fredag den 26. maj 2017

The Prince de Condé & the Princesse de Monaco

Louis Joseph, Prince de Condé had been married to Charlotte de Rohan since 1753 but their marriage was not one of mutual love. Instead, he began a long-lasting affair with Maria Caterina Brignole, Princesse de Monaco. Their relationship became increasingly serious following Charlotte's death in 1760.

In 1769 the liaison had become so serious that the Princesse had made a home for herself in the Parisian Hotel de Lassay; conveniently, this was an annex of Louis Joseph's residence, the Palais-Bourbon. Unsurprisingly, news quickly spread beyond the borders of France to Maria's husband.

The Prince de Monaco was not pleased with his wife's French escapades. In a jealous fit to keep her with him he closed the borders of Monaco. However, she managed to side-step his maneuver and made it to Le Mans. Here, she sought refuge in a convent. While she was locked up in the nunnery the Prince de Condé attempted - in vain - to persuade the Prince de Monaco to separate himself from his wife.

At court their love-affair was no less cause for scandal. Marie Antoinette had been brought up to disdain mistresses - a consequence of her mother's life-long jealousy of her father's mistresses - and did not look kindly on Maria's position. This did not deter the couple who were reunited in Paris in 1770. Four years later, they planned the construction of the Hotel de Monaco which was to provide her with a permanent home close to her lover.

By the time Maria returned to Paris her marriage was as good as over. In January 1770 she was granted a legal divorce from her husband.

By the outbreak of the revolution the couple was still together. First, they fled into Germany and then made it on to England. Maria found herself a widow following the death of her husband in 1795. The couple was finally able to marry; this ceremony  was performed on 24 October 1798. However, the couple was not free to openly admit to their marriage. In fact, the marriage was kept a secret for 10 whole years before it was finally acknowledged in late December 1808.

Maria spent her vast fortune in a vain attempt at restoring the Bourbon-dynasty to power in France which left her destitute.

tirsdag den 23. maj 2017

The Garters

With most depictions of a delicate garter tied around a young woman's thigh it is hardly surprising that most people associate the garters with female dress. Until around the 16th century, however, it was also used by men in ceremonial dresses.

As this blog focuses on the 17th and 18th century I will restrict myself to the female ones from this period. Garters were ribbons of fabric which were worn either above or below the knee. For the upper classes they were made from expensive materials such as silk. These garters would often be richly decorated with embroideries of ornate patterns or personal mottos. Unlike the male counterpart, ladies' garters were not visible to the naked eye; men had worn them on their hoses while ladies' hid them underneath a full body of skirts.

Pink silk garters with motto

Their main function - other than as a fashion statement - was to hold up the stockings. They could either be fastened with buckles or laces; the latter seems to be a more comfortable choice, though. As most fashions this could have a dark side as well. Some women tightened their garters so tightly that their blood circulation suffered as a result. To avoid any chafing garters were often padded.

One peculiar episode concerning garters involved the Sun King's mistress, Marie-Angélique de Fontagnes. Her signature hairstyle - naturally named after her - came to be when she found her hair disheveled while out hunting and bound it up using her garters.

This photo shows how clasps were used as well as padding

Usually, garters were white but could be extensively decorated. As an example the purchase of the Duchesse d'Orléans from 1737 illustrates this. She bought seven pairs of garters; one was embroidered with green and gold, another with silver. Yet another consisted itself of silver cloth while a fourth pair was embroidered with silver in four colours.
As can be deduced from this order garters were worn on both legs - to keep both stockings up. The rather newer trend of having a single wedding garter is of a more symbolic nature.

Detail of a garter allegedly belonging to Marie Antoinette

Legend has it that Marie Antoinette's remains were identified by the characteristic Habsburg-jaw as well as a monogrammed garter.

As seen in portraits:
Naturally, since the garter was a part of a lady's delicates they were not shown on official portraits. However, thanks to the wonderful art of the 18th century we are left with some beautiful examples nonetheless.

Francois Broucher's "La Toilette" shows a young lady
neatly tying her garter around a silk stocking

This portrait - attributed to Nicholas Lavreince -
also focuses on the garter

Michel Garnier's elegant lady is apparently
not aware of her peeping-tom 

mandag den 22. maj 2017

The Buckle

In an age without zippers the stylish way to ensure that a garment did not become undone by a gust of wind was by buttons or buckles. Buckles were used for shoes, breeches, hats and stockings - even the occasional banyan was secured by a buckle. Both men and women used buckles although it was used more generally in men's fashions.

The cheaper - and more affordable - versions were often made from brass or iron which could then be coated with tin to give it a silver-look. For the greater court events gold or silver were preferred; these would often be quite intricately made in themselves and often carried the maker's mark on them. As an indicator of how precious such buckles could be they were stored in jewelry-boxes.

