mandag den 21. august 2017

Marie-Charlotte de Campet de Saujon, Comtesse de Boufflers

Marie-Charlotte Hippolyte de Campet de Saujon was born on 6 September 1725 to the Baron and Baronesse de la Rivère. Given that her parents held the lowest ranking title in the nobility her marriage was quite a catch. 
In 1746 she was married to Édouard de Boufflers-Rouverel, Comte de Boufflers. Having thus moved two steps up the hierarchical ladder Marie-Charlotte aimed for a life at court. It did not take long before Marie-Charlotte fell pregnant. She gave birth in 1746 to the couple's only child: a son. Soon, there was a position available to her. The newly married Comtesse de Boufflers was attached to the household of the Duchesse de Chartres as a dame du compagnie. 

In her capacity as companion to the Duchesse Marie-Charlotte lived at the Palais-Royal. Here, she met the Prince de Conti; the two became rather fond of each other and were soon known to be lovers. Marie-Charlotte could have continued her career at court quite unnoticed if it had not been for a disagreement with the house of Orléans. She was soon obliged to leave the Palais-Royal (which belonged to this branch of the Bourbon-house); instead, she purchased a small hôtel near the Grand Prior's palace.


Marie-Charlotte de Boufflers (1725-1800).jpg
Comtesse de Boufflers by Carmontelle

Having a penchant for company - probably acquired in the service of the Duchesse - and a quick wit it seemed inevitable that the Comtesse de Boufflers should found her own salon. Marie-Charlotte was    completely under the spell of Anglomania which seized Paris in the latter part of the 18th century. She played hostess to celebrated philosophers including Didot, Rousseau, Hume, Prévost etc. She made a close friend in Madame de Deffand who names the Comtesse as her "idol" in her memoirs.

Marie-Charlotte was inspired by her learned visitors and took to writing herself; she never did reach the fame of her circle, though. Given her fondness for all things English she was an obvious candidate for accompanying the French ambassador's wife, Madame d'Usson. The party crossed the Channel in 1763; once on English soil Marie-Charlotte found that her reputation had preceded her. The Comtesse de Boufflers became the guest of honour and was paid compliments by Samuel Johnson and Horace Walpole. She would later received both in Paris.

Two years later, she was once again in Paris. In 1765 her lover granted her the Château de Stors. Now she had a residence which suited one of her repute. However, she was never really attached to the court at Versailles. Perhaps the feud with the Orléans-clan made her a persona non grata. She had only travelled there upon the death of her father-in-law in 1750. Despite being well-known to the court she was not officially presented there until 1770. This time it was her new lover, the Marèchal de Luxembourg, who performed the introduction.

Marie-Charlotte lost her husband in 1764; she had hoped to contract a new marriage to her long-term lover, the Prince de Conti. The match never materialized, though. Although the couple had remained lovers for years the Prince was not interested in making her his wife. Even if he had been so inclined it is likely that her "low-born" origins would have presented a difficulty. Perhaps this unfulfilled wish was what cooled their relationship; as stated, she had taken another lover by 1770. 

Marie-Charlotte with her granddaughter
In 1773 she acquired another property - a country house at Auteuil. She would retire hereto in 1776 when the Prince de Conti died. Still, she kept her house in Paris as well. Her salon was still in full swing where she would meet influential people. The Comtesse de Boufflers had ties to the Swedish king and even arranged the marriage between the Swedish ambassador and Germaine Necker. Dividing her time between her salon in Paris and her estate at Auteuil - and several other properties - she kept herself busy. The advent of the French revolution brought a final end to her salon in 1789. 

Marie-Charlotte was briefly in danger of becoming yet another victim of the guillotine. She was arrested during the Reign of Terror but was let go by the revolutionary tribunal. During the revolution she was obliged to sell some of her property including the Château de La Rivère de Fronsac. In 1795 she suffered the loss of her son. As it happened she would not outlive him long. Marie-Charlotte died in 1800 in Rouen - the same place she had been born.

lørdag den 5. august 2017

Deadly Labours: Childbirth, Stillbirths & Miscarriages

"One is never closer to death than when giving life". Childbirth has been the death of thousands of women - if not millions - since the dawn of time. This was a risk which no woman could feel completely safe from - not even the most privileged ones.
Giving birth could prove to be fatal to the mother but so could the time immediately afterwards. Infections or issues connected with the delivery meant that even if both mother and child survived the labour it was far from completely over with. Those were the concerns which faced pregnant women everywhere. However, some never made it to full term. Miscarriages or stillbirths were equally possible and each left a mark on the woman's body; childbearing in itself is extremely taxing to a body and the rate of which some women conceived children fatally damaged their health.

