10.08Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: 10.08

October 30, 2008

What are you reading?

Marie Antoinette had her own library.

I can’t imagine a better dream, an enormous wardrobe and a modest library of over 2000 titles. Sure she did not spend hours a day pouring over the shelved books, instead she would have the ones she wanted pulled and brought down for her. That would be nice. In the mean time I do my own pulling, and I have added some features to the blog that focus on, you guessed it, books!

If you take a look to your lower left, you will see a Light Reading section. I picked out some of my currently favorite books (and some that look and sound too fab not to have) that you might be interested in. It is called Light Reading because they are perfect for reading before you fall asleep, or if you are just curling up with a book on a rainy (or frosty) weekend! And to our lower right is the Bookshelf. The bookshelf will feature select books that are a staple on my bookshelf.

Let me know if you have any questions or recommendations for me, because even though I should not be getting more books –my to-read list is pretty big- I am always looking.


"Woman of a certain ton promenading. Her caraco of taffeta trimmed en pouf has short sleeves ending in manchettes to which sabot sleeves are attached. She wears a braided chignon with a rosette. In her left hand she as an ivory handled ebony cane; in her right a tiny dog."

This Fashion Plate from the Galerie des Modes dates 1778. Not to assume names, but at this time Georgiana was certainly already making fashion history in England and the ton was alive and well. I just love thinking she was the model for this fabulous plate!

October 25, 2008

Femme of the Week: Marie-Adelaide de France

Marie-Adelaide daughter of France was one of the seven daughters of Louis XV, born in 1732. She had two older sisters and four younger. When it was time for her and her younger sisters to go to the abbey Fontevrault for their education, her mother was upset at loosing all her daughters for so long a period. Maria Leszczyńska, who was passive in nature, had Adelade beg her father to let her stay home. The little girl did so, running up to Louis XV after mass one day, in tears and all. He granted her request and her sisters were sent off. She grew up in the house with one of her older sisters (the other left Versailles to wed when Adelaide was 4) and her brother the Dauphin.

The home situation would change again when her older sister Henriette passed away in 1752. Adelaide was 20, and became the leading spirit among her younger siblings. She adopted this new role not out of seniority or responsibility, but because her personality demanded so. She was an irritable girl, moody and headstrong; she also had an air of haughtiness about her. Her personality was not completely unpleasant, but when looked at next to her more reserved, quieter younger sisters she certainly stood at as a ring leader. She also spent the most time at home and saw her father much more than the others and this alone lead to a rightful feeling of precedence.

When she was young her mother took her and her sisters to a Carmelite ceremony. The girls saw her mothers lady in waiting devote her life to God and it left an impression. Adelaide was determined that she wanted to also devote her life to austerity, and begged her father to let her choose that life. He responded, “wait until you are twenty-five or widowed.” He made the right response because she grew out of this phase rather quickly. When her younger sister Louise decided she seriously was ready to devote her life to God she made arrangements with her father in secrecy. When Adeliade found out Louise was leaving she was not upset over loosing her sisters company, she was upset because she hadn’t been kept ‘in the loop.’

Adelaide did not keep an immaculate appearance and was often unkept, dare I say shabby? For this reason she was given the pet name Loque (rag) from her father, wouldn’t you imagine what that does to ones self esteem?? While growing up there was talk of her being married off. One of the lucky boys in question was the recently widowed Prince de Conti, his first wife a total dish. The other choice was Prince Xavier, who fell in love with a pretty Italian. So it was old maid-dom for Adelaide. She did not care though, in fact she did not want to be married because she could not see the point in loosing her oh-so-important title as Daughter of France.

So what did this important Daughter of France spend her days doing? For one she loved literature and was the proud owner of 5000 titles in her library. She also found herself subject to court gossip, a position her sisters did not face. This can mainly be attributed to her strong personality, and subtle rudeness. It is true that Louis XV was closer to his daughters than his wife and son, but this is because in their early years they were the family members that did not meddle with politics or look down upon his mistresses. (His wife involved herself a little in politics to help her father.) Adelaide even helped raise a child that was most certainly one of her fathers. And when the little Duc de Berry lost both of his parents, Adelaide took him in too, in a way. He grew up with her and her younger sisters and felt comfortable with them around as his guardians.

