…Versailles had all the pomp and pageantry of power. The Court was composed of some 18,000 people, perhaps 16,000 of whom were attached to personal service of the King [Louis XVI] and his family with some 2,000 being courtiers, the favored guests – nobles engaged in a daily round of pleasures who were also feathering their nests seeking favors from …
The Characters #1: Jeanne de La Motte-Valois de St Remy (July 1756 – August 1791)
Jeanne de Valois de St Remy was born in the provinces, near the town of Bar-Sur-Aube, France. Her family were impoverished nobility, living in the ramshackle Chateau de Fontette. One of her ancestors, Henri de Saint-Remy, was born in 1557, the illegitimate son of Henri II of France. His descendants were given the surname “Saint-Remy” and this Henri was made Baron of Fontette. Several generations later, the family was in dire financial straits. They had kept themselves alive through a tradition of military service, but Jeanne’s father did not carry on this tradition. He married one of the maids as the family fortunes sank even lower. Jeanne had an older brother, a younger sister who died as a young child, and a sister who was near her age. Her family ended up walking to Paris to try to make their way with only a paper outlining their pedigree. The father died, the mother abandoned her children, and Jeanne and her brother were forced to…
Source: Jeanne de La Motte-Valois
Originally posted on History And Other Thoughts.
In 1807, a mysterious couple arrived in Hildburghausen, Germany. The young, blonde-haired woman always wore a veil to cover her face. Her companion, an older man, had an aristocratic air, and acted as her protector. His name, the one scribbled on the letters he received, was Count Vavel de Versay. He was later identified as Dutch diplomat Leonardus Cornelius van der Valck. The woman had no name. Only after her death, the Count referred to her as “Sophie Batta”, a “poor orphan”. But her true identity still remains a mystery.
The young woman was soon nicknamed the Dark Countess by the townsfolk. Rumours started spreading that the poor orphan was none other than Marie Therese of France, daughter of the unfortunate Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and the only member of her immediate family to have survived the revolution. According to this theory, the young princess had been raped and impregnated while in prison, and so was sent to the small German town, while her place next to her uncle, Louis XVIII was taken by her “half-sister” Ernestine, the illegitimate daughter of Louis XVI.
What made people think that the Dark Countess and Marie Therese were the same person? For starters, the couple were heard talking in French. Servants at the castle they resided at claimed her laundry was embroidered with…
or, Behind the Rococo Clock Face
detail of Boucher’s 1756 portrait of Madame de Pompadour
Among the learned books in Madame de Pompadour’s library, there was a unique volume about the rivers of France which had been written, and some of it printed, many years before by a diligent and inquisitive eight year old boy, based on his lessons in geography and typography.
Louis XV’s Cours des principaux fleuves et rivières de l’Europe (Courses of the Principal Rivers and Streams of Europe), written in 1718, which the adult man gave to his mistress as a token of the conscientious king that the playboy of Versailles had once wanted to be, survives in the Bibliothèque nationale.
The little print shop, which was built for Louis XV in the Tuileries nearly sixty-five years before Marie Antoinette’s fantasy-farm was installed at Le Petit Trianon, had a serious educative purpose to instill…
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