Monday, 31 July 2017

Marie Antoinette (2006)

The errors and facts underneath are more concerned with inaccuracies with the court than with inventions/time. 

Historical Inaccuracies:

  • Marie Antoinette is introduced to the Comtesse de Provence although the Comtesse had not yet even arrived at court. She would be married in 1771 and as such would not have been at Versailles when Marie Antoinette arrived in 1770
  • The transfer of Marie Antoinette happened on the island near Kehl. Therefore, when ambassador Mercy informs her that she has arrived at Shuttern he is mistaken. The Archduchess spent a few days in the town of Shuttern before entering French soil.
  • The first "Bourbon born in his generation" is not the son of the Comte and Comtesse de Provence. The Duc d'Angoulême was the son of the Comte d'Artois. The Comte and Comtesse de Provence never had child.
  • Marie Antoinette's birthday party is celebrated in the midst of summer flowers but she was born in November
  • The entire Affair of the Diamond Necklace is left out
  • While at Petit Trianon Marie Antoinette is seen having a very sensual affair with Count Fersen. Historical evidence considered, it is unlikely that the two ever had a physical love affair

What the movie got right:

  • Although Kirsten Dunst's underwear can be seen if you really look closely when she is wearing her chemise, the movie attempts to make it looks as if she was naked underneath. This would indeed have been the case in the 18th century.


  • In the scene when Marie Antoinette's portrait with her children is exchanged there is a vital difference. The young Princesse Sophie died shortly after being born which is why the baby in the crib is missing on the second portrait - she was painted out.
  • The Converse shoes seen in the "shopping montage" is put there deliberately. Sophia Coppola had them put there to remind the audience that the young queen was still a teenager
  • Some people consider it a mistake that the dress Marie Antoinette wears when she gets into the carriage in Vienna is blue but the dress at the transfer ceremony is white. This is not a mistake. The journey took several days and she would have changed dresses.
  • It is also on purpose that the movie ends with the beginning of the revolution. Sophia Coppola meant to show the life of Marie Antoinette before the revolution.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Flushing Toilets at Versailles

While Versailles was a palace of splendour it was also one of rather crude facilities. I have previously posted about this subject but thought I would elaborate a bit.

During the reign of Louis XIV the world was still relying on chamber pots; the toilet invented for Elizabeth I appears to have been temporarily forgotten. The toilets used by Louis XIV's courtiers would be little more than a chamber pot placed within a wooden box with a padded seat - and naturally a hole in the middle. It was necessary to manually empty the chamberpot after each use.

Yet, Versailles was inhabited in the age of enlightenment and was not completely unaware of the progress being made in the outside world. As early as 1710 Le Blond presented a modernised version of the closet stool. Whereas the task of emptying the royal closet stool had hitherto fallen to an unlucky servant there were signs of improvement.

Relateret billede
Design by Blondel - his works was later published in
the 1770's

Le Blond's version - the word "toilet" was still not applied - looked like the previous closet stools. The porcelain chamber pot was placed within a copper fixture. The novelty lay in the flushing. By the turn of faucet water would gush to the chamber pot thus clearing it of its contents. The water would come from a "tank" positioned above the stool itself. This was not all, though. If a second faucet was turned a small ray of water would spray up-wards - creating the effect of a basic bidet. 

This was a decided turning point. Naturally, the more well-off people of France saw the necessity for acquiring one for themselves. In 1728 it was already pronounced to be old-fashioned to use a closet stool rather than an "easy chair". The Regent, Philippe II d'Orléans, had one installed in his private retreat of Saint-Cloud.
Blondel was not alone in advancing these new "easy chairs". Another inventor, Neufforge, came up with a very similar contraption. They had one thing in common, though: both recommended that their inventions be placed in a room of their own. Previously, a bathroom had been for just that: bathing. A chamber pot would be found in the bedchamber where it was also used. Now, the idea was that such bodily functions were performed in private. 

The Regent was not the only one at court who rushed to install an "easy chair" in their private homes. The Grand Dauphin gave his orders for one to be installed at Meudon while the Duchesse de Bourbon (his half-sister) had one installed in her Hôtel de Bourbon. But what of Versailles itself.

Billedresultat for versailles toilet
The toilet Madame de Pompadour had to
make due with before her own was installed

When Louis XIV died in 1715 Versailles was temporarily abandoned. Although the aged king had died of gangrene it was custom for the court to remove itself to other royal residences while the palace was being cleaned up. Since the new king was a child of five the actual French court assembled around the Regent.
Louis XV as an adult was no less appreciative of the new advances in personal hygiene - and privacy. In 1738 he remodelled the king's apartment and installed a flush toilet in its own separate room. This new convenience was placed on a floor of marble and was surrounded by wooden walls. To accommodate the new pipes needed for the flushing the walls were opened and fitted out.

