07.08Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: 07.08

August 12, 2008

This Worries Me: Marie & Gerogiana = Hot Mess!

"They find her full of attractions....but...it is easier to win popularity than to retain it over time....Her Royal Highness sometimes forgets herself in the way she sits at her meals or at Cavagnol (a card game). Often her clothes are untidied by the little amusements of the day."

"Two of her curls had come unpinned...and her cloak...was flung half on and half off. Every creature turned back to star at her; she had a look of innocence and artlessness that made me quite sorry that she should be so foolishly negligent of her person."

August 09, 2008

Mother Knows Best: Rules to be Read Once a Month

“This twenty-first of April, day of your departure. –When you wake up, you will immediately upon arising go through your morning prayers on your knees and read some religious text, even if it is only for six or seven minutes without concerning yourself about anything else or speaking to anyone. All depends on the right beginning for the day and the intention with which you begin it, for it may change even indifferent actions into good, even praiseworthy ones. You must be very strict about this for it depends on you alone and your temporal and spiritual happiness may depend upon it.”

August 08, 2008

Femme of the Week: Yolande Marie Gabrielle de Polastron, duchesse de Polignac

Louise Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun, The Duchess de Polignac. 1783, oil on canvas. The National Trust Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, UK.

A year after Marie Antoinette and the Princesse Lamballe teamed up, the comtesse de Polignac enters the picture. She was born in Paris in 1749. Her father was Comte Gabriel Polastron, who had been a member of the household of Marie Antoinette's father-in-law, Louis XVI’s father, the late Dauphine Louis. and her mother was Jeanne Charlotte Hérault, daughter of Rene Hérault who had served on the privy counsel. Their family was more impoverished than wealthy, and had been that way for decades.

Elisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun, Duchesse de Polignac. 1787, Pastel.

Average in size, with fair skin, blue eyes accented by dark brown eyebrows and hair, a high forehead, tilted nose and a smile that could kill Yolande had an angelic look about her. Some have said she had the features Raphael would take love. At 18, on July 5, 1767 she married Jules Francois Armand, comte de Polignac arranged by the comte de Vaudreuil. The comte Jules de Polignac was an officer in the royal Polish Regiment.

Yolande was introduced at Versailles in September of 1775. Madame Campan recalled that Marie Antoinette was instantly fascinated with her and couldn’t figure out why she hadn’t seen the girl at court before. At learning she was not permitted to attend royal weddings due to her wealth, Marie intended to counteract, “the injustice of wealth.”

Elisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun, Yolande Polignac. 1782, oil on canvas. Wadsworth Atheneum.

She expressed her gratitude for all Marie Antoinette wanted to bestow on her as a favorite but let M.A. know she feared the cost of living at Versailles. Marie consulted Louis XVI about it, and how much she wanted her friend to live near them. The comtesse, later the duchesse, was given her own apartments at Versailles at the top of a marble staircase. She became a favorite, and the Queen would often run to her drawing room to take a needed break from life, or merely gossip.

Little Po is portrayed by writers in two ways, either as an enormous cause of the revolution, scheming to improve her own status and having utter disregard for the state of the country, or she as almost a total pawn a midst needy, greedy and ambitious relatives and associates. Some claimed there had never been a favorite at the court who was less greedy or egotistical. Madame Campan noted that she never saw the duchesse wear diamonds, she could pull off the same effect with a flower in her hair, and that her personality left her free from jealousy and always pleased. While others associated her with the Trianon entertainments described as rude as scandalous orgies!

In any case, her position as favorite secured life for many others who created her ‘society.’ The society of the duchesse de Polignac seems to be un-entertaining, un-witty and more annoying than charming. Madame Elisabeth was said to tire quickly of the duchesses’ sister-in-law Diana who was apparently both greedy and ugly.

The Duke de Polignac was secured a job in 1780 as directeur-général des postes and Little Po herself was given the position of gouvernante des Enfants de France. Her, lover, the comte de Vaudreuil also enjoyed living off the benefits of her post, comfortably by the late 1770’s. The Polignacs received a dowrey for their daughter of 800,000 livres, 400,000 livres to pay off various family debts and had won 10,000 in the lottery on pure luck!

With the revolution the royal family urged the Polignacs to leave France, and they left for Switzerland. In 1790 they went to Venice to celebrate the marriage of their son Armand and finally settled near Vienna, July 1791. Little Po died in December 1793, only a few months after Marie had been executed. Elisabeth Vigée Lebrun, who was living near-by had said that in those few months the duchesses’ appearance had alter so much, by sorrow and trauma that she was no longer recognizable.

