Saturday, May 16, 2009

Marie-Antoinette's Wedding


He had not seen her for more than a total of six hours, but he promised to be faithful to her until death, and she promised the same to him.

~from Trianon by Elena Maria Vidal

On May 16, 1770 the Dauphin Louis-Auguste of France married Marie-Antoinette Archduchess of Austria. Here is a detailed description of the ceremony from the biography by Maxime de la Rocheterie:

On Wednesday, the l6th of May, at nine o'clock, Marie Antoinette left La Muette for Versailles, where her toilette was to take place. The king and the dauphin had preceded her the evening before. When she arrived at the chateau, the king received her on the ground-floor, discoursed for some time with her, and presented to her Madame Elisabeth, the Comtesse de Clermont, and the Princesse de Conti. At one o'clock she went to the apartment of the king, whence the cortege started for the chapel.

The dauphin and the dauphiness, followed by the old monarch, advanced toward the altar and knelt on a cushion placed on the steps of the sanctuary. The archbishop of Rheims, Monseigneur de la Roche-Aymon, grand almoner, offered them the holy water, then after having exhorted the young couple, blessed the thirteen pieces of gold and the ring. The dauphin took the ring and placed it on the fourth ringer of the dauphiness, and gave her the gold-pieces. The archbishop pronounced the nuptial benediction, and as soon as the king had returned to his prie-Dieu, opened the mass. The royal choir sang a motet by the Abbe de Ganzargue; after the offertory the dauphin and dauphiness went to make their offering. At the Pater a canopy of silver brocade was spread above their heads, — the bishop of Senlis, Monseigneur de Roquelaure, grand almoner to the king, holding it on the side of the dauphin, and the bishop of Chartres, grand almoner to the dauphiness, holding it on the side of that princess.

At the end of the mass the grand almoner approached the prie-Dieu of the king and presented to him the marriage register of the royal parish, which the cure had carried. Then the cortege returned to the king's apartment in the same order, and the dauphiness, alter going to her own apartment, received the officers of her household and the foreign ambassadors.

An immense crowd filled the royal city. Paris was deserted: the shops were closed; the entire population had betaken itself to Versailles to assist at the celebrations and fireworks which were to finish the day.

But at three o'clock the sky became overcast; a violent storm burst; the fireworks could not be set off; the illuminations were drowned by the rain; and the crowd of curious people who filled the gardens and streets were obliged to flee in disorder before the peals of thunder and torrents of rain.

In the chateau, however, the day ended brilliantly. The courtiers, in sumptuous attire, eager to see and above all to be seen, crowded the apartments; a magnificent supper was served in the theatre, transformed into a banqueting-hall and lighted by a prodigious number of candles. All the ladies in full dress in the front of the boxes presented a sight as surprising as it was magnificent. The court had never seemed so brilliant.

At six o'clock a drawing-room was held, games of lansquenet, and a state dinner. In the evening the king conducted the newly married couple to their room. The archbishop of Rheims blessed the bed. The king gave the chemise to the dauphin, the Duchesse de Chartres to the dauphiness. But despite the splendour of the celebrations and the promising aspect of the future at that moment, certain obstinate pessimists could not help regarding the rumbling of the storm as a menace from Heaven ; and the superstitious recalled that the young wife, in signing the marriage register, had let fall a blot of ink which had effaced half her name.


Madame Campan, who was Reader to the daughters of Louis XV, recorded the occasion as follows:

The fetes which were given at Versailles on the marriage of the Dauphin were very splendid. The Dauphiness arrived there at the hour for her toilet, having slept at La Muette, where Louis XV had been to receive her; and where that Prince, blinded by a feeling unworthy of a sovereign and the father of a family, caused the young Princess, the royal family, and the ladies of the Court, to sit down to supper with Madame du Barry.

The Dauphiness was hurt at this conduct; she spoke of it openly enough to those with whom she was intimate, but she knew how to conceal her dissatisfaction in public, and her behaviour showed no signs of it.

She was received at Versailles in an apartment on the ground floor, under that of the late Queen, which was not ready for her until six months after her marriage.

The Dauphiness, then fifteen years of age, beaming with freshness, appeared to all eyes more than beautiful. Her walk partook at once of the dignity of the Princesses of her house, and of the grace of the French; her eyes were mild, her smile amiable. When she went to chapel, as soon as she had taken the first few steps in the long gallery, she discerned, all the way to its extremity, those persons whom she ought to salute with the consideration due to their rank; those on whom she should bestow an inclination of the head; and lastly, those who were to be satisfied with a smile, calculated to console them for not being entitled to greater honours.

Louis XV was enchanted with the young Dauphiness; all his conversation was about her graces, her vivacity, and the aptness of her repartees. She was yet more successful with the royal family when they beheld her shorn of the splendour of the diamonds with which she had been adorned during the first days of her marriage. When clothed in a light dress of gauze or taffety she was compared to the Venus dei Medici, and the Atalanta of the Marly Gardens. Poets sang her charms; painters attempted to copy her features. One artist’s fancy led him to place the portrait of Marie Antoinette in the heart of a full-blown rose. His ingenious idea was rewarded by Louis XV.

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6 comments:

Ms. Lucy said...

Oh what a wonderful post! I love your book Elena, such detail-I could picture the scene so vividly. And Madame Campan's recollection is also beautiful. She depicts the Queen's grace, tenderness and dignity perfectly. Thanks:)

Matterhorn said...

Thank you for commemorating this lovely anniversary.

Stephanie A. Mann said...

Elena, how often did MA attend Mass in Paris? Which parish did she most often attend? Notre Dame de Paris or St. Germain l'Auxerrois?

elena maria vidal said...

In Paris as at Versailles, the royal family assisted at Mass everyday. The parish church for the Tuileries was St. Germain l'Auxerrois which was where Madame Royale, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette's daughter, made her first Holy Communion. The family went to daily Mass at the Tuileries itself. According to Imbert de Saint-Amand's "Marie-Antoinette at the Tuileries" (1893):

"The precautions taken were so rigorous that it was forbidden to say Mass in the palace chapel because the distance between it and the apartments of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette was thought too great. A corner of the Gallery of Diana, where a wooden altar was erected, bearing an ebony crucifix and a few vases of flowers became the only spot where the son of Saint Louis, the Most Christian King, could hear Mass." (pp.225-226)

Catherine Delors said...

An excellent and timely post to commemorate a momentous anniversary, Elena. And many thanks for the link!

Matterhorn said...

How sad that there are no descendants of this dear, martyred couple left. I wish Madame Royale had had children. But I suppose they have spiritual descendants...