Shoe Buckles
Until 1670 shoes had been tied with ribbon which was tied into large bows. Buckles became more in fashion by this period. The shape of the shoe buckles developed through the ancien regime. During Louis XIV they were largely rectangular but in the 18th century they became smaller and round. Finally, they retook the rectangular shape during Louis XVI by which they were also larger - so large that they covered the foot's length.

Women's shoes, 1740's

At the mid-18th century the fashions for buckles became more splendid. Gemstones and paste were by now frequently used to decorate ornately spun shoe buckles. Although it was far from everyone at court who could afford to adorn their buckles with genuine gemstones some found a way to imitate the style. Coloured glass was often used as a substitute; most of the surviving buckles carry these glass-stones rather than the extravagant gemstones.

Certain gatherings kept their guests first-class by refusing to let "lace-shoed gentlemen" in; only those wearing silver buckles could gain admittance at such parties.

This shoe buckle from 1770 shows how elaborate the
designs could be

From the 1780's onward it became more common amongst men to replace shoe buckles with laces which fitted well with the emerging simpler fashion.

Knee Buckles
Buttons had been the primary method of "binding" breeches to the stockings underneath but buckles gradually became more popular around 1735. The fashionable men would attempt to match their knee buckles with those adorning their shoes. As it became the fashion to wear tight-fitting breeches knee buckles were also used to ensure a close fit.

Knee buckles, 18th century
Unlike the shoe buckles these were small and often oval; the wearer could have three small buckles on each knee. However, the shape depended much on the wearer's taste. In the 1770's both oval and square knee buckles were in fashion.

Hat Buckles
Usually, these were rectangular and made from lighter materials than the brass or iron used otherwise. This was mainly to avoid damaging the delicate fabrics often used for the fashionable hats as well as not weighing down the wearer's head.
Luckily for the fashionable people buckles had more than merely a good look to them; they could just as easily be used to fasten the increasingly elaborate hair accessories. The usage of hat buckles did not really come into style before the 1770's.

Men's shoe buckles, 1775-80

Mourning Buckles
In time of mourning it was considered in extremely poor taste to adorn one-self with ornaments. As such neither gemstones, pearls or paste were worn during mourning periods. Instead, they were bronzed.

As seen in portraits:

The knee buckle can just be seen to the

Detail of Louis XIV's shoe buckles

søndag den 21. maj 2017

House of Lévis

The family originally descended from the Île-de-France and had been dominant at the court since the 12th century. The family legend claims that they were descended from the Virgin Mary while in fact the family's first documented lord was Philip I, Lord of Lévis. However, his descendants are not known and the family's name comes up again in 1170.

In the 17th century the family had developed into five branches:

The family achieved ducal status with Gilbert III who became a duke and peer in 1589. Since then the family held considerable sway at court where they occupied valuable positions. Especially when Charlotte de La Mothe-Houdancourt - better known as Madame de Ventadour - became the governess of the children of the Duc and Duchesse de Bourgogne the family thrived. She would eventually save the future Louis XV from being purged by the royal doctors which would almost certainly have caused the little boy's death. As a result the King became excessively attached to her.

Portrait de Madame de Ventadour, par Pierre Mignard, vers 1720.
Madame de Ventadour

The army, too, became a field of choice for the House of Lévis. Several men in the family did well in the army; Francois Gaston de Lévis, Charles-Eugène de Lévis-Charlus and Gaston Pierre de Lévis-Mirepoix became Marèchals de France. Besides, the title of Governor of Limousin was bestowed on the husband of Madame de Ventadour. At court the family had been in the inner circle of the those aristocrats who served the royal family.
Madame de Ventadour had been lady-in-waiting to Marie Thérèse and then to Elizabeth Charlotte, Duchesse d'Orléans. Gaston Pierre de Lévis-Mirepoix was appointed ambassador to Vienna and also received the Orders of Saint-Esprit and Saint-Michel.

onsdag den 17. maj 2017

Anne Victoire of Hesse-Rotenburg, Princesse de Soubise

Anne Victoire was born on 25 February 1728 as the eldest child of the Hereditary Prince of Hesse-Rotenburg.

She was chosen to become the third wife of Charles de Rohan, Prince de Soubise. The couple were married on 23 December 1745 at the bridegroom's Château des Rohan. At the time of the marriage Anne Victoria was 17 years old while her new husband was 30. In dynastic terms the match was not a bad one. Charles de Rohan held the rank of Prince d'Etranger at court; he had accompanied Louis XV on his military campaign of 1744-48 - during this point he was married to Anne Victoire. Also, he had become a close friend of Louis XV which certainly helped his young wife's social standing at court.

