Sunday, 9 June 2019

The Alcoholism of the Regent

Following the increasingly sombre mood at the court of Louis XIV, the Regency was characterized by excess. Philippe II d'Orléans took the role of Regent and he himself embodied the decadence of his time. The Regent and his entourage - referred to as the roués - were infamous for their excessive drinking. 

According to the Cardinal Dubois, Philippe's alcoholism was apparent to everyone. The Cardinal claimed that the Regent drank a minimum of five bottles a day. Naturally, such a massive consumption of alcohol would leave its mark. It was not uncommon for Philippe to attend mass while heavily intoxicated. On some occasions, his drinking would land him in rather undignified situations. Apparently, following one night of heavy drinking he was returning from Saint-Cloud when he exited his carriage - and fell directly into a muddy ditch. Unable to free himself of this predicament, he sent for his mistress to aid him.

Champagne appears to have been the drink of choice of the Regent. The drink became increasingly popular in his inner circle which was quickly copied both in Paris and abroad. 

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Philippe II d'Orléans

Besides the more embarrassing episodes, the Regent occasionally found himself in, there was another aspect of Philippe's nightlife that brought concern to his court. Sometimes he would suddenly tire of the festivities at the Palais-Royal and would strike out with a few companions to roam about in the streets of Paris. Without bodyguards it was feared that he might get himself in serious danger. 

Only rarely did the binge-drinking affect the day-to-day management of the kingdom. Despite spending the majority of the night out and about, he always performed his duties as regent. However, once the Regent put away his work, he did little to nothing to check his impulses. During another drunken dinner with the Cardinal Dubois, the Regent's mistress and the Scottish John Law, someone approached the Regent with a document to sign. However, the Regent was way too intoxicated to actually put pen to paper which he himself remarked upon. 

As the saying goes, the apple does not fall far from the tree. Philippe's daughter, the infamous Marie-Louise-Élisabeth, Duchesse de Berri, was equally addicted to drink.

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