August 07, 2008

Jewellery Fit for Gossip Girls

Well, I am an absolute sucker for jewellery inspired by jewels in historical portraits. Actually there are lots of historical portrait inspired things I know both Heather and I just love. This ranges from a desperate need to own a set of these wine glasses ->, and our undying appreciation of Project Runway Season 4 Episode 11. <3>

Anyway! So I came across these and had to share. Jewellery based on the gems worn by Mrs. Graham in her portrait in the National Galleries of Scotland. They are beautifully made, and I adore the gold detail around the garnet- and I usually don’t care for yellow gold! This just works. I included a close up so you can see the detail in the portrait, they are quite close! I will probably be posting more historical pieces like these in the future!

August 06, 2008

The Honeymoon is over!

After the wedding décor was taken down and married life began, husband and wife were happy as could be. But...of course! Of course there were little problems here and there. Louis XVI did not always agree with her fashion sense and he did not agree with some of her hair styles either.

He also had little tendencies that bothered Marie. One was his over eating at meals! And you know she hinted to it and let him know, because that is what ladies do! But one day Louis had terrible indigestion and Marie, ‘had all the dishes containing pastry removed from his table and peremptorily forbade any more pastry to be served until further notice.’


August 05, 2008

Quotables: Mirabeau

"France will always need an aristocracy."


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.”


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.

August 03, 2008

Just for fun!

Just because I am a big Vivien Leigh fan, and Mythosidhe pointed out the fabulousness of the hat in the below post, I am putting these up of Vivien as Lady Hamilton from That Hamilton Woman.

They're off in Saratoga! Hats off That is....

A Sunday Tradition in these parts is to go to the horse races dressed to impress. And that means don’t forget the hat. Heather and I chose hats from the 1780’s, and they were quite the buzz last Sunday.

Fashionable ladies from the past were, clearly, known to grace the tracks! In 1779, in England, few lady-patronesses graced the turf, but among the few you could sill find Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire!

In 1776 a horse track was built in France, near Fontainebleau, modeled after those in England. In a letter to Maria Theresa, Comte de Mercy described it as, “a puerile parody,’’ and goes on to explain that a special stand was built for Marie Antoinette to view the races from. Her stand was surrounded by a, “concourse of unsuitable persons, young and ill-clothed, making much confusion and noise.

Well he was just not a fan of races!

"I went to the first race-day on horse back; and I took great care to keep in the crowd at some distance from the Queen's pavilion, into which all the young men entered, booted and en chenille [riding dress]. In the evening the Queen, who had perceived me, asked me, while at play, why I did not come up into her pavilion at the races. I answered, loudly enough to be heard by the many feather-pates present, that the reason I had not come was that I was in riding boots and dress and that I had never been accustomed to imagine one could appear before the Queen in such attire."

He was just as miserable on the second race-day, appalled at the Queen and Madame Elisabeth being there and at the Comte d'Artois (right) who was running about placing enormous bets and whining about how sick he was of always being cheated at both races and cards.

But how devoted were our fashionable ladies?

“Of Balls at the Opera, where the Queen stayed all night, came back to Versailles at half-past six in the morning and went off again at ten to the races.”



Well, I am off to the races now, (with a bit more than 3 ½ hours of sleep!)

August 02, 2008

About Her...

"The Queen liked to be surrounded by the most agreeable young men that the Court could offer; she was far more willing to accept the homage that was offered to her as a woman than that which was offered to her as a Queen."

August 01, 2008

Femme of the Week: Princesse de Lamballe

Marie Thérèse Louise Carignan, Priness of Savoy was born on the 8th of September 1749. She was just a little girl when her marriage was arranged to the Prince de Lamballe. His parents, the Duke and Duchesse de Penthièvre were more than excited to have secured this marriage.

The Duke asked the little girl if she would like to be the consort of the Prince Lamballe and she replied ‘Yes, I am very fond of music!’ ‘No, my dear, I mean would you have any objection to become his wife?’ Being a carefree child she cheerfully replied ‘No, nor any other person’s!’

Well her story is a well known one beginning with friendship with the Queen and ending in tragedy. And after gathering my 'Femme' resources I decided I cannot put her whole story here. So I am going to start with the early years!

When she was but 17 she was to marry the Prince de Lamballe. The wedding was set for Janurary 17, 1767. The Prince was so excited to see his future wife, that he rode out to where she was staying before the ceremony, Montereau, and introduced himself as a page or something of that nature. He offered her a bouquet in the name of the Prince, and all the while could hardly contain his excitement. For she far exceeded the expectations he had of her, she had clear blue eyes and golden blond hair, a darling figure and she was funny and spontaneous. The two hit it off, and need not mention the puppy love surprise she held when she saw her page at the alter.