When Berry married Antoinette, Adelaide and her sisters gave her a key to their apartments, and they hung out a bit. Adelaide did not really care for Antoinette in any case. Antoinette was pressured to address Madame du Barry from the King and Ambassador. The day came that she was going to address the favourite and right as she approached her Adelaide, most certainly aware of the situation, stopped her by speaking: ‘It is time for us to go and await the King in the apartments of our sister Victoire.” Antoinette, caught off guard, acknowledged and followed Adelaide. She later apologized to her ambassador explaining that she did not want to upset her aunt. Sneaky!

Adelaide escaped to Rome at the time of the Revolution and died in 1800, outliving all of her siblings. Her body was returned to France and she is buried in the fabulous cathedral, Saint Denis.

October 23, 2008

Fish are Caught with Hooks

"...Birds are ensnar'd with Nets, but Virgins with Masquerades."

When it comes to eighteenth century masquerades there is much to bring up and discuss! The masquerade in its modern sense made an important debut in England during the roaring 1720's, 1717 to be precise. Tickets for these public parties sold instantly, three to four hundred per event. The 'Midnight Masquerades' were thrown by John James Heidegger at the Haymarket Theatre. (Party Promoter extraordinair?)

These social events were partly influenced by the travel experiences the English had abroad. Attending exotic carnivals and fêtes were inspiration enough to go home and improvise!

There is of course the moral freedom that enticed persons to attend the parties. Not all disguises worn at masquerades were sexual in nature and those were de rigueur. For example you would always find your shepardess, your Harlequin, conjurers and Pierrots. Other costumes twisted gender, and were androgynous. Some scandalous costumes included a domino costume in which the naughty man wearing the disguise wore no undergarments...and another exhibitionist chose to wear a full flesh colored body stocking - with only some fig leaves covering the cash and prizes... And who could forget the ever popular evening Miss Chudleigh appeared, "as a bare breasted Iphigenia." tsk tsk!!!

What resulted of these edgy parties? In theory virgins would go to meet Roger and consequently loose their virginity, and older women would go and seduce men for an adulterous affair. Sounds like fun! There was undoubtedly a degree of empowerment women experienced at masquerades, if she chose so, to walk around rating potential 'acquaintances' and approaching those of her choosing. Similarly this privilege was to advantage of the days homosexuals and bisexuals. Sir John appeared in drag and Lady Marge chose to wear a very convincing merchants garb.

Who's who! Who's into who? Pick and choose whatever your fancy might be, the choice for the night is yours...

There is so much more to discuss! What is your favorite aspect of masquerades? More to come!

October 22, 2008

Hello Gorgeous! A Rose Bertin Gown in Canada

Marie Antoinette’s court dress, attributed to dressmaker Marie Jeanne “Rose” Bertin, France 1780s. Purchased by C.T. Currelly. Photo by Joe Lewis

Everyone (literally - link, link, link, link, link!) has been raving about this gown, and I just cant blame them! Visit the Royal Ontario Museum website, and check out how fabulous this gown really is! It will be on display through Sunday and if you are in the area you must stop by!

For those of us who are not as fortunate as our Canadian friends, the website gives us a good look at the piece.

You may be wondering about the shape. Altered to fit a Victorian owner, the shape is off, and some material is lost to time. Trust me it does not take a hard look to re-alter the dress visually and understand how splendid it was. It is just stunning, and if you are use to looking at gowns in paintings and fashion plates, it becomes overwhelming imagining yourself in a sea of these glittering silk gowns, softly shining by candlelight glow.

Check out this video from the Royal Ontario Museum on the garment again more details found on the R.O.M. website.


