Archive | January, 2013

Guilty Pleasure: 19th Century Paper Dolls

17 Jan

I was browsing around on the internet today when I discovered this AMAZINGLY AWESOME blog that is dedicated to 19th century paper dolls. What could be better?! The blog has tons of free downloads and printables, great for young children and they would make awesome pieces of artwork for you home, don’t you think? I personally think I might print a few and make a framed collage for my guest bathroom!

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Secret Memoirs From The Court Of Versailles: Free Downloads

10 Jan

As always, I’m reading more than one book at once. Having just finished Caroline Weber’s extraordinary book Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution, I’ve felt compelled to also read some of the memoirs and first hand accounts of those who knew the King and Queen and witnessed the grandeur of the Ancien Regime and it’s fall from grace.

I’ve decided to compile a list of free, downloadable Memoirs and accounts written by those who lived the events of the old monarchy and the revolution.

I am currently reading the Memoirs of Madame Campan (Jeanne-Louise-Henriette Campan) who was a lady-in-waiting to the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette. She had been in service at Versailles long before the Archduchess of Austria arrived and had cared for the young princesses and the dauphin before his marriage to Marie Antoinette. She was loyal to both the King and Queen and from her position, was able to garner much information about their characters and their ill fate. Though she notes that they did not always make the right decisions, they also, she says, did not deserve their terrible fate. Though she was unable to accompany them in prison at Verrenes and The Temple, she remained in contact with the Queen through correspondence. After the Revolution, Madame Campan opened a boarding school where she would later teach the two sisters of Napoleon. She died in France in 1822. If you’re interested in reading her memoirs, you can download a free copy here.

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{Madame Campan}

One of Marie Antoinette’s ‘favorites’ the Princess De Lamballe also wrote private memoirs though she did not publish them during her lifetime. Marie Thérèse Louise de Savoie-Carignan, the Princesse de Lamballe, was a very close friend of the Queen and during the revolution,was married to the Duke de Lamballe, an illegitimate grandson of King Louis XIV who also happened to be one of the wealthiest men in France. But her husband soon died only a year after their marriage, leaving the Princess De Lamballe a widow of only 19. She met Marie Antoinette at court and they soon became fast friends, being around the same age and both enjoying the power and wealth at their disposal. She was a loyal friend to the Queen and part of the Queen’s inner circle at the Petite Trianon.

But during the Revolution, the Princess de Lamballe became the subject of much hatred and resentment by France’s Third Estate (the common people) both for her luxurious spending habits and propaganda-fueled allegations of secret lesbian trysts with the Queen. She initially escaped to England but returned when Marie Antoinette and her family were forced backed to Paris after a botched escape to the safety of Austria. The Princess de Lamballe was imprisoned and later seized by an angry mob who, during the September Massacre, killed the princess and impaled her head on a pike. They brought her severed head to the window of Marie Antoinette who was herself imprisoned in The Temple in Paris, and grotesquely taunted the Queen with the Princess’s decapitated head. Her journals and letters later made it into publication and you can download a free copy of them here, from archive.org.

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{a comparison of images of the Princess de Lamballe: an 18th century portrait of the princess and an image from the film Marie Antoinette by Sofia Coppola}

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{Above: Anita Louise as the Princess de Lamballe in the 1930’s version of Marie Antoinette starring Norma Shear}

Another of the Queen’s favorites was the Duchess de Polignac (Yolande Martine Gabrielle de Polastron) who was given her title of ‘Duchess’ by the Queen as one of the many favors bestowed upon this royal ‘favorite’. She would later become the governess of Marie Antoinette’s children. She was introduced at court about a year after Marie Antoinette was made Queen of France and she quickly fell in step with Marie Antoinette and the Princess de Lamballe. Polignac had a penchant for indulgence as did the Queen and she soon became a regular at Le Petite Tianon. With the onset of the Revolution, the Duchess de Polignac went into exile abroad though she still continued to write to the Queen. It has been noted that although she survived the Revolution, she later ‘died of sorrow’ as her epitaph reads, at the death of her beloved friend and their fall from grace.

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Another account from the Revolution comes form the daughter of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, Marie Therese (also known as Madame Royal). Her memoirs provide a detailed account of what life was like for her and her imprisoned royal family during the revolution. She was the only member of the immediate royal family to survive the revolution. She remained imprisoned in The Temple after the deaths of her parents and was only released when she was traded for a group of hostage French soldiers. Madame Royal, unlike her younger brother the Dauphin, was not viewed as a threat to the new Republic since it was only sons who could inherit the French throne. The young Dauphin was ruthlessly tortured by his guards and he died in prison, half mad, at the age of 10. Marie Therese later married her first cousin but had no children. You can read or download a free copy of her memoirs here.

