fredag den 17. november 2017

A Wedding Farce

The Duc du Maine suffered the loss of his son in 1698; the little boy was just three years old. Court etiquette demanded that mourning was not to be observed for children under the age of seven but Louis XIV had become far more lax in this practice in his later years. Consequently, the September of that year saw the cancellation of court festivities and the courtiers dressed in sombre colours. 

However, an event was soon to take place which was hardly fit for a court in mourning. After searching in vain for a royal husband for Élisabeth Charlotte d'Orléans (daughter of Monsieur and the Princess Palatine) a marriage was finally arranged. The young lady - known as Mademoiselle - was to marry the Duc de Lorraine.
Monsieur was anxious that his daughter's marriage was not to be lessened by the mourning which cast a gloom over the court. Surprisingly, Louis XIV agreed and gave the orders for ending the mourning period in time for the wedding. Everyone were informed that they were to bring their best clothing for the ceremony but not everyone were happy about it.

The proxy ceremony

Louis XIV's two legitimized daughters - the Princesse de Conti and the Duchesse de Bourbon - did not consider the event worth dropping the mourning for. They made it clear that they had no intention of following orders; naturally, their father was displeased. Learning of his daughters' disobedience he gave them stern orders to do as they were told. Most courtiers would have caved in at the sight of the Grand Monarch's wrath but his daughters had a great deal of his own pride. They sassily responded that they had no other clothes!
Losing his patience, Louis XIV snappily replied that in that case they were to immediately order new clothes. Finally, they had to admit defeat and begrudgingly appeared at the ceremony dressed in the required court costume.

Louis de Lorraine, Comte d'Armagnac

On 7 December 1641 Louis de Lorraine was born to the couple of Henri de Lorraine and Marguerite Philippe du Cambout. His childhood was spent in the company of his brother - none other than the Chevalier de Lorraine, Monsieur's lover.

Louis' place at court was secured from an early age. Not only was he entitled to a life at court due to his aristocratic roots but his father also served as Master of the King's Stables (Grand Ècuyer). Once Louis was old enough he was given the same position which immediately made him an officer in Louis XIV's household. The position meant that he was known at court as "Monsieur le Grand". Considering how fond the Sun King was of hunting it is quite certain that Louis was often in the company of the king.
At the age of 25 he inherited the title of Comte d'Armagnac when his father died. In the Middle Ages this particular title had been accompanied by vast land areas but the power that came with it was no longer in his hands.

Louis of Lorraine, Count of Armagnac (1641-1718) by Alexandre Debacq (Versailles).jpg

His marriage was arranged to Catherine de Neufville who was the daughter of the Duc de Villeroy who had been Louis XIV's governor in his youth. Whether the marriage was happy or not is not quite clear but it certainly was effective. No less than 14 children were born to the couple.

The English envoy at the French court, Henry Savile, wrote a document of guidance to his successor. In it he warned him of what men he should be careful of. Savile classed Louis de Lorraine as a questioner but not with malicious intentions. As could be expected the Duc de Saint-Simon had another view of both Louis and his brother, the Chevalier. According to the memoirist Louis XIV sought Louis' help when arranging the marriage of Mademoiselle de Blois (daughter of Madame de Montespan and Louis XIV) to the Duc de Chartres since it was considered a great misalliance. Saint-Simon mentions that Monsieur le Grand accepted but demanded to be made a knight of an unspecified order. Exactly how this took place is not certain but Louis de Lorraine was nevertheless made a knight - and the marriage took place.

As a man Louis de Lorraine is described as being the epitome of a man of the court; his entire world focused around it. Surprisingly, he was also said to be a "very good man and very polite". His house was known to be open to guests whom he would entertain with gambling or plays. The Comte appears to have been somewhat of an enigma. One would think that someone described as a "very good man" would have a good reputation. However, he could also be "brutal and blunt - even to ladies" and apparently had his share of greed and unscrupulousness too when it came to his career at court.

