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August 04, 2008

Belles and Sleighs: Could it be Marie Antoinette?


France suffered a harsh winter in 1775. When the New Year began there was plenty of snow covering the streets and gardens at Versailles and through Paris. The weather caused hundreds of people to catch the flu, and made necessities hard to obtain. Things were not at all easy.


The fluffy bed of snow did provide some pleasures, however. There was enough on the ground for sleigh-riding, and this was a fun tradition in Austria. Marie Antoinette was very happy at this opportunity to take pleasure in a familiar childhood activity. The tradition also existed in France, as Louis XVI’s father use to enjoy a winter sleigh-ride from time to time and there were an abundance of sleighs brought out during French winters. That January Marie wrote about it:

“There is so great a quantity of snow here that nothing like it has been seen for years; so we go in sleighs as we used to do in Vienna.”

Marie’s sleigh was decorated with feathers and little bells that jingled with the horses movements through the park at Versailles.

“We were driving yesterday, and to-day there is a great “course” in Paris; but as they have never yet seen a Queen take part in one, they would invent stories, and I would rather give up the pleasure than be bothered by more stories.”

MARIE ANTOINETTE, VERSAILLES 14 JANUARY 1776

Well she had right to worry about stories because it was not long before women of many different classes were taking masked sleigh-rides through Paris at night. People of course began to talk as sleighs drove by at night with masked passengers.


It could have been the Queen!
Did you see her!
Was that the Queen?

Who was she with!!


And a general idea that every sleigh that went by contained (or could have contained) the Queen incognito made fuel for troublesome stories of frivolity and fault.

It was not long after this Marie stopped going out on sleigh-rides.

1 comment

  1. Poor Antoinette, whatever she did, it was used against her.

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