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{Marie Therese: Madame Royal, daughter of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI}

The Many Fashions Of Marie Antoinette: Queen Of France

6 Jan

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Marie Antoinette’s fate, as historian Caroline Weber argues, was fully entwined with that of her fashion choices and what they came to represent in the eyes of the French people. In the Ancien Regime, fashion signified position just as much as a title and so it came to be that when Marie Antoinette began the process of gradually removing herself from the prying eyes of courtiers and public alike at Versailles, she changed the very fundamentals of fashion and what it meant to be a ruler of France. The heavily brocaded and jewel encrusted silk and satin gowns that for centuries had come to represent the highest level of power and preference of the ruling elite began to vanish under the reign of Marie Antoinette who revolutionized the fashion world with less restrictive and (less caste distinctive) gowns. For those among the queen’s inner circle of ‘favorites’, Marie Antoinette fashions were fun and delightful and put them at the forefront of the fashionable world but for those excluded from her clique, (most notably, those of the court of Versailles whose titles and positions had, for generations, given them full accessibility to their monarchs) these new fashions represented her true ‘Austrian’ nature, separating her even further from the French people.

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{Maire Antoinette picture above wearing the traditional robe a la francaise}

When she was given the gift of Le Petite Trianon by her husband Louis, in the eyes of the public, it was a sign that Marie Antoinette was gaining power over the king. At Le Petite Trianon, all orders and ‘rules’ were made ‘by decree of the Queen’, furthering the image that it was the queen, and not Louis, who really ruled over France. Because the queen only allowed a select number of people onto her property at Le Petite Trianon, courtiers and the public alike began to speculate about the goings-on at the queen’s private retreat and it wasn’t long before rumors of Marie Antoinette “German Vice” (an 18th century term for lesbianism) ran rampant across the French papers.

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{the Grand Habit}

The public was enraged that they were being denied their right of ‘constant access’ to their Queen and the young dauphine, Marie Therese, who remained hidden away at Le Petite Trianon from the eyes of the public. The right to look in upon and observe the royal family had been in place for hundreds of years and Marie Antoinette’s defiance only furthered the public’s suspicious and poor opinion of her. When Marie Antoinette had first arrived at Versailles, she raged an all out war against the restrictive corps or stays, required to be worn by her at the palace. Now her retreat to Trianon brought back these bad memories and put a sour taste in the mouths of both France’s elite and lower classes.

Throughout her reign, Marie Antoinette sought to gain and identify her power and place in court by her choice of fashion ensembles. In the beginning, it was her war against stays and then once embraced, it was her extravagant spending on new gowns, ribbons, lace and the constant changing of gowns. It was reported by some that the women wishing to imitate the fashions of the queen, nearly went broke doing so. Her robe a la francaise ensembles became the most extravagant by far and her Grand Habitit was like a work of art. To keep up with her fashion appetite, the queen employed the services of master dress maker, Rose Bertin. She soon became the most sought after milliner in all of France and gained unprecedented access to the queen herself, inciting even more jealousy amongst Marie Antoinette’s courtiers who felt it was their right and theirs alone to assist in the dressing of their queen.

During her days at Le Petit Trianon, the queen and Bertin collaborated to design the gualle, a loose-fitting muslin dress inspired by the colonists of the Caribbean who could no longer wear the traditional silks in the humid Caribbean heat. The dress was flowy and soft and held its shape with a ribbon worn around the waste. It was accompanied by ribbons worn about the elbows where the sleeves ended in soft, feminine ruffles. The hairstyles commonly worn at Le Petit Trianon were loose and ‘natural’ in a reflection of Rousseau’s ideals of going back to ‘the simple life’. Sometimes they were accompanied by light, white bonnets or straw hats.

{Below: Examples of the gaulle shown in portraits of Marie Antoinette, her friends, and the Caribbean colonists. Also included, is an image from the Sophie Coppola film Marie Antoinette}

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 This fashion was seen as scandalous because not only did it represent the queen’s further dismissal of the proper fashions worn by the ruling elite of her title, but it also seemed to insinuate the ‘loose morals’ that ran rampant at the Trianon.

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{Pictured above: Rose Bertin, Milliner to the Queen}

Also added to the queen’s growing fashion statements, was the robe a la polonaise which was a much more simplified version of the traditional robe a la francaise. The new gown had a shorter hemline that revealed the wearer’s ankles and allowed for easier walks about the countryside without being encumbered by heavy billowing and trailing skirts. This new style was also seen as a form of revolution to the outside spectator grew increasingly weary of the queen’s straying from traditions.

