Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Artefacts of the Comte & Comtesse de Provence

Louis Stanislav Xavier, brother to Louis XVI and Marie Joséphine of Savoy.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Marie Thérèse's Black Child

Louise Marie Thérèse was a nun of the Benedictine order who made quite a remarkable claim: she was convinced that she was the illegitimate daughter of Queen Marie Thérèse.

Illegitimate children were not uncommon for Kings but when it came to Queens there was a whole different issue. Since a Queen could give birth it was thought that any illegitimate offspring could potentially interfere in the line of succession - who was to know whether it was truly the King's child if the Queen was known to have lovers?

What really made the claim so scandalous was that Louise Marie Thérèse was black. The Spanish-born Queen was well-known to live in her own little world of Spanish attendants including several of African descend. Louise Marie was said to be the result of an affair between Marie Thérèse and a man named Nabo. After Louise Marie's claim became common gossip it was quickly suggested that perhaps the Queen had gotten depressed due to her husband's many affairs and had decided to have one of her own.

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Louise Marie as a Benedictine nun

There is little to deny that Louise Marie had connections to the royal court but whether these were founded on blood is not certain. That she was welcomed at Versailles was astonishing enough in itself considering the time's attitude towards dark-skinned people. Nevertheless, Louis XIV was so impressed with her that he settled 300 pounds on her for her keep at the nunnery.

A remarkable number of memoirs from the period mentions the Benedictine nun. Saint-Simon was outraged when he allegedly heard her address the Grand Dauphin as "brother" - something that surely must have raised many eyebrows. There is little doubt that Louise Marie herself was convinced of her heritage - even if few others were.

There is one thing that must be kept in mind when dealing with such rumours and resources. What must first be kept in mind is that a Queen of France gave birth in public. When she delivered her baby she was not screened from view and quite a large group of people had the right to be present. This was meant as a security primarily against the swap of infants - a female child for a male child, for example. Marie Thérèse did indeed have a baby in 1664 which is the year Louise Marie was born. However, there are a lot of evidence suggesting that the two births were not related.

The sources usually claimed by those who support Louise Marie are Voltaire, Cardinal Dubois, Saint-Simon, the Princesse de Montpensier and Madame de Montespan - all of whom mentions her in their memoirs. But how reliable are their statements on this particular subject?

First of all, neither Saint-Simon nor Voltaire were even born at the time of Louise Marie's birth in 1664. The former was born in 1675 while the latter not until 1694. Consequently, neither was present at the delivery of the Queen.

The Princesse de Montpellier was the only one actually present and she recorded that the Queen had given birth to a still-born child which had been very dark in colour. This darkness of colour could very well be the result of either lack of oxygen or that the infant died some time prior to the birth. What is certain is that the princesse actually saw the infant and testified that it was deceased.

The Duchesse d'Orléans does not mention that the child was of a dark hue but that it was excessively ugly and that "the whole court had witnessed it die".

Another aspect must be taken into consideration: Marie Thérèse's character. While it is perfectly plausible that she would have become lonely at court and it is just as plausible that she could have fallen in love with one of her "Moorish attendants" there are two things that must be remembered. First of all Marie Thérèse was deeply in love with her husband. Actually, her love for Louis was a frequent theme of mockery among the courtiers who thought it amusing that the Queen absolutely adored the King while the King had a series of mistresses.
Secondly, Marie Thérèse was an ardent Catholic. As such the idea of adultery - while excusable in her husband - would not be accepted for her. Added to this is the fact that as a royal princess of her time she was brought up with the knowledge that she belonged to her husband.

Also, the Queen had been ill in the months leading up to the birth; so ill, in fact, that she was offered the last rites several times. Added to that is also the fact that the child was born one month prematurely which gave the infant very poor odds of survival with the medical means of the day.

There is one theory that seems rather more reasonable given the circumstances. Louis XIV had a "Moorish page" in his service whose wife was known to be remarkably pretty. The two had a daughter around the same time that the Queen gave birth. Sadly, both parents died not long after and Louis XIV and Marie Thérèse - who were god-parents to the child - had her placed in a convent. It is quite likely that this child was Louise Marie which would also account for her warm welcome at Versailles in her adulthood. It seems unlikely that the King would allow her to openly visit if he knew that she was the illegitimate offspring of the Queen - and at court the King knew everything.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Louis Philippe II, Duc d'Orléans

Born on 13 April 1747 at Saint-Cloud, Louis Philippe was the eldest son of the Duc d'Orléans and as such was a natural candidate for life at court. At the age of just 5 years old he became the Duc de Chartres when his grandfather died - the title was reserved for the eldest son of the Duc d'Orléans.