Billedresultat for versailles lavatory
Marie Antoinette's flush toilet
Madame de Pompadour caused quite an outcry when she insisted on having her own flush toilet installed in 1749. She had originally been denied permission to break open the walls of her apartment; consequently she had used an invention by Pierre II Migeon. It did not feature the desired flush but was made of mahogany which had certain odour-absorbing qualities. The mistress was not to wait for long, tough. In 1752 her apartment was slightly remodelled which made room for a new flush toilet; it was later updated in 1756.

Despite the advances made on the area it was not available to everyone at court. The majority of courtiers living at Versailles still continued to use the good, old chamber pot. Some could not afford the new luxury while others simply did not have the room for one in their apartment. In 1789 there existed nine flushing toilets at Versailles, the majority belonging to the royal family.

Friday, 28 July 2017

The Affair of the Diamond Necklace

The Betrayal of a Queen 
By 1785 the formerly popular Marie Antoinette had become a favourite person to hate in France. Tales of her wild behaviour and even wilder spending were grossly exaggerated; nevertheless, gossipers rarely care much for facts. The "affair of the diamond necklace" refers to a scandal which took place int that year and involved a Queen, a Cardinal and a Comtesse. 

Cardinal de Rohan had fallen afoul of Empress Maria Theresa during his tenure as ambassador to Vienna in the years 1772-74. Naturally, the Empress made sure that her royal daughter knew all about her dislike for the cardinal; utterly convinced by her mother as to the cardinal's vices Marie Antoinette, too, developed an intense dislike to him. According to her mother the cardinal had attempted to spread vile gossip about the French queen at the Viennese court. When the cardinal returned to Versailles in 1774 he suddenly faced an abysmal future. Although he was endowed with a red hat and a prestigious office he was also very well aware that his position at court could be reversed. This seemed especially likely with the queen being his decided enemy.

Cardinal de Rohan

Consequently, he set out to regain favour with the queen consort. In his pursuit hereof he sought the help of a certain Comtesse de La Motte. Her actual name was Jeanne de Valois-Saint-Rémy and the title? Well, she had simply bestowed it on herself in an attempt to get ahead in the world. Jeanne was actually a descendant of Henri II and as such had a certain claim to be counted amongst the aristocracy.

In 1782 the infamous necklace was created. Böhmer and Bassenge - crown jewellers - had designed the extremely lavish necklace. No less than 650 diamonds were set in the necklace which weighed 2600 carats. The price was staggering. When the jewellers presented the necklace to Louis XVI its price had already been reduced but still stood at 1,6 million livres. Both Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were unwilling to spent such an exorbitant amount of money and turned it down.

Relateret billede
A replica of the infamous necklace - the original being
broken down before the revolution 

Meanwhile, lurking in the shadows at court, the Comtesse de La Motte saw an opportunity in the necklace. She had already convinced the cardinal that her and the queen were close friends. Therefore, she now convinced the cardinal to go to the Queen's Grove in the palace garden on the night of 11 August 1784. The cardinal duly went and was convinced that he was to meet the queen incognito. To be sure, he did meet a woman hiding in the shadows - but it was not Marie Antoinette. Little known to the cardinal the woman was an imposter who masqueraded as the queen. This imposter was in fact a prostitute by the name of Marie-Nicole Le Guay; she had been discovered by none other than the Comte de La Motte. He had remarked how similar she looked to the queen which undoubtedly inspired a few thoughts. From her place in the shadows she assured the cardinal that his place at court would be redeemed.

The comtesse had furthermore convinced de Rohan that he would enhance his chances of returning to the queen's good graces if he bought the necklace on her behalf. This she finally succeeded in on 29 January. She had assured him that the queen really desired the necklace but did not have the nerve to buy it with her popularity already in the dumps. The real treachery - if it had not already played out - came when the queen's signature was forged and put to a document which agreed both to the price and the cardinal as her go-between.

The Comtesse de La Motte

Cardinal de Rohan wasted no time and immediately turned to the jewellers; these asked no questions since they were pleased to finally have a buyer. On 1 February 1785 the infamous necklace was handed over to the cardinal's possession. Böhmer - never doubting that the queen was his actual client - sent her a letter on 12 July. Understandably, poor Marie Antoinette was utterly confused when she received it since she had no knowledge of the affair nor the transaction. Thinking that it was merely a stunt to once again push the necklace on her, she destroyed the letter. When he heard nothing from the queen he turned to Madame Campan and requested an answer to when he might receive the remainder of the money.
The queen was complexed and demanded an explanation of the jeweller. He told the queen everything about his deal with Cardinal de Rohan.

