Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Marie-Antoinette's Moral Reforms

An excerpt from Charles Duke Yonge's biography of Marie-Antoinette, describing how the queen tried to reform the morals of the court.

Her first desire was to purify the court where licentiousness in either sex had long been the surest road to royal favor. She began by making a regulation, that she would receive no lady who was separated from her husband; and she abolished a senseless and inexplicable rule of etiquette which had hitherto prohibited the queen and princesses from dining or supping in company with their husbands. Such an exclusion from the king's table of those who were its most natural and becoming ornaments had notoriously facilitated and augmented the disorders of the last reign; and it was obvious that its maintenance must at least have a tendency to lead to a repetition of the old irregularities. Fortunately, the king was as little inclined to approve of it as the queen. All his tastes were domestic, and he gladly assented to her proposal to abolish the custom. Throughout the reign, at all ordinary meals, at his suppers when he came in late from hunting, when he had perhaps invited some of his fellow-sportsmen to share his repast, and at State banquets, Marie Antoinette took her seat at his side, not only adding grace and liveliness to the entertainment, but effectually preventing license, and even the suspicion of scandal; and, as she desired that her household as well as her family should set an example of regularity and propriety to the nation, she exercised a careful superintendence over the behavior of those who had hitherto been among the least-considered members of the royal establishment. Even the king's confessor had thought the morals of the royal pages either beneath his notice or beyond his control; but Marie Antoinette took a higher view of her duties. She considered her pages as placed under her charge, and herself as bound to extend what one of themselves calls a maternal care and kindness to them, restraining as far as she could, and when she could not restrain, reproving their boyish excesses, softening their hearts and winning their affections by the gentle dignity of her admonitions, and by the condescending and hopeful indulgence with which she accepted their expressions of contrition and their promises of amendment.



Anonymous said...

A very interesting post!

lara77 said...

The lies of the French Revolution continue to this day.I wonder how many French People know it was the French Republic that committed the first genocide against the people of the Vendee.The republic iniated the shootings, beheadings and drownings of fellow Frenchmen; King Louis XVI was a gentleman who loved his people.Queen Marie Antoinette paid the ultimate price for her love of husband and family. If only there were more people today with such class, breeding and dignity! Vive La Reine!

May said...

I think that part of the reason for the endurance of the Fersen legend, in this day and age, is that many people do not consider unchastity a "big deal" in any case, even seeing it as something routine. So it's easy for them to believe rumors of infidelity. Add to this the fact that royals have a bad reputation in this regard, as do beautiful, glamorous and passionate women in high places. But of course, it makes no sense that Marie-Antoinette would take such pains to foster higher moral standards at court, and then turn around and have affairs herself.