Monday, 27 February 2017

Home of Kings: Corps Central

As you have noticed - if you have visited my blog before - I have changed the layout for the layout of Versailles to give it a better flow. The floor plan is still divided into the various apartments which you can click on to get more information and a peek of through photos.

The Ground Floor

As of 1740

The Captain of the Guards' Apartment

The Other Apartments


The First Floor

As of 1740 - the King's interior apartment has undergone considerable changes

The Other Apartments



Sunday, 26 February 2017

Marie-Madeleine de La Vieuville, Marquise de Parabère

Marie-Madeleine de La Vieuville was born on 6 October 1693 in Paris; she was the only child of René-Francois de La Vieuville and Marie Louise de La Chaussee d'Eu. Through her parents she already had a clear connection to the court; her father was a knight of honour to Queen Marie Thérèse and her mother was a lady-in-waiting to the Duchesse de Berri.

Although her family had long been a part of the nobility it was a poor house. Consequently, it became necessary to find a husband who could provide well for Marie Madeleine. In her case the choice of a bridegroom would be a mixed affair; on one hand Marie-Madeleine was beautiful and the daughter of a Marquis but on the other she was poor and could only bring a little dowry. In the end an arrangement was made with Caesar-Alexandre de Baudéan, Marquis de Parabère and the couple married on 8 June 1711.
Marie-Madeleine had mixed feelings about her marriage. Her husband was 30 years her senior and had little to no ambition for himself. He was, however, from one of the very best families in Poitou. In the end the marriage would be very typical of arranged marriages: little affection on both sides. Marie-Madeleine was the type of woman who would be described as "high spirited"; she wanted far more amusement that her disinterested husband could provide and thus sought out her place at court. However, there was another obstacle in her way in the shape of her mother. Marie Louise was all too aware of her daughter's pendant to a "wild" type of lifestyle and wanted to prevent her becoming a court flirt.

In 1715 two deaths would have profound influence on Marie-Madeleine's life. First, her mother died after having suffered from breast cancer. There was now no one to stand in her way of pursuing pleasure. Secondly, Louis XIV died which meant a change in regime - and an opportunity to rise in the world.

Relateret billede

Without the restraining influence of her mother Marie-Madeleine indulged in several affairs including one with the Chevalier de Matignon. It was soon said of the young Marquise that she was "crazy about her freedom". In this manner she spent her time at court until she was a widow. Her husband died just the year after but Marie-Madeleine did not mourn him. Despite their long time apart they had still managed to have three children together.
By now she was 23 years old and infamous for her way of charming every man she met. She reached quite a level of fame in the French capital where she became the subject of songwriters. Such a lady was soon discovered by the most scandalous woman in France: the Duchesse de Berri.

It was through her that Marie-Madeleine met Philippe II d'Orléans who acted as Regent during Louis XV's minority. The two seemed to be made for each other and soon became lovers. Their affair was one of insatiable pleasures and lavish extravagance. Marie-Madeleine was a firm fixture in the infamous supper parties of the Regent where she drank everyone under the table. She soon became both admired and despised for her way of life - it was said that she needed only one hour of sleep before she could resume the life of a royal mistress.
Neither Marie-Madeleine nor Philippe were exclusive in their love for each other. The Regent had a string of minor mistresses but Madame de Parabère remained a fixture in his life. Marie-Madeleine also had an affair with the Duc de Richelieu with whom she was absolutely in love with. Sadly, her love was not returned and she is not mentioned at all in his memoirs. Although not being faithful himself the Regent was furious at having a rival but forgave his darling - only for her to cheat on him again. Marie-Madeleine had determined not to be held back in her pleasures as she had once been before.

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Madame de Parabère with the Regent

Her flings with other men meant that the children she had by the Regent was not acknowledged. He did give her a country estate in Asnieres where he would visit on orders from his doctors. Soon, Marie-Madeleine was pregnant again - and so was the Duchesse d'Orléans, her lover's wife. Marie-Madeleine was the only woman who ever had any political influence during the Regency. Philippe knew very well that she was not interested in gaining power so he was welcoming her advice. The couple suffered a rupture in November 1720 and most people thought that that would be the end of Madame de Parabère's reign. However, Marie-Madeleine and Philippe made up soon after and she was back more powerful than ever. But the damage between them was done. Marie-Madeleine was tired of hearing of all the Opera girls going to and fro her lover's bedroom and decided to leave him.

Instead, she went to the country to repent her sins in a convent. She was rather devout despite her lifestyle which she had not given up. After all she had not taken the veil and still had many affairs to come. The affairs of her later years included Monsieur d'Alincourt and Monsieur de La Mothe-Houdancourt. None of these relationships lasted for long.