Not surprisingly, both the king and queen were outraged that such a deception was carried out in their names. On 15 August the cardinal was arrested by the king's guards in the Hall of Mirrors. He was transported to the Bastille. In Marie Antoinette's point of view the scheme was not unlike what could be expected from a character such as the cardinal. After all, she had been warned by her trusted mother. However, the Parlement de Paris was not as willing to condemn the cardinal. In May 1785 they acquitted him.
Although he escaped a prison spell, the Cardinal de Rohan was finished at court. The king stripped him of all his offices and sent him into exile.

The queen was livid. It certainly did nothing to ease her disappointment and rage that the public welcomed the cardinal's sentence. It was considered to be a victory over the hated queen - never mind the matter of guilt.

Marie Antoinette

During his incarceration the cardinal had not hesitated to give away his accomplice, the Comtesse de La Motte. She was promptly arrested. Her trial ended differently than the cardinal's had and was far more scandalous. In April 1786 she admitted that she had paid Le Guay to masquerade as the queen but she insisted that she had only done it as an act of revenge. The Comtesse attempted to convince the court that the cardinal had continually pressed her to intercede on his behalf with the queen. Furthermore, she claimed that she and the cardinal were lovers - as can be expected the cardinal completely denied it. 
The court found her guilty and she was branded with a large "V" (for Voleuse = thief) as well as flogged. Originally, she had been sentenced to life in Salpêtrière Prison in Paris. That should have been the end of that but this story had another twist. On 5 June 1787 she managed to escape and fled to England. Here, she published her memoirs which ultimately aims at defaming Marie Antoinette. Her life would be cut unexpectedly short when she died from a fall in 1791 - two years before the queen.

Surprisingly, Marie-Nicole Le Guay was also acquitted. Even the Comtesse de La Motte admitted that the hired lady was immensely stupid; the comtesse claimed that she had not even realized that she was impersonating the queen. Following their interrogation of Le Guay the court believed her.

As for the Comte de La Motte he had been sentenced in absentia to life as a galley slave. Luckily for him, he had already left France and managed to escape any punishment at all. The forger, Réteaux, was permanently exiled from France. 

The Comte de La Motte

It should have been clear that the queen had been innocent of any wrongdoing in the scheme. This did not play well with the image her enemies had been so successful in spreading, though. Although the court cases were watched with eagerness by both Versailles and Paris neither seemed to quite acquit the queen. The queen was well on her way to becoming the most hated woman in France and this merely added fuel to the fire. 
Marie Antoinette herself could do nothing. The Parisians were determined to make a villain of her and even such a clear-cut case of fraud was twisted against the queen. In light of this it can hardly be wondered at that Marie Antoinette continued to habour a deep resentment towards the cardinal and the comtesse.

The damage had been done to Her Majesty's reputation. Thomas Carlyle was quite right when he wrote that "the odium of the Diamond Necklace embittered all the Queen's future life, and followed her to the very steps of the guillotine". 

What happened to the necklace?
When the necklace was delivered on that first day of February 1785 it was brought to the house of the Comte and Comtesse de La Motte. Here, it was put into the care of a man whom the jewellers believed to be a valet of the queen's. He was, however, a man by the name of Rétaux - the very same man who had forged the queen's signature.
From its brief stay in the Comte's household it was shipped posthaste to London and Amsterdam where it was broken up. The value of the necklace itself was still dazzling but due to its infamy it would be too easy to recognize. The Comtesse even had the nerve to wear some of the larger diamonds in earrings which she sported at court. 

The Redingote Gown

The term "redingote" really refers to both a male and female type of garment; this post will concern itself with the latter. The word itself is derived from the English "riding coat".

Originally, the redingote was a coat which was used out of doors. In the early 18th century it was a bulky type of clothing; this is typical of a fashion which was originally adopted by women for its practicality's sake - and then evolved. It was not until the last two decades of the 18th century that the redingote gown became a fashion statement in itself. By this time it was  closely fitted to the waist. As with a good deal of ladies' fashion it was inspired by men's fashion.

As a garment is was an incredibly versatile style. It could be used both for more sporty activities such as hunting or promenading and for society gatherings. A redingote was intended to be worn over a corset, a skirt and a petticoat; the skirt itself was quite voluminous. This large skirt gave it the gown-like appearance that made it acceptable in the salons as well as outdoors. Occasionally, the petticoat was separate from the skirt. Some redingotes were cut open in the front to show off the skirt underneath.