October 21, 2008

Price to be Posh

 "Each one immediately wished to wear the same things as the Queen, her feathers, her garlands of flowers, which charmingly became her beauty, then in all its splendour. The expenses of young women greatly increased, and mothers and husbands grumbled; some flighty individuals contracted debts, and deplorable family scenes ensued, several couples quarrelled or sulked, and it was generally rumoured that the Queen would ruin all the French ladies..."

Langlade, Émile, and A. S. Rappoport. 1913. Rose Bertin, the creator of fashion 
at the court of Marie-Antoinette. London: J. Long, limited.

I suppose if you are going to fall into debt, by means other than education costs, would you not want it to be on precious Christian Louboutin shoes, and Posh outfits

Paris Atelier: Language of the Fan

I can not resist sharing this post by the Paris Atelier with you! It is super fun, ladies get ready to practice your moves the next time you go out for the evening!

~ If a woman rested her fan upon her lips she meant to say: I don't trust you

~If she fanned herself slowly she implied she wasn't interested

Paris Atelier: Language of the Fan

October 18, 2008

Femme of the Week: Olympe de Gouges

Marie-Olympe Grouze was born in May of 1743. Born into scandal she was reported to be the illegitimate child of Louis XV. Her life would follow a fast and rough road to fabulousness, humiliation, and to politics.

Marie-Olympe’s mother went from door to door selling charms and small ornaments. As for her father, he was either a merchant or the poet Le Franc de Pompignan. Orphaned at age 16 and she was married right away to Louis Yves Aubrey, a man of 60,000 pounds and old enough to be her grandfather. Marie-Olympe was blossoming with incredible beauty and before she reached her 1 year anniversary her husband died. The ambitious seventeen year old went to Paris in search of love, and popularity.

Love and popularity were waiting for her! Paris embraced the vibrant beauty and her money, and she was never in want of a companion or admirer. She arrived with southern charms, dark eyes and hair that stood out beautifully against her pale complexion. Her own affairs kept the Parisian gossips busy-like Amy Winehouse on Perez. The affairs were turbulent, passionate and full of jealousies and rivalries – you either felt bad for her or enjoyed her solely for the entertaining stories she created.

In Paris she chose to drop her married name and birth name to go only by Olympe de Gouges. And Olympe de Gouges had goals and ambition to attain them. Her first major goal was to become a famed play writer. She wrote dramas, rather dictated them to her secretary, for she was raised with a typical education and could not read or write well, if at all. Her dramas were the products of 48 hours of work. The Comédie Française was overwhelmed with the pieces she submitted and turned them down with out hesitation. Olympe was persistent and continued to submit. She resorted to flattery and bribery, spending money and having it accepted, but still her works were not accepted and she herself became overwhelmed with anger, frustration and a bit of despair. Voicing her feelings the shocked committee decided to remove her from their register and sent all her works back. (Right Image: Olympe and Antoinette)

She wrote and voiced her complaints constantly until she became known as the “standing nuisance of the time.” No one wanted anything to do with her, and possibly in a moment of maturity she realized she was not handling the situation well. She humbled herself and asked for forgiveness and another chance. She wrote a book on her experiences, the bribery, flattery, and rejection.

With the revolution growing she put her energy into politics. She found herself for womens rights and wrote up pamphlets and brochures, distributing them at her own cost. Olympe constantly planned and organized pageants and parades for womens rights, including planning the costumes that would be worn. She thought the Kings household needed to be reformed by removing princesses and duchesses to replace them with “an armed national guard of women citizens.” She suggested that a state theatre was made which was run solely by women and only works written by, “moral and esteemable males,” might be considered for production. Another outrageous idea she had was to have a Women’s Journal. She composed, in September 1791, the Declaration des droits de la Femme et de la Citoyenne. She felt she could knock down the social system if it would allow for reform but her feelings changed after seeing the unhappy King in person in Paris.

Olympe realized was against the execution of the King, and proclaimed her position against Robespierre.

“With ball and chain to our feet let us bathe together in the Seine: your death will calm dangerous spirits, and the sacrifice of a pure life will disarm heaven.”

She insisted to serve as the Louis Capet's defense at his trial motives alongside Malesherbes. The action raised suspicion of her. Her pamphlets now stirred the revolutionaries and her sudden change of sides caused much jest.