It is not known if his death was caused by an illness but it seems more likely that he simply died out old age. What is known is that he suffered from gout in his last years and that he died in the Abbaye de Royaumont which could be an indicator that he was becoming frail. Still, he was 76 at the time of his death so some frailness is to be expected. Louis died on 13 June 1718.

lørdag den 11. november 2017


The style of déshabillé - or negligée - was a type of informal dress which had its roots in female undergarments (i.e. the chemise). Loose-fitting and relaxed it became synonymous with the privacy of the bedchamber - but, still, it could be used for more public displays. The beauty of the style was that it could be dressed up or down according to the circumstances.

One particular proponent of the fashion was Madame de Montespan; usually, the courtiers could tell whether the mistress was "in happy circumstances" by her choosing to discard the corset for the deshabillé.  Also, La Montespan was remarked to look her very best when in this sensual array - something she knew how to take advantage of.
The style quickly caught on due to the comfort it provided. A full court costume was unpleasant at best - tight corset, wide panniers and heels made maneuvering around a challenge in itself. It is no wonder, then, that women embraced the new trend and not always intended for the bedroom. Marie Adélaide of Savoy preferred to wear the style when she roamed around her private apartment.

Relateret billede
Madame de Montespan in déshabillé before her château of

However, not all court ladies were pleased with the new fashion. Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate never quite got the point of using clothing to lure men in. In her opinion clothing was either practical (such as her hunting habits) or underlined her rank (such as court gowns). 
The déshabillé was ideal for the toilette; this was particularly true for the prominent court ladies who received visitors (both male and female) while preparing their costume.

Maria Feodorovna of Russia

Given the nature of the style some fabrics were preferred for the déshabillé. Heavy fabrics such as brocade, cloth of gold and taffeta were not used; instead, silk, satin, linen and similar light fabrics were preferred. On occasion a sash would be draped around the waist.

Not only women were fond of the style; men, too, saw the advantages of loosening up once in a while. Their version involved a loose-fitting white undershirt perhaps accompanied by an equally loose coat for warmth.

George Savile, 1st Marquess of Halifax.jpg
The Marquis of Halifax sporting the male

Actually, the chemise de la Reine is a late 18th-century version of the déshabillé. Marie Antoinette made the style "in" again by this choice of style. Thus, it received somewhat of a renaissance during her reign although it was received with some frowns. While Marie Antoinette preferred the style as an alternative to the tight-laced court gowns some of her contemporaries imitated La Montespan's use. Madame du Barry was known to frolic in her apartment in frilly deshabillé. The last royal mistress would often don this type of airy attire for the king's private suppers. With flowers in her hair she would entertain the few guests invited by the king.

Relateret billede
Madame du Barry in déshabillé

fredag den 10. november 2017

Inbreeding in the Royal Family

Inbreeding has been the custom of ruling dynasties for thousands of years; mostly it was due to a desire to keep the bloodline "clean". In the age of Versailles marriages were made to form alliances with other European powers. 

The monarchs

Louis XIV and Marie Thérèse were first cousins and as such were the closest relations of the three kings and their consort inhabiting Versailles. Anne of Austria - mother of Louis XIV - was the sister of Philip IV of Spain; he happened to be Marie Thérèse's father.

Louis XV and Marie Leszczynska were not related by 18th century standards. Neither their parents nor their grandparents were related by blood. As such the chose of the Polish princess as a bride was a good choice in more than one sense: first, it enabled the king to produce an heir immediately, secondly, it angered none of the other powers and thirdly, it brought in "new blood".

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were related but not closely. Marie Antoinette was the daughter of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor who in turn was the grandson of Philippe, Duc d'Orléans (Monsieur) and Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate. 

King Louis XIV of France meets Philip IV of Spain and his bride Maria Theresa (Philip’s daughter) at Pheasant Island, June 1660.
Louis XIV meeting the king of Spain (his uncle) and his bride (his cousin)

The Dauphins and Dauphines

Louis, the Grand Dauphin and his bride, Marie Anne Victoire of Bavaria, were second cousins. The Grande Dauphine's grandparents were the Duke of Savoy and the French princess, Christine Marie (a sister of Louis XIII).

The Duc and Duchesse de Bourgogne were also second cousins. Marie Adélaide of Savoy's grandfather was Philippe, Duc d'Orléans (Monsieur). Ironically, her great-grandparents were Christine Marie of Savoy and Victor Amadeus - the parents of the Grande Dauphine.

