11.08Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: 11.08

November 30, 2008

Doomed Queens Give Away Winner!

The winner of the Doomed Queens Give Away is Diane - a devoted fan of Sisi! Congrats! Diane, please contact me at MarieAntoinetteGossip@gmail.com with your mailing information!

Everyone else, I just noticed that Doomed Queens is on SALE on Amazon!!! Get a copy before the sale ends - and let me know what you think! Hurrah for holiday sales!

November 26, 2008

On eBay Today: Hot Air Balloons!

Today I decided to see what the most expensive item for sale on good old eBay was -that referenced Marie Antoinette of course.

For sale is a framed work of art from the 18th century. A painting to commemorate the first hot air balloon flight that crossed the English Channel. This particular piece was presented to Antoinette on 16 June 1785. And now you can own it and have it in your own living room for the low price of $200,000.00. I am sure it hung near the mantle(s) at Versailles for years!

November 25, 2008

Introducing Reine des Centfeuilles

Sometimes an occasion arises that requires you to pull your best robe à la franςaise from the back of the closet. When that day comes, will you be prepared?

To make sure you have the right gown for the right moment, I will have to insist you visit the Reine des Centfeuilles company website (another great find from Donna Sandra!). Wait let me start by showing you their adorable and picturesque studio/shop front! You know there are fabulous things inside! But on to the goods...

This company makes gorgeous garments, all inspired by the remaining threads from history. They make garments for historical movies (you know..the costume drama...) and for your closet too! The image here is of a ladies jacket and gilet, circa 1790. It is stunning! I am sure you want one after seeing the Victory Gown in The Duchess! There items are just quality. Don't you love the silver detailing on those buttons!
Do you have a proper gown in your closet yet???

November 23, 2008

A Book for us Fortunate Queens, and Duchesses

Check out DOOMED QUEENS...

The holidays are approaching, soon the weather will cool down, and there will be nothing you want to do more than lay around in your best gown, your necks and fingers dripping with opulence as you sip exotic hot teas and cocoas. When you find this time for yourself this month you need to have a copy in-hand of Doomed Queens: Royal Women Who Met Bad Ends, From Cleopatra to Princess Di . It is the type of book that, as you approach those last pages you think, "oh my! How can I possibly make these last six pages last longer! How can it be over so soon!" Well that is basically the basis of Doomed Queens. Author Kris Waldherr has presented us with 50 fabulous Queens, who may have found themselves asking -"oh my! How can I possibly make these days last longer! How can it be over so soon!"

If you enjoyed the exciting ride through history in Black Adder V - Back and Forth, and the juicy bits of history on both Marie Antoinette’s and Georgiana's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century, I know you will stay seated for the tour through the lives of Doomed Queens. For a moment you will dip into the life of a Queen. You do not stay for long, but long enough to know her. Each Queen you visit is fascinating in her own way and her story is capped off with a humorous 'Cautionary Moral' to help us make better informed decisions in our own fabulous lives. On top of that Waldherr has illustrated the book, and the imagery and "Graphics Key" are excellent. Oh *bonus* the front and back cover are designed with miniature paper dolls of select Queens. Idea for using as classy bookmarks!

I had a few fun questions for Kris Waldherr, and I have a feeling you will enjoy her answers as much as I did!

Which of the queens in your book would best fall under these titles: Rock and Roll Queen
―Princess Diana, though she was a queen of hearts, rather than a full-fledged queen if you will. I love the image of her bopping on her walkman to Dire Straits while Prince Charles has his nose stuck in a Laurens van der Post tome.

Evil Queen
―Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great. She was like something out of a Grimm's fairy tale. She even roasted her rival's children to death -- pretty gruesome stuff.

hion Queen
―Well, obviously Marie Antoinette, n'est pas? Even if Marie was unfairly accused in the Affair of the Necklace, she was still awfully fond of diamonds, feathers, and fashion. Also, believe it or not, Anne Boleyn. She imported continental fashions with her when she returned to the English court from her time serving Queen Claude in France. Jane Seymour, her successor, quickly came out against the French hoods Anne was so fond of, and forbid her ladies in waiting from wearing them. They weren't too thrilled, since French hoods were more comfortable than the gable hood (those heavy headdresses that are shaped like a house).

