One of my favorite places to visit in France is the Palace of Versailles. At the time of it’s construction the people thought King Louis XIV was mad to take on such a construction, but today is one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions. This is where Marie was sent at 14 years old to be the Dauphine of France after marrying Louis XVI the Dauphin of France. The french people, although resistant to the marriage were consumed by the beauty of the young princess, even causing a stampede at her first public appearance where 30 people were crushed to death.
Versailles was quiet the culture shock to the young Marie Antoinette, and at the age when we are entering high school she was subject to the depravity that was court at Versailles. Drinking, gambling, and adultery were common carnal indulgences at the beautiful chateau. Even rumors of orgies occurring during some of the late night parties held at the castle. Sounding more like a swingers party at Anton Lavey’s house, rather than the Fairy-tale Disney Life some associate with Versailles. Versailles was all about extravagance, from the gold gilded mirrored walls to the extensive gardens and fountains, the chateau was meant to stimulate all the senses. Having being raised a catholic, Marie was hesitant to take on the french royal lifestyle at first even shunning her father-in-law, the king’s mistress and refused to speak to her at court. She also shied away from the heavy makeup that was popular in France at the time for a more Austrian look with simple hair styles and makeup. Though as two years past, the sixteen year old dauphine began to adopt the french lifestyle and began wearing makeup and her hair in the icon pouf which she later perfected. She even caved under pressure to acknowledge the Louis XV’s mistress at court. Following the death of Louis XV, at the age of 19 Marie became queen when her husband Louis XVI ascended the throne. Upon becoming queen her husband exiled his father’s mistress and gave to Marie her private residence on the grounds, Petit Trianon. A house of intimacy and of pleasure, the building was designed to maximize privacy and to require as little interaction between guests and servants as possible. It is during these years in which she fully embraced the french lifestyle, hosting exclusive parties in her own private mansion. She also indulged in gambling and drinking as part of daily life. Only a select few were invited to her private residence, which fueled rumors of adultery with both men and women. This is the period in her life which was least influenced by religion and even pushing for the Edict of Versailles which gave non-Catholics in France the right to openly practice their religions as well as legal and civil status, which included the right to contract marriages without having to convert to the Catholic faith.
During a previous visit I was lucky enough to have modeled in Versailles and have had the privilege to visit four additional times. Though this visit is the first I’ve taken with my son which gave me a new perspective on her life here as a mother. Marie first became a mother at the age of 23. Following the birth of her children, her wild lifestyle slowed. She adopted new rules of dress at court which were not well accepted by the older generation. Though always plagued by rumors, her popularity really started to decline with the beginnings of the French Revolution and the end of the Age of Enlightenment. The French people now had a new view of the world which didn’t include a monarchy or the divine right of kings.
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