Louis Ferdinand and Marie Thérèse Raphaëlle were also rather closely related. Actually, this short-lived Dauphine was a direct granddaughter of Louis XIV himself through the second son born to the Grand Dauphin.

Wedding of Marie Adélaïde and Louis, Duc de Bourgogne in December 1694
Wedding of the Duc and Duchesse de Bourgogne - the Duc d'Orléans is
depicted as well; a common ancestor of the couple

lørdag den 21. oktober 2017

Portrait Gallery: Marie Thérèse

By Jean Nocret
1660's by Joseph Werner - in
Polish costume
French school
By Jean-Marie Ribou
By François Troy
Illustration used after
her death
1660 - wedding portrait
By Jean Petitot
As queen
1680's by François Troy
Coloured engraving
After Beaubrun
French school
Probably at the Spanish
1680's by a follower of Mignard
As Sainte-Hélène
Before her marriage
By Juan de Mazo
1655 by Vélazquez
As a teenager
1660's by Joseph Werner
As a patron of Notre-Dame
With the Grand Dauphin
By Charles Beaubrun
By Vélazquez
Unknown artist

fredag den 20. oktober 2017

The French Garden

The French gardens of the Petit Trianon were created between 1749-1753 on the initiative of Louis XV. Once the gardens were completed the king thought something else was missing; while the French gardens already included four structures none of them were inhabitable. Thus, the idea of adding another Trianon to the gardens of Versailles - one that would be smaller than the Grand Trianon. This was the beginning of the Petit Trianon. 

The French Pavilion 

Completed in 1750 by Jacques-Ange Gabriel's pavilion was different from the other shapes found around the garden. The building is focused around a rotunda with four wings; despite its small appearance it houses a boudoir, an antechamber, a lavatory, a central salon and a small room. Usually,  Louis XV would prepare coffee for his guests in this small room. A central feature is the beautiful fireplace created by Jacques Verbeckt; its frieze are marked with clear reference to the nearby menagerie: turkeys and exotic birds parade along it.
The salon is adorned with allegories of the four seasons. To the south is summer, to the north is winter, to the east is spring and to the west is autumn. 

Marie Antoinette became mistress of the French pavilion when she was gifted the Petit Trianon by her husband. She did little to change it and continued the tradition of using it as a pleasure pavilion. Every once in a while she would have tents and pavilions erected around it for amusement parties. Especially her love of music was a source of inspiration for some of these. In 1785-86 concerts and musical parties were held here.

Billedresultat for versailles french pavilion

Billedresultat for versailles french pavilion

Billedresultat for versailles french pavilion
Floor plan of the pavilion

Billedresultat for versailles french pavilion

Billedresultat for versailles french pavilion

The Cool Pavilion

At the opposite end of the French pavilion stands this lovely green trellis pavilion. It was used as a dining room during the summer. It lies to the north which is why it was dubbed the "cool" pavilion. Once more Jacques Verbekct was called into action; he was commissioned to carve out the oak panels. They were painted white and green to match the exterior. Marble was imported from Languedoc and also has a tint of green. The floor is of white and black marble.

The revolution deprived the pavilion of its furniture but records show how it was decorated in the 1770's. Two sofas with golden gilding and green/white Persian fabric, two armchairs and eighteen regular chairs. Originally, these were ordered in 1754 and finally delivered in 1760 - so by the standard of the time they were rather old.
It was recently reconstructed after having been destroyed in the 19th century. The majority of the furniture was sold during the revolution and send to the Hôtel de Luxembourg.

Relateret billede

Billedresultat for versailles cool pavilion

Billedresultat for versailles cool pavilion

Intérieur du Pavillon frais

Choosing a King's Bride

The young Louis XV was in a very precarious situation dynastically. Both his parents and his brothers had died young due to illness and the king's health was fragile. So, a bride was vital for carrying on the French throne. Initially, an agreement had been reached with the Spanish king that Louis XV would marry Infanta Maria Anna Victoria.
The Infanta was very young, though - she was only three years old when she arrived at Versailles while Louis was eleven. She remained at Versailles for a couple of years until something happened to drastically change the situation. Louis XV's health was delicate and he became ill which prompted the Prime Minister - the Duc de Bourbon - to annul the agreement and ship the Infanta back.