Now being a properly titled member of the Bourbon dynasty Louis Philippe was to fulfil his duty and ensure the next generation. For this purpose he was married to Louise Marie Adélaide de Bourbon who was the daughter of the richest man in France. This particular fact meant that after their wedding (in 1769) Louis Philippe suddenly enjoyed far more influence at Versailles since Louise was the heiress of her father.

Louis Philippe as Duc de Chartres, 1779

Surprisingly, Louis Philippe soon exhibited an attitude that worried both his family and the King; the Duc de Chartres seemed to be an adversary of the monarchy - apparently not worrying about the fact that his own power and influence came from just that. In 1771 he was sent into exile for openly opposing the plans of Maupeou which aimed at increasing royal influence at the expense of the Paris parlement.
When Louis XVI became King it was still rather openly supposed that Louis Philippe was anti-royal. He made sure that he would not return to court when he criticised Marie Antoinette for her lifestyle which the Queen in turn could only scoff at considering that Louis Philippe was not shy of living an extravagant life himself.

In 1778 he was shipped off to the front were he participated in the battle of Ushant. However, rumours soon started to flow claiming that he was incompetent. Following his outspoken critique of the Queen he was hastily recalled to France where he remained unwelcome at court.

On the family front Louis Philippe had five children by his wife; two girls and two boys. He became Duc d'Orléans in 1785 and was thus the head of the Bourbon-Orléans line. However, by this time the actual grasp on power by the Orléans was nothing compared to the influence wielded by the Regent during Louis XV's minority. This might just be the reason for why Louis Philippe's resentment towards the monarchs; he knew he would never have that power himself.
Louis Philippe had several affairs which resulted in a bunch of illegitimate children. One of his former mistresses - Madame de Genlis - became governess to his children thanks to her friendship with both Louis Philippe and Louise.

During the revolution Louis Philippe found a perfect venue for his old hatred of the King and Queen. He assisted the revolutionaries and achieved a major role in the political machinations of that period. In 1792 he committed the ultimate betrayal when he voted in favour of Louis XVI's execution.
His open support of the revolution meant that he was awarded with the title of Philippe Égalite.

In the end, however, not even the intrigues of Louis Philippe could save him from the bloodbath that unfolded in those years. As the senior member of the royal family he was high on the list of suspected enemies to the new world order - despite his support. Eventually, Louis Philippe faced the same fate that he had sentenced his relative to. On 6 November 1793 he was guillotined - his remains were never found.

Court Honours

Generally, there were two main types of court honours: honneur de cour or honneur de Louvre. Both were bestowed by the King as a sign of good favour or simply because the courtier was entitled to it. These were attainable for anyone at court whereas foreign princes had other honours exclusively reserved for them.

Court Honours
Was initially intended to totally rely on the lineage of the courtier and before they could be granted a courtier had to apply to the royal genealogist who would then scrutinise the application. If he did not find that the required certain centuries of noble pedigree was fulfilled it would be denied. As could be imagined courtiers had few scruples when it came to achieving honours which made the genealogist especially vulnerable. Eventually, the level of threats and physical intimidation became so immense that the genealogist requested Louis XV for a body guard!

Despite the initial intend three categories of courtiers could obtain the honours of the court:

  • The old aristocracy who could provide proof of aristocratic heritage dating back to - at least - 1400. However, some courtiers were denied the court honours despite fulfilling this demand if the King found that their family had not been sufficiently involved in military support of the crown.
  • Descendants of Marèchals de France, the ministers or knights of the King's orders
  • Anyone whom the King deemed worthy

Having court honours meant different things depending on the sex of the recipient. A lady was entitled to a formal presentation to the King and Queen.
A gentleman was permitted to follow the King on his hunt and to get into one of the King's carriages. For both sexes it included the right to be invited to royal balls.

