Sunday 28 April 2013

The Flying Chair

It was a difficult task for the monarch to have the smallest amount of privacy even when he wanted to visit his mistress. To escape the tedious task of having to climb several stairs - something that might prove difficult with someone of the infamous Bourbon physique - Louis XV used a rather different mechanism. A so-called "flying chair" was installed in 1743 that allowed the royal mistress to secretly visit her lover without the prying eyes of the nosy court. It was originally created for Madame de Châteauroux and was later used by Madame de Pompadour as well.

The flying chair was a small cabinet through which a rope hung - the occupant could pull the rope to either lower or raise the chair. The system depended on a number of counterweights and pulleys but it proved effective. Louis XV ordered the chair done by one of his favourite machinist Blaise-Henri Arnoult. The King could enter the chair from his balcony.

Louis XV had a fondness for this new technology. He had already had "flying" tables installed at the royal retreat of Choisy and was planning to do the same at the Petit Trianon - the tables would be located right above the kitchens and could be lowered down and raised again loaded with food; it allowed the King to enjoy a dinner without the constantly watching servants.

In 1754 the chair was moved to Fontainebleau.

Architectural drawing of the mechanism that still survives 

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