June 29, 2008

Fashion du jour! Necessaire Please!

Do you have a little black book? Perhaps you would be more interested in a lovely necessaire! The necessaire would have very thin ivory 'pages' for keeping important dates and information. Just like a little black book but far far more pretty (and expensive)!

The ivory sleeves were protected by a case like this lovely silver engraved piece. So thin you can hide it within your gown and it could contain all of your 'special friends' information!

June 21, 2008

Artist: Jean-Antoine Houdon

Jean-Antoine Houdon was born at Versailles March 20, 1741. By the age of twelve he was enrolled in the École Royale de Sculpture displaying an enormous talent. He studied under Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, one of the most successful sculptors of Louis XV's time. He then moved to Italy for ten years absorbing the marvels the country had to offer. Pope Clement XIV was fascinated with his talent after he carved St. Bruno stating,
"The Saint would speak, were it not that the rules of his order impose silence."
His influence came from the statues Louis XIV chose to fill his garden at Versailles and when he moved back to France he did a series of Diana's of this same style. His most famous Diana is in the Louvre and a critic claimed that she was refused entrance into the Salon of 1785 because,
"She was too beautiful and too nude to be exposed to the public."
However it is now believed the real reason was that she gave the image of a Diana who was not chaste! ........scandalous....!!

Fun Fact!

Louis XVI loved his library. I cant wait until I have an official library for my books but that is besides the point here. He spent some time reading the exhaustingly long Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbon, and he even took the time to begin translating it too.  Imagine that!  He immediately ceased his work however when he realized the book was full of anti-Christian notes!

In The Media

"How many times have you left the nuptial bed and the caresses of your husband to abandon yourself to bacchantes or satyrs, and to become one with them through their brutal pleasures?"

Taken from A Reprimand to the Queen

About her...

On Madame Elisabeth

"She was in all the radiance of her youth and beauty."

June 20, 2008

Femme of the Week: Madame Grand

We will start with the full name, Catherine Noele Grand de Talleyrand-Périgord, Princesse de Bénévent (b.1762). She started her life in a French colony in India and she was a total dish! She became Madame Grand after marrying a British Officer ("officers!!"), George Francis Grand. She soon found her self having an affair with another man, and things crumbled with her husband. She left and moved to London. She moved to Paris for 5 years or so, but at the dawn of the revolution she left for Britain again. (According to wiki she was selling it in Paris but I still cant find a published source on that!)

But then she met Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, a French Diplomat, and he fell for her! Before long she was this dandy's mistress (well I don't know if he was an official dandy but I would say so!) Talleyrand had his own saucy history. He was a church man, as he could not be in the military due to a slight limp. He was also a total womanizer and was said to have fathered a handful of illigitiment kids including Eugéne Delacroix! (remember there were no Maurry shows called 'Whos Your Baby's Daddy?' back then).

She became his live in love. He was not about to marry her, "Why buy the cow if you get the milk for free?" BUT after so many years, when Napoleon was around he was like 'okay thats enough you guys, marry, NOW'

So Catherine was married again, and just like last time it all fell apart. Soon she moved out and was living alone and Talleyrand paid for her to move back to London. She stayed there awhile, living comfortably but decided to move back to Paris! Afterall husband #2 was paying a fortune for her to live a luxe life. Le Sigh! She passed away in Paris, 1834. And that is the story of Madame Grand.

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."

June 14, 2008

I Fall Apart When my Mascara Clumps

Heather has revived my research into nyc club life circa 80's-90's so I thought I would just post this fun little entry about quirky similarities between club land (1980's) and court life (1780's)! The comparisons I am drawing are solely for fun and there is a chance that only Heather will get a kick out of it but here it goes anyway!

As described by author James St. James, in the 1980's the club scene was an
"inpenetrable clique, with a complex hierarchy of 'superstars.' There were intricate rules of behavior, Byzantine rituals, and unspoken customs that were designed to exclude the unwanted, and massage the egos of the Chosen Few."
NYC club scene
Well I don't know how much detail i need to indulge in to point out the blatant similarities here. The court of Louis XVI also was formed by intricate customs and rituals that gave certain responsibilities and jobs to persons of a specific rank. The strict enforcement of these rules made everyone feel their rank entitled them to importance within the system and basically kept things under control. Not anyone could gain these 'responsibilities' without holding specific titles and therefore court life was an impenetrable clique- unless you could adapt to the art of schmoozing, had a bright personality and wit- then it was a nut you could crack.