According to Francois Bluche no less than 942 families were granted the honours of the court between 1715 and 1790.  Of these only 462 were able to proof that their family had noble roots dating back to at least 1400 - the majority of the remaining families received their honours as a reward for loyal service to the crown (primarily through military exploits).
A great deal of these families were not inhabitants of Versailles and thus had to make their way there from their estates in the provinces. The mere fact that they did so proves how important being able to style themselves with court honours was.

In 1760 Louis XV published a decree which declared that no woman was to be presented to the King unless she had proven that her husband's family had belonged to the nobility for at least three generations.
Interestingly enough, the King could change a decision by the genealogist whether the latter had approved or rejected the application. Louis XVI was very interested in who were admitted to the honours of the court. He would often read the applications himself and his own comments can still be seen scribbled in the margin on the surviving applications.

Honours of the Louvre

Only those with the honours of the Louvre had the right to ride their carriages into the inner courtyard at the Louvre (and by extension any other palace where the King resided) - everyone else had to dismount at the previous gate and either walk or hire a sedan chair.
It was rather easy for those already in the courtyard to see whenever anyone with these honours approached since the honours included the right to hang velvet from one's carriage with the family's coat of arms.

Unlike the court honours the honours of the Louvre was reserved solely for the elite of the French court. These included:

  • Members of the royal family
  • Ducs and peers
  • Marèchals de France
  • Officers of the crown and their wives
  • Foreign princes 
  • Cardinals created after 1700
  • The papal legate
  • The Chancellor of France
  • Grandees of Spain after 1705

The rights that came with the honours of the Louvre also included a cushion to kneel on for Mass - which could be long and strenuous - as well as the honour of a seat in the Queen's presence.  Those holding the honour could also be expected to be called "cousin" by the King.

During the most important ceremonies - coronations, baptisms, weddings etc. - those with the honours of the Louvre were entrusted with the most essential tasks; these included handing the King his sceptre at his coronation.

From 1700 this was considered the most prestigious of the honours obtainable at court since it showed a clear distinction of birth from the old nobility and the new - often non-aristocratic - noblesse de robe.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Take a Seat: Seating Etiquette

Sitting was considered a privilege when in the presence of royalty and as such was the privilege of the few. As with everything else at Versailles the rules became ever more complicated - some could sit near princes while others could only when no royal was present. Further than that was what type of seating one was entitled to.

The most discussed seating arrangement was the special privilege awarded exclusively to duchesses and princesses - princesses being allotted a chair with a back whilst a duchesse had to make do with a tabouret. They had the honour of a tabouret - a stool without a back - in the presence of the King and royal family. However, if the duchesse was with a grandchild of France she could have a chair with a back.

The French court was the epicentre of sophistication and of course every court in Europe knew what happened. The King of Poland, Sobieski, had married Marie Casimire Louise de La Grange d'Arquien (a Frenchwoman by birth) and he was all too aware of the hoops his wife had been willing to jump through in order to achieve her tabouret. He is alleged to have said: "To think how she longs for that miserable stool on which nobody can sit at ease!"

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This is a tabouret which duchesses had monopoly on

At fêtes and balls seating was arranged depending on two things: where the King was and the rank of the seated. The closer you were to the King, the higher rank you possessed. Then there was the question of the type of seat provided. All in all, the rank went from an armchair, an armless chair, a sofa, high stool, low stool or no seating at all.

The King and Queen was given the comfort of a decently padded armchairs. The only other people who were given such an honour were other monarchs. This included the exiled King James of England and his Queen as well as visiting royalty.
This has generally been seen as a sure sign of Louis XIV's secret marriage to Madame de Maintenon since the latter was often observed seated in an armchair in the King's presence - something the King would never allow had they not been equally supreme in rank. As a contrast, his greatest favourite, Madame de Montespan, never acquired a tabouret because her husband refused to accept it as a sign of spite of the affair. Consequently, she was obliged to stand although being widely recognised as the unofficial Queen of Versailles and the mother of several children by the King.
Likewise, the unofficial second wife of the Grand Dauphin (the non-aristocratic Mademoiselle de Choin) was seated in an armchair when her husband was present.

The children of the King could only claim a stool in their father's presence. Princesses of the blood were generally entitled to a chair with a back but not to one with arms.