They celebrated for 10 days after the wedding and the two were indeed happy. Not long after however, the Prince fell into wild ways. Infact, his father knew of his 'wild' behavior before the marriage and hoped the Princess would straighten him out. Well she did at first but he slipped! He was in need of money and sold his wifes diamonds (wedding diamonds!) and then he left! His father found him soon after, but he was not himself. He was dying.

“He [the Prince] soon became prey of every refinement upon dissipation and studied debauchery, til at length his sufferings made his life a burden, and he died in the most excruciating agonies both of mind and body, in the arms of a disconsolate wife.”

Now according to her memoir's, she became close friends with her sister-on-law Louise-Marie de Bourbon Penthièvre. Louise-Marie’s husband, the, dare I say sleezy, Duc De Chartres made it known to Princess Lamballe that he wanted her. The young princess rejected his advances, and in retaliation for being humiliated, the Duc de Chartres allegedly re-exposed or rather encouraged the Prince de Lamballe to a life of debauchery.

16 months after their wedding the Prince died of venereal disease. At the impressionable and emotional age of 18 years old the Princess was a widow, completely stressed out, heart broke, and just crushed. Things were not going right and that is the opening to the pathetic story of the Princess de Lamballe

Some Feathers and Bows Never Hurt!

I hope everyone enjoys the new Gossip Guides! (Georgie & Marie) We have upgraded and will continue to share fun tidbits from the past! We had some helpful advice from Mozart, whose fabulous site inspired us to update things. If you have any suggestions or comments for either of the sites please send them to either:
MarieAntoinetteGossip@gmail.com (Lauren) or
GeorgianaGossip@gmail.com (Heather).

Okay back to the gossip ..... *waves fan*

July 31, 2008

A Letter From Madame Elisabeth

On October 16, 1789 Madame Elisabeth writes to Abbé de Lubersac:
"The Queen, who has incredible courage, begins to be in better favor with the people. I hope that in time, and by unremitting prudence, we may regain the love of the Parisians, who have merely been deceived.

But, sir, the people of Versailles! Have you ever seen more frightful ingratitude? No; I think that Heaven in wrath peopled that city with monsters out of hell. How long it will take to make them recognize their injustice! And if I were king, how long it would take me to believe in their repentance! What ingrates toward an honest man!

Would you believe, sir, that all our misfortunes, far from bringing me back to God, give me a veritable disgust for all that relates to prayer? Beg of Heaven for me the grace not to abandon everything. . . . Ask also that the reverses of France may recall to a better mind those who have contributed to them by their irreligion."

July 30, 2008

Mothers Know Best

The similarities between Lady Spencer and Maria Theresa have sometimes been brought up between Heather and I. They were mothers who knew best, knew what was best for their daughters, and in particular knew how their daughters should behave.

 But daughters are notorious for behaving badly- unless you are the daughter of the marquis du Châtel. Anyway! This series will take a look at some letters from mom to daughter.

Family Tree: Meet Marie's Family

Welcome to the Habsburg-Lorraine family tree post! This is a large mini project where by the end we will have met the henhouse that was Marie's family. I will post information in different installments, introducing the children of Maria Theresa and Francis I from eldest to youngest.

July 28, 2008

A Look at The Duchess and Marie Antoinette

Heather has been keeping us posted on the progress of the new movie on Georgiana, The Duchess. She did her own comparison between the new promotional poster for The Duchess and the one for Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. So just for fun I decided to do a little shot to shot comparison of the movie trailers for The Duchess and Marie Antoinette.

Architecture. It all starts with a dramatic view of fabulous architecture! This is actually what started my comparisons a few weeks back, the fun architectural shots! Here we have Marie Antoinette on the left and The Duchess on the right.

Entrance. Okay now we present our ladies! The queen and the duchess. They make their grand entrances by coming out of their berline/carriage.

Greetings. Heads up ladies! Everyone is waiting for you!!!

Men at Dining Tables. Introducing the 18th century man of the house. Husbands! they can usually be found at the dining table as is the case here!

The Upset Walk. Not everything is fine and dandy in a socialites life. Sometimes times get tough and overwhelmed you walk quickly through your home :o(

The Other Man. Things get a little happier though when another man comes around. The other man shot is a classic!

Dramatic Stare. But having another man is stressful! What are you to do with 2 men?? LIFE IS TOUGH **
:o( Here we get serious as we stare into our husbands eyes and think ____.

Running in Gowns. Unable to cope with it anymore emotions take control and the only solution is to run dramatically in full dress through the house!

Sex. Alright ladies! Time to cool down, 18th century style!

The Dramatic 'All Eyes On Her' Pose. After all is said and done we cannot forget that all eyes are on the stars here. The toughest part of being in the spotlight is that you cannot escape it.

** My comments are not actual movie plots!!!