The final years of her life are shrouded in mystery. There were talk of her marrying the Duc de Brancas but the match never materialised. In 1739 she completely retired from the world and would die on 13 August 1755.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Marie Leszczynska & Marie Josèphe's Relationship

When Louis XV decided to look for a new bride for his son, Louis Ferdinand, there were plenty of candidates. The choice eventually fell on Marie Josèphe of Saxony to the chagrin of the Queen.

Marie Leszczynska had her own reasons to wish another young woman to be her daughter-in-law. Marie Leszczynska's father, Stanislaw I of Poland, had been dethroned by Augustus II who happened to be Marie Josèphe's grandfather. The Queen was humiliated at the prospect of having to greet the prodigy of a man who had ruined her own family's lives. When Marie Leszczynska was chosen to marry Louis XV she was living in exile with her deposed father and mother; it is very likely that the family would have had to live in poverty and obscurity had she not become Queen of France.

The Queen attempted to sway her husband to choose another bride but Louis XV would not hear it. Consequently, Marie Josèphe married the Dauphin on 9 February 1747.

Understandably, the meeting between these two women were the subject of much interest. Custom dictated that a royal bride wore a bracelet with a portrait of her father on it. Rumour has it that when Marie Leszczynska asked to see the new Dauphine's bracelet she was surprised to be shown a portrait of her own father. Marie Josèphe explained that the Duc de Lorraine - the courtesy title given to Marie Leszczynska's father - was now her grandfather through marriage.
Later, the Dauphine would continue to honour her mother-in-law's father by naming one of her sons in his honour.

Over the following years their relationship would become steadily better and they happened to become rather good friends. They were even painted together holding hands.

Here is the portrait, 1765

Ironically, Marie Josèphe opposed the match between her son and Marie Antoinette since Maria Theresia had ousted Marie Josèphe's own mother from her throne.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Death of Marie Thérèse Raphaëlle

Infanta Maria Teresa Rafaela married the heir to the French throne - Louis Ferdinand - in 1745 and thus became Dauphine. Consequently, her name would be transformed into the French equivalent of her original name: Marie Thérèse Raphaëlle.

The couple were remarkably happy together considering that the marriage had been arranged. However, Marie Thérèse would not have a long life. In the beginning of 1746 the new Dauphine found herself to be in happy circumstances and was expected to go into labour in early July. July came and as the days passed the court became increasingly impatient since the birth of a boy would mean that the line of succession would be far more secure. Finally, the Dauphine went into labour on 19 July and gave birth to a healthy girl.

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Marie Thérèse Raphaëlle

Louis Ferdinand was absolutely besotted with is daughter although the rest of the court was less enthusiastic. It soon became clear that all was not well, though.

In the days following the birth the Dauphine had been unwell but the doctors had not considered her to be in any danger. On the night of the 21 July her condition suddenly deteriorated. Thanks to the vigilant Duc de Luynes we know that she had a high fever which doubled at about three o'clock in the morning. The physician was sent for and the priest soon followed. She did not improve during the night and when her husband came to see her - he had been wakened at seven - she could not recognise him.
A few hours later she became unconscious and the doctors immediately decided to bleed her. She was bled twice: first at ten o'clock and then at eleven. Naturally, it did nothing but weaken her. Marie Thérèse died half an hour after she was bled the second time. She was just 20 years old.

Her death sparked grief as well as curiosity. Death in childbirth was nothing new and would continue to be a real threat (and still is). The odd thing was that the delivery had gone without complications although it had been a bit long. As a result the doctors were left with a mystery on their hands: since the Dauphine had gone through the birth just fine then why did she suddenly die?

Custom dictated that her remains was to be autopsied. The doctors concluded that her death had not been due to the childbirth since her faculties were normal. They only noted that she had an "abundance of milk". This led the doctors to the - to us - odd diagnosis that she had died from being smothered by the excess of milk! The physicians felt certain about their sentence when they found "milk" in her brain - the white fluid was most likely pus from infection.

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State funeral of the Dauphine at Saint-Denis

Today, we know that although a woman goes through labour without complications she is not out of the woods yet. There is a great risk of both haemorrhages and infections following the birth. In our days these are luckily far less dangerous since most births take place in clean environments under the care of doctors with greater knowledge than those who attended to the Dauphine.
It is far more likely that the death of Marie Thérèse was in fact caused by an infection following the birth. Puerperal fevers are known to occur after the birth itself is over and one of the characteristics of this particular fever is an excess of milk "production". The cause of such a fever can be due to either poor hygiene or that a piece of the placenta is stuck in the uterus. It is all but certain the she developed an infection in the blood - called septicaemia - which required urgent medical treatment. It also explains why she could not recognise her husband since the infection had gone to her brain through the blood.

