04.10Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: 04.10

April 28, 2010

Marie Antoinette: adoption?

Marie Antoinette adored children, and was often surrounded by them.  I think it is safe to say this for two reasons, she grew up with many siblings and enjoyed the company once at Versailles (because she was so young herself), and also due to the fact that she could not/was not having children of her own in the years to follow. 

Around the time when her sister in law the Comtesse d'Artois had a child, Antoinette took part (size of part to be disputed) in raising a peasant boy.  The story is told by many, and even discussed in popular fiction books on the Queen.  One book, which reader Marika has pointed out to me, The Queen's Confession, discusses the topic of Antoinette and her adopted peasant boy.

As the story goes (embellishments accepted): She was riding in the carriage and by an accident, a peasant boy fell under the hooves of the horses.  Marie Antoinette was naturally very concerned, and had him brought to Versailles where he was taken care of by a nurse. After he was fully recovered from the dramatic accident, he was schooled, room and board on the crown.  Ironically, years later this boy was said to grow up and become a dangerous revolutionary, very anti Marie Antoinette and her family.

I can not speak for the story being accurate.  It is very possible it has been enhanced for effect over the years (undoubtedly so!).  However, the fact that she took in a young boy is confirmed in a letter written by the Comte de Mercy dated September 17, 1776 in which he writes that "the boy is neither turbulent nor troublesome." His role was not big in Marie Antoinette's life, as her daughter was born two years later.

April 24, 2010

Out of the Salon

I am off traveling with my dear companion Heather, as well as a very good friend of ours from Nova Scotia.  I will, of course, be posting updates of the trip and sights on Twitter.  Do join in on the conversation on Twitter for the next few days.  I hope everyone is having a lovely weekend!

April 23, 2010

Promenade in Style

Spring time was a great time to head to the promenade in the 18th century.  There were promenades such as the Promenade de Longchamps in France and the famous Ranelagh Gardens in England.   Ladies of society would wear their finest walking gowns and new hats, to be seen and discussed.  A famous portrait by Gainsborough depicts non other than the Duchess of Devonshire herself walking along the Mall in St. James's Park with pup in tow, alongside (probably) her fashionable sister.

Here are a collection of images from promenades in the 18th century.  Artist have chosen to portray them in many different ways.  I have included the titles given to them so you may better see just what the artist was trying to share with us!  Maybe you will be inspired by the images to take a fashionable walk out in public this week! 

Paul Sandby, The Promenade in the Park. 1751, Etching. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.


Claude-Joseph Vernet, City and Port of Toulon. 1756, painting.  Musée du Louvre.



Louis-Philibert Debucourt, The Public Promenade. 1792, Etching, engraving, and aquatint printed in color. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Thomas Rowlandson, The Promenade. 18th-19th century, watercolor. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Bonnefoy, F. Jacques., La Promenade Incroyable. 1799, stipple engravings. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

April 21, 2010

Louis Moment: Lines From the Will of Louis XVI

"Not being able to obtain the services of a Catholic Priest, I pray God to receive the confession I have made to Him, and above all my profound repentance for having signed my name (although it was against my will) to acts which might be contrary to the discipline and the faith of the Catholic Church, to which I have ever remained sincerely united at heart."
Louis XVI

April 19, 2010

Robespierre: Defense of Terrorism

“If virtue be the spring of a popular government in times of peace, the spring of that government during a revolution is virtue combined with terror: terror, without which virtue is destructive; virtue, without which terror is impotent.

Terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue; it is less a distinct principle than a natural consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing wants of the country. The government in a revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny.”

From an Address to the Convention, 5 February 1794

April 16, 2010

For your château? Chocolate Pot and Warmer

Chocolate Pot and warmer, The Young Moor's Head Factory, 1761-69. Tin-enameled earthenware. 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Perhaps each morning you would like to be served chocolate in bed, you know, just to get you a bit energized for the day or at least for your toilette.   This pot is made of clay, fired then glazed with a special glaze that would conceal any clay-colored flaws.  The result is a perfect piece, hand painted with a floral and feathery motif.  The colors are soft and would surely brighten any morning.  Would you select this piece for your château?

April 14, 2010

Excerpt: Louis XVI to Cardinal Rohan

"That is not the Queen's writing or the Queen's signature. How could a prince of the house of Rohan, a Grand Almoner, have imagined that the Queen signed 'Marie Antoinette of France'? Everybody knows that queens sign only with their baptismal names."

Saint-Amend, Imbert de. Marie Antoinette and the End of the Old Regime. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1896.

April 12, 2010

A little Monday Dior

Here is some inspired fashion to start your week off. Be inspired, get creative and have a little 18th century flair in your wardrobe this week. Why not?



Click here for the full collection!

April 11, 2010

Marie Antoinette Inspired: Cake

Anabel, from Trianon de la Reina, has just pointed out a Marie Antoinette inspired cake, and as you know, anything inspired by the brilliance of the 18th century is ok in my book!

Layers of cake, flowers and ribbon make up the five tower cake by Cake Coquette. (They have a great gallery of their cakes you can browse through.)

Check out the images and accompanying blog post on it.

What do you think? Would Antoinette approve of such a cake? Is anything missing? Anything out of place?

April 07, 2010

Fatal Friendship?

"History must have a sinister curiosity in ascertaining the first impression made on Madame Roland by the man who, warmed at her hearth, and then conspiring with her, was one day to overthrow the power of his friends, immolate them en masse and send her to the scaffold."

Alphonse de Lamartine on Mdm Roland & Robespierre. History of the Girondists

April 05, 2010

Art du Jour! The Milkmaid

 Greuze, Jean-Baptiste.  The Milkmaid. Before 1784, oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre.

April 02, 2010

Outside of Versailles: Bread

The second half of the eighteenth century had its share in price spikes but the sharpest occurred between 1788 and 1789.  The cost of a 4lb loaf rose from about 4 sous to 14 sous*.  To many this was just not manageable, especially when rents were rising at the same time.  Why was everything rising so quickly?

Poor harvest, sure, but not poor enough to create famine.  The cost of bread rose when the harvest was less than stellar but more effective to this spike were the past harvest and anticipated fears of the future harvest.  With the earlier harvest producing so low, there was less corn to buy for seed and subsequently less available to sell.  The fear of another poor year was enough to create a paranoia about food supply. This had an impact on prices.  Prices were this high in most city centers, not only Paris.

"The crowd, besieging every baker's shop, received a parsimonious distribution of bread, always with warnings about possible shortages next day."

There was a general feeling of anxiety with France's political environment. With the rising cost of corn, the cost of a loaf rose.  With the increased price of bread came a decrease in 'pleasure spending'.  That decrease led to less jobs, and now we have poorer populations without steady work and not enough sous for the pricey bread.

On top of that, there had been a disastrous silk harvest previously, and a significant drop in wine prices.  These merchants were left in an unfortunate financial state.  To further the misery of the French, livestock populations had taken a dive after epidemics that killed the animals off.  Could it be worse?

*in Paris