Warrior Queen
―Oooh, easy one. Boudicca, the Celtic warrior queen who took on the Romans and lost. Variety magazine referred to a film about her as "Braveheart with a Bra." Zenobia would come in a close second, though.

Faux Queen
―Hmmm, that could be Arsinoe, Cleopatra's sister who tried to grab the throne from her. When she was in exile, she encouraged others to address her as queen, which was asking for trouble. And she got it: Cleopatra convinced Mark Antony to arrange for her sister's assassination not long after.

Bohemian Queen
―I would have to cite Caroline of Brunswick, who ended up living a rather scandalous life on the continent after her marriage to England's George VI went south. She was especially fond of dancing topless for her guests during wild dinner parties.
Scholarly Queen
―There are a number of well-educated queens in DOOMED QUEENS. However, if I was to choose one whose intellectual predilections led to her demise, that crown would go to Amalasuntha, the Ostrogoth queen of the Dark Ages. When she became regent for her son, she decide to import the best of Roman culture to the Goths, who weren't too thrilled with her decision. As I write in DOOMED QUEENS, "the public outcry was as if Amalasuntha had switched channel from WWE to PBS mid-match."

Beauty Queen
―In terms of personal obsession with beauty, Elisabeth of Bavaria, the fin de siecle empress of Austria and queen of Hungary, would take that title. In her youth, Elisabeth (better known as Sisi) was noted as the world's most beautiful woman and led an unhappy life of unwilling celebrity. Perhaps in response, she became preoccupied with her looks to the point of mental disease. For example, Sisi would wash her famously long hair — think of a Viennese Rapunzel —in expensive French cognac and egg yolks and subsist on broth to preserve her figure.

Man-eater Queen
―Without a doubt, Queen Anula of the south Indian kingdom of Sri Lanka. She was like something out of Basic Instinct: Many men who slept with her did not survive too long afterward. Her favorite mode of dispatching them to the great beyond? Poison.

What is your favorite Queen movie?
―At first I was going to say Lady Jane, which is about Jane Grey, England's teenage queen for nine days. Besides being an old-fashioned weepie depicting innocent idealism getting slammed by cruel fate, I love anything with Helena Bonham Carter. But, after thinking it over, I'd have to say Elizabeth, with Cate Blanchett. Though I'd hardly call Elizabeth I a doomed queen, this is an incredibly powerful movie depicting the dangers and intrigues of royal life. Just thinking of the film's finale sends a shiver up my spine. Elizabeth makes the decision to sacrifice her humanity (symbolized by the cutting of her hair) in order to transform herself into a royal symbol worthy of worship by her subjects.

―I love Antonia Fraser's Marie Antoinette: The Journey. It's a very nuanced biography of a polarizing queen. The details of Marie Antoinette's final imprisonment and execution are just heartrending -- you get a sense of how far she'd fallen from grace. This is the book which inspired Sofia Coppela's film Marie Antoinette (which I liked a lot). Also, when I was a child there was a series of beautifully illustrated YA biographies of royal women that I loved. I've looked for them in antiquarian bookstores without luck. I remember first reading about Jane Grey in this series.