The fear of death suddenly hit Olympe. Somewhere she heard women were being excused from the scaffold if they were found to be enceinte. Feeling it was her only chance she became pregnant, I believe by a friend. The surgeons at the trial declared if she was in fact pregnant – which I believe she was – it had occurred to recently to be detected by any medical exam, and therefore was void.

Olympe defended herself at her trial, but was found guilty and on 3 November 1793, 19 days after Antoinette was executed, she was led up the scaffold. Her last words were spoken, “Fatal desire of renown,” she was noted to glance at the trees on the boulevard, “I wished to be something.”

October 16, 2008

16 October 1793: A Mere 215 Years...

"Thus then has MARIE ANTOINETTE, the unfortunate Queen of France, been brought to the block, and thereby terminated a miserable existence. The descendants of the Caesars, condemned by sanguinary judges, has perished under the hands of a hangman."
THE TIMES (London), 23 October 1793
Not the most pleasant gossip topic, but history after-all. Elena and Catherine have put together very informative posts on 16 October 1793, the day of Antoinette's trial and execution. Be sure to check them out. Feathers, un-starched ruffs, and mid-night flings to follow!

I am posting this clip from The Affair of the Necklace. It is of the execution scene, and I find it incredibly gripping. Something about her shoes and hands that gets me every time, really a burning image.

October 11, 2008

Movie Review: The Duchess

Above Image: Not the crowd waiting to see The Duchess last night

Some of the few people who went to see The Duchess last night were Heather and Stephen Douglas, fellow blogger. Stephen has been kind enough to provide the Guide with a review of The Duchess. Heather and I have already spent a lot of time discussing our thoughts and observations from the movie, starting about 20 minutes after we each viewed it. You can read about that in Heathers review (warning...spoilers). What is exciting about this review is that Mr. Douglas has not read Amanda Foreman's book Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and is experiencing it for what it is. A movie based on the true story of Georgiana's life. Enjoy!!

Georgiana, from what I've heard, was fabulous. The Duchess did nothing to change that impression. The story of "G" is a story of celebrity before I even realized there were celebrities. "G" drank and gambled and was always the center of attention.

Kiera Knightly is apparently the only woman with a British accent who is up to the task of playing the leading lady in any historical drama. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Knightly provided another strong performance and did a great job playing at different times - strong, weak, vulnerable, and of course fabulous.

Despite the fact that the film was a heavily-costumed historical drama, The Duchess was not without its moments of humor. Most of which were provided by the dry and mostly clueless, Duke of Devonshire, played by Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes was excellent, providing a sometimes-powerful, sometimes-boring performance. The boredom is by design as The Duke's sole motive in life is to produce a male heir. Other than that, he had dogs. That's about it.

G's inability to provide that son, combined with her husbands inability to be caring or remain faithful drive the film. Georgiana invites her friend Bess Foster to live in Devonshire. Bess is played bust-ily by Hayley Atwell. Georgiana, Bess and The Duke soon turn into an awkwardly put together family. All in all, it was really quite scandalous.

Visually, the movie was beautiful. The film moved at a good pace and remained interesting throughout. It was a bit surprising that the film was only 110 minutes. It seems like a lot of material was left out. If I hadn't known anything about Georgiana, the gambling scenes would have seemed almost incidental. My only complaint was the ending, which I feel went on a scene too long. The movie is a must-see for anyone interested in this period of history.



The Duchess - Fashion du Jour!

Finally The Duchess has come to theaters around here, and I was able to see it last night. Heather has a review of the movie coming that you will be interested to read—if you have already seen it!

The website for The Duchess (removed as of 2015) has a great feature on some of the movies costumes, a feature that Coppola’s Marie Antoinette site sadly did not have. The costume feature is great (although my favorite garment is not listed on it) it does not, however, discuss the jewelry worn in the movie.

I have a soft spot for shoes and accessories and found myself noting each piece worn by the lady characters every time a new event or day dawned!

