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June 15, 2008

The Problem of Leisure: What to do for Pleasure!!

What else to do for pleasure! Gambling dear! Darling how are you! I just lost a nasty hand at this horrid game! Well sweetie I put ten on black already and can you place thirty or forty on red for me too? Let me know how it works out, they are saving me a seat at the card table!

And it was all the rage to end a beautiful night with gaming, especially when the day is full of rituals and visits. It wasn't just them men in the 18th century, who played like pros - ladies were well known for their trifles at the tables. In fact women are more prone to gambling addiction, but at the time there was no big fuss when it came to gambling unless you were not paying your debts! for shame!

In 1635 in Italy the first ridotto, gambling casino, was opened. Not much longer after that were ridottos public and private establishments and they attracted all classes. Even more fun, there was no dress codes and persons would come to play masked or wearing disguises. Now I always complain that the men at the poker table at the world poker tour who wear sun-glasses are cheating. But now that is see it is an age old tradition of arriving incognito, I am okay with it!

In France there were several loteries, many were private, but in the 18th century the private loteries were merged into one big one, loterie royale. According to fellow scholar, Heather, artists would design the tickets for the loterie, how fab! Even churches used loteries for a source of architectural funding. In fact, we can thank the French for the playing cards we use today. They developed the suits (clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades) and colors!
"French card masters also started the practice of assigning identities to the royals pictured on their court cards. All of the court cards (not just the kings) were named, and the identities assigned to them (and printed on the cards) were by no means consistent...the choice of names differed from master to master with no apparent reason behind them other than personal preference or whim."
I think I would have Du Berry as my Queen of Diamonds and the Duchess of Devonshire a Queen of Spades. ooo now I must assign my whole deck! (project of next weekend!!)

They also came up with a production/printing method to facilitate quick manufacturing of cards making France a leader in playing card manufacturing, even beating Germany in production! England adopted the french cards and soon the rest of Europe followed.

Well some of my favorite girls were no strangers to gaming.

The Duchess of Devonshire, Georgiana, was an old pro and she was slick about it too. First of all (and I know my boyfriend would LOVE if I did this in our house) she had taken the drawing room of her house and turned it into a gaming room. It was no small feat, she went all out. (And I suppose I might do this if someone lent me the funding) But Georgiana made the whole room,
"resemble a professional gaming house, complete with hired croupiers and a commercial faro bank."
That right there is dedication. Girl was smooth too. One account recalls her arriving at a party (and my interpretation is that she had one too many cocktails that night) and asking to join a game. She had no money and wanted to borrow from the bank. House rules said no borrowing from the bank so someone let the sexy broad some money. She was unlucky with it and finally managed to have the house-bank lend her some. She was caught up in excitement when she won on her hand, and smiling, triumphantly left the party. Of course in all that excitement she neglected to repay the bank but who is paying attention to details anyway!

Georgiana fell into debt however and this is not just in England, she was estimated to have the debt of £50,000 in France alone.
"A gamester goes on in the vain hope of recovering lost sums, til he looses probably all that remains, and along with it everything which is precious."
However a good thought, it was still accepted [gaming] and had been accepted as a natural occupation of mankind.

The French court partook themselves. And enjoyed. Marie Antoinette spent fortunes gambling. After a typical day for her, "she would contrive to lose five or six hundred or a thousand louis d'or at Lansquenet, or other game of hazard." She even had a super cute little purse for a set of cards!

But before we take a severe tone at this habit, an interesting fact noted by Tea At Trianon, was that she was introduced to gambling when she was just a child in Austria. Her mother, who did not participate in her daughters education to any extreme, did find that it was important for her children to be good at the game.
"A princess who could not play well would soon be separated from her money. Furthermore the stakes at the court of Austria were much higher than at the court of France, which made Antoinette an intrepid player."
Louis put the ca-bosh on her fun when France reached horrible debts, and as T.A.T. points out:
" [Louis] was trying to save the government finances and give an example of thrift, forbade her to play anymore games of chance. She begged her husband to let her have one last game. He gave permission, and naughty Antoinette made sure the game went on for three days. Louis was disgusted."

3 comments

  1. love the last pic. Is it from Marie Antoinette the movie by any chance?

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  2. @Christina yes it is!! Good eye :D

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  3. Le Lever de l'Aurore. Sexual metaphor & on my Bucket list.

    Will you join me? Veuve Clicquot champagne, goblets of Baccarat crystal, pink seashell sunrise, rustling of silk, tafetta,damask,brocade,sitting by the lac des Suisses at Versailles, watching the dawn spread her rosy fingers. A la Votre Majeste!!!

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