A Most Beguiling Accomplishment: Galerie des Modes, 54e Cahier, 2e Figure. Redingote of violet taffeta, revers, collar, and cuffs white, steel buttons, striped and spotted muslin petticoat: puce straw hat trimmed with large steel buckles: it is edged and belted with black velvet. (1787)
Redingote of violet taffeta, 1787 
Billedresultat for redingote gown portrait
End of the 1780's

Generally, a redingote gown was cut with long sleeves. Several aspects of the male fashion reappeared in the female counterpart. Ruffles at the end of the sleeves as well as a prominent collar were both traditionally male. Also, it was common for a redingote was double-breasted; most people recognize the cravat of 18th century male costumes. A similar type of garment was fashioned to go with the redingote. 

Depending on whether the wearer used her redingote gown for a more formal event or during her leisure hours, a train could occasionally be attached. The types of fabric also illustrates the versatility of the style. Everything from delicate silks to more enduring wool could be used.
This dress is c. 1790 and is made from silk and cotton. It is one of the less formal redingote gowns which has neither embroidery nor train:

Billedresultat for redingote gownBilledresultat for redingote gown

The decoration was mainly centered around large buttons and cuffs and collars in contrasting colours.  The redingote worn at court would often be adorned with embroidery; this would be delicate embroidery compared to the larger pieces seen on other court gowns. The green redingote beneath is a perfect example of how a redingote could be "dressed up".

1786-1789, the Netherlands - Redingote or dress - Silk, chenille, floss
This magnificent Dutch redingote dates to 1786-89
Billedresultat for redingote gown portrait
This photo really shows off the embroidery and the
lushness of the fabric

Marie Antoinette was fond of redingotes; she would often wear them at the Petit Trianon. One particular redingote of hers caught particular attention - it was of a pale grey taffeta. The redingote was connected with German style in the minds of the French; perhaps this also played a role in the Queen's fondness for it? On the night that Versailles was stormed the Queen had just time to put on a yellow redingote before she was obliged to flee through the secret door in her bedroom.

As seen in portraits:
1778 Marie-Antoinette wearing riding dress by Antoine Vestier (private collection) mod
Marie Antoinette in a blue redingote
Billedresultat for redingote gown
Lady wearing a dark blue redingote by Louis Gauffier
Billedresultat for redingote gown portrait
Ines Maria Aguirre y Yoldi by Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller
Billedresultat for redingote gown portrait
Detail of Marie Antoinette hunting in a grey redingote,
1785 - perhaps this was the gown that caught the court's attention?
Baroness Stroganova

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Governesses of the Children of France

A high-ranking lady was entrusted with the care of the precious Children of France - that being the children of the monarch. Naturally, this was considered to be an important task. The woman chosen would have close contact to the royal children and as such could be a source of influence. Consequently, it was vital to choose with care.

Francoise de Lansac
Governess to Louis XIV and Philippe d'Orléans

Married to Artus de Saint Gelais. She died in 1657 when her charges were 19 and 17 years respectively.

Louise de Prie, Duchesse de Codona
Governess to the children of Louis XIV from 1661 to 1672
Governess to the children of the Grand Dauphin from 1682 to 1691

Married to Philippe de La Mothe-Houdancourt, Duc de Codona 

Louise de Prie

Francoise d'Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon
Governess to the children of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan from 1669 to 1682

She would live with her charges in a house bought by Madame de Montespan in the Rue de Vaugirad; here the royal mistress installed the future royal mistress with servants and a large income. The Marquise was officially instated as governess of the royal children on 20 December 1673 when the children were legitimised. Due to her good work with his children, Louis XIV awarded her the enormous sum of 200.000 livres.

Married to Paul Scarron

Madame de Maintenon

Marie Isabelle Gabrielle Angélique de La Mothe-Houdancourt, Duchesse de La Ferté-Senneterre
Governess to the children of the Duc and Duchesse de Bourgogne from 1709-1710

Married to Henri Francois de Saint-Nectaire

The Duchesse de La Ferté-Senneterre with her two charges

Charlotte de La Mothe-Houdancourt, Marquise de Ventadour
Governess to the children of the Duc and Duchesse de Bourgogne from 1710
Governess to the children of Louis XV from 1727-1735

The marquise is directly responsible for Louis XV surviving the epidemic that killed his parents and older brother. She knew that the doctors had purged and bled her eldest charge to death and in attempt to protect the youngest she barricaded herself in her apartment. Here, she nursed the little boy back to health. Louis XV continued to be immensely fond of his governess even when he was fully grown.