Are there any doomed queens who got away?
―Some queens did get to keep their heads, though they lost their thrones. One of my favorite doomed queens-with-a-second-act is Zenobia, the queen of Palmyra. She waged war against the Roman Empire when they got too interested in her territories. After Zenobia was captured in battle, she pragmatically decided that if you can't beat them, join them. So she married a Roman senator and lived the rest of her life in bourgeois comfort.
Scattered throughout the book are quotes from the Queens called "Out of the Mouths of Babes." Some ladies that you have quoted are Cleopatra, Jane Grey, and Anne Boleyn. How did you choose which Queens to quote and which queenly quote of theirs to write?
―It wasn't an easy to decide which quotes to include, since there are so many great ones out there. Ultimately, I chose quotes which best furthered the theme of my book. It was also important to me to show a balance throughout history. This became tricky, since some eras abound more in more quotes than others; the Tudors and their relatives are very chatty in that respect. In some cases, I had to get creative. For example, for Cleopatra, I used a quote from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, since there aren't surviving letters from the queen of the Nile (at least none that I'm aware of).
I could not stop reading the lives of these Doomed Queens and I wonder, is there a possibility for a work on Fortunate Queens? Or even Undistinguished Queens?
―I'm hoping to do another royally-themed book, though I suspect it may not be queens. But it will probably be equally dark and feminist and elaborately designed. Right now, I'm working out the details.
We love gossip here! I understand that a lot of editing information is involved as you write. Did you come across any interesting bits of gossip/history in your research that you loved but did not include in the book? If so you must divulge it with us!

―Early on, I decided that DOOMED QUEENS would feature fifty queens, which allowed for a great expanse of history sometimes at the expense of detail. So there were a lot of tales that I would have loved to include, but simply didn't have room for. One story which shocked me was that Jane Grey's body was left uncollected for several hours after she was beheaded. The reason for this? With Mary Tudor now on the throne, the Catholic church was back in power. So no one knew what to do with Jane's Protestant remains -- talk about adding insult to injury.

Thank you Kris! If you have any questions for the author of Doomed Queens, you can reach her via her website.

.......Surprise!! A Give Away!

In my possession is one mint copy of Doomed Queens, signed by Kris Waldherr,… and I am giving it away to one lucky reader! (yes that means you!) To enter, please leave a comment on this post telling me who your all-time favorite Queen is by Friday 28 November. The winner will be drawn out of a beautiful green hat with pink striped satin ribbon and white lace. Seriously!

Waldherr, Kris. 2008. Doomed queens. New York: Broadway Books. ISBN 9780767928991
Available on Amazon

November 22, 2008

Femme of the Week: Madame la Marquise de Prie

"Madame de Prie was more than beautiful; she was seductive in everything."
Jeanne Agnès Berthelot de Pléneuf was bron in 1698, as the new century was dawning. Her mother took great pride in raising her, for her mother was known for her exceptional beauty, wit and numerous admirers. The apple did not fall far from the tree, Jeanne Agnes was a most gorgeous girl, who absorbed everything from her mother and her actions. Watching her daughter grow up, gifted with many charms of her own and both beauty and freshness, her mother felt she was a threat by stealing her own admirers. This paranoia - possibly well deserved, like mother like daughter - created a great deal of stress and hostility on the family. Possibly in effort to quell the rivalry between daughter and mother Jeanne Agnes was married off to the Marquis de Prie who was conveniently ambassador of the court of Savoy. For the first part of Louis XV's life, Jeanne Agnes was away at Turin with her husband, but their paths would cross soon enough. Her life goes on to be an exciting ride through Versialles, with too many details to duscuss here. So I am going to breif you with a Long Story Short. I will dub this, "Live Fast, Die Pretty."

When she reached the pretty age of 21 Madame la Marquise de Prie moved back to France. She arrived with more talent, beauty, charm and wit than ever. She was a celestial creature at court. Everyone felt that way about whether they liked her or not. One of her contemporaries stated:
"[he] did not think there ever existed a more celestial creature than Madame de Prie. She was the real flower of the sweet pea. A charming face, and even more graces than beauty; wit, genius, ambition, and supreme presence of mind, and with it all the most decent air in the world. Her fascination was great." -d'Argenson
As powerful as her charms were, her personality was able to dominate them. Some personality traits that have been remarked on by historians include her lack of couth at pubic functions, her personal ambitions, her arrogance (undoubtedly gifted from mom) and from her dad- the tendency to spend like there was no tomorrow. My favorite description of her is a human tigress. rawr.