"Spend at least six hours getting ready. Study yourself in the mirror at home. Is your hairdo media-friendly? Will your outfit read in black and white?"
Style was ever evolving for this group of celebutantes and it helped keep them at the top of their social circle. It also may have been a side effect of simply having nothing else to do
"For someone, like myself (St. James), who had all the time in the world, and a closet full of flowing lamé things, it seemed like a perfect way to while away the evenings."
There is no denying fashion being an enormous part of court life as well- starting at the top with Marie. With all the responsibilities on her plate enjoyment of picking out new and fun styles and fabrics was certainly a way to find pleasure in life! A new outfit for every occasion was how things seemed- and although outfits were reused (like her favorite seasonal ensembles) to the public eye and media there seemed to be an endless bolt of silks and taffetas, laces and pearls.
"All wished instantly to have the same dress as the Queen, and to wear the feathers and flowers to which her beauty, then in its brilliancy, lent and indescribable charm."
"Everyone followed the trends even if it was not affordable, and "giddy women contracted debts; unpleasant domestic scenes occurred; in many families coldness or quarrels arose."

The club scene produced pamphlets (magazines) and it's stars found themselves in the media regularly. One interesting thing that came out were cards. These cards were printed up with images of the different stars on them and could be easily handed out. This was a way for persons outside of the circle to learn who's who of downtown. It was propaganda that elevated the popularity of downtowns stars.

It was really much like the affordable miniatures that were continually made throughout the 18th century. They were small so they were easy to attain and carry around. And they really served a similar purpose! 


Well both societies certainly revolved around the social aspect of gatherings and fun. pleasures and leisures. Dressing up fabulously and in disguise was a favourite pastime for all! And themed parties in particular, costumes, masquerades, incognito, mystery, dazzling, thrilling....

Finally the general feeling of fabulousness floated over both scenes. Those who were deemed débutante's were entitled to all things wonderful. Free drinks, free drugs.
"She [superstar drag queen] is very famous...a legendary legend. Never pays for drugs...keep the stars happy and everyone else will follow."
Marie also enjoyed her fair share of freebies, vendors knew if they attained her business others would follow. Loss leaders! But it was not only about freebies, even money came by the Queen easier than it should have. When asked about her financial spending, she had responded - if I asked for 50,000 they would hand me 100,000. And this could have merely been for the comptroller to be on her good side. Things come along easily when you are sitting pretty, perched in the upper branches of a fabulous hierarchy.

Left: Marie Right: James St. James

June 12, 2008

Femme of the Week: Louise-Marie de Bourbon-Penthiévre

Boys, line up at the door, this week Louise-Marie de Bourbon-Penthiévre is here! This is exactly what it was like for Louise-Marie. Her brother, the prince de Lamballe fell very ill, and it was determined that he would not survive. (His wife was the princesse de Lambelle but she is a whole other femme!) The prince de Lamballe was the only heir to Louis Jean Marie de Bourbon-Penthiévre, and because he did not have any kids of his own, the succession of the family would end with him. Tragedy!

The family tragedy didn't end there for Louise-Marie. Prince of the Blood (yes here we go again), the duc d'Orléans, did not have any interest in his own son, the duc de Chartres, to marry Louise-Marie.
duc de Chartres
She was only entitled to a mere 50,000 livres/year and
"the duc d'Orléans would not accept the marriage of his son with the daughter of a bastard race."
However, when word got out that the prince de Lamballe was not going to make it the duc d'Orléans changed his tune. If the only heir, Lamballe, died then Louise-Marie would become heiress to her fathers massive fortune, an estimated 3,000,000 livres/year! To make the wedding happen (think wedding planner) the duc de Choiseul (our little seducer) was able to obtain the kings permission. Making the duc d'Orléans a happy father-in-law-to-be.

This is when things get fun for me, crazy for Louise-Marie. This was when her brother miraculously began to gain health! So of course the duc d'Orléans backed out of the situation (many were upset at this blatant abandonment of plans). The prince of Condé saw an opportunity arise and made haste to arrange a marriage of Louise-Marie with his son, Louis Joseph de Bourbon (later the prince de Condé).
Louise-Marie however, had apparently fallen head over heels for her duc de Chatres! ahh love

Well her life was a roller coaster ride because before anything happened, her brother fell fatally ill again and this time passed away. In a whirlwind of events the duc d'Orléans rushed to renegotiate for his son to have her hand. The wedding took place in 1769 at the lovely Versailles Chapel, (it was a total Platinum Wedding) and Louise-Marie married her love, the duc de Chatres. He became the duc d'Orléans upon his fathers passing, and with Louise-Marie's fortune, she made him the richest man in France.

