They're off in Saratoga! Hats off That is.... | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: They're off in Saratoga! Hats off That is....

August 03, 2008

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!)


  1. Ah hats, how I do love them. The larger the better! 'Tis necessary to balance out my rather puffy hair.

    I have never been to the races myself, though I do love watching the Ascot section in My Fair Lady, does that count?

    That Vivien Leigh photo is positively killing me with it's gorgeousness. Any ideas which film it's from? I'm guessing That Hamilton Woman...

  2. You will have to go to the races at some point just for the experience! and yes it is the movie That Hamilton Woman! <3 Vivien

  3. Women and hats! Ach du Lieber Herrgott, my wife's hats often cost more than her frocks... but I confess that I am easily bewitched by a lady in a beautiful hat with flouncy feathers and innocent bows!