Sadly, Marie Thérèse could have survived if her doctors had known more on the subject. The only consolation is that the doctors are not personally to blame; medical science simply had not gone far enough to shed light on such a phenomena.

The little girl was christened Marie Thérèse by the request of the father who wanted to honour his late wife. Sadly, the infant would die herself just three years later.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Louis Alexandre de Bourbon, Comte de Toulouse

Louis Alexandre was born at the château of Clagny as the natural son of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan on 6 June 1678. As the illegitimate son of the King he could not be taken to court nor could he be shipped to Madame de Montespan's estate. Instead, he joined his sister in the care of Madame de Montchevreuil.

Luckily for Louis Alexandre - and the other illegitimate children - he was legitimised in 1681; thus he was instantly entitled to a court title. The choice fell on the Comte de Toulouse which he would be known at court as. A more ridiculous appointment was given when he was just five years old; he was appointed grand admiral. A year later he could add the title of colonel of his own regiment.
All through his childhood military titles would continue to rain down on the little boy. Consequently, those of maitre-de-camp of a cavalry regiment and Marèchal de France were bestowed on him as well. During the War of the Spanish Succession he was put in command of the French fleet in the Battle of Vélez-Malaga in 1704.

Portrait painting of Louis Alexandre de Bourbon, Count of Toulouse by Hyacinthe Rigaud.jpg
Louis Alexandre

Louis Alexandre would seem to have been destined for a naval career from an early age. He was made Minister of the Navy and thus came to have actual power at court. As a legitimised young man with a promising career ahead of him he was a very eligible bachelor. Charlotte de Lorraine was proposed as a potential bride but Louis XIV resolutely forbid the match. Instead, Louis Alexandre married Marie Victoire de Noailles in a private ceremony in 1723. To avoid stirring the animosity of the Regent this was kept a secret until the Regent's death.
The couple would have a single child: a son, Louis Jean Marie de Bourbon.

Unlike his brother, the Duc du Maine, Louis Alexandre was less interested in the intrigues of court life. However, he still became the focus of attention in 1715 when Louis XIV decided that either the Duc du Maine or the Comte de Toulouse would inherit the throne should every other line die out. There can be little doubt that Louis Alexandre relished the thought of being now officially in the line of succession which is supported by he and his brother's keen interest in the following procedures.

As can be expected the news were met with shock. It did not take long after the death of the Sun King before the codicil was reversed. Given the mood at court - which was decidedly against him and his brother - Louis Alexandre retired to his château of Rambouillet. He had bought the palace in 1706 from the man who would eventually take over as Minister of the Navy.

Louis Alexandre died at Rambouillet on 1 December 1737.

The Disastrous Wedding Night of Louis Ferdinand

The young Dauphin Louis Ferdinand - son of Louis XV - had contracted his first marriage in 1745 to Marie Thérèse Raphaëlle and had quickly fallen in love with his wife. To his despair his Dauphine died after just little over a year of marriage.
But time waits for no one and he needed an heir. Louis XV was quick to find a new bride for his son and by 1747 Louis Ferdinand was once again at the altar. This time his bride was Marie Josèphe of Saxony.

That night the couple were put through the ritual bedding ceremony but once the attendants had left things went awry. It was not unheard of that royal marriages were not consummated on the wedding night. Frederick II had spent a mere hour talking to his bride before spending the rest of the night promenading in the garden. Louis Ferdinand's own son, the later Louis XVI, would take a notorious seven years to consummate his marriage to Marie Antoinette.

Louis Ferdinand

However, few royal wedding nights had gone quite this way. Before anything could happen poor Louis Ferdinand burst into tears. The ceremony had reminded him so much of his beloved late wife that he could not hold back his grief. Thankfully for their marital bliss Marie Josèphe was a patient and kind woman. She patiently comforted her new husband and from that moment a new relationship sprung up.

The couple soon found out that their natures suited each other and eventually had eight children - including three Kings and a Queen!

Friday, 10 February 2017

The Periwig

The periwig - or perruque - was quite a popular wig-style during Louis XIV's reign but it lost a good deal of its popularity after the Sun King's death. Actually, it had been popular with his father's, Louis XIII, court but waned a little during Anne of Austria's regency.

The long, flowing hair that Louis XIV had in his early years became the ideal for a wig. Unfortunately, the Sun King was prone to baldness and used wigs to cover up the increasing number of bald spots. Consequently, the periwig became all the rage amongst his male courtiers - Charles II of England was another big fan of the periwig ensuring its popularity in England as well.
Thus, the periwig re-entered the fashionable circles in 1660 and already in 1665 it was considered an absolute necessary part of a gentleman's attire.