There seem to have been little genuine love in the match. Both parties took lovers outside of their marriage and the couple never had children. Considering that his last two wives had died in childbirth this could be an indicator that the couple were not intimately connected or that they simply never conceived a child.

Anne Victoire became the centre of a court scandal in 1757 when she was arrested on the order of the king. She was accused of stealing jewels worth 900.000 livres; these she allegedly planned to use to pay for an elopement she had planned with her lover, Monsieur de Laval-Montmorency. The elopement had almost been succesful since she had made it to Tournai where she was eventually caught.

This was the final straw for the marriage. The couple was officially separated - in itself a scandal - and she was sent back to her parents in disgrace. Her parents were given a pension of 24.000 livres for her keep. From this point she lived in Ecternacht and little is therefor known about her life. It is known, though, that she never remarried. The fate of her previous marriage had made her an outcast on the marriage market. Not only was the scandal enough to scare away potential suitors but she was almost 30 years old when she was separated. At the time this was considered to be middle age for a woman since women "lost their bloom" at a remarkably early point.

However, she moved back to Paris at some point in her later years. Here she died on 1 July 1792 - five years exactly after her estranged husband. It would seem that she avoided the wrath of the revolutionaries which could be due to the fact that she had not been connected to the French aristocracy for a long time.

tirsdag den 18. april 2017

The Fall of the Comte de Clermont-Tonnerre

Stanislas Marie Adelaide de Clermont-Tonnerre was born as an aristocrat in 1747 but tried his luck as a politician during the revolution. However, Stanislas could not completely forego his loyalty to the king.

He attempted to grant the king powers through the new constitution such as a veto right for the monarch. This was refused in 1789 which prompted the Comte to resign alongside with five others who shared his view. He continued to have a seat in the National Assembly where he supported the moderate royalists.

After the royal family's failed flight to Varennes the Comte de Clermont-Tonnerre was arrested on 21 June 1791. Although he was quickly released again he was not let off the hook. On the 10 August that year the Tuileries was stormed by angry Parisians. Stanislas had attempted to contact Louis XVI and was trapped in Madame de Brassac's apartments. Here he was found by the furious mob who immediately decided that he had to die. They dragged him to the window and threw him forcefully from it. It was on the fourth floor.

It is widely assumed that the mob which eventually killed off the Comte de Clermont-Tonnerre had been incited by Robespierre who allegedly felt threatened by the Comte's political views.

The Comte de Clermont-Tonnerre

The Queen's Ground Floor Rooms

1) Antechamber
Although not technically an antechamber it has long been known as such. Marie Antoinette took over the chamber after Madame Sophie. This daughter of Louis XV had used it as a bathroom.


2) The Green Room
The room derives its name from the soft green tapestry on the walls. Despite the rather anonymous status of this room it holds several very well-known pieces all relating to Marie Antoinette's close family. One of these is a large portrait of Marie Antoinette herself wearing a dark blue dress and another is a circular portrait of Louis XVI. A chest created for the birth of their first son is placed in a glass cage (for more information about this piece go to "Artefacts"). Between the paintings of the King and Queen are their two children Marie Thérèse (Madame Royale) and Louis Joseph François Xavier. The dark red fireplace is adorned with golden ornaments; it is the only original piece in the room. A very small writing desk stands right in front of one of the tall windows accompanied by a chair in green fabric. Three other chairs of a similar colour are placed beneath the portrait of the doomed Queen - they are all the product of George Jacob.
A replica of a dresser that was ordered by Marie Antoinette and created by Jean Henri Riesener in 1788 carries a bust of Louis XVII - the son who would die as a prisoner during the French Revolution.

3) Bathroom
Marie Antoinette was one of the few at the French court who insisted on frequent baths which is exactly what these rooms were used for.
These rooms are located on the ground floor in the Queen's small apartments. Marie Antoinette had them created in 1782 and the new rooms consisted of: a bedroom, a library and the bathroom. 6 years later the Queen had the rooms refurbished and the wood-panelling decorated by the Rousseau brothers. During the 1830's these rooms were dissembled but the rooms are now restored to the state in which the Queen lived. The furniture in the bathroom now counts:
  • A bed from Fontainebleau (formerly belonging to Louis XVI)
  • A gilded console table from the bathroom of Madame Adélaïde  
  • A copper bathing tub, tabs for water and a pail to wash your feet in 
  • Chairs
  • Candlesticks

The bathroom after it had been restored

Billedresultat for marie antoinette salle de bain

Relateret billede
Detail of the woodwork

4) Toilet

Apartment of the Duchesse d'Angoulême

1) Bathroom
This was also used by the Comtesse de Provence as her Cabinet de la Meridienne - corresponding to that of Marie Antoinette.

2) Unknown
I do not know what this room was used for but there is an image of it nonetheless.

