Marie Antoinette’s White Hair

Pouf a la Belle Poule, Public Domain
Pouf a la Belle Poule. Public Domain.

Marie Antoinette’s hair was of intense interest to the French in the 18th century. In fact, the hairstyles she created and wore helped to establish her identity as a French queen. With the help of her hairdresser, Marie Antoinette created some of the most memorable styles, including one towering pouf that featured a French frigate, complete with masts and rigging, called Pouf a la Belle Poule. Eventually, however, the queen’s hair began falling out. Just as quickly as her towering pouf hairstyles had risen to extraordinary heights, short locks became all the rage when her hair was chopped off.

The Queen’s hair changed again after France found itself in the middle of a revolution. It was reported that suddenly the Queen’s strawberry blonde hair was white and that it became white practically over night. But the idea that a person’s hair can turn white over night, did not first happen to the French Queen. The first mention of someone’s hair turning white overnight was printed in the Talmud, where it was claimed that it happened to a 17-year-old Jewish scholar because of overwork. There were also apparently other cases of hair turning white over night, which were pointed out by one nineteenth-century doctor in the following description: Continue reading

Death of Ferdinand Philippe, Duke of Orléans

Death of Ferdinand Philippe, Duke of Orléans: Duke of Orléans
Duke of Orléans by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In July of 1842, a sad event occurred. It was the accidentally death of Ferdinand Philippe when he fell from his carriage. He was the son of King Louis Philippe I and Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily, and he was born in his mother’s native Sicily in Palermo, on Monday 3 September 1810, during his parents’ exile.

Ferdinand Philippe was originally given the title Duke of Chartres and for this reason affectionately called “Chartres” within the family circle. However, he had been baptized Ferdinand Philippe Louis Charles Henri, and most people knew him as Ferdinand Philippe in honor of his grandfathers, Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies and Philippe Égalité. In addition, as the oldest son, Ferdinand Philippe was heir to the title Duke of Orléans, which was the name he was usually referred to at the time of his death and the name that I will refer to him in this post. Continue reading

Removing the Dauphin From His Mother (Marie Antoinette)

Louis-Charles by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun in 1789
Louis-Charles at Age 4 Painted by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun in 1789. Public Domain.

After the royal family was imprisoned in the Temple, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette worried about their fate and worried that the Dauphin (Louis-Charles) might be taken from them. Louis-Charles was born 27 March 1785 at Versailles and was the second son of the King and Queen, but he became the Dauphin after his older brother died of tuberculosis. Louis-Charles was described by one historian as having large blue eyes, a mouth “like his mother’s, and … her bright colour of hair and skin.” He was said to be delicate in frame and excitable in temperament. He was also described in the following way

“[Louis-Charles was] courteous and affectionate, but impatient of control. His mother’s intelligent devotion earned from him, baby as he was, a love and respect which never failed to influence him.”

To ensure that Louis-Charles would not be taken, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette refused to let him be separated from them or go outdoors, even for a walk. Thus, his days at the Temple became routine and involved his father teaching him writing, history, mathematics, geography, and spelling until the Commune one day declared that the Dauphin could no longer study mathematics. It seems they thought that “this was a hieroglyphic language which might be used for correspondence in cipher.” Continue reading

Louis XVI’s Sibling: Madame Élisabeth

Madame Élisabeth in 1768, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Madame Élisabeth in 1768, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Known as Madame Élisabeth, Élisabeth Philippine Marie Hélène de France, was the youngest sibling of King Louis XVI. She was born on 3 May 1764 at the Palace of Versailles to Louis, Dauphin of France, and his wife, Marie-Josèphe of Saxony. However, her parents were both dead by the time she was two and she was reported to be in delicate health.

Madame Élisabeth had a sister who was five years older than her. Her name was Marie Clotilde, and she was born 23 September 1759. They developed a close relationship because both girls were given a royal education and shared time together. They became even closer when Marie Clotilde once insisted upon taking care of Élisabeth when she was ill. Thereafter, Élisabeth held a deep attachment for her older sister.

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Marie Antoinette and Donkey Riding

Marie Antoinette and Donkey Riding
Marie Antoinette, Author’s Collection

In my book, “Marie Antoinette’s Confidante,” one of the things I talk about is Marie Antoinette and donkey riding. It all began after Marie Antoinette arrived in France, became bored, and developed a strong desire to ride horses. Her mother, the Empress Maria Theresa, was an excellent horsewoman, and as Marie Antoinette’s new husband, the Dauphin and future Louis XVI, loved to hunt, Marie Antoinette thought that riding horses might be way to spend more time with him.