A periwig had to have curls or at least waves. By the 1670's the style favoured was long rows of cork-screw curls and by the 1690's the periwig would rise high above the wearer's head and would often be parted in the middle.

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A periwig made from horsehair which happens
to be in a terrible state

The style of the periwig changed to and fro over the decades. At some point it became fashionable to powder it more white which would later be transferred to other types of wigs. The styling aside, periwigs for the upper classes were made of human hair. The hair used for the wigs could be collected from a wide array of "donors": novices entering a convent had their hair cut for example. It became a symbol of power to have a "natural" wig compared to those made of goat or dog hair.
Cardinal Mazarin was concerned about the expense of importing hair and attempted to turn the court towards "domestic goods". However, he soon gave up when he discovered that the expense was equalled by French trade.

It was rather unfortunate that the wigs had a tendency to emit an unpleasant odour; that they were never washed but pomaded and powdered did not help. To combat the smell the wigs were often scented with flowers.

With Louis XIV's dependency on wigs for his illustrious appearance it is no wonder that the artistry of wig-making flourished during his reign. Rumour has it that the King had forty wig-makers in his personal employ; it is more certain that he issued a decree naming them artists. The odd thing was that his courtiers were so eager to follow their master's fashion that they often had their heads shaved even if they were equipped with a full head of hair.

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The style favoured by soldiers due to practicality

The fashion was not merely confined to the upper classes and the trend quickly spread. However, it was not always practical to have long and luscious hair tumbling over one's shoulders. Soldiers and sportsmen were annoyed by the style and tied their locks at the nape; this did only became acceptable elsewhere after 1710.

As stated, the periwig became less popular after 1715 when Louis XIV died. The periwig would still be used in formal instances and some professions - such as lawyers and financiers - used it as a part of their working uniform. Although the periwig became less popular it did not quite disappear but was seldom used in the latter part of the 18th century.

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Louis XIV wearing a dark periwig

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The Grand Dauphin wearing a powdered periwig

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Mansart with the characteristic wig which has been parted
in the middle 

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A whole array of powdered periwigs

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A perfect example of a late 17th century periwig

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Robe à la Circassienne

A robe à la Circassienne was a variation of the robe à la Polonaise only it was adorned with so-called Oriental tassels or fur. Another difference was that the robe à la Circassienne had small "over-sleeves" which was inspired by the fashions of the Middle East. These over-sleeves were normally shaped like a funnel and overlapped tight-fitting long - or three-quarter length - sleeves. The long sleeves would often end in cuffs; the skirt would often be fitted with frills

The style seems to have become popular in the 1770's and would remain in style till the revolution. In France the style would continue to be puffed up whereas the English version would eventually become less full in the back. The bodice of this type of robe was often very low

Comtesse de Vauban wearing a robe à la
Circassienne, 1776

Robe circassienne :1780
Robe à la Circassienne, 1780
This is a proper robe à la Circassienne with tassels,
frills and the over-sleeves


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Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Tuesday, 7 February 2017


Caraco is a term describing a jacket which became popular in the middle of the 18th century. The jacket was recognisable by being either fitted at the waist or having a sack-back (in the style of a robe à la Francaise). When the latter was the case it would often reach as far down as the wearer's thighs. This was known as a caraco à la Francaise and as the name indicates it was particularly popular in France in the 1720's-40's.

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This - rather dark photo - shows how long the caraco
could be at the back

Another version of the caraco was the caraco à la Polonaise which became popular in the 1770's-1780's. Like the French version it took its name from the type of gown which it looked like. The caraco would be tight-fitted around the waist but would flare up at the back. It was different from the caraco à la Polonaise by having a bodice where the lower part curved toward the back.

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Here is the opposite of the one above - looser
and with hardly any "tail"

Usually, the caraco was worn over a petticoat and was considered an informal article of clothing.
The sleeves were either full-length or three-quarters length but were always tightly fitted. This is one type of clothing which was not exclusive to the upper classes since middle class and lower class women were also wearing it - although with less rich materials. As it happens this particular style worked its way up in society since it was common among the lower classes before the aristocracy noted an opportunity for a new trend.

