While modern masquerades are usually reserved for Halloween, in the 18th century masquerades were much more frequent occasions. Marie Antoinette's fondness for masquerades was no small thing: her frequent appearances at Paris masquerades at first endeared her to Parisians, who became enchanted with the smiling new dauphine that contrasted too wonderfully with the decrepit Louis XV; but after she became queen, Marie Antoinette's love for donning a mask and dancing the night away began to take a more infamous turn.
After she and her husband ascended to the throne, the propaganda wheels that had previously only caused bumps in the road began to turn in full force. Every little action by the queen, however harmless it may have been, was ripe for gossip and inflation.
Once, the queen and her entourage were on their way--fully masked--to a ball, when the carriage broke down. It was decided that because their faces were well hidden by the masks, they would take a fiacre--otherwise known as a carriage for hire. For the queen of all France to take what amounts to a common taxi was inconceivable in French society, and perhaps nothing would have come of the situation if Marie Antoinette had kept mum. However, the queen gaily brought up the incident to others, thinking nothing of sharing what she perceived as a fun adventure.
To the gossip mill that hounded her, however, that "fun adventure" was surely the sign of more serious transgressions. The 'fiacre' incident sparked rumors that the queen was visiting the private homes of men in secret, and that she frequently disguised herself to take private rides in fiacres with her lovers. As Madame Campan succinctly summarized: "a single instance of levity gives room for the suspicion of others." (Read more.)