Cardinals could sit on a sofa when a prince of the blood was in the room but if the Queen entered he had to move to a stool.

The only time a "gentleman of quality" could sit was when he was with princes and princesses of the blood.

Everyone who was not a part of these categories had to stand - regardless of age or condition. For most courtiers court life involved a lot of standing and walking but only very little sitting. The only other way to attain the honour of being allowed to sit at court was by being granted the honour of  the Louvre which in itself was quite a reward. As it happens the Prince de Salm made it a condition for a marriage to made between a member of his own family and a daughter of the Duc de Croÿ; the marriage was only to take place if the bride's father could obtain the right for her to be seated at court. The Duc de Croÿ immediately took advantage of his connection to Prince de Soubise - a favourite of Louis XV - who obtained the honour for his family. Duly, the entire Croÿ-family travelled to Versailles in order to witness the bride-to-be being seated for the first time.

Several serious disputes were caused over the rights of seating which we know about largely thank to the countless memoirs of the age.

In one instance the Duc de Lorraine was the source of the problem. At the French court he had the title of prince étranger or Foreign Prince but he had recently been travelling abroad. There - at the court of the Austrian Emperor - he had been offered an armchair. Once he returned he asked for one of Louis XIV who refused. As the King said the monarchs each had their own etiquette but the matter was not completely dropped. Philippe (Monsieur) proposed a middle-way by the way of a chair with a back which Louis agreed to. However, this was not enough for the Duc de Lorraine. The consequence was that the Duc and Duchesse d'Orléans' projected trip to Bar (where the Duc de Lorraine stayed) had to be cancelled to avoid further conflict.

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The Duc de Lorraine

Later, in 1699, the House of Lorraine was the cause of another row over seating. The Duchesse de Bourgogne was the hostess of a soiree at which the Lorraine ladies intentionally arrived too early. Thus, they could sit on the chairs closest to the hostess on her right side - reserved for the duchesses. However, there was one person who had arrived there before: a duchesse was already seated in her proper place. This only angered the Lorraine ladies further and in an aggressive attempt at fulfilling to scheme the Princesse d'Harcourt grabbed a hold of the Duchesse and force her away from the seat!

One of the few places of exception was at Marly where the King allowed his courtiers a far freer seating arrangement - another reason why an invitation was so coveted.

Since the honour of being allotted a seat was so great it was customary for the monarchs to give those who had recently received the right to a seat the chance to publicly show off that right. This would usually happen by the monarch either offering the "new-comer" a seat (normally this was the King's way since it was considered polite to let ladies sit) or taking a seat themselves. So, Marie Leszczynska received the Duchesse de Châtillon - who had recently been elevated to that rank - and promptly took her seat which enabled the new duchesse to also sit down.

Seating etiquette was not only a matter of entitlement but also of duty. It was the duty of everyone hosting a soiree at Versailles (which anyone with a decent apartment could) to make sure that the correct number of chairs were available - and the correct varieties.

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An armchair in Louis XIV's style

Not even the King's brother could be granted a decent seat in the King's presence. Philippe, Duc d'Orléans requested such an honour from his brother but was met with a refusal. Not only would it be a breach of etiquette but it would also serve in Philippe's own interest that things were not eased of; it would only diminish his position if the marks of honour were erased. As Louis XIV reasoned if everyone sat down then what was to distinguish a baron from a King?

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Icy Pleasures

With no means of keeping food and sweets cooled down - except for digging into the ground - it was considered a sign of the King's power that he could serve ices during mid-summer.

The trend for serving flavoured ice originated in Italy and was brought from there to Versailles courtesy of a man by the name of Audiger. He had been sent to Genoa in the 1660's by Louis XIV to "intercept" recipes for liqueurs; that he did but he also brought back not only the idea of eating delicious ices but also the techniques to produce them.

The ices were flavoured by fruits, spices - even musk. Louis XIV immediately recognised the sophistication it would display if he could treat his courtiers to such a delicious "snack" at balls or soirees. Consequently, he had two ice houses built at Versailles in 1664 which kept the court supplied. These ice houses were enormous. Each one could contain up to 1.120 cubic metres of ice! During the coldest months the ice was naturally easier to come by - and keep frozen - and the Lake of the Swiss Guards provided plenty of ice for the ice houses. The ice formed on the lake would be transported by workers who would crush the ice with pick axes making it easier to transport.

