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Marie-Antoinette and Friendship

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Marie-Antoinette and Friendship

Post  Elena on Thu Nov 24, 2011 9:42 pm

In her last letter, Marie-Antoinette wrote to her sister-in-law Madame Elisabeth: "Happiness is doubled when shared with a friend...." In those words are contained the value she placed on friendship as being intrinsic to her happiness. Indeed, the queen had a great capacity for friendship, although she was not always prudent in her choice of companions.

In some cases, especially in regard to Madame de Polignac, the friendship spilled over into girlish infatuation. Her enemies seized upon such weaknesses and perceived faults to feed the false rumors that Marie-Antoinette had lovers of both genders. No serious biographer of the queen gives the least credence to the scandalous stories; even Lady Antonia Fraser insists in her recent biography that there is not the slightest indication that Marie-Antoinette ever participated in homosexual acts.

However, people with promiscuous backgrounds tend to judge others according to their own behavior. The French court, being the French court, was the kind of setting that shadowed the most innocent relationships with tawdry connotations. Marie-Antoinette, with her beauty, naiveté and sentimentality, was the perfect target for every sort of calumny.

In an age famous for florid and exaggerated expressions, the queen was especially gushing and emotional when revealing her feelings. In my opinion, it speaks of the deep loneliness and sense of isolation that she experienced as a young girl, sent away from home at the age of fourteen to a hostile court. To some extent, her emotions remained fixed at that age, with all the intensity of early adolescence, as can be seen in the lyrics she wrote for a song, "Portrait Charmant:"

Portait charmant, portait de mon amie
Gage d'amour par l'amour obtenu
Ah viens m'offrir le bien que j'ai perdu
Te voir encore me rappelle à la vie.

Oui les voilà ses traits, ses traits que j'aime
Son doux regard, son maintien, sa candeur
Lorsque ma main te presse sur mon coeur
Je crois encore la presser elle-même

Non tu n'as pas pour moi les mêmes charmes
Muet témoin de nos tendres soupirs
En retraçant nos fugitifs plaisirs
Cruel portrait, tu fais couler mes larmes

Pardonne-moi mon injuste langage
Pardonne aux cris de ma vive douleur
Portait charmant, tu n'es pas le bonheur
Mais bien souvent tu m'en offres l'image


Translation :

Charming portrait, portrait of my friend
Token of love, by love obtained
Ah come and give me back the good I have lost
To see you again brings me back to life

Yes here they are, her features, her features I love
Her sweet looks, her bearing, her ingenuousness
When I press you to my heart
I think I still embrace her herself.

No you don't have to me the same charms
Silent witness of our tender sighs
By recounting our fleeting pleasures
Cruel portrait, you make my tears fall.

Forgive me for my unfair language
Forgive the cries of my bitter woe
Charming portrait, you are not happiness
But so often you give me the image of it.

"Portrait Charmant" was written for one of the queen's close friends, perhaps Madame de Lamballe. It would be unwise to interpret the lines in terms of our contemporary American culture, so colored by Calvinism and yet ready to sexualize everything. In the lifestyle the queen tried to design at Petit Trianon, life was beautiful, love was pure, everything was rustic, pristine, and natural, a place for small children to play in innocence. In her letters she was always covering everyone with kisses, completely unaware of any double entendres, of any sordid misinterpretation.

Why did Marie-Antoinette have such a need for close friendships? In the vast palaces where she was born and raised, amid a many-peopled court, where she often went for ten days at a time without seeing her busy mother, the Archduchess Antonia's closest family member was her sister, Maria Carolina, three years her senior. Maria Carolina was bossy but very motherly and extremely protective of her little sister. When Antonia was about twelve, Carolina married and the two sisters never saw each other again. Later, Marie-Antoinette, far away in France, separated from her mother, who was always highly critical of her anyway, tried to find a friend, a "big sister" to take Carolina's place. Both of her closest friends, Madame de Lamballe and Madame de Polignac, were a few years older than herself and, especially Madame de Polignac, were highly maternal. The queen seemed to grow in emotional maturity and balance after she herself became a mother and had to fight for the survival of her family.

The fact that her marriage had so many difficulties getting started, and that her husband Louis XVI, although a worthy man, was known to be moody, the queen gravitated to her girlfriends for emotional support. Louis XVI had high regard for Madame de Polignac and encouraged his wife to befriend her, seeing her as someone who could guide Antoinette into being a good wife and mother.

Throughout her life, Marie-Antoinette had many friends from all walks of life, including artists, musicians, and theater people, so that her maid Madame Campan in her Memoirs described the queen as being "too democratic." In the last few years, she grew closer to her pious sister-in-law Madame Elisabeth; it was to Elisabeth that the queen, about to die, expressed her last thoughts and her restrained agony. "I had friends," she wrote. "The idea of being forever separated from them and from all their troubles is one of the greatest sorrows that I suffer in dying. Let them at least know that to my latest moment I thought of them."

http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2007/09/marie-antoinette-and-friendship.html

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Princesse de Lamballe

Post  Elena on Thu Nov 24, 2011 10:02 pm






http://vivelareine.tumblr.com/post/13229509848




http://vivelareine.tumblr.com/post/10101910625
http://vivelareine.tumblr.com/tagged/princesse_de_lamballe

Among the thousands murdered during the French Revolution, one of the most notorious cases was that of the death of the Princesse de Lamballe, friend of Queen Marie-Antoinette. The fury of the new order of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity vented itself upon her frail form in a manner of extreme violence. This was as strange as it was hideous, because other than being a confidante of the queen's, Madame de Lamballe could be counted among the more liberal, "enlightened" aristocrats, devoted to works of charity and civil improvements.

Contrary to the standard depiction of Lamballe as a lovely but simpering idiot, the princess was intelligent as well as cultured. She was the Grande Maitresse of all the French masonic ladies' lodges, for she saw freemasonry as a tool for creating a better world, as did many of her contemporaries. Her liberal politics were one of the reasons, according to scholar Bernard Fay, that King Louis XVI encouraged his wife towards the Polignacs, and away from Lamballe and her Orleanist salon. Madame de Lamballe discovered before the end that utopian politics that seek to create an earthly paradise inevitably lead to social chaos.

Marie-Therese-Louise de Savoie-Carignan was born in Turin on September 8, 1749. In 1767 she was married to the Prince de Lamballe, son of the Duc de Penthievre, relatives of the French royal family. Her husband died soon afterwards, and the young Marie-Antoinette pitied her and took her sleigh-riding. According to Madame Campan, the queen's chambermaid:
It was at the time of the sleighing-parties that the Queen became intimately acquainted with the Princesse de Lamballe, who made her appearance in them wrapped in fur, with all the brilliancy and freshness of the age of twenty,–the emblem of spring, peeping from under sable and ermine. Her situation, moreover, rendered her peculiarly interesting; married, when she was scarcely past childhood, to a young prince, who ruined himself by the contagious example of the Duc d’Orleans, she had had nothing to do from the time of her arrival in France but to weep. A widow at eighteen, and childless, she lived with the Duc de Penthievre as an adopted daughter. She had the tenderest respect and attachment for that venerable Prince; but the Queen, though doing justice to his virtues, saw that the Duc de Penthievre’s way of life, whether at Paris or at his country-seat, could neither afford his young daughter-in-law the amusements suited to her time of life, nor ensure her in the future an establishment such as she was deprived of by her widowhood.
Marie-Antoinette made Madame de Lamballe, known for her virtue and kindness, the Superintendent of her household, which was controversial at the time since there were other courtiers who felt the position was due to them. The two women became good friends. The queen was always trying to recapture the home she had left in Austria, where she had been inseparable from her older sister Maria Carolina, who had mothered her a great deal. Madame de Lamballe and Madame de Polignac were both roughly the same age as Carolina. However, Lamballe was a bit too intellectual for Antoinette and so the queen, with Louis' approval, eventually became closer to the Polignacs. She always remained friends with Lamballe, however.

