Tag Archives: Marie Antoinette

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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Currently Reading…The Duchess by Amanda Foreman

27 Feb

So yes, I’m reading two books at once which can be confusing except the the subjects of both (Marie Antoinette and Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire) are so similar that it makes the whole precess feel almost like reading one super awesome book. Really. The two famous women of the late 18th knew each other well and became close friends when Georgiana went to Paris and stayed with the Queen at Versailles.

Both women had married young and were around the same age. Both had experience with distant and rather emotionally frozen husbands and both had a deep love for fashion. Just as Marie Antoinette set the fashion world on fire in France, Georgiana was the fashion queen of England. Both women were hounded endlessly by the paparazzi of the day (the local papers) and criticized for their outlandish fashion statements.

Above, the Duchess of Devonshire is being mocked for her methods of political gain, shown kissing the butcher the gain his vote for The Whig Party. The Whigs were the political party endorsed by the Duchess and her Husband as well as their inner circle known as the ton.
Above, a scene of gambling which became infamously synonymous with the Devonshire house and their aristocratic friends. Georgiana had a known gambling problem and throughout her life, incurred large debts because of it.
This image above shows Marie Anotinette and her husband King Louis in a satire of her ‘barnyard life’. The queen was outwardly criticized for her ‘make-believe peasant life’ she created and lived out in Le Petit Trianon, a gift home from her husband.
This image shows Marie Anotoinette’s famous hairstyle in which she wore a boat atop a large pouf in her hair to commemorate a French Naval victory. Georgiana also famously wore a similar look.
Though neither woman could be called a saint, they both suffered similar feelings of being imprisoned in their marriages and both felt the constant need to ‘preform’ for the public as well as the fellow members of the aristocratic class. Both women used fashion as a means to express themselves and to gain attention and political prowess in a time where women had very little. Are you madly in love love with them yet?
Though there have been countless books chronicling the life of Marie Antoinette, none before had analysed the role her fashion choices had in the making of the woman and the hostilities against her. If you want a totally different take on 18th century life, politics and propaganda (and of course, the queen herself) you MUST read Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution.
 I have already seen the movie The Duchess staring Kiera Knightly and Ralph Fiennes but I was not a huge fan (I think I’m in the majority here but stay with me). I feel like it focused too heavily on just a few aspects of her life and didn’t really give good insight into just how insecure Georgiana felt from her upbringing (her constant need to please her parents is discussed thoroughly in Amanda Foreman’s book). Though it was a feast for the eyes and the actors did an amazing job at bringing the characters to life, the movie was very, very depressing. And I know Georgiana’s life was far from happy but it would have been nice to have given her more moments of happiness  along with showing her suffering.  Below are some images form the film version of The Duchess.
Above: A costume from the film on display, the wedding dress.
Above: More of Georgiana’s amazing costumes worn by Kiera throughout the film.
I have a major crush on this hat.

Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette

27 Feb

Sofia Copella’s version was almost a stark opposite of the 1938 version. Featuring bright, strong colors and mouth-watering images, it had very little dialogue and instead relied on the costumes and the emotions of the actors to tell the story of the young queen. (As from my previous post you’ll note that the 1938 version was more dialogue heavy and in black and white).

Here’s Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette:

I don’t Know how many times I’ve seen this movie (likely too many to count) but each time I do, I fall more and more in love with not only the costumes but the characters themselves.

Below are images from the Vogue shoot for the film again featuring Kirsten:

Marie Antoinette 1938 Film

27 Feb

Bringing Marie to life from the pages of history:

Here’s a look at some of the ways the famous queen has been portrayed in films, television and ads throughout the years.

Marie Antoinette (1938) staring Norma Shearer:

The costumes in this film are absolutely beautiful. The fact that it is in black and white makes it even more of a fantasy for me because you can image the colors yourself, sort of like a giant, imaginary coloring book. And Norma Shearer is absolutely beautiful as Marie, don’t you think?

Below, are some images of the costumes created by Gilbert Adrian.

These costumes from the classic age of Hollywood really give you a feeling of the opulence not only of cinema at the time, but of the dramatic life in which Marie Antoinette herself lived. They are a stark contrast of the peasant clothing worn by the majority of the French population and their extravagance portrays how Marie was seen then and remembered now. She is infamous in both her fashion choices and her tragic mistakes.

Currently Reading…Queen of Fashion:What Marie Antoinette Wore To The Revolution By Caroline Weber

27 Feb

Everyone knows at least something about the infamous Queen of France Marie Antoinette. Where you can only recall that she was beheaded during the French Revolution or that she had killer style (Sofia Copella’s film comes to mind) there’s no doubt that the woman was amazing. For her to still be a staple of popular culture today, more than 200 years later, is no small feat.

I’m currently working on a novel that takes place in the late 1700’s and though it will deal only in part with France, I couldn’t resist the plethora of visual-imagery-eye candy (can i coin that?) that is Caroline Weber’s book. It details the beautiful complexity of life, love, politics and fashion in the young queen’s life and how her fashion choices reflected her political views, her emotions and even played a part in her tragic downfall. Fashion, as always, has a story to tell that goes far beyond the lines of color and structure. Back in the 18th century, it was a for women who had very little rights and freedoms, to express themselves.

So without further ado (no idea if that’s the correct spelling), I give you all things fashion and Marie.

* Fun fact from the book: Marie loved to ride horses and often did so wearing trousers and in a ‘more masculine’ ridding attire. She also fashioned ‘masculine-feminine’ jackets and tailoring details.