Another illustration detail from Emy’s ‘'Art de Bien Faire Les Glaces d 'Office’ (1768), referring to the cups as ‘Goblets à glace’ © http://gallica.bnf.fr
This is how ices were served

Soon serving ices became a court favourite. At balls tall ice pyramids were served with fresh fruits and exotic spices. During the summer picnics beverages were often served in goblet made of ice (however unpractical that was).

As it happens, Louis XIV even included ices as a refreshment in his book "The Way to Present the Gardens of Versailles"; in this book he lays out a route which includes a stop at Marais where ices would be served which was also the case at the Three Fountains. The Duc de Saint-Simon mentions that the King even had ices served during his visits at the front - to the amazement of his soldiers.

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Ice-pail from Sèvres, 1778

However, the enjoyment of ice soon spread to the rest of the French population and by 1700 it was widely sold. Some merchants found it irresistible to charge more than reasonably for their exotic wares which led to an edict from Louis XIV forbidding such high prices in 1701.

Two types of ices were enjoyed in the century of Louis XIV. One was made from frozen fruit pulp which the gardens of Versailles provided plenty of material for. Thus, courtiers could enjoy ices made from pineapple, apricot, orange, lemon etc. The other kind of ice was made from cream - what we even today call ice cream.

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Marie Antoinette's ice-house at Petit Trianon

Louis XVI made it a habit to host dinners every Tuesday at which the guests would regularly be treated to a dessert of ice cream. By this time ice was usually found on the dining table in specially created ice pails - Sèvres often included one in their deliveries to the court. Actually, the production of such ice-pails were begun in the reign of Louis XV who sent one of the first to Empress Maria Theresia in 1758.

The Empress' daughter, Marie Antoinette, had a taste for ice as well and made sure to include a small ice house of her own close to Petit Trianon. Over the years it fell into disrepair but was restored in the 1990's.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

A Queen's Cleanliness: Marie Antoinette's Bathing Habits

Marie Antoinette was one of the somewhat rising number of people who firmly believed in regular bathing to improve personal hygiene. This was a remnant of her childhood in Austria where her mother, Empress Maria Theresia, had instilled the importance of personal hygiene in her many children. Back then the bath was usually followed by a harsh scrubbing with a cloth but this was thought inappropriate for a Queen.

The Queen's bathing routine was different than what most people today would recognise.
The bathtub was usually rolled into her bathroom by her servants and filled with water. Rather than being completely naked the Queen always wore a full-length linen gown. The gown was of English linen and buttoned up to the neck. The linen was not as much for hygienic purposes as it was for her own sake. Not even when bathing Marie Antoinette could be allowed to be alone and by dressing herself in even a sheer gown was somewhat a shield against the constantly watching eyes.

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The restored bathroom as it was during Marie Antoinette's time

Once she emerged from the bath the First Lady of the Bedchamber shielded her body with a sheet which was then thrown over the Queen's shoulders. It was then used to dry her after which she changed into an open chemise and further dressed in a robe and slippers.

Marie Antoinette enjoyed added perfume to her baths; when she chose to bathe in the morning she would usually have breakfast served on a tray. Besides perfume it is said that the Queen used a special herbal blend containing thyme, marjoram and coarse salt. This rather Spartan mixture was once in a while exchanged for a more suitable blend from the perfumer, Fargeon. He had been approached by the Queen who asked for something for her bath. In response he came up with sachets filled with sweet almonds, pine nuts, marsh mallow root and lily bulb.

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Bathtub said to have been Marie Antoinette's - either way this is the type
she would have used (including linens)

The baths of Marie Antoinette are simplistic in their design with tiled floors and inlaid taps supplying both hot and cold water. The floor was slightly sloped to make it easier for the servants to empty the water after use.