When the Revolution erupted in 1789, Madame de Lamballe returned to France from the safety of England in order to be share the troubles of the royal family. She became closer than ever to the king's devout sister, Madame Elisabeth of France, and was horrified at how the masonic principles she had thought to be so constructive had led to such a violent revolution. When the royal family was arrested and sent to the Temple prison in August 1792, Lamballe was separated from them and sent to the prison of La Force. When the September Massacres broke out, in which thousands were killed and the streets ran with blood, Madame de Lamballe was asked to renounce her loyalty to the king and the queen. She refused, and was delivered over to the mob. She was bludgeoned and stabbed to death, and by some accounts raped and mutilated. She was definitely decapitated, and the valet of Louis XVI, Hanet Clery, gave an account of how the mob brought her head on a pike to the Temple prison for the queen to kiss.
We were hardly seated before a head at the end of a pike was presented at the window. Tison's wife screamed loudly; the murderers thought it was the queen's voice, and we heard the frantic laughs of those barbarians. Thinking that Her Majesty was still at table, they had raised the victim's head so that it could not escape her sight; it was that of the Princesse de Lamballe. Though bloody, it was not disfigured; her blond hair, still curling, floated around the pike.
Such excesses became typical of the French Revolution, stirred up by propaganda which played upon the fears of many. The Princesse de Lamballe was a bit misguided but ultimately heroic and loyal, and the grisly death to which she was subjected exemplified not only the misogyny of the new order but a hatred of all that was beautiful and good.

http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2007/09/murder-of-princesse-de-lamballe.html

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Madame de Polignac

Post  Elena on Thu Nov 24, 2011 10:38 pm



The closest confidante of Queen Marie-Antoinette was Madame de Polignac. Gabrielle de Polastron, Duchesse de Polignac, also referred to as "Yolande," is usually portrayed in books and films as Marie-Antoinette's "bad girl" friend, responsible for leading the young queen of France into a wild, decadent lifestyle. Often depicted as a greedy, spendthrift slut, Gabrielle preferred simplicity, was a devoted mother and loyal friend of both Louis and Antoinette. Part of the rehabilitation of Marie-Antoinette's reputation is a careful look at her relationship with Gabrielle.

Gabrielle, born in September of 1749, came from an old family of Languedoc. After her mother's death when she was three, Gabrielle was given to the care of an aunt, Madame d'Andlau. While still a small child Gabrielle was placed in a convent school, where she grew up. Many girls of high and low estate were educated by nuns in those days, including Louis XV's mistress, Madame du Barry. In Gabrielle's case, perhaps because she was separated from her family at such an early age, there seems to have some influence of the religious life in her personal habits. She wore simple, tasteful clothes, never wore perfume or flashy gems, such as diamonds. Cheerful and discreet, a lover of music and the outdoors, Gabrielle grew into a refined lady of enchanting grace and beauty.

At the age of eighteen, Gabrielle was given in marriage to Comte Jules be Polignac of an ancient clan of Auvergne. Since the twenty-two year old bridegroom was a captain in the Royal Pologne regiment, they moved to Paris. According to Edmond Giscard d'Estaing in the June 1977 Historia magazine (translated by a Belgian friend):
This young couple had a fortune, but they also had the charge of the poor members of their family, so that they could not afford Versailles.... So they remained with Polignac's father or Madame d'Andlau, in the Louvre or at Claye. This young woman enjoyed living in the country, and would have stayed there for her entire life without Diane de Polignac's intervention. Diane, her sister in law, was not very pretty, but she was clever, ambitious, and gifted for intrigues.
In 1774, in the beginning of the reign of Louis XVI, Gabrielle met Marie-Antoinette, and as Diane had hoped, Gabrielle's charming, easy-going manner captivated the eighteen-year-old queen, who was struggling with the iron restraints of the court etiquette. Antoinette had been sent to France as Louis' bride in order to further Austrian interests. Louis XVI, however, did not want his wife to meddle in politics, knowing that as a foreigner it could lead to her unpopularity. He feared to replicate the pattern of his grandfather Louis XV's reign, in which at times it seemed like Madame de Pompadour was ruling France. He also wanted to keep her from manipulation by the various factions at court, especially the liberal Orleanist clique. Authors such as Philippe Delorme, the Coursacs, and Bernard Fay maintain that Louis XVI encouraged his wife to befriend Gabrielle, and so created for her a circle of politically "safe" friends.

Marie-Antoinette also needed a calm, motherly companion, older than herself, to advise her about her difficulties in her marriage, her fears about pregnancy and childbirth. Gabrielle was such a friend, soothing the queen in her moments of hysteria and depression. Louis XVI held her in high regard, and gave a high office to her husband so that the Polignacs could afford to live at court. Madame de Polignac was the only person Louis XVI ever visited in a private home; he sat with her at the opera, and wrote to her when she left Versailles. As the royal family grew, the king and queen entrusted Gabrielle with their children, being that she had showed herself to be an exemplary mother of her own three. Gabrielle influenced the queen to adopt simpler styles. At Gabrielle's home and with her family, Marie-Antoinette said, "Here I truly feel at home."

According to Giscard d'Estaing, the "salon Polignac" soon provoked envy and calumny among the courtiers who were excluded from the queen's circle.
Among men in this circle, the first place was for "divine Vaudreuil," the most faithful of knights and adorers of Yolande de Polignac. This 40 year old Creole, with his face marked by smallpox, was noticeable for his entire devotion, but also for his sparkling wit, and his constantly imagining new parties, new spectacles... .Another lively person was Besenval, this greyhaired Swiss, somewhat heavy, however so flexible and smart, and loyal. Fersen, this young romantic Swede, so elegant with his languid eyes, was among the most frequent too. "Handsome Fersen" and "divine Vaudreuil" played, the one towards the queen, the other one towards the duchess Jules, the same roles, that calumny arose, without convincing anyone other than those who wanted to be convinced.

But sumptuous Versailles was not built for this light existence.... this isolated little circle provoked rumors, that would soon get venomous. If the whole court was invited to the great balls organized at Versailles, only a few intimates were allowed in Madame de Polignac's salon, and this even more when the queen stayed at Trianon. Soon arose terrible criticisms and awful calumnies....The necklace affair is the most characteristic way calumny was used... The whole city of Paris was passionate about this affair, pamphlets went from hand to hand and, while the queen was so obviously totally innocent, public opinion considered her guilty, so that, even today, the queen seems to have been part to this scandal.

Marie-Antoinette was terribly upset. Madame Campan told what happened when she heard that the Cardinal had been released. "The queen cried and sobbed. 'Ah ! I feel like dying ! Ah ! Those wicked people ! What have I done to them ? If you love me, you'd better kill me !' Then, she asked for 'her friend, her dear Polignac,' who would console her. Within ten minutes, Madame Campan wrote, she was beside the queen. She immediately entered the room. The queen stretched her arms towards her, and she ran to her. I still heard sobbing, and I went out.
The Polignacs were accused of greediness, but they were probably not greedier than any other family. As Giscard d'Estaing writes:
The gifts [Madame de Polignac] received were insignificant besides those which courtiers, lords and, a fortiori, members of the royal family, were massively given. Sums Louis XIV and Louis XV spent for favorites or for palaces that were liberally distributed are considerable, and we are astonished to see how legend focuses on Yolande de Polignac only, and reproaches her, the most innocent of all, forgetting about all the other people.
The calumnies grew uglier as the propaganda machine, aimed at provoking the revolution, produced pornographic pamphlets depicting Antoinette and Gabrielle as lesbian lovers, engaged in orgies at Trianon. Gabrielle became universally detested and was blamed for depleting the royal treasury, although it was war that had caused the bankruptcy. She "often asked to retire from the court. 'I am not made for living at Versailles,' she kept repeating."

