Jeanne de La Motte-Valois

The Characters #1: Jeanne de La Motte-Valois de St Remy (July 1756 – August 1791)

jeanne-de-la-motteJeanne 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

Marie Antoinette’s silver boudoir at Château de Fontainebleau

Located between the chambers of the Queen and the King on the lower level of the château de Fontainebleau is one of Marie-Antoinette’s private boudoirs commissioned by Louis XVI…

Source: Marie Antoinette’s silver boudoir at Château de Fontainebleau

Marie Antoinette’s Last Letter

5502This is the letter Marie-Antoinette Queen of France wrote to her sister-in-law Madame Elisabeth a few hours before her execution. (Letter translated from French to English by Charles Duke Yonge)

16th October, 4:30am

It is to you, my sister, that I write for the last time. I have just been condemned, not to a shameful death, for such is only for criminals, but to go and rejoin your brother. Innocent like him, I hope to show the same firmness in my last moments. I am calm, as one is when one’s conscience reproaches one with nothing. I feel profound sorrow in leaving my poor children: you know that I only lived for them and for you, my good and tender sister. You who out of love have sacrificed everything to be with us, in what a position do I leave you! I have learned from the proceedings at my trial that my…

Source: Marie Antoinette’s Last Letter

Was The Dark Countess Really Marie Therese Of France? | History And Other Thoughts

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…

via Was The Dark Countess Really Marie Therese Of France? | History And Other Thoughts.

Marie Antoinette’s Adopted Children | History And Other Thoughts

Originally posted on History And Other Thoughts.

Marie Antoinette loved children. She couldn’t wait to have a bunch of her own, and the lack of intimacy, and therefore children, in her marriage must have been very hard for her to bear. But she found other ways to be a “mother”. When she first arrived at Versailles, she often asked her ladies-in-waiting to bring their children with them. The 15-year-old dauphine grew particularly close to a 5-year-old boy and his 12-year-old sister, the children of Madame de Misery, chief femme de chambre.

The children, and Marie Antoinette’s pets, livened up her apartments and life. They played noisy games, breaking furniture and tearing clothes in the mayhem. Not everyone was a fan. Count Mercy, the Austrian ambassador at the French court certainly wasn’t. He believed Marie Antoinette should occupy herself with more important and seemly matters. Never mind that Marie Antoinette was still a child herself, and one whose education had been seriously neglected and who now found herself out of her depth when talking to most adults at court. No wonder she enjoyed the company of children more, but their fun and games were eventually put an end to.

A few years later, she decided to adopt less fortunate children. The first was called…

via Marie Antoinette’s Adopted Children | History And Other Thoughts.

Marie Antoinette: An Intimate History | Madame Guillotine

Originally posted on Madame Guillotine

Marie Antoinette

I’m so sorry about taking a month off from my blog but I hope you’ll all forgive me when I reveal that the reason for my absence was a brand new book about Marie Antoinette, based on decades of pretty obsessive research (both primary and secondary) and thoughts and questions from all of you.

A couple of years ago I threatened my poor, unfortunate blog readers with a light-hearted ‘pulp’ biography of Marie Antoinette, which at the time I intended to call ‘Teen Queen to Madame Guillotine’. However, other projects intervened and my plan was temporarily shelved as I worked on my historical fiction instead. I couldn’t stay away forever though as although my blog covers all sorts of different periods and people, Marie Antoinette is a subject that I often return to and one that I have always really enjoyed writing about as evidenced by the fact that my university dissertation was on the topic of different representations of her both before and after the revolution.

This book was originally intended as an extremely short biography (longer than a pamphlet but shorter than a novella) giving a basic précis of the doomed Queen’s life for readers who perhaps don’t know all that much about her (the better known biographies can be a bit impenetrable to beginners) and maybe answering some of the most commonly asked questions about her along the way. I envisioned it as a sort of ‘beach read biography’ – in other words, an entertaining and not at all weighty read that could be dipped in and out of at leisure and didn’t require a massive background knowledge of the period to be enjoyed. I wanted to convey something of Marie Antoinette’s life and times without getting too bogged down in the politics of the era, although naturally they can’t help but intrude, especially from 1789 onwards.

However, as the project developed…

via Marie Antoinette: An Intimate History | Madame Guillotine

Marie Antoinette and the Petit Trianon – Madame Guillotine

The Petit Trianon is a sumptuous jewellery box of a house, tucked away in the Versailles park. Designed in 1762 by Ange-Jacques Gabriel and paid for by Louis XV, it was intended as a present for Madame de Pompadour – its elegant lines a perfect setting for her own delicate, exquisite beauty. Sadly, however, Madame de Pompadour died before her romantic Versailles hideaway, her maison de plaisance in fact, was completed and instead it ended up in the hands of her successor, Madame du Barry, who despite the lurid tales attached to her background, had some seriously good taste in art and furnishings going on.

However, the Trianon’s most celebrated owner is of course Marie Antoinette and it is to her memory that the building is dedicated today, which is tough cheese for its other famous female inhabitants over the years, which range from Pauline Bonaparte to the Empress Eugènie, who was obsessed with Marie Antoinette and had the Petit Trianon restored to…

via Marie Antoinette and the Petit Trianon – Madame Guillotine.

Yellow and Purple, or A Plate of Figs

SCRATCH POST

Links are a lazy way of making a point, finding degrees of affinity or underlying meaning in coincidences are a substitute for profound originality.

This shamelessly shallow post presents a colour-coded association between the excessive frivolity of the ancien regime and the socialist conscience of modern feminism, between Marie Antoinette’s favourite dress shop and the intellectual salon of Simone de Beauvoir, both in Paris, two centuries apart.

In the 1770s and 1780s, Rose Bertin’s shop on the rue Saint-Honoré was decorated in yellow and purple, including the painted imitation marble at the front entrance.

From the late 1950s to 1980s, Simone de Beauvoir furnished her Paris studio with yellow sofas and chairs on a purple carpet.

This leap-frogging post might be silly, but it is not ironic. By serendipity, after lunch on a hot June day, it has landed on a revelation of women’s history through colour association.

yellow and purpleContemporary purple…

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The Leveller

SCRATCH POST

MarieAntoinetteBM Jean-Francois Janinet, Marie Antoinette, a print after Jean-Baptiste-André Gautier-Dagoty France, 1777 © The Trustees of the British Museum

Nothing becomes a rich person so ill as telling a poor one that money can’t buy happiness, but I sympathize with them that it doesn’t always buy beauty or good taste.  Looking at the clothes in Harvey Nichols the other day, for the first time in seven years, I have never seen so much I didn’t want.* It is consoling to know that you can dress just as sluttily or frumpily from the local mall as you can from Knightsbridge.

But where is exquisite wearable art to be found in London today if it’s not in “premier luxury retail”? It doesn’t matter that the prices are out of my reach – the famous department stores have the power to inspire us all by showcasing the best, not dumb fashion down. Capitalism is…

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