Saturday, January 12, 2013

Drama in the palace - "She spat in her face."


Rose Bertin and Marie Antoinette's hairdresser, Léonard, collaborated on extravagant creations that were copied across Europe.  Because they spent so much time with her, they both became her confidants, in the limited way that individuals of their station would become confidants of a Queen.  Léonard was even charged with carrying her jewels out of France when the Royal Family tried to make a run for it.  I can't testify to the veracity of this story, because his imagination wasn't limited to hairstyles, but this anecdote came from Léonard's memoir:

"My good friend, Mademoiselle Rose Bertin, got herself in a rather bad scrape, towards the end of the year 1782, and had it not been for the Queen's protection, I really do not know how she would have got out of it.  She had a head milliner a certain Julie Picot, a very clever hand, but much more of an intriguer, and who had, it was said, more than one string to her bow.  For some time past Mademoiselle Picot had been taking the addresses of her mistress's wealthy customers, and called on them, offering her services and seasoning her offers with uncomplimentary remarks about the business standing of my friend….  Mademoiselle Bertin had profited by her frequent trips to court, and had acquired fine manners;  she was, besides, gentle and good;  but indignation makes people forget themselves.  One day she met Julie Picot in the gallery of Versailles;  furious at finding this girl in the midst of the apartments of the Chåteau, and almost at the Queen's door, Mademoiselle Rose was unable to control her exasperation, and having approached her opponent, she spat in her face.  Mademoiselle Picot, a robust wanton, who had not yet forgotten the punches given by her late mother, during her lifetime a fish woman at the Halle, Mademoiselle Picot was about to give a few slaps to her ex-mistress, forgetting to open her hand, when some body-guards who were walking about the gallery,  came to put a stop to the quarrel of the two milliners."  The incident was investigated and Madamoiselle Bertin was fined twenty francs… "it was reported at the time that Marie Antoinette had interceded to somewhat mitigate the severity of the provost's justice."

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