The king wished to reform the feudal tax system and get rid of the deficit by taxing the nobility, and so he called the Estates-General in May 1789. The opening of the Estates General coincided with the death of the king and queen's seven year old son, the Dauphin Louis-Joseph. The royal couple were devastated and with difficulty met the escalating crisis. When violence erupted on July 14, 1789, Antoinette begged her friend to leave, fearing that she would be assassinated. Gabrielle begged not to abandon Louis and Antoinette in their hour of need, but the queen said, "Remember that you are a mother." On July 16, the Polignac family left Versailles for a life of exile.

Gabrielle's health deteriorated. She had cancer as well as being consumed with horror and anxiety as she heard of the imprisonment and tragedies that befell Louis and Antoinette.
One of her friends wrote: "She did not stop crying. For six months, a deep sadness, great sufferings without certain causes weakened her each day more." A last blow hit her when they were forced to announce to her this horrible news: on October, 16th, 1793, Marie-Antoinette had been beheaded in Paris. This was the true beginning of Madame de Polignac's agony. She could not survive the queen, and she herself died on December, 9th, 1793, one month and a half, precisely, after her friend.

A witness told of her death: "Her last sigh was but her last breath, and to tell this in one word, her death was as sweet as she herself had been. She was buried in Vienna and they wrote on her tomb her name only, followed by this mention: 'Dead from suffering' on December 9th, 1793."
I am more and more convinced that Gabrielle has been just as maligned as the queen. What went on with the Polignac relations and friends was a common occurrence in a every court of Europe - when you rose, your family rose with you, it was almost expected. If there had been no revolution, no one would have given a second thought to the Polignacs, except perhaps to find them annoying, as many did. But with the complete upheaval of society in the Revolution, contemporaries and historians alike were/are grasping for straws to see what the queen did that made herself so hated by the French people. They think it must have been the problems with La Barry, or the queen's dress allowance, or her Trianon, or Gabrielle's grasping relatives, etc.

However, Marie-Antoinette was hated because she was deliberately maligned by a careful campaign on the part of political enemies, which included dissimulating false and exaggerated rumors to the people, as well as every form of the most vile pornography. Gabrielle was routinely included in the pornographic depictions. People were scandalized and believed that some of it must be true. Gabrielle must have done something wrong. To this day Gabrielle is seen as the naughty, greedy friend, when in reality she probably saved Antoinette's sanity. The powerful tools used to destroy the French monarchy and transform society into a totalitarian state are with us still, but on a much larger and more pervasive scale.

http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2007/12/madame-de-polignac-and-politics-of.html
http://marie-antoinettequeenoffrance.blogspot.com/2010/11/family-tree-polignac.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+MarieAntoinettesGossipGuideToThe18thCentury+%28Marie+Antoinette%27s+Gossip+Guide+to+the+18th+Century%29

Did Gabrielle have a lover?



Author Gareth Russell explores the question, here:
http://garethrussellcidevant.blogspot.com/2011/02/gabrielle-de-polignacs-lover.html
Joseph, comte de Vaudreuil (1740 - 1817) was a French aristocrat, soldier, art collector and one of the leading conservative politicians during the crisis that led to the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789. He was also one of the leading figures of the hectic social life at pre-revolutionary Versailles, even though Marie-Antoinette disliked him. Madame Campan recalls that the Queen was once particularly infuriated by Vaudreuil's rudeness when, in a fit of bad temper, he broke one of the queen's ivory billiard cues during a game in Diane de Polignac's salon.

One of the more interesting legends surrounding Vaudreuil is that he was the lover of Gabrielle de Polignac, "the beautiful duchess" and one of Marie-Antoinette's closest friends. Gabrielle's own marriage to the duc de Polignac was not particularly happy and it was suggested by some that Vaudreuil was the biological father of her two youngest children - Jules, the future prime minister, and Camille. (Her other two, Aglaé and Armand, had been born before she met Vaudreuil.)

Writing in her 2001 biography Marie Antoinette: The Journey, Lady Antonia Fraser considers this likely and asserts that the story of the two being lovers is, in any case, almost definitely true. On the other hand, Elena Maria Vidal, the author of Trianon and Madame Royale, has argued persuasively on her blog that the story of the Polignac-Vaudreuil love affair is probably nonsense. My own feelings actually correspond (ironically enough) with the Wikipedia article on Vaudreuil, which argues that if the old legend is true that Vaudreuil's mistress was actually the acclaimed artist, Madame Le Brun (which I think is true), then it's fundamentally unlikely that Vaudreuil was also sleeping with Madame de Polignac at the same time. To quote: -

"At the French court, he attached himself to the king's youngest brother, the comte d' Artois ... and formed a strong attachment to the beautiful duchesse de Polignac, an intimate friend of Queen Marie Antoinette and one of the leaders of high society at Versailles. The liaison with Gabrielle was viewed as sexual by many observers then and since, but some suggested that Gabrielle's nature was too essentially cold, class-conscious, (given Vaudreuil's Creole ancestry) or remote to have succumbed to an affair. Many of her friends despised him ... By now, Gabrielle had apparently decided that Vaudreuil was beginning to weaken her own position as a leader of aristocratic society and her friendship with the Queen. She began to avoid him and in 1785, she abruptly left Paris to spend time visiting friends in London. Her visits to spas in order to take the waters in the company of the Duchess of Devonshire became more prolonged and, by 1786, she saw Vaudreuil on an extremely rare basis and almost never without other people around her... In 1784, the celebrated artist Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun painted two portraits of Vaudreuil. He was one of Vigée-Lebrun's most devoted patrons, and owned many of her works in his vast private art collection, which included a portrait of Gabrielle de Polignac. Some have speculated that the friendship between Élisabeth and the comte was not strictly platonic. Had an affair taken place, it would also have taken place at the same time some have argued he was sexually involved with the duchesse de Polignac, an unlikely development given Gabrielle's exalted sense of her own importance. The existence of one affair would in all probability negate the likelihood of the other."

Were Gabrielle de Polignac and Joseph de Vaudreuil lovers? It's impossible to say. My own feelings are that given Gabrielle's personality and her treatment of him, it seems fundamentally unlikely. It seems even less likely that anyone but her husband was the father of her two youngest sons. Vaudreuil was not exactly a discreet personality and if he had been Gabrielle's lover, it's hard to imagine that he could have resisted boasting that he was romantically involved with the most beautiful woman in France. However, we shall never know for certain what the truth of their relationship dynamic was. What got me thinking about Vaudreuil today was a post on the blog Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century, which contained a quote about the count's personality which I have never come across before. It focuses more on his political career and it gave me pause for thought. It's always useful to be reminded (I think) that we should never accept at face value someone's historical reputation and should always be asking questions. Commenting on Vaudreuil's surviving letters, an Irishman in 1836 wrote: -

"They prove him to have been a man of sound judgment and a model courtier. He saw that any attempt to induce foreign Powers to interfere on behalf of Louis XVI, at least during the Constituent Assembly, would only do mischief to the Royal cause. He was ready enough to oppose the Revolution, but he would not, as so many of the emigres did, join the armies of the enemy in fighting against France. He did much to restrain the fiery temper of the Comte d'Artois. His prudent and respectful advice to the prince concerning his passion for Madame de Polastron was the means of avoiding much scandal."

Of course, Vaudreuil's own letters are going to paint him in a flattering light and I'm inclined to think that the instance of the Queen's billiard cue shows he had both a temper and less-than-perfect manners. However, as I say, it's always a good idea to keep questioning and to find random, brilliant sources like this to flesh out our understanding of the past.