She went to Versailles with the predetermined idea to win over Françoise-Marie de Bourbon's husband, Philip d'Orleans, and become his maîtresse en titre. She caught word that he did not let his mistresses touch political matters, and she wasn't just looking for a sugar daddy. She wanted to have some control over a country, and who wouldn't! She turned to the more mailable Louis Henri de Bourbon-Condé who would become the Premier Minister of France after d'Orlean's passing, and later the Prince de Condé.

It was a good choice. As the king was becoming a man, Madame de Prie wanted to find Louis XV a mistress, so that she could influence the lucky mistress who would influence the king. Genius plan...just flawless!

Flawless until she realized a mistress was probably not the safest way to grip the king. They are all usually such ambitions fame seekers! And she should know. So she decided she needed to find him a wife. Louis XV was betrothed to the Infanta of Spain, the young girl was being raised at Versailles waiting for her wedding day. The Infanta sent back to Spain. Yes it was as insulting as it sounded. Madame de Prie then had a list sent to her of all the eligible bachelorettes fit to marry a king. Of 100 names of lovely ladies, "44 were too old, 29 too young, and 10 impossible." 17 were left, and Jeanne Agnes thought she needs to pick the girl who would view her as a fairy godmother.

Well her choice was Maria Leszczyńska, the daughter of the deposed King of Poland, Stanisław I. This, dare I say, absurd ex man of power, was living in France, on a pension. So Maria was not quite living as the princess of luxury as one might imagine. She was even in consideration to marry a "neighborhood gentleman." So the news from Versailles that she was chosen to marry the King of France was an overwhelming miracle. * Poof! Fairy Godmother! *

All worked to her plan until she and her man decided the Kings influential and scheming tutor had to go. Louis was so upset to the man who he spend so much time with growing up, his mentor, that he fell depressed. New at his job, he had to be reminded that as King, he could recall the Abbe if he wanted. So he did! And the sneaky tutor tattled on Madame de Prie and the Prince de Condé. They were both forced to leave Versailles and live in different places.

In a fashion as glamorous as times she lived in, Madame de Prie makes her exit. She spent lots of money on her new home, and threw lavish parties. She separated herself from her old circle, in a "You'll miss me when I'm gone, baby" way. She had a lover, who was rather handsome. Being expelled from Versailles takes it's toll on ladies and as a result, "she had grown so thin that she was nothing more than a woman's head on a spider's body." She ended her own life at 27, by poison which had a different effect on her than she probably planned. When she was found, her toes were all black and her friend d'Argenson said,
"Here for those who give heed to it, is food for reflection on compacts with the devil, who comes at the agreed hour to twist our necks, though with Madame de Prie it was her legs."
Madame de Prie was portrayed by the talented Charlotte Rampling in La Dernière fête aka The Fall of the Marquise de Prie, which happens to have a rather fabulous soundtrack. If you in Canada or the USA and don't mind playing region 2 DVD's on your computer I suggest you pick up the movie for a fun night in the 18th century.

November 19, 2008

18th Century Movie: Casting Call

If only there could be a movie of our favorite stars, playing our favorite historical personalities! Every now and then I have my own thoughts of who should play who and I have posted some of them here. Of course this movie would have to be all encompassing, with the best highlights of everyone's life, if possible, all interlaced in a Crash or Love Actually type way! 120 minutes of 18th century madness that leaves you on the edge of your seat for the whole ride. Complete with poufs, powder, silk, diamonds, music, politics, sex, affairs, parties and gossip! That sounds pretty fabulous to me. Here are some of my character thoughts.

