Small talks from Versailles: 5 things you don’t know about Marie-Antoinette

  1. WEDDING & FIREWORKS – Marie Antoinette was already married when she arrived in France. The wedding by proxy took place in Austria on April 19th 1770. She then arrived in Versailles on May 16th around 10am, got ready and married Louis XVI, in person, the same afternoon. The celebrations went on until May 30th when a terrible accident happened: the celebration fireworks on Place de la Concorde killed 132 people… Place de la Concorde, during the French Revolution was named Place de la Revolution and it is where the guillotine stood. If that was not a bad omen then I do not know what a bad omen is.
  2. HANDOVER CEREMONY & DOGS – If you have seen Sofia Coppola’s movie “Marie Antoinette” you are familiar with the idea of the young Marie Antoinette being obliged to leave all her “Austrian” belongings (including her favorite dog) behind when she entered France. Is that real? Well, it was! In order to became the Dauphine she had to do it but… don’t worry too much for the dog. Apparently she managed to have it back to Versailles. She loved her dogs so much that she always had them with her, even in the Temple prisons, until she was transferred to the Conciergerie. Rumours have it that one dog survived the revolution and manage to come to France after the Restoration, with Louis XVI’s family. But this is another story…
  3. FARM LIFE&TOAD HOLES – Did she really have a real farm built in Versailles’ estate? Yes, everybody knows it and it is not even a big deal compared to the “Laiterie” that Louis XVI built for her in Rambouillet, another Royal Estate. Since Marie Antoinette hated going to Rambouillet and used to call that palace a “crapaudiere” (a toad-hole) the king tried to make the place more appealing to his nature-lover wife by building there a dairy. Yes, she had a special place where “she” made (better: had someone make) cheeses and butter. This Laiterie was connected to a beautiful and decorated room where she invited her friends over to taste the products. I am joking: she did not have a dairy. She actually had two, the second one being in Versailles, in the Queen’s Hamlet. Don’t be fooled by all of this: she never pretended (or wanted) to be a farmer girl in real life, not even for half a day. The Hameau de la Reine (the queen’s hamlet) was mainly a reception area and a place for children education. The rest is Revolution’s gossip.
  4. LIFE ON STAGE & STAGE LIFE – Talking about what she liked (or not) to be or to do, another share knowledge is how she despised Versaille’s etiquette. Being raised in a modern country like Austria was under her mother, living as a French queen seemed like hell to her. Her daily schedule was strict and her life was completely public. From getting up in the morning to going to bed in the evening everything happened under the eyes of the aristocrats, eager to be with the queen and see her performing her social duties, including giving birth. That is how they earned their power and this is why they ended up hating Marie Antoinette. She actually deserted Versailles’ stage to close herself in the Petit Trianon, a smaller palace given to her by the king, where only her closest friends were invited. And, little irony, she did not even mind to walk on a real stage over there. She loved acting so much that she had a little theatre built near the Petit Trianon were she often played the role of the poor girl or the shepherdess…. the main characters of frivolous and fancy plays.
  5. CAKE & BITTER PILLS – let me go straight to the point, she never suggested that Parisian should have eaten “brioche” instead of bread (Qu’ils mangent de la brioche). “Let them eat cake” appeared for the first time in book six of Rousseau’s Confession as the words of a “great princess” who was not named by the philosopher. The book was written in 1765, finished in 1769 and published in 1782. Chronologically speaking it is very unlikely that Marie Antoinette could have said it and it does not even match her personality. She was a snob but not an idiot and not so “ancient regime”. The increasing unpopularity of the queen during and after the French Revolution has influenced many to attribute the phrase to her. Nonetheless the queen did have a sweet tooth and she is related to the birth of the chocolate bar as we know it. She loved to have hot chocolate for breakfast so when she complained (AGAIN) about the bad taste of her medicaments a pharmacist, Sulpice Debauve, invented for her the first crunchy chocolates in French history. They looked like little coins (“pistoles”) and the queen could crunch them with her pills. You can still buy Marie Antoinette’s pistoles in Paris.

Next chapter will be “5 creepy things you do not know about Marie Antoinette” … in the meantime, if you have questions about her ask me!

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