Gareth Russell also discusses Gabrielle's death and her lost grave. To quote:

http://garethrussellcidevant.blogspot.com/2010/12/december-9th-1793-death-of-gabrielle-de.html
'Who is this? And what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,
All the Knights at Camelot;
But Lancelot mused a little space
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in His mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott."'
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Illustration above: An anonymous royalist pamphlet from 1793, showing the Angel of Death inscribing a monument to the Duchesse de Polignac

On December 9th, 1793, one of the last and the most exquisite of the ancien régime's socialites, Gabrielle, Duchesse de Polignac, died in exile in Vienna, less than two months after the execution of her friend and patroness, Queen Marie-Antoinette. She had been ailing for some time, although what precisely caused her death is still something of a mystery. In his 1974 biography Louis and Antoinette, Vincent Cronin wrote "Gabrielle de Polignac contracted a sudden illness in December 1793 and was dead within twelve hours". It may be that the duchess's death was hastened by a sudden infection caught in the depths of the Austrian winter, but it seems clear to me from my own research that for quite a few years prior to her death, Madame de Polignac had not been in good health. Her young and pretty daughter wrote in a letter to one of her mother's many English friends that since the news of the Queen's execution in October it had been possible to see Death written all over Gabrielle's face. The former court painter, Madame Le Brun, living nearby, wrote that in the final months of her life Gabrielle's "still lovely" face had been drained of its colour by the combined effects of sorrow and illness. Lady Antonia Fraser, author of Marie Antoinette: The Journey surmises that the cause of La Belle Gabrielle's death may therefore have been terminal cancer, exacerbated by suffering. At the time, others suggested it may have been consumption (tuberculosis.)

Having written Gabrielle in as one of the major characters in my play The Audacity of Ideas, set at Versailles on the eve of the Revolution of 1789, I have grappled with what killed her. I would like to quote from my author's note for that play and also show the scene in which Gabrielle is informed by the court physician, Dr. Lassonne, about her condition - four years prior to her death. No disclaimer is needed for the educated, but it is always worth bearing in mind that the scene between the duchess and the doctor is, of course, fictional.

At the time of her death, Gabrielle was survived by her husband, Jules, her daughter and her three sons - Jules (the future Prime Minister of France), Armand and Camille. Today, Gabrielle's descendants sit on the throne of Monaco.

Extract from the Author's Note of The Audacity of Ideas by Gareth Russell©

Of course, as in any work of historically based drama or fiction, there must be inaccuracies... the disease which ended Gabrielle de Polignac’s life in December of 1793 may not have been consumption. In fact, it probably wasn’t, but for the purposes of the play it suited the narrative better and, in fairness, there is a faint possibility that is what it was. She kept the details of her suffering so tightly guarded that even her own family don’t seem to have been certain of what it was which actually killed her in the end. On her tombstone, they simply said that she had died as a result of suffering – a ruling that was both diplomatic and elegant. Writing in 1974, Vincent Cronin concluded that she had simply contracted a sudden illness whilst in exile and, within twelve hours, was dead. It is possible that the last few hours saw a very rapid decline which gave this appearance, but it is clear that as far back as 1789 she was not a well woman. Antonia Fraser concludes that it was probably cancer and that the sheer stress of that last five years of her life exacerbated it. Whether it was consumption, cancer, depression or all three, Gabrielle’s desire to maintain her beauty was granted – even in the final, no doubt horrifying, stages of her illness, her daughter Agläié made a point of mentioning her mother’s ‘charming face … [although] one could see death written there.’

I have chosen to present her condition as consumption primarily because the dramatic potential is too great to be missed – the final iconic beauty of the ancien régime destroyed by an internal illness which left her flawless on the exterior. Indeed, I had every reason bar artistic predilection to stick to the theory that what eventually killed her was cancer. Gabrielle’s desire to look good despite her disease and the two scenes in which, by a veritable triumph of self-discipline she regains control of herself, are based not only on what I think the real duchess would have done but also as a sort of homage to my late grandmother, Mary Ann Russell (née McIlwaine.) After a too long battle with cancer, her final Christmas with us was ruined when she collapsed in her bathroom and had to be put to bed for the rest of the holidays. Finally, shortly into the New Year she rose to go into hospital and spent hours dressing herself with her customary exactitude – make-up, hair, long coat, dress, pearls, gloves and handbag. She left her home for what proved to be the last time and went to the hospital in Belfast where she passed away on January 17th. By general but not exclusive agreement within the family, my grandmother was not an easy woman and yet I, one of the dissenting voices, can say with absolute certainty that I loved her very much and admired her immensely. The one complaint that she ever uttered in the course of her time with cancer was as a half-joke to God, when she reminded Him that she was not Job. So, much of what I remember of her at that time has been put into Gabrielle’s story.

The Character Description of Gabrielle, Duchesse de Polignac from The Audacity of Ideas

YOLANDE-MARTINE-GABRIELLE DE POLASTRON, DUCHESSE DE POLIGNAC is the queen’s confidante and dearest friend. She is always known by the third of her three Christian names. The daughter of an impoverished aristocrat of ancient lineage, she spent most of her childhood as a pupil in a well-respected convent school. Married at a young age to an amiable but unremarkable man, her career only began in earnest when she was presented as a debutante at Versailles and made a dazzling impression with her presence and appearance. Since attracting the queen’s friendship, she has become extremely well-off and has ensured similar good fortune for her family and dependents. She occupies an ostentatious and sumptuous set of apartments, boasting thirteen rooms, all decorated with commendable taste. She has a perpetually youthful appearance. Naturally gorgeous, she does not use much make-up, preferring a look of ‘utter naturalness.’ Even her enemies frequently compare her looks to that of a Raphaelite Madonna or an Angel. Almost preternaturally calm by nature, her gentle but selective indifference is fascinating, although it masks self-centredness on a large scale. She is a mistress of exquisite effrontery, delivering perfectly-timed observations when it suits her. Her beauty is mesmerising and almost ethereal; her skin is exquisitely pure, her long, shiny brunette hair is wonderfully-kept, her lilac eyes sparkle delicately and she speaks with an almost musical grace. Her poise is perfect and her movements effortlessly flawless. Read More: http://garethrussellcidevant.blogspot.com/2010/12/december-9th-1793-death-of-gabrielle-de.html

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Friendship

Post  Sophie on Fri Nov 25, 2011 11:00 am

I adore these two posts flower I love both of these ladies...

I'm a bit surprised to read that Antoinette disliked Vaudreuil. I thought that they were friends, because Vaudreuil acted with her and with Artois in some Beaumarchais play together. And, as I remember, according to Chantal Thomas' "Farewell, My Queen" Vaudreuil was Diane de Polignac's lover. They are matching very well. In the novel, whatever Wink

And something else: I think the real "bad girl" friend was Princess Guemenee, who organized gambling parties in her apartement. I've read in Catharina Habsburg-Lothringen's Marie-Antoinette-biography that she had to resign from her post as the governess of the royal children because she and her husband had some enormous debts. After that, Gabrielle became the governess. Despite knowing that Antoinette herself had some gambling problems before, I can understand why she left Princess Guemenee behind... if I were a mother, I wouldn't want such a governess, too Smile (But I don't know if the story is true, that biography is sometimes weird.)

Will you write something about her male friends, too? Very Happy
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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Friendship

Post  Elena on Fri Nov 25, 2011 12:20 pm

Thank you, Sophie. I will post about Madame de Guemenee today and about the male friends as well. Please feel free to add any details that I leave out.

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Madame de Guéménée

Post  Elena on Fri Nov 25, 2011 4:58 pm



At the French court in the Old Regime the office of governess of the royal children was among the most coveted and influential in the land. La Gouvernante des Enfants de France had the duty of raising the heir to the throne which meant that in the future she (and her family) would have a unique connection to the King. Now before the reign of Louis XVI the royal governess was only chosen from certain high families. Madame de Guéménée was originally made the governess of the young Madame Elisabeth chiefly because she was born a Rohan. The Rohans were a tremendously important family and their members were usually picked for the chief positions in the royal household, whether they were qualified or not. Cardinal Louis de Rohan was appointed Grand Almoner in spite of his scandalous personal life and the Queen's repugnance for him. It was among one of the more frustrating traditions which Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette sought to get rid of, to the outrage of many courtiers.