Married to Louis Charles de Lévis
She was the daughter of Louise de Prie

Mignard - Madame de Ventadour.jpg
Marquise de Ventadour
Marie Isabelle de Rohan, Duchesse de Tallard
Governess to the children of Louis XV 
Governess to the children of Louis Ferdinand 

She was genuinely beloved her charges who mourned her deeply when she died in 1754. She had also been responsible for the care of Louis Ferdinand's children. Ironically, she would never have children of her own.

Granddaughter of Madame de Ventadour and married to Joseph d'Hostun de La Baume

Marie Louise de Rohan, Comtesse de Marsan
Governess to the children of Louis Ferdinand and Marie Josèphe de Saxe

She had also briefly taken her aunt's position as governess to Louis XV's children although they were not in need of a governess for much longer by 1754. Her decided favourite was the Comte de Provence; he would refer to her as ma petite chère amie.
She greatly opposed the marriage between Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette - the latter's dislike of etiquette prompted the Comtesse to resign.

Niece of the Duchesse de Tallard and married to Gaston Jean Baptiste de Lorraine

Victoire de Rohan, Princesse de Guéméné
Governess to the children of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette from 1776-82

She succeeded her aunt, the Comtesse de Marsan. Unlike her aunt the Princesse became a close friend of Marie Antoinette. She is the only governess who was forced to resign in 1782 due to a scandalous family debt of no less than 33 million livres. 

She was married to Henri Louis, Prince de Guéméné

Princesse de Guéméné with Madame Royale

Yolande de Polastron, Duchesse de Polignac 
Governess to the children of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette from 1782-89

Her appointment to the post of royal governess caused quite a scandal; she was not considered to possess the necessary pedigree to fulfil her charge. Her friendship with the queen became weaker as Yolande tried to push through politicians whom Marie Antoinette hated.

Married to Jules de Polignac

Duchess de Polignac.jpg
Duchesse de Polignac

Louise Elisabeth du Croÿ, Marquise de Tourzel
Governess to the children of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette from 1789-92

She accompanied the royal family as they were imprisoned; when the monarchy was dissolved in 1792 she was separated from the royal family. She survived the revolution and was rewarded by Charles X with the title of Duchesse

Marquise de Tourzel

Monday, 24 July 2017

Ridiculous Fashions: Caricatures of Grand Wigs

The tall wigs towering high above the head and adorned with everything imaginable remains on of the things we associate the 18th century with. Today, we look at these hairstyles with a mixture of wonder and ridicule. But even when the fashions were at their height they were certainly not accepted by everyone. Caricatures spread like wildfire of highborn ladies wearing wigs too tall to keep under control; naturally, these were particularly popular amongst the lower classes. 

Billedresultat for 18th century hair caricature

Wigs were often adorned with everything from flowers to small boats and birdcages. This may very well have been the inspiration for this caricature. The gentleman to the far right seem to regret his decision of pocking the wig when an array of items come tumbling down at him.
While it is completely true that ladies occasionally had to crouch down in their carriages (as seen below) to fit it is doubtful that they ever needed someone to hold their do's up with a stick!

1776, English

Fashion generally came from France which this caricature clearly shows. The "French Lady" in London gives the gentleman a good fright when she suddenly emerges in what can only be described as a monstrous contraption. Notice how even the animals flee!

Billedresultat for 18th century hair caricature

"Lady All-Top" must have a remarkably strong neck and quite a headache! Notice that her coiffure is larger than she is - even her plumes.

Billedresultat for 18th century hair caricature

Here is another lady who needs to bend her knee so as to not ruin her expensive hairdo. This particular caricature is French and most likely refers to a court lady - notice the intertwined double "L"s which adorned the king's gates. Perhaps she is going to a court ball?

Billedresultat for 18eme siecle coiffure caricature

The court wigs generally reached their peak in the 1770's but was not completely gone by the end of the 1780's. This caricature attempts to explain how a proper coiffure was to be made; apparently one needed to erect a scaffold which would then be removed. The hairdresser is all but compared to a carpenter; the hairpins and accessories are scattered around him like tools - and in case that point was not made clear there is a painting of a bridge in the background. 

Billedresultat for 18eme siecle coiffure caricature

Oh, the dangers of fashion! This unfortunate lady seems to have walked a little too close to the chandelier and has consequently caught on fire. The only redeeming thing seems to be that she is not aware of her new "enlightened" state. After all, there is quite a bit of hair to burn through before the scalp is reached. Behind her and her companion, servants are desperately trying to quench the flames.

Relateret billede

This is a rather late caricature considering that - at least in France - the high coiffures had not been worn since the fall of the monarchy. Nevertheless, the image is quite clear.