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Dutch version of a caraco from the second half of the
18th century

In France the caraco would often be open at the front displaying a beautiful bodice while the English preferred to have the jacket sewn completely together.
Some caracos were attached to a hood; these were known as a caraco à coqueluchon. A caraco could be made to match the petticoat underneath but others preferred to have a contrasting colour or pattern.

matching stomacher
A caraco with a matching stomacher

Over the years the caraco went through an evolution. In the 1740's it was basically a gown which had been cut off at hip-length but forty years later it was tightly fitted at the waist and flared loosely at the wearer's back. The 1780's caraco were not stiffened by whalebone and only a somewhat loose corset was required to wear it. This is quite possibly why Marie Antoinette was fond of it since she detested wearing the tight-laced corsets demanded by French fashion.

Gallerie des Modes, 1780.  I LOVE this outfit!  Lttle matching jacket and petticoat set off by the gorgeous trimming!:
Caraco à la Polonaise, 1780

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Caraco à la Francaise with a hood! 1790

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Mariana Victoria of Spain wearing a caraco displaying
an elaborate bodice

Lady Mary Fox, 1767. #painting #classic #art #Georgian #1700s:
Lady Mary Fox following the English tradition of
having a closed caraco

Monday, 6 February 2017

French Suit

This suit was created between 1774-1793; in other words it is quite clearly made in the reign of Louis XVI. All pieces (breeches, coat and waistcoat) are of silk. The coat and waistcoat have both been elaborately embroidered - even the buttons are embroidered with a coral thread. It is currently in the possession of the MET Museum.

It is the one on the right

Detail of the embroidery of the waistcoat

Robe à la Turque

By the late 18th century - particularly in the 1780's - the upper classes were fascinated by the exotic Turkish influences. This can easily be seen by the popularity of the "Turkish"-rooms which became a must in the fashionable circles; Marie Antoinette and the Comte d'Artois both had one. As for the robe à la Turque it is rather hard to describe since little is said of it despite its popularity. According to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston the style first appeared in July 1779.

The robe à la Turque was distinguished by having the upper skirts (or manteau) being of a different colour than the petticoat, sleeves and bodice/corsage. This upper skirt would often be longer than the petticoat which caused it to trail the ground. As such it was not uncommon for the upper skirts and the attached short sleeves were often not sewn together with the remaining dress - but in some cases they were. Nevertheless, the overdress was cut in one piece of fabric.
The sleeves were worn long in opposition to the quarter length sleeves of the robe à la Francaise or the robe à l'Anglaise.

It was quite common to wear a robe à la Turque with a sash around the waist. Otherwise the front resembled that of a robe à l'Anglaise with the fitted bodice forming a triangle. What makes the robe à la Turque hard to identify is the variations. Some had longer sleeves than others while some did not necessarily have a sash.

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Henriette Anne d'Aguesseau wearing a
robe à la Turque, 1789
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Self-portrait by Rose-Adélaide Ducreux
Un projet de plus : Robe à la turque d'hiver
Robe à la Turque as seen on a fashion plate
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This fashion plate clearly shows the difference
between the upper skirts and the petticoat

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Louis de Bourbon-Condé, Comte de Clermont-en-Argonne

Louis de Bourbon-Condé was the son of Louis de Bourbon, Duc de Bourbon and Louise Francoise de Bourbon - as such he was a Prince of the Blood and was given the title of Comte de Clermont. He was born in Versailles on 15 June 1709 and was destined to have a quite interesting and contradictory life.

At the age of just 11 years he was made abbé commendataire of Saint-Claude which would indicate that a career within the church was chosen for him. Nevertheless, he was still a candidate for marriage. It was discussed that he should marry Mademoiselle du Maine but the union never came to be.
Although he would continue in an ecclesiastical career Louis did not choose to live as a monk. In 1730 he was widely known to be lover of the Duchesse de Bouillon and three years later he was attached to another lady: Marie-Anne de Camargo, a dancer in the Opera. After Marie-Anne came another dancer - Elisabeth Claire Leduc - who happened to be a pupil of hers.

He had an immense interest for architecture which would later come to show in the monasteries he would be granted. It was already visible in 1729 when he founded the Academy of the Petit-Luxembourg which became a meeting place for scholars and artists. As an abbot the title of abbé was added to his existing title so that he became the Comte-Abbé de Clermont.

In 1733 he was made abbot of Buzay and would go on to hold that position in two other monasteries. The one where he made the greatest impression was Chaalis where his project to renovate the monastery resulted in the necessity of relocating the monks. 1733 was also the year when Louis made a peculiar request to Pope Clement XII. Despite being an abbot Louis still wanted to take up arms for his country and was granted permission to do so from the pontiff. Consequently, he was made Lieutenant General (undoubtedly thanks to his status) and given command of the King's army in the Netherlands.