3) Toilet
Build in the same style as the previous room this was simply a toilet. It is built in the same style as the remaining royal toilets with a wooden seat.

4) Unknown

5) Library or Dining Room
During Louis XVI this was used a private dining room for the intimate dinners of the King and his family. Here, the king would dine with his queen and often in the company of his sister, Madame Élisabeth. This offered a welcome respite from the completely public dinners the family were otherwise made to endure. The chairs in the bottom picture belonged to Madame Élisabeth who had them in her wardrobe.

6) Unknown

7) Interior Cabinet
This interior cabinet had the luxury of a small stove to warm it up with; the stove is decorated with blue ceramic tiles. 

Private Apartments of the Dauphin & Dauphine

1) Hallway
This hallway connects the apartments of the Dauphin and his wife. This arrangement offered them some privacy; rather than having to go through the always crowded halls they could visit each other via this passage way.

2) The Dauphin's Toilet
Given the function this chamber did not need to be very large and could be sparsely decorated. 

3) Wardrobe
The garderobe - or wardrobe - had the same purpose then as it does now. Although rather than referring to a piece of furniture the term then referred to the room itself; the Dauphin's clothing would be stored here.

4) The Dauphin's Bath
The Dauphin was one of the many people at Versailles who had a bathroom as a part of his private apartments. Actually, this bathroom is located behind the private apartments of the Dauphin which suggests that the room served a very private purpose - even at Versailles. The floor is tiled with changing white square tiles and black diamond shapes (this type of floor is found at most of the bathrooms). Two small holes in the niche indicates that a bathtub has been installed here earlier. The walls are bare and coloured in a cream and slightly creamy beige.

5) Hallway
The hallway connects the Dauphin's apartment with the Marble Vestibule and the Queen's rooms on the ground floor.

torsdag den 13. april 2017

The Peerage

Originally, there were thirteen peerages in France: six ecclesiastical and seven lay. Since then the number of peerages all but exploded which generally decreased the value of a peerage - but not making it completely worthless. 

Since the end of the 13th century the peers took on the role of royal officer; as such it is not a title of nobility. It soon became evident to the kings that they could tie the most important nobles to themselves by granting them peerages. Consequently, from the 16th century the granting of peerages escalated. In the ancien regime the rights that came with a peerage were primarily attached to honorific functions; it was different in England. A peer enjoyed certain privileges. These included the right to a seat in the Parlement of Paris as well as the right to be judges by their peers - meaning by aristocrats who were also peers.

The dignity attached to each peerage was dependent on the age of that peerage's creation. Note that in the following list I have only included the peerages that were still in use by the time Louis XIV ascended the throne. The year in italic is the year it was founded.

The Ecclesiastical Peerages:

Archbishop-Duke of Reims
Bishop-Duke of Langres
Bishop-Duke of Laon
Bishop-Count of Beauvais
Bishop-Count of Châlons
Bishop-Count of Noyon

The Archbishop of Paris was per definition also given the title of Duc de Saint-Cloud but was not an original peer.

The Original Lay Peerages:

Duc de Bourgogne
Duc de Normandie
Duc d'Aquitaine (later renamed to Duc de Guyenne)
Comte de Flandre
Comte de Champagne
Comte de Toulouse

The Peerages during Louis XIV-Louis XVI:

Duc d'Aiguillon (1599) - House of Vignerot du Plessis
Duc d'Albret (1556) - House of de La Tour d'Auvergne
Duc d'Alencon (1367) - Royal Family              
Duc d'Amboise (1787) - House of Bourbon
Duc d'Angoulême (1317) - Royal Family
Duc d'Antin (1711) - House of Pardaillan de Gondrin
Duc d'Arpajon (1650) - House of d'Arpajon
Duc d'Aubigny (1683) - House of Richmond
Duc d'Aumale (1547) - House of Savoy then House of Bourbon
Duc d'Auvergne (1360) - Royal Family

Duc de Beaufort (1597) - House of Bourbon-Vendôme
Duc de Berry (1360) - Royal Family
Duc de Biron (1598) - House of Gontaut
Duc de Boufflers (1708) - House of Boufflers
Duc de Bourbon (1327) - House of Bourbon-Condé
Duc de Bournonville (1652) - House of Bournonville
Duc de Brissac (1611) - House of Cossé
Duc de Brunoy (1777) - Royal Family