Although it was indeed an inefficient practice to install someone in an office based upon their family connections rather than their qualifications, Madame de Guéménée was not completely unqualified. She was kind to Madame Elisabeth, who spent many happy hours at Montreuil, which belonged to the Guéménés before they went bankrupt. When Madame Elisabeth no longer needed a governess and when Madame Royale was born, Madame de Guéménée continued as royal governess but of the king's children rather than of his sister. Madame de Guéménée was a charming and elegant lady, not unkind to children.

Nesta Webster admits that the young Marie-Antoinette frequented Madame de Guéménée's extravagant card parties because the stakes were high and the crowd boisterous. The governess was seen as belonging to the Queen's circle of friends although Marie-Antoinette had no deep affection for her. Madame de Guéménée had some odd views, such as her conviction that spirits communicated with her through her dogs. In addition to her dabbling in spiritualism, she had a lover, the Duc de Coigny, factors which may have disqualified her from being a governess had she not been a Rohan. According to a biography of the Austrian ambassador Comte Mercy:
The Royal Governess was the Princesse de Guemenee, who received this appointment by virtue of her relationship to Madame de Marsan, the function of instruction being considered vested in the family of de Rohan. There was no doubt that the Princesse de Guemenee was capable of instructing upon many matters. She was a great lover of little dogs, and invariably appeared surrounded by a multitude of them. "She offered to them a species of worship, and pretended, through their medium, to hold communication with the world of spirits." She had been convicted of cheating at cards on several occasions. She was distinguished for the urbanity of her manner towards the ladies honoured by her husband's preference, paying the most delicate attentions to each in turn ; thus she compelled admiration for her exemplary fulfilment of a wife's highest duty. She entertained magnificently, royally, outshone the whole Court by her dress, and paved the way for the greatest bankruptcy known in France— the failure that affected all classes of society and plunged France into ruin; for all, from dukes to poor Breton sailors, had invested their moneys in the house of de Guemenee. "Only a King or a Rohan could have made such a failure," was the consoling sentiment of the Princesse, as she contemplated her bootmaker's bill of 60,000 livres [£2,400], or the amount of 16,000 livres [£640] owed to her paper- hanger. And the ruin of the Rohans hastened the Revolution.
After the Guéménés left court, the Queen insisted upon choosing a governess for her children not from one of the great families but from an impoverished, unknown family called the Polignacs. Madame de Polignac had by that time become Marie-Antoinette's best friend, a friendship encouraged by Louis XVI, since Madame de Poliganc had a calming and steadying influence upon the highstrung and easily distracted Queen. The choice of Madame de Polignac as the new royal governess and the subsequent rise of her family to power caused outrage among the nobility, especially those who thought they had a better claim upon the job. Trouble and tragedy would come of the Queen's choice of Madame de Polignac as governess.

Sources: http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2009/08/madame-de-guemenee.html


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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Friendship

Post  May on Fri Nov 25, 2011 5:57 pm

Friendship must have been a great consolation to the Queen, in the midst of all her troubles.

It is odd to think of Madame de Guémenée as governess to Madame Elisabeth, of all people!
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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Friendship

Post  Elena on Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:13 pm

Yes, it does but apparently they did get on well and madame Elisabeth loved to play at her governess' house at Montreuil which later became her home.

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Madame de Tourzel

Post  Elena on Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:17 pm





Madame de Tourzel was a devout lady chosen by Marie-Antoinette to be governess of her children after Madame de Polignac had to flee from the Revolution in July of 1789. There are many people who wonder why the queen and her children did not also try to escape at that time. It is because Marie-Antoinette would not desert her husband. "I will die at his feet!" she exclaimed. (see Rocheterie's Histoire de Marie-Antoinette, vol ii) Louis XVI, of course, would not abandon his people. Early in the crisis the king and queen made the decision that they would not be parted from their children, but would keep them close at hand, not knowing what was going to transpire next in the tidal wave of events. So Marie-Antoinette chose as governess as trustworthy and reliable a person as she could find. "I entrusted my children to friendship," she remarked. "I entrust them now to virtue."

The queen wrote detailed and explicit directions about the care of her two surviving children for Madame de Tourzel, whose youngest daughter Pauline was a teenager. Pauline became a close friend of young Madame Royale. Both mother and daughter were close to the rambunctious Louis-Charles and were devoted to the saintly Madame Elisabeth.

Madame de Tourzel was with the royal family on the October night in 1789 when Versailles was stormed. It is she who reported in her Memoirs how the queen's bed was slashed by the mob. The governess and her daughter accompanied the royal family to Paris and shared their house arrest at the Tuileries. She recorded how one of the first actions of the queen at the Tuileries was to build a staircase joining her room with the king's, so that the family could get to each other when the mob attacked again, which it did in June and in August of 1792. Madame de Tourzel was with the royal family when they tried to escape in 1791 and shared the long ordeal of the re-capture. When Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette and their family were imprisoned in the Temple, Madame de Tourzel and Pauline were not permitted to join them but were placed in one of the prisons in Paris. Somehow, they escaped the September Massacres, in which the queen's friend Madame de Lamballe was torn to pieces.

Madame de Tourzel lived to see the Restoration in 1814 and in 1830 Charles X made her a Duchess. She and Pauline were united with Madame Royale, whom Pauline served as lady-in-waiting.

http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2008/09/madame-de-tourzel.html

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Friendship

Post  May on Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:31 pm

I have read a bit of Madame de Tourzel's memoirs. Her loyalty to the King and Queen is most moving and impressive.
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The Mysterious Catherine Hyde

Post  Elena on Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:32 pm

Catherine Hyde, called the "Marquise de Gouvion Broglie Scolari," was the editor of the mémoires secrets or confidential memoirs of Princess de Lamballe. Originally published in 1826, the memoirs are said by some to be apocryphal, yet some reputable biographies of Marie-Antoinette have referred to them. In spite of the florid, overwrought language, typical of the era, there are many anecdotes about the youthful Marie-Antoinette, Louis XVI, and their friends, foes and relatives. The memoirs purport to be a collection of the private papers and letters of the princess, edited and annotated by her secretary/confidante Catherine Hyde, whom Madame de Lamballe found in an Irish convent school in Paris. One of the main problems is the identity of Catherine herself. There is scant information about her background other than what she said about herself in the book, and some of that information is questionable.

However, I recently came across some fascinating information on a genealogy website where there are posted excerpts from the private family papers of Henry M. Hyams, Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana in the 1860's. Mr Hyams claimed to be the nephew of Catherine Hyde or "Kitty Hyams," as she was also called. The Hyams were of Jewish-Polish descent and had originally fled to Ireland as a refuge. Catherine had been sent to the convent in Paris for her education. As the Hyams memorandum says:
Catherine, my father's sister, also born in Ireland, who received a finished education, as a linguist and musician at the Convent of Irelandaises in Paris. She was known as the beautiful little Kitty Hyams, afterwards as the pretty little Kittie "Hyde," having been adopted by Lord Hyde, and sent to this country to be educated and converted to Catholicism. In the after years she was attached to the unhappy household and fortunes of the unfortunate Princess De Lamballe and Marie Antoinette. She was the Maid of Honor to the Princess and she performed many secret missions for the royal house. She was especially the favorite of Marie Antoinette and was the confidante during all of her troubles. She has written the memories of the Princess Lamballe and also the secret memories and last moments of Marie Antoinette. She also wrote a work entitled, "Venice under the yoke of France and Austria." At the age of 86 years [this would be in about 1842, two years before her death] she visited the United States to visit her brother, Samuel M. Hyams, of New Orleans, Louisiana. He was the father of Lt. Gov. Henry M. Hyams and Samuel M. Hyams of this state. Her style of writing was forcible, and attracted the attention of all the European Governments of that time, caused her to be an exile and driven into Italy, where later on she died. Although residing in foreign lands nearly all of her life, she was exceedingly English in her views and politics; hating Napoleon above all things on earth; in all her writings she fully shows this hatred. She is known as the Marchioness de Solari."
This kind of historical mystery can be really intriguing to explore. So did Catherine truly base her book on actual writings of the princess? Or is it more of a novel based on stories that she heard as a young girl in Paris? And how did she acquire the Italian title? Who was her husband? If anyone has some insights, let me know.