Puerperal fever was one of the major risks to mothers in an era when bacteria was all but unknown. The fever was the result of improper hygiene - mostly on account of the doctor never washing his instruments or hands. This would take the life of the mother after the birth; in some cases it could be several days before the fever became fatal.

These royal ladies all had several pregnancies but, sadly, not all ended well. Only the more prominent members of the royal family are included in this post.

Marie Thérèse, Queen of France 
The consort of Louis XIV went through six pregnancies of which only one child survived past infancy. Those of her children who did not survive were: Anne-Élisabeth de France (1 1/2 months old), Marie-Anne de France (1 month old), Marie-Thérèse de France (five years old), Philippe Charles de France (three years old) and Louis Francois de France (five months old).

Pregnancies: 6
Stillbirths: 0
Miscarriages: 0

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Marie Thérèse



Henrietta of England, Duchesse d'Orléans
The marriage between Henrietta and Philippe, Duc d'Orléans was haunted by a string of miscarriages. Despite Monsieur's obvious homosexual preferences he managed to fulfill his duty and got his wife pregnant no less than eight times in nine years. This considerably undermined Henrietta's health which could ultimately have led to her early death. Of her eight pregnancies two children survived: Marie Louise (later Queen of Spain) and Anne Marie d'Orléans (later Duchess of Savoy and mother to the Duchesse de Bourgogne). One of her sons, Philippe Charles, died at the age of two.

Pregnancies: 8
Stillbirths: 3 (in 1667 she delivered two stillborn sons and a daughter the year before)
Miscarriages: 2


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Madame, Henrietta of England


Marie Anne Victoire de Bavière, Grand Dauphine
Although her marriage to the Grand Dauphin was not a happy one she managed to perform her duty by bringing three children into the world - all boys.

Pregnancies: 3
Stillbirths: 0
Miscarriages: 0


Relateret billede
The Grande Dauphine

Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate, Duchesse d'Orléans
As Monsieur had not had any living sons with Henrietta, his marriage to the Princess Palatine was arranged. In this manner she proved more effective. Not only did she never suffer a miscarriage or a stillbirth but she delivered that precious boy. Her first child, Alexandre Louis, died at the age of three.

Pregnancies: 3
Stillbirths: 0
Miscarriages: 0


Princess Palatine


Marie Adelaide of Savoy, Duchesse de Bourgogne
Since her marriage took place when she was just 12 years old it is no wonder that the young Duchesse waited a few years before having children. Once she began she was deemed successful in that she bore three boys to full term. However, it was not without difficulties. Marie Adelaide suffered several miscarriages - one which could be contributed to Louis XIV's rather selfish demand that she travelled with him to Marly although high pregnant. When this occurred the Duc de La Rochefoucauld remarked that she had had those before which gives us an indication that she may have struggled with pregnancies. It is difficult to know exactly how many times the Duchesse actually fell pregnant. 

Pregnancies: about 5
Miscarriages: at least 2
Stillbirths: 0



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The Duchesse de Bourgogne as Dauphine


Marie Leszczynska, Queen of France
Marie Leszczynska was chosen to become the wife of Louis XV particularly because she was of an age to bear children - and that she certainly did. Her marriage with Louis produced no less than 10 children: eight girls and two boys. Impressively, only one child died in infancy: Philippe de France who died at the age of three. 
The queen eventually became so tired of being "always giving birth" that she and her husband decided to have no more children.

Pregnancies: 10
Stillbirths: 0
Miscarriages: 0


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The long-serving Marie Leszczynska who grew
tired of always bearing children

Marie Antoinette, Queen of France
It took an astonishing seven years before the Austrian-born queen of France brought a child into the world. However, from then on Marie Antoinette continued to add another three children to the royal nursery. Her youngest daughter, Sophie, died as an infant while her eldest son, Louis Joseph, died at the age of eight. Her two remaining children, Marie Thérèse and Louis Charles, survived their infancy but the young boy was murdered during the revolution.
Her first lying-in nearly cost her her life but not because of complications with the birth itself. The bedchamber was so crowded that it became insufferably hot; consequently, the queen fainted during her labour.

