Friday, 9 September 2016

The Duchesse de Berry's Alcohol Issue

The eldest daughter of the Regent Duc d'Orléans was christened Marie Louise Élisabeth d'Orléans and was easily one of the most scandalous personages at court. Her scandalous behaviour included everything from secret pregnancies to public drunkenness.

This latter problem became very obvious - and awkward - to those of the court that did not share her lifestyle. One particular embarrassing incident took place during a supper party at Saint-Cloud attended by most of the young royal family - including the Duc and Duchesse de Bourgogne. During the evening the Duchesse became more and more drunk until her companions had to discuss what to do with her. In the end it was decided that she was to be transported back to Versailles to sleep it off; however, the Duchesse could not walk herself to the carriage and had to be carried. Likewise, when they arrived at the palace she had to be supported to her apartment.

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The Duchesse de Berry

That Marie Louise Élisabeth was fond of a drunk - or five - became clear within a few days of her marriage to the Duc de Berry when she got very drunk at the dinner table. This resulted in a severe scolding from both the King and her father but either the Duchesse was indifferent to their words or she truly had become addicted. The incident at Saint-Cloud had been hidden from the King even though it had been witnessed by a fair share of not only the royal family but the giggling servants as well.

Once the Sun King died there was nothing to hold her back and with the death of her husband shortly after the Duchesse considered herself truly free to do as she chose. As for her drinking there was now no one to stop her; the old King had held some sway over her but that was no more.

Champagne came into fashion shortly after Louis XIV's death and the Duchesse was sure to be a part of the new trend. She was a firm fixture at her father's infamous private suppers where she was well-known to be able to drink most men under the table. Her father did nothing to halt her drinking. On the contrary, he had always adored her and would deny her nothing.

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The Duchesse at the end of her life

When at court it could be more troublesome to carry on drinking on such a scale without the privacy of her own home to retire to. It was recorded on several occasions that her drunkenness had often caused her to having to stagger to a corner and throw up.

The Duchesse's extreme lifestyle had done irreparable damage to her body - just imagine the condition of her liver - and eventually it caught up with her. She died at the age of just 23 years old.

1 comment:

  1. The Duchesse "was well-known to be able to drink most men under the table" but was also known as an insatiable lover ! She was overly fond of men and it's her sexual intemperance together with the absence of contraception and the archaic state of obstetrics that ultimately brought the young widow to the grave ! We know through Saint-Simon how gruesome and difficult was her last clandestine childbirth at the Luxembourg palace in late March 1719. Sure Berry's delivery was ill-prepared by her heavy drinking and the libertine life she carried on until the end of her pregnancy but after barely surviving four days of harrowing labour her health was severely undermined. She didn't recover from this delivery and got quickly became pregnant again as shown by her autopsy in July 1719.