Sources:
http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2008/09/mysterious-catherine-hyde.html

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Friendship

Post  Elena on Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:32 pm

Matterhorn wrote:I have read a bit of Madame de Tourzel's memoirs. Her loyalty to the King and Queen is most moving and impressive.

Her memoirs are an excellent resource.

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Madame Campan

Post  Elena on Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:43 pm



Jeanne-Louise-Henriette Campan was the femme de chambre, the chamber maid, of Queen Marie-Antoinette. She was author of the famous memoirs, detailing life at Versailles. Madame Campan was an educated lady from a bourgeois family who began her career at Versailles as the Reader to the daughters of Louis XV, from whom she had an earful of gossip. As Marie-Antoinette's maid, she attended to the details of the running of the queen's household. Madame Campan has often been accused of exaggerating her role, especially where the diamond necklace scandal is concerned. That may very well be; it is easy to picture Madame Campan as an old lady at the finishing school she ran for the daughters of revolutionaries, carried away by memories of a glittering past. I do not, however, think she deliberately softened her portrayal of Marie-Antoinette, in order to get back into the good graces of Madame Royale. In that case, she would not have been so critical of Louis XVI, since it was well-known that the princess idolized her dead father. Here are some passages in which Madame Campan does not speak too highly of the queen:
Marie Antoinette took little pains to promote literature and the fine arts....The most indifferent artists were permitted to have the honour of painting the Queen. A full-length portrait, representing her in all the pomp of royalty, was exhibited in the gallery of Versailles. This picture, which was intended for the Court of Vienna, was executed by a man who does not deserve even to be named, and disgusted all people of taste. It seemed as if this art had, in France, retrograded several centuries.

The Queen had not that enlightened judgment, or even that mere taste, which enables princes to foster and protect great talents. She confessed frankly that she saw no merit in any portrait beyond the likeness. When she went to the Louvre, she would run hastily over all the little “genre" pictures, and come out, as she acknowledged, without having once raised her eyes to the grand compositions.
It sounds like a fairly honest assessment, with which one is free to disagree. Madame Campan made the following comments about Louis XVI:
Who would have dared to check the amusements of a queen, young, lively, and handsome? A mother or a husband alone would have had the right to do it; and the King threw no impediment in the way of Marie Antoinette’s inclinations. His long indifference had been followed by admiration and love. He was a slave to all the wishes of the Queen, who, delighted with the happy change in the heart and habits of the King, did not sufficiently conceal the ascendency she was gaining over him.
I fail to see how such observations were supposed to win the favor of the daughter of the murdered royal couple, who viewed her parents as holy martyrs. If Madame Campan was trying to ingratiate herself to the Duchesse d'Angoulême, she was taking the wrong tact. Her descriptions of the various personalities seem to be balanced, shrewd and detailed, rather than an attempt to curry favor.

Sources:
http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2008/06/madame-campan.html

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Count Axel von Fersen

Post  Elena on Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:51 pm

Surfing the internet anyone can see that the Fersen myth is deeply entrenched in the public mind. This is due to major publishers yearly churning out sensational biographies and novels, which focus on the legend rather than on the facts, scouring letters and diaries for the slightest indication that Marie-Antoinette and Count Fersen may have slept together. At best, such books harbor the notion of a great and spiritual love between the Queen and the count, such as in Sena Jeter Naslund's Abundance. At worst, they are romance novels like Carolly Erickson's The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette, which has the Queen going on a journey to Sweden with Axel von Fersen. It is a fabrication which should qualify that particular novel as fantasy rather than as historical fiction.

Excellent books by serious French historians, which attempt to look at the cold unromantic facts of the matter, such as Marie-Antoinette l'insoumise by Simone Bertière and Marie-Antoinette: Epouse de Louis XVI, mere de Louis XVII by Philippe Delorme, are not translated into English. Instead biographies such as Evelyn Lever's Marie-Antoinette, which focus on the possibility of a romance with Fersen, are the ones which find their way into American book stores. Older books like those by Hilaire Belloc, Desmond Seward, and Nesta Webster, all of which present clear evidence that there was little possibility of an affair, are not reprinted. However, Stefan Zweig's Freudian analysis is continually on the bookshelves. There is no great conspiracy here. Publishers know that stories of adulterous love affairs sell more books than do stories of chaste and faithful marriages. And so they give the public what they think they want.

Antonia Fraser's popular biography, like Evelyn Lever's, both admit that there is no solid evidence of an affair. Nevertheless, Lady Fraser gives as her reason for thinking that there was indeed a liaison the fact that it is human nature to give into passion. This may be her theory but it is not historical evidence.

Although Marie-Antoinette was always the subject of gossip and rumors, the myth of Axel von Fersen as her lover evolved after the deaths of both the count and the queen. According to Fersen’s biographer Francoise Kermina, the count himself carelessly sewed the seeds of the legend when once upon hearing an opera favored by the queen he sighed, “Ah, those memories….” In 1822 an Irishman named O’Meara published Napoleon in Exile in which he repeated gossip that had been rampant at Bonaparte’s court, about Fersen and the queen, which were attributed to the queen’s maid Madame Campan. The rumor was proved to be false by British historian John Wilson Croker, who in October 1822 wrote in the Quarterly Review that Madame Campan had not been present at court when certain allegations were said to have occurred.

For many years following, most historians and biographers, including Carlyle, the Goncourts, Imbert de Saint-Amand, de la Rocheterie, Bimbinet, Lenotre and de Nolhac did not take the Fersen story seriously and ignored it. When the letters of the queen and Count Fersen were published by his great nephew Baron de Klinckostrom in the late nineteenth century, they proved the nature of the queen and Fersen’s relationship to be principally a diplomatic one.

In certain of the letters, mainly those from the queen to Fersen, passages have been erased and are indicated by rows of dots in the printed text. The Coursacs, Webster, and Delorme believe that Fersen erased certain passages himself. The erasures of Fersen were most likely sensitive diplomatic issues, not declarations of love, as authors such as Lever have claimed. They concealed allusions to the queen’s disagreements with her brothers-in-law Artois and Provence, or references to the Duc d’Orleans and other revolutionaries, or even mentions of spies or persons whose families would have been compromised had the letters fallen into the wrong hands. We do not know.

In 1907 a certain Monsieur Lucien Maury published in Revue Bleue what he claimed to be a fragment of a love letter of the queen to Fersen. Lever quotes it in her biography: “Tell me to whom I should send my letters to you, for I cannot live without that. Farewell most loved and most loving of men. I embrace you with all my heart." The letter had no signature, was not in the queen’s handwriting, only in the cipher she used, jotted down by Fersen in cipher. There is no proof it was from the queen but could have been from one of the many ladies with whom Fersen dallied over the years. And yet Lever includes this fragment among verified letters of the queen, giving the impression that it is evidence of a great love. Webster, however, dismissed it.

Many authors scour Fersen's diary for every and any hint of his love for the Marie-Antoinette. While he may have loved the queen on some level, his diary, as pointed out by Francoise Kermina, shows him to be a rather shallow person. The Queen actually is mentioned very little compared to his accounts of his various adventures with many other women, especially his beloved Eleonore Sullivan, the lady with whom he was having an affair all the while the queen was suffering in the Tuileries and in prison.

In the 1930’s Alma Soderhjelm published the letters of Count Fersen to his sister Sophie, hoping to prove from those letters that the Count and the queen had had a love affair. It is upon Soderhjelm’s book that most of the modern romances about Marie-Antoinette are based. Now in the spring of 1790, Fersen was having his passionate affair with Eleonore. She was kept bya certain Monsieur Crawford in an elegant house in Paris, where she had a maid named Josephine, and a hideaway for Fersen in the attic. Later authors would surmise that when Fersen mentioned “Josephine” in his letters, it was really a code name for Marie-Antoinette. While it is possible that Fersen may have at times used that nickname to refer to the Queen in his secret diplomatic correspondences, one must take into account the fact that in other letters Fersen gave “Josephine” menial instructions about a stove; in such a case he was more than likely referring to Mrs. Sullivan’s maid and the cold room in the attic.

