Thursday, April 25, 2013

Marie Antoinette's Trianon bedchamber


Madame Campan and Princesse de Lamballe, two women who knew the Queen well, both mention in their memoirs that Marie Antoinette wasn't comfortable playing the Royal role when in the company of other Royals.  This simple room, with its view of the rolling gardens, must've been a refuge where Marie Antoinette could be herself among friends.

The Princesse, when relating anecdotes about Emperor Joseph II's, Marie Antoinette's oldest brother,  visit to Versailles, wrote,  "Both always endeavored to encourage persons of every class to speak their minds freely, with this difference, that Her Majesty in so doing never forgot her dignity nor her rank at Court.  Sometimes, however, I have seen her, though so perfect in her deportment with inferiors, much intimidated and sometimes embarrassed in the presence of the Princes and Princesses, her equals, who for the first time visited Versailles:  indeed, so much so as to give them a very incorrect idea of her capacity.  It was by no means an easy matter to cause Her Majesty to unfold her real sentiments or character on a first acquaintance."  

See, now, I totally get that.  Maybe I feel such empathy for Marie Antoinette because, in everything I've read, I feel that I'd respond the same way or feel the same way she did.  

So, on to Madame Campan's memoir, describing a visit from the Grand Duke of Russia and his wife,  (traveling under pseudonyms,) where she says, "When the Comte and Comtesse du Nord were presented, the Queen was exceedingly nervous.  She withdrew into her closet before she went into the room where she was to dine with the illustrious travelers, and asked for a glass of water, confessing "she had just experienced how much more difficult it was to play the part of a queen in the presence of other sovereigns, or of princes born to become so, than before courtiers.""

Which brings us to the question of, if it was difficult for Marie Antoinette to conquer her insecurities, how must it have been for Louis XVI, who was famously awkward and introverted?  That poor man!   It's fascinating to watch him develop, as he grew older and wiser, from a sort of bumbling lout to a wise self-aware man fully sure of who he was and what he stood for.  For what he stood.  Man, I hate dangling prepositions. 

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