Duc de Cardone (1652) - House of de La Mothe-Houdancourt
Duc de Charost (1672) - House of Béthune
Duc de Châteauroux (1616) - House of Bourbon-Condé, House of Mailly and Royal Family
Duc de Châteavillain (1703) - House of Bourbon
Duc de Château-Thierry (1400) - House of La Tour d'Auvergne
Duc de Chartres (1399) - Royal Family
Duc de Châtillon (1736) - House of Châtillon
Duc de Chaulnes (1621) - House of d'Albert
Duc de Chevreuse  (1612) - House of Lorraine
Duc de Choiseul (1665) - House of Choiseul
Duc de Clermont-Tonnerre (1571) - House of Clermont-Tonnerre
Duc de Coigny (1787) - House of Franquetot
Duc de Coislin (1663) - House of Cambout
Duc de Coligny (1643) - House of Coligny
Duc de Coulommiers (1410) - House of Orléans-Dunois
Duc de Créquy (1652) - House of Bonne de Blanchefort

Duc de Duras (1658) - House of Durfort

Duc d'Elbeuf (1581) - House of Lorraine
Duc d'Enghien (1566) - House of Bourbon-Condé
Duc d'Epernon (1581) House of Nogaret
Duc d'Estrées (1648) House of d'Estrées
Duc d'Eu (1458) House of Lorraine, House of Orléans and House of Bourbon

Duc de Fayel (1653) - House of La Mothe-Houdancourt
Duc de Fleury (1736) House of Fleury
Duc de Fronsac (1608) House of Bourbon-Condé, then House of Vignerot du Plessis

Duc de Gisors (1748) House of Fouquet, then House of Bourbon
Duc de Gramont (1643) House of Gramont
Duc de Guise (1528) House of Bourbon-Condé

Duc d'Harcourt (1709) House of Harcourt
Duc d'Hostun (1715) House of Hostun

Duc de Joyeuse (1581) House of Lorraine, then House of Melun
Duc de La Ferté-Senneterre (1665) House of Senneterre
Duc de La Force (1637) House of Caumont
Duc de La Meilleraye (1668) House of La Porte-Mazarin
Duc de La Guiche (1653) House of Lorraine
Duc de La Roche-Guyon (1621) House of Plessis-Liancourt
Duc de La Rochefoucauld (1622) House of La Rochefoucauld
Duc de La Valette (1622) House of Nogaret
Duc de La Vallière (1667) House of La Baume le Blanc
Duc de La Vauguyon (1757) House of Caussade
Duc de La Vieuville (1651) House of Vieuville
Duc de Lavedan (1650) House of Montaut-Navailles
Duc de Lesdiguières (1611) House of Bonne de Blanchefort
Duc du Lude (1675) House of Daillon
Duc de Luynes (1619) House of d'Albert
Duc de Lévis (1723) - House of Lévis
Duchesse de Louvois (1777) - Mesdames Tantes (shared by Madame Adelaide and Madame Sophie)

Duc de Mayenne (1673) House of Mazarin
Duc de Mercæur (1596) House of Bourbon-Vendôme
Duc de Montbazon (1588) - House of Rohan
Duc de Montausier (1644) - House of Saint-Maure
Duc de Montaut (1660) - House of Montaut-Navailles
Duc de Montmorency (1551) - House of Montmorency, then House of Bourbon-Condé
Duc de Montpensier (1539) - House of Orléans
Duc de Mortemart (1650) - House of Rochechouart

Duc de Nemours (1404) - House of Orléans
Duc de Nevers  (1347) - House of Mancini-Mazarin      
Duc de Noailles  (1663) - House of Noailles
Duc de Noirmoutier (1650) - House of La Trémoïlle

Duc d'Orléans (1344) - House of Orléans  
Duc d'Orval (1652) - House of Béthune

Duc de Praslin (1762) - House of Choiseul-Praslin
Duc de Penthièvre (1569) - House of Bourbon-Vendôme, then House of Bourbon
Duc de Piney-Luxembourg (1581) - House of Albert, House of Clermont-Tonnerre and House of Montmorency
Duc de Ponthieu (1412) - Royal Family

Duc de Rambouillet (1711) - House of Bourbon
Duc de Randan (1661) - House of Foix
Duc de Rethel-Mazarin (1347) - House of Gonzaga, House of Mancini-Mazarin and House of La Porte-Mazarin
Duc de Retz (1581) - House of Gondi
Duc de Richelieu (1683) - House of Vignerot du Plessis
Duc de Roannais (1372) - House of Gouffier, then House of La Feuillade
Duc de Rohan (1606) - House of Rohan, then House of Rohan-Chabot
Duc de Rohan-Rohan (1714) - House of Rohan-Soubise
Duc de Roquelaure (1652) - House of Roquelaure
Duc de Rosnay (1651) - House of L'Hospital

Duc de Saint-Aignan (1663) - House of Beauvilliers
Duc de Saint-Fargeau (1575) - House of Orléans
Duc de Saint-Simon (1635) - House of Rouvroy 
Duc de Sully (1606) - House of Béthune