Sadly, even such an innocent thing as taking a bath was used against Marie Antoinette once her popularity began to wane. Suddenly, her habit of taking regular baths was thought too "German" for a Queen of France - her Austrian heritage was frequently used against her. Eventually, the more lewd rumours began circulating; vicious tongues spread the rumour that the Queen often received her male guests while naked in her bathtub. None of this was true - anyone who knows the slightest thing about Marie Antoinette knows that - but nevertheless it was gladly gossiped about.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Private Retreats

With the court at Versailles growing year by year - both in buildings and inhabitants - the monarchs found it increasingly hard to live constantly under the watchful eyes of their aristocracy. Even Louis XIV, who had created this very system, retreated more and more to smaller, more private places where he could gather those closest to him.
This particular sections focuses on the small estates that belonged to the royal family and not the other palaces such as Saint Cloud, Fontainebleau etc.

Philippe II d'Orléans and the Comtesse de Parabère

The Regent during Louis XV's minority certainly had the Bourbon taste for women and amassed a great amount of varying mistresses through his life. One of his principal mistresses was of noble birth - Marie-Madeleine, Comtesse de Parabère.

The two were official lovers during the peak of Philippe's power: the Regency. It is generally thought that their relationship began in the winter of 1715 and two years later she is still mentioned as his "established mistress". Considering the speed with which the Regent usually switched mistresses this was quite a long while.

Marie-Madeleine was married to the Marquis de Parabère who was 30 years her senior and cared for little other than drinking and amusing himself. According to Cardinal Dubois Philippe met Marie-Madeleine shortly before the regency began at a ball he threw. Allegedly, the future Regent was so attracted to her that he immediately engaged in a long conversation with them which cannot have been easy since they were both drunk beyond measure.

Once introduced into each other's society it did not take long before a closer relationship was established. Philippe was completely taken in with Marie-Madeleine's beauty, her high humour, her seemingly disinterestedness in politics and her boldness. He quickly found that she was not so greedy as his earlier mistresses which definitely suited him.

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Marie-Madeleine and Philippe
Philippe wished to have his beloved mistress situated in a house suiting her rank and consequently he bought an estate in Asnieres for her. As the couple grew closer he even moved the infamous suppers from between the Palais-Royal and her house.

When  the scandal with the financier Law was at its height Madame de Parabère was well into her affair with the Regent. She was so firmly established that she showed up - highly pregnant - at the opera (and other public places) where the Regent's wife was present without a murmur from Philippe.

Madame de Parabère was the only one of the Regent's mistresses who managed to have any political influence. Knowing full well that Philippe hated when his mistresses pushed their way into his business Marie-Madeleine gave an air of complete disinterestedness. By not wilfully forcing herself into her lover's affairs the Comtesse de Parabère actually achieved far more influence than she might otherwise have.
Her influence seemed enormous. Even the Duc de Saint-Simon acknowledged that she had full sway over Philippe; he also begrudgingly admitted that she had far more influence than he himself had.

Lasting testaments to the strength of their relationship are the portraits of the two which were commissioned.

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Philippe and Marie-Madeleine as Adam
and Eve

The couple seemed not to have been exclusive one since both partners dallied in other liaisons. In 1720 Madame de Parabère took another lover, Beringhem, and Philippe was soon to follow suit. When the Regent's attention began to linger on a certain Duchesse de Phalaris everyone thought that it was a matter of time before Marie-Madeleine was history.
The Duchesse de Pharalis became a mistress to the Regent at the same time as Beringhem became Marie-Madeleine's. Philippe was not prepared to share Marie-Madeleine - despite not himself keeping from other women - and immediately had Beringhem exiled.

Although the Duchesse had in mind to become the Regent's principal mistress her dreams were dramatically smashed. It would seem that the Regent's feelings for the Comtesse de Parabère were stronger than people had expected. In the winter of 1720-21 the both Madames were actually his mistress at the same time.

As the year 1721 advanced it became apparent that Philippe and Marie-Madeleine were not done with each other. Suddenly, the Duchesse was booted out and the Comtesse was back in all her glory; although the reunited couple had a violent spat over several minor flings the Regent had had with some opera girls.

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Philippe in armour and Marie-Madeleine was Athena

For whatever reason the opera girls were too much for Marie-Madeleine. It seems unlikely that the infidelity should have been the trigger since Marie-Madeleine had been unfaithful herself and had accepted the brief winter-reign of the Duchesse de Pharalis. Exactly what caused the final break is lost to history but shortly after their reunion Marie-Madeleine left Philippe.
Desperate to get her back, Philippe employed a close friend, Nocé, as an intermediate but in vain. When that did not work Philippe went in person several times but Marie-Madeleine was adamant that their relationship was over.