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Louis as Lieutenant General

Just a year after having received the Pope's permission he resigned his post at Chaalis to take that of abbot of Saint-Germain-des-Pres. Between 1737-41 he conducted several substantial changes to the buildings of his new abbey. The manse of the monastery itself was remade by Jacques Hardouin-Mansart de Sagonne while the residence allotted to the abbot - the Château de Berny - was modernised and given the fashionable rocaille look.

As many other of the French aristocracy before him Louis was a Freemason. In 1743 he became the head of the French lodges which he continued to be for nearly thirty years. Despite being now comfortably established as an abbot with a pleasant abode Louis was not quite done with his military career.

His many talents and even more appointments shows that the Comte-Abbé was a complicated person. His character is described by Sainte-Beuve as being "one of the most striking specimens". That could easily be said about a man who was a Prince of the Blood, an abbot, a soldier, a libertine and apparently also an amateur man of letters. Saint-Beuve goes on to describe him as being in opposition to the Parliament and that he grew devout in his later years. Although he could be amusing he was equally capable of living a scandalous life when he was comfortable and well-pleased.

He was given command of the army in Bohemia where he suffered a defeat at Krefeld in 1758; following the French defeats during the Seven Years' War he would create several plans for improvements of the French army.
At court he was a good friend of Madame de Pompadour; it might be expected that he would otherwise have sought towards the Dévots given his vocation. But as he had often done before he went his own ways. It should be pointed out that Louis could hardly point a finger at Louis XV's infidelity considering his own personal life.

Description de cette image, également commentée ci-après
Louis de Bourbon-Condé painted in the year of
his death
By now his relationship with Mademoiselle de Leduc had grown to be a steadfast one. She was living with him in the Château de Berny and in 1765 they contracted a secret marriage! Two children came from the union: a boy and a girl. The boy would become known as the Abbé de Vendôme. Louis bought him an estate near his own - the two buildings were connected by a gallery.
The relationship with his wife could be stormy since Louis was rather of a jealous nature. He once lost his temper and scratched her forehead with a pen. Immediately regretting his act he contacted the King and managed to grant her a title of Marquise as an apology.

Louis died in Paris on 16 June 1771 and was buried in Enghien.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Marie Leszczynska's Commode

Bernard van Risen Burgh is the master behind this commode which entered into Queen Marie Leszczynska's possession in 1737. It was placed in the Queen's private cabinet at the royal palace of Fontainebleau. The commode is made of oak and adorned with Japanese lacquer and gilded bronze; the top is of so-called d'Antin marble.
The commode is currently at the Louvre to whom the credits for the photos belong.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

The Comte de Provence & the Comtesse de Balbi

Louis Stanislas, Comte de Provence was well-established at Versailles as the brother of Louis XVI. As such he was entitled to a household paid for by the crown - and so was his wife.

It has been suggested that Anne Nompar de Caumont, Comtesse de Balbi had set her eyes on the royal brother and made him her target from an early stage. It was certainly whispered that that was the very reason why she sought employment with his wife, the Comtesse de Provence.

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Anne, Comtesse de Balbi

Whatever the reason behind Anne's appointment she was made a lady-in-waiting to the Savoyard princess in 1780. Anne herself was already married to the Comte de Balbi with whom she had four children. Nevertheless, it was soon clear that the two had become engaged in a liaison. The Comte was said to only have taken the Comtesse de Balbi as his mistress because he was angry with his wife over her devotion to Marguerite de Gourbillon. If this was true then the commencement of his own relationship did nothing to further his marital bliss.
Later the Comtesse would go on to become dame d'atours to the Comtesse de Provence which can only have alienated the couple further.

As Anne's place beside Louis was soon firmly established he decided to honour her by building a pavilion for her. The pavilion was erected on a parcel of land within the gardens of Versailles; it would promptly be referred to as the Parc Balbi. The Comte would store a part of his massive book collection here.
When Louis purchased the Château de Brunoy he had a sumptuous apartment installed there for Madame de Balbi; furthermore he gave her a residence in Paris where the two could meet.

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Louis, Comte de Provence

The Comtesse de Provence had turned her back on her husband over the affair but the reaction of the Comte de Balbi was far more violent. He was deeply angered by his wife's affair and made the mistake of openly protesting. The Comte de Provence did not care for this sort of charade and had the poor husband declared insane; he would be sent to an asylum where he would remain until his death.

When the revolution broke out the Comte and Comtesse de Provence escaped France - with them came the Comtesse de Balbi. It is widely assumed that she helped the two in organising their escape.