I really think Alexander Pope has to grace this movie in some way. Even if it is just him lounging around translating texts. Adrien Brody is the perfect fit for this scholarly and thoughtful character- no pun intended, lost in thought half the time sparking with thoughts and ideas the other half!Samantha Morton is the only actress fit for the spicy Sally Salisbury! A character who is a bit rough on the edges but beautiful to look at and kind of hilarious to watch! And Morton is so very good at what she does, Sally's life would never be so fun without her!
Jacques Louis David, love him or hate him. You will love watching this artist work on his political brainstorming, crazed artistic sketching and take the lead mannerisms especially when he is portrayed by the oh-so-talented Johnny Depp.

This is the fun part!! I invite you to put together your own character thoughts, who do you want to see in this move and who will they portray! It will be so interesting to see who everyone picks! If you have been reading the guides for a while now you will know that there is a variety of tarts and ladies to choose from, and some men too! If you are just visiting I trust you have a favorite political or royal personality of your own! Leave a comment and let the casting begin!

Picture Hat a la 2008: A Hat for Spring

Little known fact: Heather and I have been known to dabble in the art of hat making ourselves. That is why when I came across this pretty pink piece, I just could not resist posting it!

This hat is called The Duchess because it is a creation inspired by Georgiana's picture hat. It is certainly something you might want to have for the 2009 race season or just for wearing to a promenade with your girl friends.

It is for sale at Vienna La Rouge's Etsy shop, which can be found here. Have you ever dabbled in the dangerous world of haberdashery??? I would love to see your recreation hats!

November 13, 2008

Femme of the Week: Madame Lucifer

Françoise-Marie de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Blois, duchesse d'Orleans, by François de Troy. 1692, oil on canvas. Salles les princesses royales, Salles du XVII, Aile du Nord- Chateau de Versailles.

Illegitimate daughter of famous mistress Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, marquise de Montespan and Louis XIV, Françoise-Marie de Bourbon was born May 4, 1677. She was raised away from 'home' - that is, not at Versailles with mom and dad. She was a beautiful little girl and her beauty only grew as she did.

Her mother's good standing with the king diminished when the affaire des poisons became big news, however Françoise-Marie was not affected. Louis XIV gave the four year old the title of Mademoiselle de Blois and had plans for her to marry. There are always special plans for marriage! In her case, she was arraigned to marry his nephew the duc de Chartres who would later become the duc d'Orleans. I suppose the 'second scandal' of her life could be considered here. The first being she was an illegitimate child of the king. tsk tsk. Now this illegitimate daughter was to marry a very legitimate grandson of Louis XIII. This did not settle well with the future mother-in-law. To persuade the future father-in-law, the duc d'Orleans, the king gave his brother bribes, and he consented without an issue.
Detail of Françoise-Marie de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Blois, duchesse d'Orleans, by François de Troy. 1692, oil on canvas. Salles les princesses royales, Salles du XVII, Aile du Nord- Chateau de Versailles. Photograph by Robert Polidori.

They had a splendid wedding in the chapel at Versailles in February, 1692. Françoise-Marie was 14 years at the time, and old enough to feel a bit pessimistic about the arrangement, reportedly saying, "I don't care if he loves me; just as long as he marries me." You can be as pessimistic as you want but it was not hard to see the benefit of this marriage.

She was a Granddaughter of France once a wife, making her the most important of the illegitimate kids. When she was 33 her husband became the duc d'Orleans, and the two lived well-well pampered. In 1715 her father died, and her 5 year old nephew Louis XV was king. Her husband took charge of the country for the boy king and thus throughout the la Régence Françoise-Marie was perhaps the most important lady at court.

She spent money. And why not! Her husband was no better. Together they had seven surviving children but they were not happy together. The duc had many other mistresses and even had his own handful of illegitimate children. His mother never accepted her daughter-in-law, as her memoirs mention, "all the femmes de chambre have made her believe that she did my son honour in marrying him; and she is so vain of her own birth and that of her brothers and sisters that she will not hear a word said against them; she will not see any difference between legitimate and illegitimate children"

So what makes this vibrant beauty, married to one of France's top men, bore him sons and was favoured by her father Madame Lucifer? Well, like all daughters of famous mistresses, Françoise-Marie had a little bit of a temper. She had the personality for it, proud and maybe a bit pompous - um..her dad was Louis XIV after all! Her darling husband once openly disapproved of her heated episodes and called her Madame Lucifer. Befitting for a hot-tempered beauty, no?

