Thursday, April 25, 2013

"Thank Heaven I am out of harness."

Who wouldn't prefer sitting in the Trianon gardens, Temple of Love in the background, to wearing those stiff, scratchy, beautiful dresses?  Princesse Lamballe's memoirs quote Marie Antoinette as saying, after being relieved of court dress, "Thank Heaven I am out of harness."  In one of her early letters to her mother, she said that she put on her face in front of the whole world.  That's how it must've seemed to her as she stood, shivering, waiting for whichever member of the Court had the rights of honor to hand her the required dress, the stockings, the (overused) rouge, unable to just call Bullshit on the whole system.

In a somewhat extreme example of the preposterous reaches of etiquette, Princesse Lamballe also relates the following, "…  it will be readily conceived, how great a shock this lady (Countess de Noailles) must have sustained on being informed one morning, that the Dauphiness had actually risen in the night, and her ladyship not by to witness a ceremony from which most ladies would had felt no little pleasure in being spared, but which, on this occasion, admitted of no delay.  Notwithstanding the Dauphiness excused herself by the assurance of the urgency allowing no time to call the Countess, she nearly fainted at having not been present at that, which sometimes others faint at, if too near.  This unaccustomed watchfulness so annoyed Marie Antoinette, that she ordered an immense bottle of hartshorn to be placed upon her toilet."  In other words, Countess de Noailles was upset at the fact that Marie Antoinette got up during the night and used the restroom without the Countess being notified so she could accompany her.  Such are the lengths that members of the Court clung to the privileges of their rank.  I'll leave it to the reader to look up hartshorn, if inclined.

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