June 11, 2008

He's not havin' it. STFU Princes of the Blood.

Archduke Maximilian Franz paid a visit to his sister, Marie Antoinette, Feb 1775. But when he arrived at the French Court he did not go by, Archduke Maximilian Franz, rather, the Comte de Burgau. Who is the Comte de Burgau you may ask??

Well, the constraints of etiquette and ritual were so suffocating and intricate to those who did not live within the system at the court of
France, that it was difficult for
visitors to figure out what the heck was going on around them. Also- the formal rules gave pretty much no precedence or privileges to foreign royalty soooo almost all foreign royals travelled to Versailles,

How fun!! like a real life masquerade, in broad day light! Of course, its hard to fool everyone all the time, and our Archduke did not choose a totally fool proof design. One of the Queens friends, the Comte de La Marck (Flemish nobleman; prince d'Arenberg) saw right through the Archduke.
"There was not the slightest doubt that it was the archduke under an incognito title, who should have paid the first visit to the Princes of the House of Orleans, House of Conde, the House of Conti and the House of Penthievre."
Maximilian was basically like 'shove it Princes of the Blood'
"He did not do so (visit their lazy highnesses) and his failure to do so was construed as a claim that they should have paid the first visit and called upon him and that he had taken umbrage."
So since the Archduke made it so far as to visit the French Court he saw no reason why the Princes of the Blood couldn't swing by and say 'hey man thanks for coming, you must come over for poker juedi, and the Duc d'Orleans is having that hot Cavendish chic over next week. Theres gonna be a sweet party in the gardens of Saint Cloud. You gotta come.'

June 06, 2008


"You've grown fat, M. de Choiseul. You are losing your hair and going bald."


Femme of the Week: Louise-Honorine Crozat du Châtel, Duchesse de Choiseul

Meet the lovely Louise-Honorine. She was the daughter of the marquis du Châtel, Louis-François. Her grandfather had earned the title by lending money to the French Government, by Louis XIV.

Born a supremely wealthy heiress Louise-Honorine was betrothed at age 12 to Étienne-Françios de Choiseul, who would become the Duc de Choiseul. Before her betrothel, however, she had let her self fall in love, rather, she let herself be fascinated and taken by the charming Étienne-Françios for they crossed paths many times in her childhood. (I would compare her feelings toward Étienne-Françios to those of young Maria Theresa to her beloved Francis I.)

Her Man, her love....
Before becoming duc, he was the Comte de Stainville, and was of no grand fortune. He had fallen in love with Louise-Honorines older sister the Duchesse de Gontaut. Married to the Duc de Gontaut they could not produce an heir. The Duchesse had fallen inlove with Étienne-Françios and he gave the Duc de Gontaut the heir he couldnt have!!!!! After the child was born, the Duchesse found herself on her deathbed. She was so in love with her Étienne-Françios that she called her little sister in and asked her to marry him (this would ensure Étienne-Françios financial stability because the Crozat family was so well off).

Testimonials to die for:
She was graceful, sweet and known for her petite figure (described as a model figure.) Her manners and elegance delighted men and ladies alike! And we could only dream of receiving the testimonials she gained:
"The most perfect being of either sex. Nothing that I ever saw anywhere was like the Duchess of Choiseul, who has more parts, reason and agreeableness than I ever met in such a delicate little creature. You would take her for the Queen of an Allegory." HORACE WALPOLE
"What a pity that she is an angel! I would rather that she were a woman, but she has only virtures, not a weakness, not a fault." MADAME DU DEFFAND
She was a different breed from most ladies of the 18th century. "One of the moral assets of the eighteenth century," instead of being boring or annoying by upholding her standards she manages to charm and enchant, in an age of loose morals and corrupt refinement. She managed to evade the guillotine and secured respect after the revolution as well.

Her Man, her love...and His Women:
Well her man, the Duc de Choiseul was a well known seducer, in fact it had been said that he could have served as the model of Valmont in Laclos' Les Liaisons Dangereuses. He married when he was 31, she was 15. His favorite mistress while married was the Princesse de Robecq and I quote, "a hand-me-down from the King"!