The earring trend in the film was: drop stones, adorned with glittering little bows. Lovely, elegant, and so so soo feminine. If you did see the film and loved the ornaments the girls wore then I have some good news for you!

I seem to religiously pass the Betsey Johnson display windows at Macy*s every month—and Betsey Johnson was running through my head during the film! As of late she has been putting out the most adorable feminine pieces of jewelry and here are some of them. I wouldn't have been surprised if she made pieces for the film!

Georgiana appeared wearing the little drop earrings in an early scene with her mother, Lady Spencer. They were dark and had the small bow from which a dark crystal drop hung. Very pretty and if I could find an image I would post it but they were little like these on the left. Well a following scene Georgiana appears at a ball with her dear friend Bess. In this scene Georgiana is wearing earrings that are diamond and ruby but here we have Bess wearing the glittering crystal bows on her ears, with a flashy large pear shaped crystal drop dangling from them.

If we compare them to the little dark pair Georgiana wore previously we see Bess saying about them,
“Why Georgiana, what an exquisite, dainty, understated little pair of earrings, how clever of your jeweler not to waste his off cuts!”
* Appears in flashy crystal earrings! * Okay Bess would not have said that to Georgiana, but it is fun to read it that way! The scene makes a lot of sense historically, as Heather has pointed out Amanda Foremen explained Bess as a top notch celebrity stalker, and would in fact be seen wearing the jewelry that Georgiana wore the evening before.

The bow/ drop crystal style was peppered throughout the movie with different stones and shapes. You will have to let me know what you think of them!

October 10, 2008

Femme of the Week: Marie Josephine Louise of Savoy, Comtesse de Provence

Marie Josephine Louise of Savoy was the daughter of the King of Sardinia, she was born February 9, 1753. At 18, May 14, 1771 she married the Comte de Provence, Louis XVI's younger brother. The wedding was held at Versailles and was a spectacular production, an expensive affair. Although Marie Antoinette and Louis were already married, as Dauphin and Dauhpine, they had no children so the Comte de Provence was considered the heir to the throne.

Together the couple were quite catty, and the Comtesse de Provence was known to share stories of the Dauphine's life within the apartments of her husbands aunts. Her stories were often exaggerated, yet taken for solid fact. And why not! She found it a good way to occupy time. Needless to say she did not care for Marie Antoinette at all.
"If I am not to be a queen, I am of the stuff of which queens are made."

And she did not try very hard to conceal her dislike of the Dauphine. She was in fact, warm to Madame Du Barry, and would greet her with, "distinguished honours."
So what was this princess of Savoy, Lady-of-the-throne-to-be really like???

Well if she was made of the stuff queens are, she would have failed in the 'heir producing' department. Her two pregnancies at 21 and 28 resulted in miscarriages. She was also not known for her beauty. In fact, Madame du Barry, whom she acted with high respect towards had said the comtesse was "ugly and she smelled."

Okay... so was Madame du Barry just being her usual un-classy self ? Being blunt and inappropriate in such observations? Well the observations were made by others at court, that apparently the comtesse was not quite up to par in her bathing habits. Marie Antoinette was quite opposite, raised to be very mindful of her cleanliness and toilette. Two years into her marriage to the comte the problem was so pronounced that she received a letter from her father (very Maria-Theresa-esque!) that instructed her to "pay more attention to her toilette." So she didn't like to bathe, even if it was an exotic bath of peacock milk (now what is so bad about that???)! She also, did not care to wear perfumes (was there ever a chance of her and Marie really becoming friends...?!)

I am not clear on the plucking of eyebrows practice in the 18th century but The Vigee Gallery site mentions that she did not participate in that practice either. Needless to say the comte stopped attending her bed after a while, and rumors of her being a lesbian were whispered.

She was able to escape with her husband during the revolution, to Great Britain. She lived there until 1810 when she died of hydropsy, never living to see her husband become Louis XVIII. She was buried in Westminster Abbey, and later moved by Louis to Cagliari Cathedral.

