|Marie Antoinette with a Rose, painted by Vigée Le Brun, 1783|
|Bust of Marie Antoinette.|
The ladies in waiting were entitled to remain in the room while the queen got dressed, a custom that again highlights the lack of privacy. Marie Antoinette abolished this formality when she became queen, allowing them to stay while her hair was styled, and then she would retire to the closet to dress – still not alone, since her own wardrobe women would accompany her, and Rose Bertin, her favourite dressmaker, would often be waiting inside the closet, which was actually quite a large separate room. The queen’s preference for Madame Bertin’s creations is one of the reasons she was able to alter the formality of dressing; the dressmaker was not a noblewoman, and therefore not entitled to be in the queen’s chambers with the other royal ladies. Since Marie Antoinette wasn’t willing to give up her gowns, she changed the routine.
|As you can see from this silk and cotton robe á la française from about 1770, a group of ladies with such full skirts wouldn’t be going anywhere fast, even in the vast hallways of Versailles.|
Even with these changes, Marie Antoinette could go nowhere alone. When she went to Mass, she’d be surrounded by noble ladies, tirewomen, chevaliers, equerries, and various other attendants. Presentations of colonels could be made to her at this time, further slowing down progress. Different presentations occurred regularly on scheduled days; ambassadors would be introduced to her on Tuesday mornings, ladies presented on Sunday evenings before card-playing. It’s little wonder she so enjoyed the refuge of Petit Trianon, the more rustic little hamlet built within the grounds of Versailles, where she often retreated with friends and tried to live more simply.
|Hameau de la Reine, Marie Antoinette’s retreat at Petit Trianon|
One might think that a preference for simple routines would have endeared her to the people, perhaps showing she wasn’t spoiled, but these changes were often more damaging than helpful to Marie Antoientte’s reputation. It was seen that she favoured the customs of her Austrian homeland, rather than French ones, showing that she was an outsider. Marie Antoinette often faced blame for things beyond her control, even having her reputation damaged by a theft of a diamond necklace, where the thieves used her name without any knowledge or involvement by the queen. (For those curious about the scandal, I’ve written a free short story around the diamond necklace affair, which you can read here).
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