Another problem for our Duchesse is that the Duc was strangly obsessed with his ambitious sister, Beatrix de Stainville (a disagreeable woman). He helped her gain a marriage to the Duc de Garmont, ( "a drunkard and looked as if nature had intended him as a barber") After she became Duchesse de Garmont, she left her husband and lived with the Duc and Duchess -she walked all over Louise-Honorine.... Louise was basically Eirene, the Duc- Titus and Beatrix- Gaia.

A Queen of Society Makes her Debut:

Her husband became the ambassador to the Papal State, and Louise-Honorine made her debut as queen of society in Rome, a position she would also hold later at Versailles. She spent time studying the antiquities and her intelligence and wit left her popular among high society. The Duchesse still suffered with her domestic situation, and this would soon disrupt her life. After Madame de Pompadour passed, it was Beatrix who felt she could fill her spot! So when the Duc presented his sister to fill the role....it ruffled feathers. In particular, Madame Du Barry. In a combination of political and catty reasonings, Louis XV sent the Duc and Duchesse into Exile becuase of the obnoxious sister!----->

Louise-Honorine was okay with this, however. After all they had been through she had loved her husband more and more every day. She was a true romantic. And although he embarrassed her with his public affairs, she continued to try and win over his heart. She had won his respect, she was everything a husband, a man of power could have asked for.

Slipped Away...
An illness had taken over Louise-Honorine and she could not fight it off. The Duc, who was waiting in a room outside of her chambre, (he had been forced out of the room she was in) and he was told, "She is no more." A discussion of having her last rites performed took place, but the Duc found him self inconsolable and severely afflicted. Having taken the Duchesse for granted for so long, he had not realized the love he held for her. His friends tried to talk to him but he lost it. He ran from the room to hers yelling that he needed to see his wife for the last time, words pouring out in yelps. He threw himself at her bedside yelling and crying "my dear wife! my dear wife!"

It was then that the Duchesse began to show a sign of life. The Duchesse would recall that hearing the cries of the man you love with all your heart was enough to give her the strength to put her hands around his neck. The following years were the happiest of Louise-Honorine's life! The happiness ended in 1785 when her beloved passed away. The grief was unbearable to her, and while dealing she also worked to pay off her husbands debts. Her repayment was interrupted with the revolution, and she simultaneously became so ill she underwent an operation. She was arrested in 1794 and moved to the Conciergerie. She was fortunate to evade the guillotine after Robespierre fell.

June 04, 2008

I'm not addicted to drugs, I'm addicted to glamour

Leonard, coiffeur to the Queen knew how to make a hair doo a hit. Marie wore his creations as the forefront of fashion. His materials were horse hair and gauze, decor, pomade and powder. He was absolutely full of himself. I guess I couldn't be too blunt with that. All one had to do to arrange a meeting with Leonard was to tell him that they admired his fine work. He was self proclaimed,
"Academician of coiffures and fashion."
He rarely paid off accounts to other merchants, and if bothered by them would exclaim, "Later, Later!" or send around a boy to deal with them.

A week after Marie had given birth to her first child, Marie-Therese de France, December 18, 1778, she called Leonard, in urgency, because she noticed her hair was falling out! He agreed to help the new mother. Every day he would treat her scalp in effort to restore her hair.

Leonard, panicky, began to go to perfumers to see if there was anything to prevent hair loss. He received several oils that were suppose to have restoration effects.  After 18 months of treatments the situation had not been resolved!

Marie was still losing her hair and to say the least Leonard was
alarmed. In a desperate attempt, Leonard received (by help of the Queens perfumer) a pomade of jasmine, tuberose, citron & jonquil. Amazingly her hair stopped falling out!

But damage had been done, she had lost a good portion of her hair. He delicately suggested that she adapt a new style he created solely for her majesty. The coiffure a l'enfant. The thought of cutting her hair so short horrified the Queen, but she let Leonard do it anyway. And a new fashion was born!

For more information on Marie Antoinette's perfumer check out: A Scented Palace: The Secret History of Marie Antoinette's Perfumer 

June 01, 2008


Jean-Baptiste Isabey

Go ahead! Click on the image to see the full sized portrait. Isabey, was the very good looking artist who was a pupil of Jacques-Louis David. He was employed at Versailles, painting portraits. Commissioned by Marie he became her 'miniature' painter. After the Revolution he was employed by Napoleon and Josephine. He is painted here with his daughter by Francois Gerard.


"I saw the head of the female veto fall into the sack! Damned if I wouldn't love to tell you of the satisfaction of the sans culottes when the archduchess crossed Paris in the coach with six doors. Her cursed head is finally separated from her tart's neck."