Pregnancies: 6
Stillbirths: 0
Miscarriages: 2


Marie Antoinette with her three surviving children. The
dauphin points to the empty cradle which used to hold
Princesse Sophie


Several other women in the royal family succumbed to the dangers of childbirth. These included:

Maria Teresa Rafaela, Dauphine of France
The first wife of Louis Ferdinand fell pregnant not long after her marriage. When she gave birth on 19 July 1746 something went horribly wrong; she died on the 22 July. The child - a daughter - died at the age of two.


Augusta of Baden-Baden, Duchesse d'Orléans 
Died at the age of 21 whilst giving birth to a girl. The child was born in August 1726 and Augusta's death might very well have been caused by similar circumstances to the miscarriage of the Duchesse de Bourgogne. Francoise Marie de Bourbon (her mother-in-law) forced her to drive from Versailles to the Palais-Royal in her ninth month - the pains of labour had already begun and she was obliged to stop at Sèvres. The turbulent journey must certainly have weakened her body.


Marie Thérèse Félicité d'Este, Duchesse de Penthièvre
The Italian-born wife of the Duc de Penthièvre died at the age of 27 due to complications after the birth of their third child. The boy would die shortly afterwards.


Louise Diane d'Orléans, Princesse de Conti
The daughter of the Regent Philippe d'Orléans Louise had married the Prince de Conti and given birth to a son in 1734. Two years later she was pregnant again but this time something went wrong during her labour. She died while delivering the baby - a stillborn son - at the young age of 22. 

fredag den 4. august 2017

Versailles (2015-)

The new drama focusing on Louis XIV and his building of Versailles is the newest series in a line of shows concerning historical eras. Alas, "Versailles" follows the pattern of "the Tudors" and "the Borgias" when it comes to a rather light take on historical accuracy.

SPOILER ALERT

Historical Inaccuracies 

  • While the affair between Louis XIV and Henrietta, Duchesse d'Orléans has been speculated it is far from considered a certain thing; particularly because such an affair would be considered incest in Catholic countries
  • A whole string of characters are completely made up: Fabien Marchal, Madame and Mademoiselle de Clermont and the Duc de Cassel, Claudine and her father, Montcourt and the poor family who is murdered by roguesL
  • Aniaba of Issigny (the African prince) did actually come to France but not until the 1700's and it is not known whether he was actually a prince
  • Marie Thérèse's birth of a black daughter never occurred 
  • Naturally, Madame de Montespan could not have forced the Duc de Cassel to come to Versailles - nor have been abused by him - since he is not real
  • Louis XIV makes only little resistance to Louise de La Vallière's plea to enter a convent. Although the king refused to let her go he quickly seems to change his mind. In reality he did not permit her to leave until 1674
  • The near-fatal illness of Louis XIV took place much earlier than depicted when he was with his army at Metz
  • William of Orange's marriage with Mary of England took place in 1677 - not in 1670
  • Throughout the first and second season the face of Versailles if completely wrong; for obvious reasons it is the modern facade but considering that CGI was used for other views of the chateau it is still an inaccuracy 
  • Louis XIV's affair with Madame de Montespan ends far sooner than their actual rupture

What the show got right:

  • The Chevalier de Lorraine was greatly at odds with both Henrietta and Elizabeth Charlotte
  • Madame de Montespan is seen urinating in a hallway; although the marquise has never been caught in this situation it was not uncommon amongst other courtiers
  • Louis XIV did have affair with both Madame de La Vallière and Madame de Montespan at the same time. They even shared an apartment!
  • Today it is widely believed that Henrietta died of natural causes but in her time it was genuinely thought that she could have been poisoned. The culprit was suspected to be the Chevalier de Lorraine
  • The fictional Duc de Cassel complains about the size of his "apartment" which he compared to a broom closet. Many of the aristocrats who were housed at Versailles had to make do with tiny, cramped quarters which must have come as a shock compared to their luxurious châteaux

mandag den 31. juli 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.

Trivia:

  • 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.

lørdag den 29. juli 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.

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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.

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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.

fredag den 28. juli 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.


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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

tirsdag den 25. juli 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

mandag den 24. juli 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.

1797


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

søndag den 23. juli 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
century

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