Likewise, the woman Fersen writes ardently about to his sister at this time, who is honored by Sophie’s attentions, is most likely Mrs. Sullivan, whom he refers to as “El” or “elle.” Some try to make the queen the subject of his ecstatic passages, but why would the queen of France, in the midst of so many political intrigues, threatened by death, have wanted to ingratiate herself to Fersen’s sister? "Elle” (capitalized), however, is what Fersen uses when referring reverently to the queen, la Reine, whom he usually mentions in conjunction with the King. Baron Klinckowstrom quotes Fersen’s letter to his father in Feb 1791, in which he writes of his service to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette: “I am attached to the King and the Queen and I owe it to them for the kindness they showed me when they were able, and I should be vile and ungrateful if I deserted them now that they can do nothing for me….” (see Webster's Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette During the Revolution)

The fact that Fersen was not mentioned at all at Marie-Antoinette's trial by her enemies, who were looking for anything to pin on her, except for his role in the royal escape, is quite telling. Instead, they trumped up the accusation of incest, which shows how desperate they were for charges against her, no matter how far-fetched. A queen has few secrets; her foes would have discovered a liaison, if one had existed.

There was a great nobility in Count Fersen, especially in his efforts to save the royal family. However, to make his friendship with Marie-Antoinette into a great and lofty romance is to ignore his reality and hers. For while Fersen was with his Eleonore, the Queen of France was losing her husband, from whom she refused to be parted even to save her life. She had to watch her children and sister-in-law being terrorized, as she herself had to prepare to die. For something much more powerful and glorious was going on than a love affair; it is called martyrdom.

More here: http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2009/01/here-we-go-again.html

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Friendship

Post  Sophie on Sat Nov 26, 2011 2:01 pm

Wow, thanks for the new posts! You're right, it seems to be sure that Madame Campan didn't write her memoirs for Madame Royale's complacency. Anyway, I don't like these interpretations of hers, too - from my point of view, the Queen supported all forms of arts (music - Gluck, theatre - Beaumarchais, painting - Vigée-Lebrun and so on), and she was an amateur artist herself. If Madame Campan is right, I only can imagine that Antoinette had a special taste that Madame Campan personally didn't like. Memoirs are subjective, we have the freedom to create our own opinions tongue But only opinions, not proofless Fersen stories Laughing
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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Friendship

Post  Elena on Sat Nov 26, 2011 4:59 pm

I agree with you, Sophie. Marie-Antoinette had the soul of an artist and Madame Campan couldn't see it because the Queen's taste differed from her own. One has to always be careful with Madame Campan. I don't quite agree with her about Louis, either. Rolling Eyes

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Count Valentine Esterhazy

Post  Elena on Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:54 pm

I can't find a picture of him, but he is a friend to whom Marie-Antoinette wrote a great deal during the Revolution. Here is what the 1910 Encyclopedia Britannica says of him:
Count Balint Miklos (1740-1805), son of Balint Jozsef, was an enthusiastic partisan of the duc de Choiseul, on whose dismissal, in 1764, he resigned the command of the French regiment of which he was the colonel. It was Esterhazy who conveyed to Marie Antoinette the portrait of Louis XVI. on the occasion of their betrothal, and the close relations he maintained with her after her marriage were more than once the occasion of remonstrance on the part of Maria Theresa, who never seems to have forgotten that he was the grandson of a rebel. At the French court he stood in high favour with the comte d'Artois. He was raised to the rank of maréchal de camp, and made inspector of troops in the French service in 1780. At the outbreak of the French Revolution, he was stationed at Valenciennes, where he contrived for a time to keep order, and facilitated the escape of the French emigrés by way of Namur; but, in 1790, he hastened back to Paris to assist the king. At the urgent entreaty of the comte d'Artois in 1791 he quitted Paris for Coblenz, accompanied Artois to Vienna, and was sent to the court of St Petersburg the same year to enlist the sympathies of Catherine II. for the Bourbons. He received an estate from Catherine II., and although the gift was rescinded by Paul I., another was eventually granted him. He died at Grodek in Volhynia on the 23rd of July 1805.

See Mémoires, ed. by E. Daudet (Fr.) (Paris, 1905), and Lettres (Paris, 1906).
Source: http://books.google.com/books?id=rkBTAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA795&lpg=PA795&dq=Count+Valentine+Esterhazy&source=bl&ots=lOZwGYRqwn&sig=x-XPJlamPfMM-AcOK1GIUt-fGzs&hl=en&ei=0DLUTrHjFqnW0QGZ1qiSAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBsQ6AEwADgK#v=onepage&q=Count%20Valentine%20Esterhazy&f=false

The English Historical Review, Volume 23 says:
It cannot be said that the Lettres du Comte Valentin Esterhazy de sa Femme, 1784-1792, which M. Ernest Daudet has edited, with an introduction and notes (Paris: Plon, 1907), add much to our knowledge of the reign of Louis XVI. Count Valentine Esterhazy was a friend of Marie Antoinette and an officer in the French service. He was not clever, nor had he the genuine Frenchman's gift of style. He seems to have been an exemplary husband, much attached to his dear Fanny and their children. Scraps of English here and there remind us of the then fashionable Anglomania. In one letter he complains of the inflation of military charges, 'due to our bureaucracy, the proper name for our administration.' In another he mentions how carefully he read Rousseau's Emile, and marked the best passages with a view to the education of his expected son. But down to 1786 his letters record little save the routine business and amusements of his profession and class, without a glance beyond the pleasant surface of things. After 1786 there is a gap in the correspondence until 1790, when the count emigrated. He attached himself to the party of the princes, who sent him at the end of 1791 to enlist the support of the empress of Russia. Esterhazy has much to say of Catherine's noble sentiments, magnificent hospitality, and industry as a playwright. He was astounded at the wealth and profuse splendour of the Russian nobles. St. Petersburg impressed him much, and Moscow more, but he did not excel in description. His business did not go forward. He lamented the cabals among the emigres and the coldness of the powers nearest to France. He perceived that Austrian statesmen were not sorry to see France disabled, as they thought, from taking an active part in European affairs, although he did not suspect that Catherine was chiefly anxious to find distractions for her own rivals. Foreign intervention, he believed, would remedy all the ills of France, if only it were prompt and vigorous. The real force of the revolutionary movement he seems to have understood as little asdid the generality of his brethren in misfortune. M. Daudet makes a singular mistake in implying (p. 872) that Louis XVI declared war against the emperor in December 1791. What Louis then did was only to menace the elector of Treves with armed constraint if the corps of emigres did not disperse.
http://books.google.com/books?id=krDRAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA204&lpg=PA204&dq=Count+Valentine+Esterhazy+Marie-Antoinette&source=bl&ots=3ywnOCKfVY&sig=NkICIq3tigv9-StJr_lxiU8eaSg&hl=en&ei=6TXUTtLDNKX00gHYmvCRAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&sqi=2&ved=0CCIQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=Count%20Valentine%20Esterhazy%20Marie-Antoinette&f=false

More here:
http://books.google.com/books?id=u7GTMH8lFA8C&pg=PA272&lpg=PA272&dq=Count+Valentin+Esterhazy+Marie-Antoinette&source=bl&ots=i22LaJWtAb&sig=W_H7GMaHl9sXqzZ4fWlG_dM1oME&hl=en&ei=cjrUTo3lHqjg0QH05OHfAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&sqi=2&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=Count%20Valentin%20Esterhazy%20Marie-Antoinette&f=false
and here:
http://maria-antonia.justgoo.com/t110-le-comte-valentin-esterhazy

If anyone has a picture or more information, please share it! Smile

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Friendship

Post  Sophie on Tue Nov 29, 2011 7:33 am

Elena wrote:If anyone has a picture or more information, please share it! Smile

I tried to search in Google Pictures, but he's not as famous as the other Esterházys. The family is one of the most influent historical families in the Hungarian history, they patroned arts (Haydn worked for them), there were many politicians, soldiers and a composer among them. Maria Theresa had cooperated with them, too, so no surprise that Valentine (Bálint) was a friend of Antoinette's. Today we still have a postmodern writer Péter Esterházy who keeps the family's artistic traditions.