Duc de Taillebourg (1749) - House of La Trémoïlle
Duc de Thouars (1595) - House of La Trémoïlle
Duc de Tremes/Gesvres (1648) - House of Potier

Duc d'Uzès (1572) - House of Crussol

Duc de Valentinois (1642) - House of Monaco
Duc de Valois (1344) - House of Orléans
Duc de Vendôme (1515) - House of Bourbon-Vendôme
Duc de Ventadour (1589) - House of Lévis
Duc de Verneuil (1652) - House of Bourbon
Duc de Villars (1707) - House of Villars
Duc de Villars-Brancas (1652) - House of Brancas
Duc de Villemor (1651) - House of Séguier
Duc de Villeroy (1651) - House of Neufville
Duc de Vitry (1650) - House of L'Hospital

Comte de Blois (1399) - House of Orléans
Comte du Maine (1331) - Royal Family
Comte de Perche (1566) - Royal Family
Comte de Poitou (1315) - Royal Family

The Court Titles

The Prince & Princesse

Originally, the members of the royal house of France could bear the title of Prince but over time it was also assumed by the highest members of nobility. Also, the principalities located within the borders of France could use that title. As with most titles of nobility there were several sub-categories.

  1. Princes: males in the immediate family of the king. These included his sons, brothers and the dauphin's sons. These were known as the Children of France and were addressed as "Royal Highness".
  2. Princes of the Blood: these were male descendants of the younger sons of the king and his brothers. The highest-ranking male was referred to as the First Prince of the Blood; he was immediately behind the princes in the succession.

An edict from 1576 stated that those princes and princes of the blood who were also peers took precedence over all other peers. This was further established in 1711 when another edict enhanced the position of the princes. It granted the princes and princes of the blood precedence over all other peers - even if those princes were not peers themselves.

The Duc & Duchesse

Three types of duchies existed during the ancien régime: the Duché-Paire, the Duché-Hereditaire and the Duché à Brevèt.
  1. Duché Ordinaire: succession only through male heirs
  2. Duché Mâle et Femel: succession primarily through male heirs although should the male line fail it continued through the female
  3. Duché Femel: created for females and their descendants 

The Duché-Paire carried a peerage with it; it was possible to lose a peerage without losing the title of Duc. The Duché-Hereditaire was a tad more complicated. Three sub-categories existed within such a duchy:
The final one - Duché à Brevèt - did not truly come into use until the reign of Louis XIV. It did not infer any succession on the heirs of the holder as the title was merely a dignity. Once the holder died the title would fall into disuse.

The original way of creating a duchy was by submitting it the Parlement of Paris within a year. Once the Parlement had registered the duchy it moved to the Cour des Comptes. However, before the age of true absolutism the Parlement could refuse to make a duchy hereditary; in that case it would lapse on the death of the holder.

The remaining titles had originally been intended to be of assistance to the ducs. From the Roman era a duke (dux) was typically a military leader who had control over a specific area. In the centuries following the Roman Empire the marquis, comte and vicomte were all a part of a chain of command. Their primary jobs were to assist their superiors in the administration of their lands.
By the time Louis XIV ascended the throne that was not quite the case any longer. The nobility had grown into a class of its own with power enough to rival that of the king. Over time the nobility were no longer intended to assist in the running of a particular area but were connected to their own lands. 

The Marquis & Marquise

The edicts of Henri III and Charles IX dictated that a marquisate was to be made up of three baronies and six chatellenies. Originally, a marquis was - like a duke - a military commander over a certain area. These areas were usually border areas; hence the name which was derived from marshes (marquis in French, margrave in English). When the marquis' still exercised military power they had a good claim to be ranked higher than a count. This claim was based on the fact that a marquis had both military and judicial power spanning several counties.
Both Louis XIV and Louis XV preferred to grant this title to their mistresses; although some were granted the honour of the title of duchesse most became marquises. Think for example of the Marquise de Pompadour. 
Compared to the other titles it was bestowed on women in general more often. A holder would usually obtain the title by letters patent issued by the king. 

The Comte & Comtesse

The same edicts of the previously mentioned kings also described how a county was made up. It could either consist of two baronies and three chatellenies or one barony and six chatellenies. During the ancien regime the dignity associated with this title depended on how far back the title traced. Some were used by the royal family; Louis XIV made one of his legitimised sons by Madame de Montespan the Comte de Toulouse.

The Vicomte & Vicomtesse

The otherwise meticulous edicts does not mention how a vicounty is to be erected; no vicomte ever achieved the honour of being made a peer. A vicomte was either a judicial officer of a marquis or a count or he was a minor lord of a vicounty.

tirsdag den 11. april 2017

The Eradication of the Noailles Family

The House of Noailles was a highly distinguished family in the French nobility and had held important positions at court for centuries. It also had the dubious honour of losing five of its most prominent members to the guillotine. What is remarkable is that due to the family's good connections - and after all some surviving members - their last days were well-documented.

