How close we can Marie Antoinette | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: How close we can Marie Antoinette

May 09, 2011

How close we can Marie Antoinette

Campana, Ignace Jean Victor (1744 - 1786). A fine and important miniature of Queen Marie-Antoinette, c.1780-85, w/c on ivory. Private Collection.

In the scheme of things 200 years is not that long and sometimes I consider this...  This little story is just an example of how we are not so far removed from those 18th century days, when Marie Antoinette organized and attended parties, and everyone wore their best feathers for a night out.

"[F.J.W.] Roughton [a Fellow of Trinity] has a similar story from his schooldays. His father had been a G.P. in the Kettering area and had gone around his practice in a pony and trap, sometimes taking the young Roughton with him. 
On one such occasion (about 1906) they visited an old unmarried brother and sister. While Roughton senior was attending to the brother, the sister took young Roughton on one side and said she would tell him a story which he should try to remember.
Charles Eisen, Dance in a Ballroom. 1740s, pen and ink, brown wash and watercolors on paper. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England.
When she was young, she was taken to a dance and was asked to dance by an old man who told her that he used to be in the army and had served in France in his youth. Whilst in Paris he attended a grand ball at which he danced with Marie Antoinette.

Roughton’s visit must have been around 1906 and if the officer and the old lady had each reached 85 years of age, the dance could have taken place 130 years before i.e. around 1776. …two long lives take us back many years."

Paley Johnson celebrated his ninetieth birthday. Speech delivered on 15 July
2007, Trinity College Cambridge


  1. Isn't that just amazing? I'd love to have danced with Marie Antoinette!

  2. Katherine LouiseMay 10, 2011 at 8:56 AM

    A lovely story. This month, my local classical music station is playing music with a sense of place. This morning was a trumpet concerto written especially at the request of the Queen, to be played at a Feast at Versailles. I could just see her, in a gorgeous gown, laughing, dining, whispering with her friends.

  3. One of my husband's books I had read a number of years ago (The Moral Animal) had a similar tale. It was an old friend of the author who had been friends with an old sailor in his youth, who had recalled as a young man coming across a crowd who was gathering to see a man "broken on the wheel" as a method of execution. I think the event had taken place in the 1840s and was basically showing how we were only 2 or 3 full generations from total brutality.

  4. My father often tells me a story - His father, who was born in 1909, had an uncle born in 1850. This man had a daughter quite late in life. (this daughter lived between 1903 and 1990, and is therefore remembered by my whole family - except me, I was born six years after her death). Her grandfather, who also remarried with a younger woman, and had children late in life, was born in 1793, the year Marie Antoinette was executed. This means that most members of my family clearly remember a person whose grandfather lived at the same time as our favourite queen...

  5. Classic is classic. We are in the iPhone era but a door like Marie Antoinette is still a must have:

    This one is a limited edition of The Collector to Sige Gold.
    Now I just need a house like.... the Petit Trianon! :)