But Valentine-Bálint is not so intersting for the public unless if one has a passion for Antoinette and Louis. I found only one anecdote about him years ago, and now I can't find it again Sad There was a supper at Versailles and Antoinette had fun with bombarding Louis with bread pieces (yeah, she and etiquette were not so good friends Laughing ). Louis asked Esterházy loud: "Please help me, what can I do against this attacking?" And he answered: "If I were in this situation, Your Highness, I would occlude the hole of the cannon." Louis found it the perfect answer and laughed a lot. It sounds a bit perverse and that's why I doubt it's a real story, but I like it as an anecdote because it shows the warm family mood among the royal couple, their sarcastic behaviour against etiquette and, most important at all, Louis' self-irony disproves the Zweig-Fraser's "impotent, indifferent man"-portrayal of him.
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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Friendship

Post  Elena on Tue Nov 29, 2011 11:32 am

Thank you, Sophie, I love that story. I can just imagine Antoinette throwing the pellets of bread at Louis; It does show the playful side of their relationship. Laughing

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Friendship

Post  Sophie on Tue Nov 29, 2011 7:34 pm

Thanks I love you Yes, I hope that it's true, too, but I can't claim it without the original one. As a student, I find the resources very important.

The other, very similar story is about the friendship between Artois and Antoinette and how they criticised Provence's desire for the throne. It's often quoted, I've read it in these form in an old book about the Habsburgs. In 1778, when Antoinette felt her baby (whose gender was unknown) moving for the first time, told Louis: "Your Highness, I would like to complain about a rebellious person who's just kicked the Queen's venter." Artois added: "But please, this person did in fact something worse! He kicked the Monsieur, too, but a quite different part of his body!" Cool I always need to laugh when I think about this...
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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Friendship

Post  Elena on Tue Nov 29, 2011 7:39 pm

Laughing Laughing Laughing

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The duchesse de Gramont-Caderousse

Post  Elena on Thu Dec 29, 2011 6:39 pm

Leah Marie Brown has a post about the elusive duchesse de Gramont-Caderousse.
http://leahmariebrownhistoricals.blogspot.com/2011/12/duchesse-de-gramontgrammontgramont.html To quote:
Vigee Le Brun's lovely duchesse, with almond shaped eyes and slightly parted lips as if in the throes of a self-conscious smile, proves to be far more elusive. Time, it would seem, has nearly obliterated her mark.

She was born in Marie-Gabrielle de Sinéty in 1760. She married André Joseph Hippolyte de Gramont-Vacheres, the duc de Gramont-Caderousse in February of 1779. The duc, her husband, was Lord of Cap-Cornu, governor of La Tour-de-Crest, and a Knight of Malta. They had four children. From her family tree, I learned three of her children grew to adulthood and had children of their own. She died on April 24, 1832 at the Château de Caderousse.

There are no memoirs detailing her exploits through Europe or her dangerous liaisons with dashing lotharios. I could unearth no clues as to how she survived the bloody Revolution that took the lives of her king, queen, and the other Duchesse de Grammont.


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Madame Vigée-Lebrun

Post  Elena on Mon Jan 09, 2012 10:46 pm


As she delicately applied the paint, she continued to glance at her subject. The eyes, too, were also quite difficult, because of their color, blue—but which blue? Dark blue, of course, a blue which from far away gave the illusion that the eyes themselves were black or slate-colored. But was the dark blue a blueberry-blue or an amethyst blue or a deep sapphire blue? Madame Vigée-Lebrun had a few portraits ago decided upon the sapphire blue, and she hoped that she could once again create just the right hue.
~from Trianon: A Novel of Royal France by Elena Maria Vidal
Madame Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun was court portrait painter at Versailles during the reign of Louis XVI. She painted Marie-Antoinette many times. In her Memoirs, she describes the queen thus:
Her arms were superb, her hands small and perfectly formed, and her feet charming. She had the best walk of any woman in France, carrying her head erect and with a dignity that stamped her queen in the midst of her whole court; and yet this majestic mien in no wise diminished the sweetness and gentleness of her expression. Her features were not regular; she had inherited the long and narrow oval peculiar to the Austrian race- her eyes, almost blue in color, were rather small - her nose was delicate and pretty, and her mouth not too large, although her lips were somewhat thick. But the most remarkable thing about her face was her brilliant complexion. I have never seen any so dazzling.
Charles Blanc in Histoire Des Peintres wrote:
As a painter Madame Vigee Le Brun belongs wholly and distinctly to the eighteenth century; that is to say, to that period in the history of French art which was brought to an abrupt termination by the works of Louis David. So long as she followed the counsels of Joseph Vernet her pencil evinced a certain suppleness and her brush a certain force; but unfortunately she too often sought especially was this the case in her later works - to imitate Greuze, and weakened the likeness to her models by an exaggerated mistiness. She became the fashion so early in her life that she was debarred from any thorough study, and she was too frequently satisfied with a clever suggestiveness in her portraits.

Without estimating her so leniently as she was in her own day estimated by the French Academy, we nevertheless must needs assign Madame Le Brun an honorable place in the history of painting in France; for, notwithstanding revolutions and reforms, she continued to pursue, as long as she lived, the dainty and delicate art of Watteau, of Nattier, and of Fragonard-an art at once graceful and intrinsically French.-From the French
There is a sketch that Madame Vigée Le Brun did of Marie-Antoinette after the queen's death, showing her going to heaven, palm in hand, where Louis and the two children who died are awaiting her. The artist, who was a friend of the queen, was too overcome with grief to finish the picture.

More Here:

http://madameguillotine.org.uk/2010/04/12/same-dress-different-hair/

http://blog.catherinedelors.com/marie-antoinette-and-louise-elisabeth-vigee-lebrun-the-queen-and-the-painter/

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Friendship

Post  Sophie on Tue Jan 10, 2012 6:44 am

I like her as well as the rococo-classicist painting style of her age! I'm planning to read her Memoirs, too Wink Thanks for posting this!
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Princesse de Chimay

Post  Elena on Thu Feb 02, 2012 11:41 pm

From Madame Guillotine http://mmeguillotine.tumblr.com/post/15507002490/marie-antoinettes-lady-in-waiting-laure-auguste :


Marie Antoinette’s lady in waiting, Laure-Auguste de Fitz-James, Princesse de Chimay (1744-1804) was one of the numerous children of Charles Berwick, Duc de Fitz-James (1712-1787) and his wife Victoire de Louise Josèphe Goyon de Matignon (1722-1777). She was married to Philippe Gabriel Maurice Joseph d’Hénin Liétard, prince de Chimay on 28 September 1762 at the age of eighteen. Sadly, the couple did not have any children.

Madame la Princesse was known to be excessively devout, charitable, scholarly and sweet natured in personality and also inflamed with a passionate pride in both her romantic Stuart heritage and her military hero father, the Duc de Fitz-James. After her marriage she became a lady in waiting to Queen Marie Leczinska, Louis XV’s similarily devout wife who was fond of the young girl, who had a gravity beyond her years.

After the Queen’s death in June 1768, the Princesse like all of the other ladies in waiting found herself out of a job until the arrival in France two years later of the young Dauphine Marie Antoinette, who was eleven years her junior.Surprisingly the two young women seem to have hit it off and as soon as she became Queen, Marie Antoinette was to have her promoted to Dame d’Honneur, supplanting Madame de Noailles.

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