Friday, January 23, 2009

Marie-Antoinette's Veil

Many people ask what became of Queen Marie-Antoinette's clothes and jewels after the fall of the monarchy. People particularly want to know what became of her wedding gown. Like many of the queen's gowns which were designed for special occasions, the wedding gown was probably made into a set of vestments and donated to the Church. A veil which belonged to the Queen later graced the head of the niece of Tsar Nicholas II, Princess Irina, when she was married to Prince Felix Youssopov. As Felix wrote in his memoirs:

We were quite overwhelmed with gifts: the most gorgeous jewels as well as the simplest and most touching presents from our peasants.... Irina's wedding dress was magnificent; it was of white satin embroidered in silver with a long train. Her veil, which had belonged to Marie-Antoinette was held by a tiara of rock crystal and diamonds.
As for her other gowns, the queen would usually have them refurbished so that they could continue to be worn. Those that were not eventually recreated into vestments were given to the lady-in-waiting in charge of the wardrobe, who could then sell them or keep them as souvenirs.

As for the jewels, a few pieces were smuggled out of the country before the fall of the monarchy and eventually came to the queen's daughter Madame Royale. Most of the royal jewels fell into the hands of the revolutionaries in August 1792 and scattered to the four winds. Napoleon managed to gain possession of some of the crown jewels. Over the next several generations, jewels that had belonged to Marie-Antoinette would turn up in various places, such as with the Youssopov family in Russia. To trace the fate of all the jewels extensive detective work is required and the findings would certainly fill a tome. The best lesson from it all is Sic transit gloria mundi.


Lucy said...

Fascinating post!

Elena, there's a detailed article on the Crown Jewels and where they ended up(not necessarily Marie-Antoinette's, though) from the NY Times 1891, that you can read at this link, if you're interested:

elena maria vidal said...

Very interesting, thank you!