However, the husband and wife was due to split ways since the Comtesse wanted to return to her home in Savoy. As her lady-in-waiting Anne was obliged to follow her there and had to accept being apart from her lover. The relatioship would not last long after this. The reason for the eventual final split between Anne and Louis was the birth of a pair of twins during Anne's time at Savoy. These children could not have been the offspring of the Comte de Provence since the time gap between their last meeting was far too great.
Once the Comte de Provence learnt that his mistress had apparently been having other lovers he gave up the relationship.

Cardinal Fleury and Madame de Prie

The rivalry between Cardinal Fleury and Madame de Prie took place within the uppermost halls of power. It could be argued that Cardinal Fleury's actual rival was Madame d Prie's lover, the Duc de Bourbon, since it was he who took the official beating. However, the Duc de Bourbon was completely under the sway of his mistress during his tenure as Prime Minister and from the memoirs of the time it would seem that the Cardinal had no real issue with the Duc. Madame de Prie, though, was another matter.

Cardinal Fleury was appointed as tutor to Louis XV when he was still only a child in 1715. Throughout the regency the relationship between the boy-king and his tutor grew stronger and the Cardinal was widely known to exercise a great deal of influence over his protege. When the Regent died in 1723 Louis XV was technically of age and as such could rule by himself had he wished so. However, since the King was still young and inexperienced it was thought better to appoint a Prime Minister - this had been the case before Louis XIV began his absolute rule.

Cardinal de Fleury by Rigaud.jpg
Cardinal Fleury

At first it was generally anticipated that Cardinal Fleury would take advantage of his close relationship with the King but the court was soon to learn of its mistake. Being already an elderly man of seventy years the Cardinal declined the position for himself but he was eager to preserve his influence with the King. He appointed Louis Henri de Bourbon-Condé, Duc de Bourbon but the appointment was rather more due to habit than personal preferment. It was traditionally a Prince of the Blood - or a Cardinal - who held the position and as the eldest Prince of the Blood the Duc was appointed.

As the Duc de Bourbon's official mistress Madame de Prie suddenly found herself in a position where she could have immense power. She certainly did not intend to let the opportunity pass her by and over the next months it was a widely known fact that she was mistress. It should be noted that she was not completely blind to the influence exerted by the Cardinal over his pupil. She especially resented that the Cardinal had conditioned granting the post of Prime Minister to the Duc de Bourbon on that he would never discuss state affairs with Louis XV without the Cardinal's being there. To effectively lessen the influence wielded by the Cardinal she attempted to remove this condition.

In December 1725 she attempted to cut the bond between them by staging a coup. To achieve her end Madame de Prie ruthlessly played upon the new Queen Marie Leszczynska. The Queen was tricked into playing a part (Louis XV felt immensely betrayed and never let her into politics again); the Duc de Bourbon would entreat the Queen to call for the King - who was with Fleury at the time. Louis XV duly arrived at his wife's apartment where he found the Duc de Bourbon. In this manner Madame de Prie managed to keep the three closeted together without the Cardinal.
However, Fleury knew well how to manage such an attack on his power. Previously he had found that Louis XV needed him by his side and by depriving him of that the Cardinal could avoid being barred from power. Writing a note stating that he would never return to court he left for the convent of Issy; it was only the next night that the note was actually given to the King who immediately became distraught.

Madame de Prie

In the end the Duc de Bourbon could not convince the King that he could indeed do without the Cardinal and the victorious Fleury could return. Now that he was back and as much in power as ever Cardinal Fleury set out to remove Madame de Prie.
The only way that Madame de Prie could be removed was to sack her lover. This was not something that Fleury was eager to do, though, and he repeatedly asked the Prime Minister to leave his mistress. This never worked. Madame de Prie herself was actually not at Versailles at the point - having chosen to spent some time in the country when Fleury returned - but she sensed the danger and returned like a whirlwind. Louis XV was not ready to formally dismiss the formidable Madame de Prie and she remained at court longer than Fleury would have liked. Feeling confident since she had not been sent away by the King Madame de Prie retook her place as uncrowned Prime Minister. Fleury urged the King to act upon this encroachment of power and he finally consented.

Consequently, the Duc de Bourbon would receive a frosty note from his master that he was deprived of his post and was to go into exile immediately. Likewise, Madame de Prie was sent from court to spend her exile in northern France. This would be the last Versailles would see of her; Madame de Prie committed suicide the next year.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Collection of Louis XIV

With the money and influence of the most prestigious monarchy of his time it is little wonder that the Grand Monarch's personal collection was one of the finest. A vast majority of the collection is currently in the Louvre to whom several of the photos beneath are credited to.