November 05, 2008

Ladies Please Take a Seat

I remember my first visit to the Louvre, my travel mates and I all split up and went our different ways. I passed through the Napoleon apartments and other period rooms and hurried on to make sure I could see all my portraits and favorite artists. Around noon I decided that I would make my way back to the decorative art section. Like stepping into a good movie or well written book, (when you do not need to use your imagination) I found the atmosphere instantly overwhelming. There really is too much for the eyes, a total I-Max theatre experience. Maybe Only for a drooling historian of space. This is the reason I am delighted with museums a la Frick. In any case, most likely unbeknownst to my companions, unless I blurted it out, I - in that one day- I visited the apartments and decorative arts section 3 times. *looks away and holds up fan*

So a sucker for the mundane world of objects d'art here we have our first post on, Chairs. Please don't run away now! It gets interesting! Let me try anyway....

When I refer 18th century French furniture I will be discussing 6 main styles which do overlap each other and have funny dates. They are Régence, Louis XV, Transition, Louis XVI, Directoire and Empire.

When the 18th century began, fashionable homes and palaces were filled with chairs that were high backed and very throne-like. They were heavy, stocky and were usually lined up against walls, enhancing their appearance as a solid piece of the room.

Furniture styles changed in accordance to changes in fashion, believe it or not. Look at womens dress for exaple. A lady who has both wit and taste arrives to the party dressed in the latest court gown, complete with those sexy new paniers. Not only does she look great, super slim and very classy, she is wearing the cutest new little blue shoes to match. The walk from her sedan chair to the party has exhausted her and her little feet are not too happy either. So she goes to sit in the first chair available, convienctly near a particualrly handsome duke. But oh no! the decor of the room is outdated! The chairs have arms which extend forward above the front legs of the chairs! She can't sit and the duke gets up and leaves and our poor lady is left standing on moaning feet and without charming company. The old style just would not do! In fact a diarist had noted, "the act of sitting down pushes the whale bones out in such a manner that armchairs have had to be specially made to accommodate them." 1728

How were the chairs changed when fashion demanded? Well to start, the arms of the chair had to go! Well not totally... Typically they followed the frame of the chair and extended to above the front legs. But paniers ladies! That just would not do. Instead the arms were shortened so that they did not extend as far as the front legs. Another demand was comfort and so the legs of the chair were shortened as well as the backs. Much more low key, yet fashionable and classy. Curves were in. The short curving arms of the chair and low back made it very comfy for men and ladies to rest their shoulders on, and most importantly, they would not mess up their hair!!!!

If that is not proof of fashion altering furniture, then I do not know what is! Are you kinda, possibly, slightly interested in reading more? I am not going to overwhelm you with details just yet, but if you are willing to wait for them, I have done my job! More to come in the future. Til then please lounge in your favorite chair patiently!

November 03, 2008

Birthday Give Away

My lovely assistant has helped me by drawing the name of a lucky commenter out of a fabulous recreation of an 18th century hat. So if the lucky Katie T would kindly contact me at MarieAntoinetteGossip@gmail.com, you will receive your Birthday Give Away prizeee!! Hurrah!
So congrats Katie T on the first Gossip Guide Give Away!

November 01, 2008

Marie Antoinette's Birthday

Today is the day, 2 November 1755, that lovely Marie Antoinette was born. She was the youngest girl of 14. When Maria Theresa went into labor she was working, and had to put her work down for a bit while Antoinette was born! The birth was so easy it reminds me of the unnatural manner Scarlett O'Hara had her children (way too easy!)