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Another of the queen’s more shocking fashion statements was when she began to don the masculine riding clothes called ‘Redingotes’ traditionally worn by men and British horse-backers in the hunt. She became known as ‘the cross-dressing queen’ for her apparent ‘thievery’ of traditional men’s dress, furthering the idea that she was bringing her Austrian ways to the court of France and emasculating its men. Marie Antoinette was viewed as a danger to the French ways not only in her choice of friends and her outrageous spending, but also in the way that she chose to represent herself in her clothing choices.

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Cosmo: 18th Century Style

3 Jan

I was browsing around the web this morning when I came across this tres hilarious faux Cosmopolitan cover for an 18th century issue.

Just what were the topics on the mind of the modern woman of the 1700’s?

Well ladies, be sure that you’re keeping those ankles slim, least your skirts accidentally reveal those scandalous appendages! And how about hair powder for your wig? Did you choose the right color? Let’s not even start on that saucy minx Ben Franklin, he’s been all the rage in Europe since he arrived in King Louis’ court donning his famous raccoon hat!

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As the cover of this ‘magazine’ shows, sexuality in the 18th century was all about the demure allure as opposed to the overtly forward. Dating was still a game, as much as it is now, only the rules were a little bit different.

What do you think of the cover? Have any headlines you’d like to add?

The 7-Year Engagement: The Georgian Romance Of Robert & Elizabeth Parker

2 Jan

In the 18th century, marriages were formed on the basis of the ‘happiness’ of multiple parties. Though arranged marriages were not as common as they were in the centuries before, love still did not take center stage (despite some of the more romantic novels of the period that paint a different picture). A marriage was a formal affair, requiring the blessings of the parents, the extended family and friends and finally, the couple themselves. Once ‘out in society’ a young man or woman was able to explore their possibility of partners, conversing with members of the opposite sex in order to determine if a courtship would come next. These flirtations were almost always supervised as it could be perceived as a lack of virtue for an unmarried woman to be alone in the company of unmarried men.

One particular courtship that became something more of an odyssey, was that of Robert Parker and Elizabeth Parker, two middle class (or genteel) people who waited 7 long years to say I do! Now a 7 year courtship in our time might be a bit too long for most couples but its not that odd considering that it’s perfectly acceptable to move in with someone or date them steadily for years before a proposal is even brought about. But back in the 18th century, men and women did not date like they do today so their meetings or courtships, consisted mostly of supervised visits with the family or a few stolen private moments. We know about the courtship between Robert and Elizabeth from the ‘love’ letters they left behind which spanned the years of the mid 1700’s where, it seems, Robert desperately tries to persuade Elizabeth to speak to her father on his behalf. Elizabeth’s father was never fond of Robert, though why that was exactly, is not completely clear though it seems that he mainly disapproved of Robert’s limited wealth and social position. One person who staunchly dissolved of Robert Parker was Elizabeth’s aunt Ann Pellet who made sure, on multiple occasions, to remind her niece about her opinion of her suitor. Ann was confident that Elizabeth could find a better husband than Robert but several seasons spent out in society did little to change Elizabeth’s mind.

elizabeth parker{Elizabeth Parker, pictured above}

So why did it take Elizabeth so long to convince her father to allow her to marry Mr.Parker?

Historian Amanda Vickery has several different theories, but the main one seems to be that Elizabeth, as a woman, struggled with the pull between a duty to appease her father’s hopes for her while also following her own heart. A poorly chosen or got marriage (i.e. elopement) could cause a serious rift between family and finances (as well as her virtue) and then there was the other side of things: divorce was not easily granted. Many women of the 18th century felt the impending weight that the bonds of marriage placed upon them once the marriage contract was set up and they said ‘I do’. Even the most head-over-heels in love woman could still have her doubts about her choice and its easy to see why since these women, in most cases, were truly bound to their husbands ‘until death do us part.’

Courtship was the golden age of romance for most women, a time when the could sit back and allow the men to woo and flatter them, for once, they had a choice and they held the power of judgement.

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Marriage was not something that could be jumped into without thought or care since the consequences often lasted a lifetime and a poor choice could lead to a lifetime of misery.

One 18th century woman Mary Warde, wrote about her feelings of marriage and its finality:

No woman of understanding can marry without infinite apprehensions, such a step inconsiderately taken discovers a Levity and Temper that is always displeasing to a looker on…and if the woman has the good fortune to meet with a man that uses her well it is being happy so much by chance that she does not deserve it.”

As for Robert Parker, after seven long years of failed attempts, he finally broke through to both Elizabeth and her father when he mentioned the prospect of marrying another woman to Elizabeth in a letter. Whether this was true or a cleaver trick to make Elizabeth confront her father, it is not know but either way it seemed to have worked. Robert was finally granted another chance of proposition to Elizabeth’s father and a marriage contract was soon drawn. Ten days later, they were married.