Sunday, August 25, 2013

This Post is so Convoluted that I Don't Know What the Title Should Be

The Lamballe was Marie Antoinette's first close friend in France, but their friendship wasn't without its ups and downs.  At the beginning, even the ever critical Austrian Ambassador, comte de Mercy-Argenteau, who was always quick to send a courier galloping to Austria to deliver reports of Marie Antoinette's latest misstep to her mother, had good things to say about the Queen and her new companion.  His June 7, 1774 missive said, "Her Majesty often sees in her cabinets, the princesse de Lamballe, née princesse de Carignan; she is sweet, pleasant, no intriguer, and quite without any drawbacks.  For some time already, the Queen has felt real friendship for this young Princess and her choice is an excellent one because Mme Lamballe, though a Piedmontese, is not at all close to Madame or the comtesse d'Artois."

The friendship was still strong on August 31, 1775, when the Queen wrote to her mother, "The comtesse de Noailles has resigned;  the King has granted me Mme de Lamballe as Superintendent…  I hope that what my dear Mama will learn about Mme de Lamballe will convince her that there is no fear to be had of her connection with my sisters-in-law.  She has always had a good reputation and is not at all Italian…"  Marie Antoinette doesn't mention to her mother that by choosing her friend as Superintendent of the Household, she was, in effect, demoting the comtesse de Noailles,  (whom she referred to as Madame Etiquette, because of her strict observation of the court rules and rituals the stifled Marie Antoinette)   The powerful Noailles family was not one to be crossed and by doing the Queen made enemies when she should've been stockpiling friends.

The Italians were stereotyped as crafty and manipulative - "intriguers," as they were known.  Both Mercy and Marie Antoinette point out that the Lamballe wasn't close to Marie Antoinette's sisters-in-laws (who were siblings) because alliances were never a good thing at Versailles.  That place was a snake pit.

A cloud soon drifted into the sunny skies above these girlfriends.  A third girl.  Recipe for disaster.  Yolande de Polastron, the duchesse de Polinac, arrived at Versailles the same year that the Princesse was appointed Superintendent of the Household.  Her charms and beauty were thought to be considerable, but I've got to stop getting sidetracked, so I'll leave it at that.  By January 17, 1778, Mercy wrote to the Empress, back in Austria, "The Queen often has some difficulty in keeping up the appearance of friendship between the princess de Lamballe and the comtesse de Polinac.  As the latter's favor grows, that of the Superintendent withers away so that she has now become a bore and an annoyance to the Queen."

A familiar scenario.

Note that first Yolande was the duchesse de Polinac, then the comtesse.  Her fortune and standing, and that of her extended family, soared under Marie Antoinette's patronage.  The less-favored members of the court were jealous, the People were incensed, and pamphleteers from both camps churned out libelles of the (non-existant) sexual exploits of the Queen and her friend.  It was during the years of her friendship with the Polinac that Marie Antoinette became hated by many of her subjects.

The whole reason I brought this up is that in her memoirs, the Lamballe says she left Versailles to stay with her father-in-law at Rambouillet during this time.  Being odd girl out is never much fun - presumably the Lamballe left Versailles because she didn't approve of the Polinac and was jealous the Queen and her new favorite.  According to her memoir, the Lamballe believed she'd been poisoned while she was at Rambouillet.  She didn't specify who might've wanted to poison her, only that it wasn't a member of her father-in-law's household.

The whole reason I wanted (Lord, do I like to give "the whole reason" or do I not?!) to mention the poison episode is that it's one of the anecdotes in the Lamballe's memoir that made me question their validity which makes me question the validity of just about every source.  I've not read that particular poison story anywhere else.  And, who is this mysterious Catherine Hyde editor person?  How do I know she didn't write that memoir herself?  Sure, there are verifiable stories in it, but what about some of the lesser known and unknown stories?  Are they true?   It's hard to tell, but I'm going to go with Yes, because to read her memoir is to feel like I'm sitting on the couch with my feet tucked under me, listening to Marie Antoinette's closest friend share stories of events that happened more than two hundred years ago.
Yolande de Polinac

No comments: