Saturday, January 3, 2009

How Rude Madame!

Hello My Friends and a very happy New Year to you all! I for one am very glad to be starting a fresh chapter with the beginning of a fresh year. I have had a beautiful and leisurely day today (for which I am extremely grateful as these days are more than rare for me)! My wonderful husband, Keithen, let me sleep in this morning and not only tended to the baby but cleaned and did laundry as well! I now know what the Queen must have felt like! So, long story short I have been on an online adventure and I have a ton of juicy stuff to post this week! I have decided to focus on Versailles this week and my favorite frivolous Queen Marie~Antoinette the next (I found some great stuff to share)! I am very excited! I'll save the exciting stuff for the week today just an amuse bouche for your taste buds!

~French Court Etiquette and life at court in Versailles~

Life at the court was narrowly regulated by court etiquette. Étiquette was the means of social advancement for the court. Louis XIV’s elaborate rules of etiquette included the following:

*People who wanted to speak to the king could not knock on his door. Instead, using the left little finger, they had to gently scratch on the door, until they were granted permission to enter. As a result, many courtiers grew that fingernail longer than the others!

*A lady never held hands or linked arms with a gentleman. It was in very bad taste and nearly impossible because a woman’s skirts were so wide. She was to place her hand on top of the gentleman’s bent arm as they strolled through the gardens and chambers of Versailles. Ladies were only allowed to touch their fingertips with the men. Imagine that! Funny with all of the scandal that went on!

*When a gentleman sat down, he slid his left foot in front of the other, placed his hands on the sides of the chair and gently lowered himself into the chair. The practical reason for this procedure was that if he sat too quickly, his tight trousers might split.
*Women and men were not allowed to cross their legs in public.

*When a gentleman passed an acquaintance on the street, he was to raise his hat high off his head until the other person passed.

*A gentleman was to do no work except writing letters, giving speeches, practicing fencing, or dancing. For pleasure, he engaged in hawking, archery, indoor tennis, or hunting. A gentleman would also take part in battle and would sometimes serve as a public officer, paying the soldiers. My Goodness!

*Ladies’ clothing did not allow them to do much besides sit and walk. However, they passed the time sewing, knitting, writing letters, painting, making their own lace, and creating their own cosmetics and perfumes. Beauty before practicality! I love it!

*Etiquette ordained the order of prominence at court, limited or extended access based on rank or favor. For example...

The Honours can be divided depending on the rank of each Individual:

~King of France (head of state, patriarch, The man in charge!)

~Enfants & Petit Enfants de France (children & grandchildren of king)

~Princes of the Blood (from great-grandchildren on, stemming from a king)

~Ducs-et-Pairs (Peers of the realm w/the Honours of the Louvre)

~Non-titled Nobles (Maqs., Count, Baron, but considered non-titled because not a peer.)

**Let's not get started on the issue of legitimate & illegitimate children, there is a whole other set of rules there!**

Confused yet? Hold on...! There were also different Honours:

~The Honours of the Louvre~ the most comprehensive and belong from Dukes and up (more below).

~The Honours of the Court = the right to ride Kings carriages and be invited to court balls.

~The Honours of Versailles = the right to be presented at court, from gentlemen and up.

A little bit more on the Honours of the Louvre~
*The right to have a Throne room with a velvet dais in your own palace, and display your own arms in the back curtain.
*The right to gold-leaf your carriage all over.
*The right to have a red velvet "imperiale" or covering as the roof to your carriage.
*The right to crown the carriage lanterns with "golden ducal crowns (of 8 strawberry leaves)."
*The right to enter with a carriage pulled by 4 horses to the innermost courtyards of royal palaces.
*The right to ride (never in the presence of the king or his palaces) in a carriage pulled by 6 horses.
*The right for women to sit on a tabouret in the presence of the King and Royal Family.
These are fine examples of a Tabouret these are in Versailles and they are quite abundant. My favorites being the ones in Marie~Antoinette's bed chamber

*The right for women then slowly also the men to have a square cushion on which to kneel during mass in the presence of the king.
*The right to have a prie-dieu at church when the king is not present.
*The right to display a ducal mantle (in France, blue) and a ducal coronet (8 strawberry leaves) on one's arms.
*The right (for women) to wear a court mantle with a train borne by a page.
So, these apply to you if you are a Duchess, Prince of the blood, the King or Queen. If you didn't qualify you were not allowed any of these luxuries! And I so wanted to erect a dais :(

Just in case you were wondering this is a prie~Dieu

*The king and queen always had a fauteuil (armchair) to sit on. In their presence, no one else was allowed an armchair, unless you were also a monarch.
*A chair with a back but no arms was allowed for those closest in rank to the king, such as his brother or children.
*The tabouret, a padded stool was awarded to those holding the rank of duchess. Lesser ranking nobility would be expected to stand.

* Only ushers were allowed to open doors. If you desired to leave the room, you had to wait for the usher to open the door.

*A distinctive gliding walk was used by ladies at Versailles in which they never lifted the foot so as not to step on the train of the woman in front of them. Marie-Antoinette mastered this, and all her ladies were required to learn to walk without raising their feet from the ground. It was know as the Versailles glide.

*People of different rank were to enter a room in order, princes, then officers of the Court, and finally courtiers. The page opened both halves of the tall double door for a prince, but for lower ranked dignitaries, only one side swung open.
*Wall hangings at Versailles were changed twice a year for winter and summer. Between All Saint’s Day and Easter, the château’s tall windows were sealed with strips of tape to keep out cold air. To this day they still change with the seasons.
*The royal Family was not allowed to pour a glass of water or reach for food themselves. Meals, refreshments, and items of clothing had to be handed or served to them, sometimes on silver trays, according to tradition. Mme. Campan famously tells a story of Marie~Antoinette shivering while waiting to be dressed as her petticoat is passed from one lady to another of higher rank. This scene was also portrayed in the movie.
*The Grand~Couvert was a daily public ritual, where the King and Queen would eat their dinner in public. Anybody could attend (anybody of any rank) provided they were dressed properly, for men, this meant wearing a sword. You could rent one at the gates! Marie~Antoinette famously hated this ritual (meant to signify that the Sovereigns were at the disposal of the people) and was frequently criticized for not even removing her gloves. She often picked at her food and had a second meal served in her private chambers with her friends.

There is so much more to tell! The rules of etiquette in Versailles are long and complicated but this is a pretty good start!

Bisou Mon Amis!
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  1. Hello dear!! Are you a night owl too? This is a beautiful post. What great pictures - I've never seen one of them before. I especially like the one surrounded with pink. Weren't they just ridiculous with all of those rules? How could you possibly keep a straight face at some of the absurdities?! Can't wait to see what else you have in store.

  2. Judith, this is absolutely wonderful. I love it all and can't wait to read more, but in the meantime I am growing my fingernail and practicing my door scratching! xv

  3. no wonder why ,us frensh ,we turn republicans ;-)

  4. Happy new year, Judith, and congratulations on this great post! You would fit right in Versailles...

  5. An excellent and amusing post Judith! Apparently, according to the court of V, I'm no gentleman*smile*. They would have probably created the guillotine early just for me had I lived at Versailles during that time. Thanks for the great post. I'm looking forward to learning more from you this week.
    lol@vicki archer...too funny.

  6. Another interesting post! I'm reading "Abundance" by Sena Jeter Nashland about Marie Antoinette and it's really good and full of all the strange rules of the French court at the time. Fascinating! Beautiful pictures!!

  7. Wow! The rules of etiquette were extensive and what an effort you made to share all of that; I'm in awe. We still have rules though,and if you make a mistake in an intercultural context there will be consequences. Here in blogland there is another set of rules that I have yet to's a process of trial and error, I'm not Marie Antoinette, so its difficult to know which are okay to break, "Should I remove my metaphoric gloves or not?", that is the question. (Yes, I know obscure but what can I do...sigh...) Your sweet husband is out in the laundry room and carrying the baby around. Lucky you! BTW my husband and I celebrated our 28th anniversary yesterday. Amazing! Sending you goodwill and <3.

  8. Alo Judith~ Thx for the wonderful piece about the Court of Versailles! It reminded me of our trip to Paris in '99, so I dug out our photo album and reminisced! I have several photos of the gorgeous gilded & hand painted arched ceilings - truly spectacular. But I love Marie Antoinette because she loved decorating and one of my favorite pics is one taken of her bed. If I'm not mistaken, is it the one with plumes of feathers on the corners?? I was so intrigued to see where she actually slept! Lots of tapestry w/ scalloped edges & damask covered walls! Interesting that the bed is placed on a platform. Was the public allowed to watch them wake up in the mornings? Lots of cherubs and heavenly scenes faux painted on the ceilings. *Wow*

  9. Thanks for all the details! I'd like to link to this post!

  10. I am loving reading all this...just please tell me there won't be a quiz.

  11. Thank you, thank you. I enjoyed the reading. I love to read anything about royalty and always wanted to know the powers of Dukes and Dutches. :)

  12. Lucky I have long fingernails!! Some of the others I would have lost my head for!
    Great post Judith, can't wait for more.
    Ness xx

  13. By the way …today in 21 century , I'm still working for late monarchies , and the rules are not so changed .
    Woman are not creating anything any more since the TV replaced time consuming crafty stuff . Women are still not allow to finger-flirt in public but scandals remain as jucy as it was.
    Every one has a throne room even non royal citizens and red velvet is fare above any other fabric in terms of best selling.
    Every one including normal people , has a servants to served anything at anytime of the day and night, from mobile phone to glass of water as well as tissues food, tea tea tea tea sweet sweets sweets , food , TV remote ……
    Yesterday I was cruising across the city in some residential areas of Kuwait and it seams that every home owners of that town is a king without a kingdom,
    it's a tacky pile of building where the public display of large ego is so eye sore , that I almost had a accident looking at a neo-classic-wanabe with a self-created heraldry …
    hilarious …..

  14. Judith --- - Such a fascinating piece! I've read a bit about court protocol and love all the tidbits you've come up with. JJJjjj

  15. wow thank you for this great post:)

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