Height is the essence here. The coiffeur needs a ladder to complete his masterpiece while the other gentleman (the assistant?) checks the angle using a sextant. Meanwhile, the lady looks rather pleased with her fashionable hairdo. One thing that stands out in this one is the white shawl draped over the lady's shoulder to protect her gown. It could be that the coiffeur is using heated curlers to make those perfect curls?
Billedresultat for 18eme siecle coiffure caricature

Ladies were not the sole target for these ridiculing cartoons. Gentlemen, too, could find themselves in the same situation; as was the case here. "Baron du Caprice" has styled his hair so tall that he can only get in by having the door made taller - apparently he never considered bending his knees as the ladies above...

Billedresultat for 18eme siecle coiffure caricature

Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Greatcoat

The greatcoat was chosen by some men as a replacement for the cloak in the 18th century - more specifically around 1750. After this point it was considered too old-fashioned and cloaks were then associated with soldiers or other specific professions (and funerals). For instance, some livery uniforms counted a greatcoat.

The greatcoat was worn out of doors and over the suit; much like the coats we know today. A typical greatcoat was made from heavy, thick materials which provided both warmth and could stand some use. Also, the cuffs and collar could be turned up as a protection against foul weather. This made it perfect for traveling in. 

Gentelman's Greatcoat 1780's France
Back of a French greatcoat, 1780's

As it was intended to be able to bear the bumps and bruises that came with 18th century traveling it was often made of wool. Often, the pockets were quite deep so as to make it possible for the wearer t to keep papers or even food nearby. Little decoration was added to it due to its practical purpose. One thing which all greatcoats had in common was their colour: they were always grey. 

The king's wardrobe contained several pieces of outerwear. His greatcoats were of wool for the winter and of a lighter fabric for the summer. The greatcoat would be sewn with silk cross which was less expensive and far more solid than the silk threads used for the suits.

Relateret billede
Being from 1811 this one is a bit late
but is still like the ones used in the previous

The greatcoat reached just below the knee and ended around the calf. It was bulky - a far cry from the otherwise tailored suits seen at court. However, a bulkier coat allowed for the wearer to wear several layers underneath. Unquestionably, this was a welcome article of clothing during the colder months.
Four side panels made up the main part of the coat. Seams ran beneath the arms and down the middle of the back.

As can be imagined with such a purpose it was not confined to the upper classes. Although, the people at the bottom of society could not afford a specifically made greatcoat, it was used by the bourgeoisie as well.
The traditional greatcoat actually continued to be a part of most countries' military uniforms all the way up to the 1930's. It was then widely discarded as being too impractical. 

Billedresultat for portrait greatcoat
English Captain Thomas Coram, 1740 - the English
were more often portrayed in their greatcoats than
the French

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Charles Louis Victor de Broglie, Prince de Broglie

Charles Louis Victor de Broglie was born on 22 September 1756 as the son of the Victor-Francois, Duc de Broglie and Louise Crozat. His father had had a successful career in the military where he had distinguished himself in the Seven Years' War. Charles was to follow in his father's footsteps.

On his father's orders he is enrolled in the infantry regiment of Limousin. Here, he quickly rose through the ranks. Charles started out as sous-lieutenant then became captain and so on; before his 25th birthday he had already been made colonel of a regiment from Aunis. On 3 February 1776 he was married off to Sophie de Rosen-Kleinropp - her father was a cavalry officer and Marquis de Trainel.

In 1781 his first child would be born; it was a girl who was named Amélie. The next year brought another daughter and another in 1784. In 1785 his wife gave birth to the couple's only son: Achille Léon.

Charles Louis Victor

Shortly after the king had need of the Prince de Broglie's military talents again. This time he was sent across the pond to fight in the American war of independence. He would return to France in 1788 where he was awarded with new titles including colonel of the Bourbannais regiment.
By then the revolution was near by. Charles was sympathetic to the cause of the Third Estate - the people. He was chosen as deputy of the nobility to the States-General. In this function he would predominantly vote for the Left. This was the case in 1789 when he voted in favour of granting all citizens the opportunity of serving in the law or the military.

His revolutionary career went further when he was made Secretary of the Assembly in 1790. However, trouble was brewing and in these dangerous times few people could be safe. When he dissolved the Legion of Aspe riots broke out in Toulouse. 
His father had emigrated and was charged by the revolutionary tribunals with conspiracy with the enemy. Charles tried his hardest to fight his father's case but received little encouragement from the father himself. 

He reached the peak of his political career when he was elected President of the Constituent Assembly in 1791. However, his sympathy with the people did not mean that he simply accepted every new turn against the monarchy. His presidency lasted only four months until he resigned. Instead, he requested to be sent back to the front where his talents were more pronounced. 