Louis de Noailles - who was the reigning Duc de Noailles during the revolution - would undoubtedly have followed his family onto the scaffold had he not died from natural causes in 1793. The family members he left behind were not so lucky. Their executions took place on these dates:

27 June 1794 = Philippe de Noailles and Anne d'Arpajon

22 July 1794 = Catherine de Cossé-Brissac
                         Henriette Anne Louise d'Aguesseau
                         Anne Jeanne Baptiste Louise de Noailles 

Those who did lose their lives under the blade of the guillotine were closely related and spanned over three generations. To make it easier to understand their relation to one another I have made this simplified family tree:

The women who were executed on 22 July 1794 are written in bold.
Philippe and Anne were also executed but on 27 June

When Louis de Noailles, fourth Duc de Noailles died in 1793 his widow moved to their family hôtel in Paris. She was accompanied by the Duchesse d'Ayen and the Vicomtesse de Noailles. It was intended that the Vicomtesse was to go to England where her husband was already waiting for her. From there they would continue to the newly independent colonies in America. It is very likely that her mother, the Duchesse d'Ayen, would have gone with her but something occurred to delay them. The Duchesse de Noailles was by this time very fragile and her mind had begun to fail. Being in her seventies she had been dependent on her husband and with his passing she would otherwise had been left to fend for herself. She had already begun to show signs of dementia which only aggravated how vulnerable she would be on her own.
The Duchesse d'Ayen refused to leave her mother-in-law behind in France and in turn the Vicomtesse would not leave her mother. The result was that they remain in France; it proved to be a fatal decision.

During their time at the hôtel de Noailles they were often in the company of the Abbé Carrichon who had been the confessor of the Duchesse d'Ayen before the revolution. During his employ he had become very attached to his mistress and continued to offer the family consolation and diversion throughout the tumults around them.

Billedresultat for Henriette Anne Louise d'Aguesseau
The Duchesse d'Ayen

In the end the three ladies could not escape the attention of the National Assembly. On 6 April 1794 they were arrested; eventually they were transferred to the hôtel de Luxembourg which now served as a prison for the aristocracy. Here, they found two of their relatives already incarcerated: the Comte and Comtesse de Noailles. The family seemed to enjoy the reunion despite the circumstances. The three ladies were given rooms directly above those of their relations.
During this time the Abbé Carrichon continued his visits; he promised the Duchesse d'Ayen that should the worst happen he would do his utmost to be present to give one final absolution.

All five were transferred to the Conciergerie in May; the transfer was not received well and with good cause. The Conciergerie had become known as the final stop before the guillotine; Marie Antoinette had spent her last days her the year previously. Their suspicions were confirmed when they were all sentenced to die by the guillotine.

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Anne d'Arpajon - better known as Madame Etiquette
or the Comtesse de Noailles

The first to be executed were the Comte and Comtesse de Noailles. Little is known about the exact details of their executions except that they were both executed on 27 June and on the same location. In the end they were buried in the mass grave of Picpus Cemetery.
Thanks to partly to the eye-witness account of the Abbé Carrichon and the memoirs of the Marquise de Montagu - daughter to the Duchesse d'Ayen and as such sister to the Vicomtesse - we know far more about the executions of the three remaining Noailles-prisoners.

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Philippe, Comte de Noailles

The day fixed for their executions was 22 July 1794. Two carts had been driven to the gates of the Conciergerie for the condemned. The Duchesse de Noailles was put in the first one with seven other women. The Duchesse d'Ayen (wearing a white/blue striped morning dress) and her daughter (completely in white) were seated on the second one. As the carts rumbled through the streets the skies darkened; still, the Duchesse d'Ayen could not spot the Abbé in the crowd. On the way there a storm broke out which thinned out the crowd of spectators. This revealed the well-known figure of the Abbé to the ladies in the second cart. He gave the signal they had agreed to and the Duchesse d'Ayen and her daughter knelt down in the cart. From afar the Abbé gave a final absolution and blessed them before the carts moved on. 

The Duchesse de Noailles could not see the Abbé; it is not entirely certain that she was aware or remembered the agreement. The rising winds had blown her cap off leaving the rain to splash directly into her face. Her hands had already been tied behind her back so she was completely exposed to the elements. 

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The Duchesse de Noailles at the age of 70 -
this is how she looked around the time she was

Once the carts arrived at the Barrière du Thrône the scaffold came into full view. On top of it the executioner and his two assistants were waiting. The first cart unloaded and the executions began. Due to her condition the Duchesse de Noailles was allowed to sit on a wooden bench while two other women climbed the ladder. The aged Duchesse kept her eyes on the ground and remained dignified despite the insults hurled at her by spectators. She then stepped onto the scaffold; the executioner had to cut away the top part of her dress to completely expose her neck.