The search was on for a bride who was healthy and old enough to carry an heir. A list was made of 99 princesses who would all suit as a potential queen of France. The list included the names of the princesses, their dynastic heritage, their ages (ranging from 13 to 22), their appearances, health etc. Some of these were:

Elizabeth Petrovna 
Born: 29 December 1709
Dynasty: Romanov 
Reason for rejection: Peter the Great - her father - visited Versailles and Louis XV while the king was still a boy. While in France he suggested his daughter, Elizabeth, as a bride for Louis XV. However, she was initially rejected because of her mother who had been a maid.
Became: Tsarina of Russia

Billedresultat for empress elizabeth russia

Princess Anne of England
Born: 2 November 1709
Dynasty: Hanover
Reason for denial: Her father - George II of England - was primarily on the throne due to being a Protestant. If Anne was to become queen of France she would have to convert which was rejected.
Became: Princess of Orange

Billedresultat for anne princess of orange

Princess Anne Charlotte of Lorraine
Born: 17 May 1714
Dynasty: Lorraine 
Reason for rejection: the House of Lorraine was a direct rival of both the House of Orléans (which the Regent belonged to) and of the Duc de Bourbon 
Became: Abbess of Remiremont  

Princess Anne Charlotte of Lorraine by Gobert.jpg
Anne Charlotte

Landgravine Caroline of Hesse-Rotenburg 
Born: 18 August 1714
Dynasty: Hesse-Kassel  
Reason for rejection: she was infamous for her bad temper!
Became: Duchesse de Bourbon (meaning that she married the Duc de Bourbon instead!)


Henriette-Louise de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Vermandois
Born: 15 January 1703
Dynasty: Bourbon (she was the sister of the Duc de Bourbon)
Reason for rejection: she refused to marry the king since she would rather join a convent 
Became: Abbess of Beaumont-lès-Tours

Princess Amelia of England
Born: 10 June 1711
Dynasty: Hanover
Reason for rejection: like her sister, Anne, she was a Protestant
Became: remained unmarried as Princess of England

Princess Amelia of Great Britain (1711-1786) by Jean-Baptiste van Loo.jpg

Élisabeth-Alexandrine, Mademoiselle de Sens
Born: 5 September 1705
Dynasty: Bourbon (another sister of the Duc de Bourbon)
Reason for rejection: not quite clear but possibly doing to her close relationship with her brother. Cardinal Fleury was eager that the Duc should not get more power.
Became: remained unmarried with the title of Mademoiselle de Sens

Mademoiselle de Sens wearing Fleur-de-lis by a member of the school of Nattier.jpg

Princess Barbara of Portugal
Born: 4 December 1711
Dynasty: Braganza 
Reason for rejection: unknown - possibly it was considered too much of an insult to Spain
Became: Queen of Spain


Princess Charlotte Amalie of Denmark-Norway
Born: 6 October 1706
Dynasty: Oldenburg
Reason for rejection: Denmark-Norway's tense relationship with Sweden, an ally of France
Became: remained unmarried as Princess of Denmark-Norway

Charlotte Amalie

First, the list was shortened to 17 princesses and then further reduced to four - including both sister of the Duc de Bourbon. However, Louis XV and Cardinal Fleury rejected them all and the original list had to be looked at again. Surprisingly, Marie Leszczynska had not even made it to the list of 17 candidates. The choice was considered an odd one: an impoverished second daughter of a man who had lost his throne. Add to that that she was already 22 years old. 
Nevertheless, politically it was a good choice. After the snubbing of the Infanta France had to be careful not to antagonize their neighbor further - the worst-case would be the eruption of a war. The choice was diplomatic nightmare. The English could not accommodate the conversion to Catholicism, an Austrian would upset the Spanish while a Dane would definitely create a drift between France and Sweden - as would a Russian potentially. 

Marie Leszczynska had the clear advantage of being a politically neutral choice. Since her father was no longer king of Poland he was not considered to be a danger anymore and therefore his daughter would insult few monarchs. The young woman herself was old enough to provide an heir immediately and while not considered beautiful she was warm, kind and devout.