Surprisingly enough, Marie-Madeleine entered a convent after her affair with Philippe but did not remain there long and took other lovers. Philippe never quite got over the Comtesse de Parabère and it is very likely that he was still in love with her when he died in 1723. Marie-Madeleine lived for another 32 years.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Charlotte Godefride Élisabeth de Rohan, Princesse de Condé

Charlotte de Rohan was born on 7 October 1737 to Charles de Rohan and Anne Marie Louise de La Tour d'Auvergne. At the age of 2 she lost her mother and inherited the titles of Marquise de Gordes and Comtesse de Moncha. At thirteen years she was awarded the title of Vicomtesse de Guignen - this particular honour was most likely due to her father's close relationship with Louis XV.

Her father had arranged her marriage when she was 16 years old; her prospected bridegroom was Louis Joseph de Bourbon, Prince de Condé. The couple was married on 5 May 1753. Rumours had it that her father had given her no less than 20 million livres as a dowry. Until her marriage Charlotte had had the title of princesse étrangère or foreign princess since her family claimed ancestry from Brittany. Once she married she became a princesse du sang or princess of the blood.

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Charlotte Godefride Élisabeth

Once established at court Charlotte found herself in the inner circles of power. As the Princesse de Condé she was amongst the leading ladies of Versailles. Her marriage would seem to have been an average one but happier than most arranged marriages.

When she did not reside at Versailles Charlotte lived in Paris - where she had also been born - in the Hôtel de Condé. Here she and her husband had three children: two girls and a boy.
The Princesse de Condé was a well-liked figure both at court and in Paris. She was remarked for her charity towards the poor.

Little is known of what actually happened to her there but the Duc de Luynes reports that she had fallen ill with a disease she could not get rid of. Eventually, she would die from it at the age of just 23 years old being "universally regretted". The Parisian newspaper Le Gazette said of her that she possessed "all the Christian and moral virtues" as well as a "sweet and affable character".

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

The Queen's Apartment

Compared to her husband's ever expanding apartment a Queen of France had to make due with a remarkably small set of rooms. The number and size of the Queen's apartment was a great deal smaller and was not added to over the years. For example during Louis XV the King's private apartment alone reached 17 rooms varying from spacious to small cabinet. At the same period the Queen's entire apartment - both grand and private - had 15 rooms. All of the private rooms were very small and often dark.

Marie Thérèse

Marie Thérèse had little enjoyment of the Queen's apartment since for the majority of her life Versailles was either the small hunting-lodge of Louis XIII or in a constant state of construction. Not long after the court moved permanently to Versailles the Marie Thérèse died. The only thing that changed during her tenure as Queen was the function of each room:


1) The Old Chapel 

2) The New Chapel

3) The Guard's Hall

6) The Corner Salon

7) Small Chamber

8) Small Cabinet


1) The Guards' Hall

7) Absorbed by the Hall of Mirrors

8) Absorbed by the Hall of Mirrors

Marie Leszczynska


The next Queen to inhabit these chambers was Polish-born Marie Leszczynska whose entire apartment consisted of 15 rooms. 

1) Great Guards' Hall

7) Bath

8) Grand Interior Cabinet

9) Small Gallery

10) Oratory 

11) Toilet

12) Cabinet

13) Service de la Reine

14) The King's Valet

15) Passage

A) King's Apartment
B) The Queen's Staircase

Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette was the Queen who truly made the Queen's private apartment what it is today. Not merely in style - which clearly illustrated her personal style - but also the concept of a Queen of France's private life. Both of her predecessors had readily submitted to their very public life but Marie Antoinette could not so easily follow their example. The Austrian-born Queen had been raised in a very different atmosphere and she valued her privacy. The Queen's apartment is now how it looked when the royal family left Versailles in 1789:

6) Passage

7) Passage (former office of the Duchesse de Bourgogne)

8) Passage (former office of the Duchesse de Bourgogne)

9) Cabinet de Chaise

10) Cabinet de la Meridienne

11) Library

12) Small Library

13) Bath

14) Bath

15) Toilet

16) The Golden Cabinet

17) Cabinet of Poets

a) Hall of Mirrors
b) The Queen's Staircase