October 07, 2008

Répondez, s'il vous plaît

Gentle readers,
If you would kindly take a look to the right you will find a new poll. Heather and I are interested in what you are interested in! So take a moment to let us know what topics of conversation you find most attractive, and what you would like to read/see more of! If you have any specific requests or a question on a topic please don't hesitate to let us know, send an email to Heather or I - we are always interested in the fun gossip our readers have to share!
Lauren and Heather

October 06, 2008

Read Your Morning Paper(s) Yet?

The men at Versailles would keep themselves up to date on news and politics the same way most do today. They would read the daily newspaper in the mornings. The newspaper of choice was the Gazette de France. In most instances, it was the only paper that would be read. This was not the case with Louis, however, and we all know he loved to read!

Louis subscribed not only to the daily Gazette de France, but also to the main European newspapers of the day. Some of these included the Morning Chronicle of London and the Gazette de Leyden, a premiere Dutch publication. He would not read them all over breakfast but spent many hours in his library pouring over both books and the news. So if you assumed he was not on the 'in' he was in fact very well informed of events in Europe from point of views outside of France!

October 03, 2008

Femme of the Week: Jeanne de La Motte

Jeanne La Motte is famously known as the key player in the Diamond Necklace Affair. Her story is long so here is a super abbreviated script, details to follow. Heather recently wrote about the movie that starred Hilary Swank that covers the scandal from La Motte's perspective.

Jeanne was a thin pale girl (born 1756) who grew up dirt poor under the watch of a kindly woman after her father had died. She claimed to be a direct descendant of Henri II, the last in the line of Valois. She was correct in this claim and her guardian had her lineage verified at Versailles.

At 25 she met Cardinal Rohan, she told him her sad story, and how ‘shameful it was for a descendant of Henri II to be so neglected by the King' [Louis XVI] Rohan agreed. She had at this point married Nicolas La Motte, and Rohan gave her some money and gave her husband a job in the Comte d'Artois' bodyguard.

Before her marriage Louis XVI granted, "a pension of 800 livres in 1776 to this scion of the family which had preceded the Bourbons on the throne. His act was done out of kindness. With her pension she married Nicolas.

After meeting Rohan, between 1781 and 83 the couple rented two furnished rooms in Paris and 2 in Versailles. The girl had ambitions though, and dreams. Her goal was to regain the Valois estates, to live as a princess of the blood, and to keep a berline encrusted with royal lilies.

She fainted one day at in December in Madame Elisabeth’s service quarters. When she fainted she was clutching her petition, and Madame Elisabeth heard of the incident and read the petition. Elisabeth had her carried to her apartments on a stretcher. Apparently when she was left alone, she said to her servant "if Madame Elisabeth sends for news of me, say I’ve had a miscarriage and been bled five times.” Now isn't that interesting?

Elisabeth sent her doctors twice to visit Jeanne. She gave her 200 livres and had Louis almost double her pension to 1500 livres. So what does one learn from this experience? That ‘fainting works’! She had her next episode in the Galerie des Glaces just as the Queen was to pass by. But the Queen failed to notice.Jeanne also put on a show of convulsions outside of the Queens windows one day, but to no avail.

When fainting would not work she resorted to stubbornness, and went to the Finance Ministers office refusing to leave until she had the money to livelike a princess of the blood. They settled for 2400 livres. She sold her pension to pay her own debts, and her next move was to hang around the Queens quarters telling people that she was the Queens confidence. “I am the Queen’s confidante. She and I are just like this,” -held up two crossed fingers-

She used Rohan as a pawn in the scandal known as the affair of the necklace. (Post on this in the future) This was a major scandal at Versailles involving the Cardinal, and Marie Antoinette. Based on a scheme in the Marriage of Figaro, she was able to fool the Cardinal into thinking Antoinette trusted him, and that La Motte was the Queens closest friend. She made a lot of money out of this illusion, the Cardinal being completely duped.

She lived the end of her life in London, where she wrote her memoirs, a text that was unwelcome at Versailles but made the rounds anyhow. She died in London after falling out of a window in 1791.