Being decorated with the rank of Field Marshal he was sent to the Rhine to serve under Luckner. However, at home things were heating up. Charles had never intended for the revolution to cost the life of the monarch but Louis XVI was in serious danger. Upon learning that the king had been criminally charged Charles immediately resigned his post. He returned to France where he took up residence in Bourbonne-les-Bains.
From here he kept up a correspondence with the President of the Legislative Assembly. From his letters it is clear that Charles still supported the ideals behind the revolution but had doubts as to its means. These doubts would prove fatal to the decorated war hero.

As President

Shortly afterwards, Charles was arrested and place in the prison of Langres. This spell in prison lasted only a short while before he was released again. Despite the growing danger he opted to remain in France. The king and queen had been executed that same year. This decision would eventually lead the way to another arrest. This time there was no mercy for the formerly esteemed friend of the people. On 26 June 1794 the Prince de Broglie was placed before the Revolutionary Tribunal; he was sentenced to death.

From his prison cell he wrote to his wife and asked her not to confuse the revolution with the "many monsters she has produced". This last letter of his gives a perfect insight into his political thoughts and allegiances:
Without despising or disdaining the Ancien Regime, any attempt to reestablish it seems to me childish. I belong to the new society with heart and conviction and I sincerely believed in its infinite progress. While detesting the revolutionary state, the disorders it entails and the crimes which defile it, I regarded the French Revolution as an inevitable and salutary crisis.

Charles Louis Victor de Broglie was executed by guillotine the following day: 27th July 1794.

Madame & Monsieur

Prince & Princesse

Marie Thérèse Louise of Savoy, Princesse de Lamballe

Élisabeth Thérèse de Lorraine, Princesse d'Epinoy

Victoire Armande Josèphe de Rohan, Princesse de Guéméné

Anne Victoire of Hesse-Rotenburg, Princesse de Soubise

Bathilde d'Orléans, Princesse de Condé

Louis August II de Bourbon, Prince de Dombes

Armand de Bourbon-Condé, Prince de Conti

Charles Louis Victor de Broglie, Prince de Broglie

Duc & Duchesse

Marquis & Marquise

Comte & Comtesse

Vicomte & Vicomtesse

The Beauty of La Montespan

Francoise-Athénaïs, Marquise de Montespan is even today renowned for her beauty. Already during the early years of her marriage when she served as a lady-in-waiting to the Duchesse d'Orléans she was known as a "great beauty".

Her portraits shows the ideal female form of the time: a voluptuous body with the curves so desired at the time. Antonia Fraser tells us that she had large blue eyes and long, auburn curls that fell about her shoulders. Those beautiful eyes were made even more so by the infamous "esprit de Mortemart" - the elegant wit of her ancestral house.

However, it was not merely her appearance that charmed those around her. Madame de Montespan was equipped with a cutting wit and a natural grace to her movements. Especially her hands were admired; as was the way she carried herself. A mixture of dignity and alluring appeal drew in anybody she wished.
Confidence was definitely key with the Marquise. She held immense pride in her heritage and was well aware that she was beautiful. So were her contemporaries. Madame de La Fayette claimed that la Montespan possessed no less than a "flawless beauty" while Madame de Sevigné's letters are full of praise. Elizabeth-Charlotte, Duchesse d'Orléans was no great friend of Madame de Montespan; nevertheless, she admitted that she had "beautiful hair, fine arms, shapely hands, a very pretty mouth and a winning smile".

Madame de Montespan

As is almost always the case the court praise was connected with the king's opinion. During her height of beauty there were no end to verses singing her praises. Loret made one of the most famous ones which describes her as a "charming miracle... this divine paradise of the eyes". If Montespan had not been vain before her affair with Louis she would certainly have been pushed towards vanity eventually.
To the Duc d'Enghien it was hardly surprising that the king fell for her. According to him she certainly deserved it since "no one could have more spirit or beauty than she".

One of the ways in which her beauty stood out best was in deshabille; one of the most famous portraits of her is painted in this state.

The magnificent Marquise in her
famous deshabille

Such beauty could hardly last forever. Montespan was immensely fond of food which - combined with seven consecutive pregnancies - left their toll on her body. All through her life Francoise-Athénaïs would struggle with her weight. Over the years the curvaceous body became larger and larger. In the end she was downright fat. Even so, the picky Duc de Saint-Simon (who only met her in the last part of her reign) admitted that she was indeed very beautiful.
Madame de Maintenon was quick to pick up on this added weight (it could hardly be overlooked); the "old dame" found her weight gain astonishing. 

