was an attempt at a reconciliation between the two. Different sources varies as to exactly who initiated the meeting but nonetheless it was to happen. The meeting took place in the apartment of Elizabeth Charlotte where the two both sat down in the presence of Madame de Ventadour who witnessed the whole exchange. The interview went back and fourth and in the end the two agreed to forget the past and be friends from there on - however, it is unlikely that they became close.

Adversaries of Madame de Maintenon

A royal favourite would always be an object of equal admiration and jealousy. Madame de Maintenon was no different despite her less showy way of life than her predecessor. Many attributed the gloomy atmosphere at court to the influence of the austere new favourite which is not far off point. The days of splendid fêtes and lively balls were long over and the courtiers were left to amuse themselves however they could. That proved to be a harder task than one could imagine since no one wanted to get on the King's bad side.

Madame de Maintenon

Some were open about their dislike of Madame de Maintenon or at least as open as it is possible to be without attracting the royal wrath. One who was particularly set against Madame de Maintenon was Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate or simply Madame as was her court title as Duchesse d'Orléans. In her letters and subsequent memoirs the Duchesse d'Orléans refers to Madame de Maintenon as "the old woman" or even as "that piece of filth". Madame had a keen way of expressing herself which proves to be quite interesting reading. Another phrase of hers regarding "the old woman" dates to 1692 when the favourite is described "old ripopée" which is a term used for wine that has become so old that it borders on vinegar.
Madame de Maintenon was not fond of the Duchesse d'Orléans either. Whenever the royal family went to Marly she made sure to exclude the King's sister-in-law from walks around the grounds.

Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate -
one of Mme de Maintenon's fiercest enemies

The Duc de Saint-Simon was another of Madame de Maintenon's enemy. Like Madame he found her to be too old which becomes clear in his memoirs where she is referred to as the "old hag". When rumours spread that she had become the King's morganatic wife, he declared that if it was true it was a great dishonour to the throne of France.

Occasionally, opposition to the favourite was more openly demonstrated. An Italian troupe of actors had enjoyed some success at Versailles right until they performed a play named "The False Prude". The play features a certain character which is obviously meant to be Madame de Maintenon. The court rushed to see the play - a demonstration of her unpopularity? - but the King was furious. He immediately closed down the performance and sent the troupe into exile for a year.

Abbé Fénelon

The Abbé de Fénelon was an enemy whom Madame de Maintenon did her best to get rid of. It was well known that Madame de Maintenon had more than once attempted to set the King against Fénelon and she rarely missed an opportunity of "bad-mouthing" him. Apparently, the King - who himself had become somewhat estranged from him - followed the advice of his favourite and appeared to be publicly displeased with the Abbé. Originally, Madame de Maintenon and Fénelon had actually been on pretty good terms; united by piety that same aspect was to tear them apart. Madame de Maintenon found that Fénelon's beliefs leant towards quietism which she would not accept.

For the majority of courtiers who disliked Madame de Maintenon their dislike was far more bounded in their boredom. It seemed a bit too coincidental that life at court would become so much more boring after "the old hag" came into power.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Look-Book: Children's wear

Early 18th century, England
For an infant boy, 1770-80
Second half of 18th century, Norway
Boy's suit, 1763,
Infant's jacket, 1775,
the Netherlands
Girl's jacket, 1750-80




Late 17th century,

1730's, probably French