When Marie Antoinette voiced her desire to ride horses, she was immediately met with opposition. Among those opposing her riding horses was the Austrian diplomat named the Count of Mercy-Argenteau, but better known simply as Mercy. Mercy was the person who had cemented Marie Antoinette’s marriage to the Dauphin, and when he arrived in France with Marie Antoinette, Mercy found himself in a position of power. He could impress the Empress by revealing everything that Marie Antoinette was doing, thinking, or feeling, and then influence Marie Antoinette in the ways that her mother wanted. Continue reading

25 Interesting Facts about Princesse de Lamballe

Princesse de Lamballe
Princesse de Lamballe, Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France

Princesse de Lamballe was born in Turin, Italy, on 8 September 1749, the 251st day of the Gregorian calendar, which was a Monday. What many people remember about the Princesse is her beheading and the horrid way in which she died. However, there are many other interesting facts about the Princesse that you may or may not know, and I have selected twenty-five below:

  1. Princesse de Lamballe was a favorite of Marie Antoinette. In fact, because of their close relationship, Marie Antoinette revived a position known as Superintendent of the Household. One of the benefits of this position was the Princesse could determine who had access to the Queen.
  2. Freemasonry was one way the Princesse spent her free time. If you are interested in learning more about free masonry in France in the 1700s, click here. Continue reading

Marie Antoinette’s Daily Schedule

Marie Antoinette's daily schedule
Marie Antoinette Getting Her Hair Dressed, by Heinrich Losslow, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Court etiquette at Versailles was one of the most important factors in Marie Antoinette’s life. To get through a day meant the Queen had to adhere to excessive etiquette, regulations, and protocols, and these began from the moment she opened her eyes. Marie Antoinette disliked much of the pomp and circumstance associated with her position as Queen, and this was one reason why she often fled to her beloved Petit Trianon, a small homey palace given to her by Louis XVI shortly after he became King. At Petit Trianon, the Queen did not have to suffer the same strict etiquette applied at Versailles, and, in fact, she was often seen strolling through the gardens incognito, wearing a muslin dress and sporting a floppy hat.

To understand what a regular day at Versailles might entail and how etiquette ruled the Queen’s life, I have provided a daily schedule that Marie Antoinette might typically follow: Continue reading

A Disagreement Between Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

Disagreement Between Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette
Portraits of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in 1775, Public Domain

During the reign of King Louis XVI, many Frenchmen disliked the King’s wife, Marie Antoinette. In fact, they often blamed Marie Antoinette for coercing her husband into making unpopular decisions. While Louis XVI often agreed with her and allowed Marie Antoinette’s to give gifts and rewards to her favorites, he did not allow her to coerce or sway his decisions when it came to matters of state.

Illustrative of this is a disagreement that occurred between the couple and was reported by Scots Magazine in 1776 and follows almost verbatim: Continue reading

The Executioner’s Account of Louis XVI’s Execution

Executioner's Account of Louis XVI's Execution: Charles-Henri Sanson, Corrtesy of Wikipedia
Charles-Henri Sanson, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Louis XVI was executed on 21 January 1793. Three weeks after his execution, a revolutionary journal called Thermomètre du jour published an inaccurate account claiming the King was led to the scaffold with a pistol to his temple, the guillotine struck his neck instead of his head, and the King died without courage. Because the newspaper story was so inaccurate, the executioner’s account of Louis XVI’s execution was published.

Louis XVI’s executioner was Charles-Henri Sanson. Sanson’s reply to the editor of the Thermomètre du jour provided what Sanson called an “accurate” description of what happened. Sanson dated his account 20 February 1793, and here is that account almost verbatim. Continue reading

Art Theft of the Princesse de Lamballe Painting in the 1980s

Paintings of Princesse de Lamballe, Callet (left), Rioult (top right), and Le Brun (bottom left), Public Domain
Paintings of Princesse de Lamballe, Callet (left), Rioult (top right), and Le Brun (bottom left), Public Domain

Princesse de Lamballe, who was Marie Antoinette’s friend and her Superintendent of the Household, married the heir of the richest man in France. Because the princesse was royalty and because she was rich, many people were intrigued by her and many portraits were painted of her. One well-known painting that is currently displayed at Versailles was done by Antoine-François Callet in 1776. Another painting was painted by Louis-Édouard Rioult between 1780 and 1785 and appeared on a supplementary issue of Le Petit Journal in 1892. Another person who painted the princesse de Lamballe was one of Marie Antoinette’s favorite painters, Madame Le Brun. Yet, perhaps of all the paintings of the princesse, one particular painting bears mention because it was stolen in an art heist in the 1980s. Continue reading