The Duchesse d'Ayen was the tenth woman to be executed that day. She, too, was resigned and dignified. The executioner removed her cap but had not noticed that it had gotten stuck in her hair; he tore it off which produced the only expression of pain that crossed her face that day. Her hands were then tied behind her back and she was beheaded.
The poor Vicomtesse had now seen both her grand-mother and her mother being decapitated. She was to follow immediately behind her mother. She stepped onto the ladder when a blasphemous comment from a bystander made her pause. She turned and said "For mercy's sake, ask pardon" before continuing her climb to her death.

The three ladies were buried in the same mass grave as the Comte and Comtesse de Noailles.

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Memorial stone of a mass grave in the Picpus Cemetery

onsdag den 29. marts 2017

The Exile of the Comtesse de Gramont

Not many of the ladies from the older aristocracy were pleased with the ascension of Madame du Barry as Louis XV's new mistress. To most she was another bourgeoisie who took a place which was traditionally held by the upper class. 

The dispute between Madame du Barry and the Comtesse de Gramont took form in August 1770 when the court was sojourning at Compiègne. Here, the theatre was not large enough to hold the number of ladies who chose to follow the King there so most came at an early time. Due to the King's affection for her seats had been reserved for Madame du Barry and her friends. With the limited number of seats some ladies were not contented to stand and took those seats. When Madame du Barry arrived with the Duchesse de Mirepoix and the Comtesse de Valentinois - her friends - the group were met with haughty looks. 
The Comtesse de Gramont was the leader amongst the ladies who had occupied the seats and did nothing to hide her contempt for the new favourite. In deep mortification Madame du Barry had to retreat to the sounds of the insults hurled after her.

Naturally, Madame du Barry knew how to use her access to the King. She consequently went to her lover and complained of the humiliation she had suffered - and she certainly got what she wanted. The King was furious at this disrespect and had the Comtesse de Gramont exiled from court to her estate of Chanteloup. News of the exile spread like wildfire - as such things do - but most thought that the Comtesse was right to turn her back to the new mistress. The Marquise de Deffand mentioned the exile in a letter to Horace Walpole.The court was outraged at the verdict since the Comtesse de Gramont was definitely not without connections.

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Chàteau de Chanteloup where the Comtesse spent the first months of her
exile. Today, it is all but ready to crumble.

She was not only the relative of the Duchesse de Gramont (sister to powerful minister the Duc de Choiseul) and a dame du palais to the newly arrived Dauphine, Marie Antoinette. 
After lingering two months in her country estate the disgraced Comtesse pleaded with her mistress to intercede with the King on her behalf. The Comtesse complained that her exile had had such an effect on her health that it was vital for her to return at least to the capitol. This was a rather awkward position for the Dauphine whose marriage was unconsummated and as such still in peril. Nevertheless, according to the Austrian ambassador, Comte de Mercy-Argenteau, she acquitted herself well - although since the ambassador himself advised her on how to act it is natural that he would think so.
Louis XV would first make sure that the Comtesse was in actual danger and sent a dispatch to observe her. The messenger returned with a signed doctor's certificate and the King felt obliged to act.

The King was not prepared to let the Comtesse back just yet but he was somewhat softened by the pleas of the young girl. Rather than a complete recall to court the Comtesse was allowed to return to Paris but was strictly prohibited from appearing at court. The expansion of her area of exile was communicated to the Comtesse on 28 October 1770. Madame du Barry had not been informed of the scheme and was deeply angered by it when she heard the news. Although the Comtesse was not allowed to return to court it was a significant victory for the Choiseul-party; they wasted no time in rushing to the Dauphine and thanking her profusely for her aid.

It was not until 1773 - a whole three years later - that the Comtesse de Gramont was finally able to reappear at Versailles. The exile had had another impact on life at court. Madame du Barry became the out-right enemy of Marie Antoinette; although their relationship had not been good then it was not until this affair that it developed into downright enmity. 

Sèvres of Mesdames Tantes

Figurine of M. Fargon, 1774. It was purchased by
Madame Adelaide on 27 January 1776 for 144 livres

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Vases purchased by Madame Victoire in 1772 for her bedroom at Versailles

This saucer and cup were part of a set originally purchased by Louis XVI
who gifted it to Mesdames Victoire and Adelaide

Also part of the set

image (5)
Lapis chinoiserie-style vase which belonged to Mme.
Adelaide, 1781

The terrestrial globe contained the ink while that of the sky had sand within it -
it was purchased by Louis XV who gave it to his daughter, Madame Adelaide. It was
originally made in 1758