Nef en lapis-lazuli, XVIe siècle, Muriel Brabier:
Lapis lazuli vase with enamel details mounted on
gold and silver. Originally from Italy it went to Paris in
1640 - it was later a part of Marie Antoinette's collection

Nef en prime d'émeraude (chromojadéite), entrée dans la collection du cardinal Mazarin et puis dans celle de Louis XIV – Milan, vers 1535 - Monture en or émaillé: Paris, vers 1640 - (Bouton : Antoine Gibert, Paris, 1780) - Paris, Musée du Louvre:
Emerald vase with gold details. Bought by Cardinal Mazarin and
inherited by Louis XIV who added it to his collection

Cuvette ovale en sardoine, entrée dans la collection de Louis XIV avant 1673 – Art byzantin Xe-XIe siècle?; monture en or: Paris, vers 1550 - Paris, Musée du Louvre:
Agate bowl which entered into the King's collection before 1673

Ewer Vase: date unknown. Mounting: circa 1630-1635Acquired by the Louis XIV collection prior to 1673:
Lavish ewer of enamel, gold, rubies diamonds, emeralds and opals,
made in 1630

Oval Jasper Cup  --  Circa 1620  --  Germany, Stuttgart  --  From the collection of Louis XIV  --  Musée du Louvre:
Jasper cup made in Stuttgart, around 1620

Coupe ovale en agate, entrée dans la collection de Louis XIV entre 1669 et 1673 – Milan, troisième quart du XVIe siècle - Paris, Musée du Louvre:
Agate cup with lid, Milan
Entered Louis XIV's collection between 1669-1673

Vase en cristal de roche provenant de la collection du cardinal de Richelieu, entré dans la collection de Louis XIV c1681. La monture a été réalisée en deux temps : à Milan au XVIe siècle, puis en France au XVIIe siècle - Paris, Musée du Louvre:
Crystal vase once owned by Cardinal Richelieu and then
bought by Louis XIV in 1681

Aiguière en cristal de roche, entrée dans la collection de Louis XIV entre 1681 et 1684 - Atelier des Miseroni (?), Milan, troisième quart du XVIe siècle – Paris, Musée du Louvre:
Rock crystal ewer which entered Louis XIV's collection
between 1681-1684

Vase en cristal de roche (l'ivresse de Noé), entré dans la collection de Louis XIV entre 1681 et 1684 – Milan, milieu du XVIe siècle - Paris, Musée du Louvre:
Crystal vase also bought between 1681-84

From Louis XIV's collection, a jade bowl, inlaid with gold, and set with precious stones (diamonds?), added: 1684-1701.:
Jade bowl inlaid with gold and set with precious stones,
added to the collection 1684-1701

This ewer came into the collection of Louis XIV some time between 1681 and 1684. Jean Vangrol, a goldsmith of Flemish origin who lived in Paris, probably made the mounting in about 1640.:
Gorgeous ewer made by Jean Vangrol and bought
by the King 1681-84

Aiguière en sardoine, entrée dans la collection de Louis XIV entre 1681 et 1684 - Ier siècle avant J.-C. - Ier siècle après J.-C., additions du XVIIe siècle – Monture: Pierre Delabarre, Paris, vers 1630 - Paris, Musée du Louvre:
Ewer of lavish design made in 1630

Vase en prime d'émeraude (chromojadéite), entré dans la collection du cardinal Mazarin et puis dans celle de Louis XIV – Milan, vers 1535; Monture: Paris, vers 1630 - Paris, Musée du Louvre:
Emerald vase, 1535
Inherited by Louis XIV from Cardinal Mazarin

Urne en améthyste, collection de Louis XIV - Objet taillé dans une seule améthyste - Pierre : Italie, XVIe siècle (?) - Monture : Paris, vers 1670 – Paris, Musée du Louvre:
Amethyst urn, 1670

Coupe trilobée en lapis-lazuli, collection de Louis XIV – Pierre: 2e moitié du XVIe siècle; Monture: Milan, fin XVIe siècle - Paris, Musée du Louvre:
Lapis lazuli bowl

Louis XIV's Collection | Agate Goblet, inherited from Cardinal Mazarin - 17th century.:
Agate goblet inherited by Louis XIV from Cardinal Mazarin

Aiguière en sardoine, entrée dans la collection de Louis XIV avant 1673 - Pierre: 1er av J.C.-1er siècle ap J.-C; monture: Paris, vers 1665 - Paris, Musée du Louvre:
Ewer which became a part of the collection
before 1673

Coupe ovale en jaspe fleuri, entrée dans la collection du cardinal Mazarin et puis dans celle de Louis XIV – Ottavio Miseroni, Prague, fin du XVIe siècle - début du XVIIe siècle - Paris, Musée du Louvre:
Vase of a rare jasper owned by Cardinal Mazarin and then Louis XIV,