In her last years Madame found her suddenly far less appealing than before. The Princess Palatine compared the retired favourite's skin to paper that had been folded again and again. However, no one else mentions such excessive wrinkles so perhaps a tinge of jealousy still haunted Madame? Even when her liaison with Louis was definitely over Montespan still retained a certain air of mystery and allure which fascinated her surroundings.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Madame de Pompadour & the Prince de Conti

The animosity between Jeanne-Antoinette de Poisson and Louis Francois de Bourbon began from the moment that Madame de Pompadour was introduced as royal mistress. 

The first real "sting" came about quite without intent. Madame de Pompadour frequently put on small theatrical performances in the king's private apartment to divert the melancholic king. The thing was that only fifteen people could be admitted due to the room's size. In 1747 - when these plays were well under way - the Prince de Conti was amongst those excluded from the parties. This prince was particularly proud of his Bourbon-blood; the thought of not merely being excluded but being excluded by a bourgeoisie was intolerable.

This matter of rank was most likely what really turned the Prince de Conti against Madame de Pompadour. During her first time at court in 1745 the marquise had been able to charm everyone - except Conti. To him it was not an issue that she was the king's mistress (after all there had to be one); the sore spot was that she was not born a noblewoman.

Prince de Conti

From this point on their relationship went downhill fast. Before, Louis Francois had been a close associate of Louis XV; the king would refer to him as his favourite cousin. The Prince's dislike of the mistress was not unknown but still somewhat contained. That would come to change. 
Gradually, this changed and Conti naturally placed the blame with Pompadour. However, the Prince de Conti was not adverse to slander himself. He was one of the few who worked in the Secret du Roi which handled extremely confidential cases; he took great advantage of the marquise's being barred from there to attempt to turn Louis XV against her.

These secret meetings was a cause of great annoyance to the royal mistress. It certainly did nothing to ease the relationship with the Prince de Conti; every time she saw him coming and going from the king's chamber with a mysterious air it stung.

Louis XV's disinterestedness in such squabbles hardly made tensions any lighter. In 1752 Madame de Pompadour was granted a tabouret and the honours of the court. This included a formal presentation to the royal family - although they had all known each other for years. For some unknown reason, Louis chose none other than the Princesse de Conti to make the presentation. She had also been the one to present Jeanne-Antoinette in 1745; her husband's dislike of the new-comer apparently did not spread.

One of the greatest clashes between the two played out against the background of the Seven Years' War. As a Prince of the Blood and a favourite of Louis XV it was assumed that Conti would be given sole responsibility for the French army in Flanders. However, he instead had to share command with the Marèchal de Saxe. The two men quarreled constantly and both sought prime command. 
When the Comte de Stainville - a follower of Conti - arrived at Versailles on 4th August 1746 to deliver the news of the fall of Charleroi, the question of command arose again. Madame de Pompadour made it clear that she favoured the Marèchale. In fear for his career the Prince de Conti immediately left his post and returned to Versailles. Here he found little obvious grounds for concern. Louis XV was as smiling as always and the two remained closeted for hours.

Madame de Pompadour

The great finale came in 1756. With an increasing coldness from his royal cousin's side, the Prince de Conti became a threat to the monarchy itself. In an attempt to gather support from the Parlements as well as the Prosestants he suddenly posed a threat to Louis XV's throne. This was the final drop for their friendship. The Prince was stripped of his position in the Secret du Roi with the marquise's backing.

When Damiens attempted to assassinate the king in 1757 Madame de Pompadour cast suspicious eyes on her long-time rival. Although she could not prove a connection it was not completely unlikely. Through all their years of in-fighting the two rivals had continually opposed the other's political aspirations. The marquise prevented the prince from getting the promotions he desired, and the prince in turn did his utmost to destroy her reputation.

Following this year the Prince de Conti was not very welcome at Versailles. His hatred of Madame de Pompadour - and probably hers for him - was at an all-time high. He would continue to spread demeaning verses and caricatures; in 1760 he saw a chance of denying the maitresse a wish. She had cast longing eyes at the vineyard of La Romanée. Promptly, the Prince de Conti laid down twice the estimated worth of the vineyard. To mark his acquisition he added his name to it making it La Romanée-Conti. Today, the vineyard produces the most expensive wine in the world.

The vineyard bought by Conti

The conflict with Madame de Pompadour had cost the Prince de Conti dearly. He could have had a chance of becoming king of Poland but it is speculated that she had a hand in tipping the scales against him. However, this is only guesswork. 

When Madame de Pompadour died in 1764 the Prince de Conti was still in disgrace. He may have outlived his rival but her death did not bring about a return to favour. Instead, Conti outlived Louis XV too and died in Paris in 1776.