Marie Antoinette Online Forum

Page 1 of 1

Author:  Artois [ Fri Dec 18, 2009 11:11 am ]
Post subject:  Christmas

I've been looking for information about how Christmas was observed by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette at Versailles. Were the children waiting for Pere Noel to fill their shoes with present? Any ideas?

Author:  baron de batz [ Fri Dec 18, 2009 2:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Christmas

All I I know is that the Royals gathered around the famous astronomical clock that had been a gift to Louis XIV on New year's eve at midnight to see the new year in. This clock was/is a technological wonder. For Christmas church services (mass)very much regulated proceedings I believe, more than ever. Of course presents were exchanged, if the Queen didn't give them to the poor children instead that is! :)

Author:  Artois [ Sat Dec 19, 2009 12:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Christmas

Thank you, Baron

Author:  versailles [ Sat Dec 19, 2009 2:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Christmas

The chapel service probably was incredible.

Author:  Rosalie [ Sat Dec 26, 2009 3:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Christmas

baron de batz wrote:
All I I know is that the Royals gathered around the famous astronomical clock that had been a gift to Louis XIV on New year's eve at midnight to see the new year in. This clock was/is a technological wonder.

It had to be gorgeous!!!! On New Year's Eve I'll close my eyes and dream of being there...

Author:  Monsieur Jacques [ Sun Feb 07, 2010 4:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Christmas

I read in a biographic book of MA, that in her first Christmas, the royal family gethered and was composed of 21 members. I count:
1. Louis XV
2. Madame du Barry
3. Louis XVI
4. Marie Antoinette
5. Count of Artois
6. Countess of Artois
7. Count of Provence
8. Countess of Provence
9. Madame Clothilde
10. Madame Elisabeth
11, 12. Mesdames Tantes

And the rest?

Author:  jimcheval [ Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Christmas

It's probably helpful to recall that one gave New Year's presents (etrennes) rather than Christmas presents.

Otherwise, some of these glimpses of other court Christmas celebrations might be of interest:

The night of Christmas 1696, around twenty ladies and young women of the court, very dressed up, went in devotion to the King's chapel, at Versailles, each one carrying a small lantern; it was the first time that the future duchess of Burgundy came to the three masses...

This appears in a note to a longer passage on Brissac, an upright (if not very likeable) major of the bodyguards, who "could not bear what was false." He did not, for instance, like such scenes as this because the court ladies only came to mass when they were sure the king would be there and "under the pretext of reading in their books of hours, they all had small candles lit before them, in order to be known and noticed. One evening when the King was to go to the Benediction, and that evening prayer was being said, which was followed by the Benediction when there was one, all the guards posted and all the ladies in place, the major arrived towards the end of the prayer,... lifted his baton, and cried out: "King's Guards, withdraw, return to your rooms; the King is not coming." At once the guards obeyed: low murmurs among the women, the little candles were extinguished, and there they were, all gone... Brissac had posted brigadiers at the exits of the chapel to stop the guards, whom they had return to their posts as soon as the women were far enough away not to notice. Thereupon the King arrived, who, surprised to not see women filling the stands, asked how it was that nobody was there.... Brissac told him what he had done... The King laughed a great deal about this, and all those who accompanied him. The story spread everywhere afterwards; all the women wanted to kill him."
Saint-Simon, "Memoires", Hachette, Paris, 1701 (Tome 15, 446-449)

["The future Regent's] great weakness [regarding religion] was to take pride in impiety and to want to surpass the most outrageous. I remember one Christmas night at Versailles, where he accompanied the King to matins and to the three midnight masses, he surprised the court with his continual effort at reading the book which he had brought, and which appeared to be a book of prayer. The head maid of Mme the duchess d'Orléans, long attached to the household, very devoted and very free, as are all the old good servants, carried away with joy at this reading, complimented him ... the next day, where there were visitors. M. the duke d'Orléans took please for a while in making her dance, then told her: 'You are really foolish, Madame Imbert; do you know what I was reading? It was Rabelais, which I brought for fear of being bored.' One can imagine the effect of this response. The thing was only too true, and it was pure boasting.

Without comparing places nor things, the chapel music was well above that of the Opera and all the other musics of Europe, and, as the matins, lauds and the three low masses of Christmas night lasted a long time, the music outdid itself still more. There was nothing so magnificent as the chapel's ornaments and the way in which it was lit. It was completely full, the places on the stands filled with all the ladies of the court in informal clothes, but dressed for effect. There was then nothing so striking as the beauty of the spectacle, and the ears were charmed there. M. the duke d'Orléans loved music very much; he knew it well enough to compose it, and he even amused himself in making a kind of little opera, for which la Farel made verses, and which was sung before the King; this chapel music might then have occupied him as agreeably as possible, independently of so brilliant a spectacle, without recourse to Rabelais; but he had to play at being impious and fun-loving.

Saint-Simon, "Memoires", Hachette, Paris, 1701 (Vol 26, 298)

The trip which M. the prince de Conti made to l'Isle-Adam during the last Christmas holidays [1762] with brilliant and select companions, during which the entertainments succeeded one another with much taste and magnificence, this trip produced several pretty songs which must be preserved here. One of the prettiest is that of M. de Pont-de-Veyle, known in Paris for his play of the Complacent and that of the Fatuous man punished. To understand the sense of these couplets, one must know that all the men and all the women were in gray uniforms during the voyage, and that only the jackets and the ribbons were changed, and one must remember too that gray [*gris*] also means a man who has drunk a bit of wine. This ambiguity provided the refrain of the song which is as follows:

TO THE MELODY: At the Coming of Christmas, etc.

Bacchus and the God of Cyprus
take pleasure in these dear places;
Let us love, drink of this gray wine:
He is happy who is gray.

Among the wine, the games, the laughter,
A heart is easily engaged;
The wildest is soon taken:
He is happy who is gray.

Wine heats the spirits,
One must see the eyes
Of a cold Iris become tender:
He is happy who is gray.

But if the beauty is aloof,
If I see she has favorites,
I drink, I sing, and I laugh about it:
He is happy who is gray.

Grimm, "Correspondance Litteraire" (T5 - 1762, 35-36)

March 1, 1762.

I had the honor of sending you couplets written during the last voyage of M. the prince de Conti to L'isle-Adam. Here are others which also deserve to be preserved. The story is that they were written and sung by the M. the abbé de Boufflers, Christmas night, during the midnight mass. If you remember the verses that this young postulant to the bishopric made last year for his mother's feast day, you will find the couplets of the Isle-Adam very proper. They nonetheless caused a great deal of talk by the singularity of seeing a young ecclesiastic write such songs during mass, in the presence of the most brilliant company of the kingdom:


To the melody: Let your cattle graze

I got it into my head
To sing of Jesus-Christ this evening;
Basically, it is his day.
I would have done my duty.
He is a pretty,
Charming child,
And of whom his parents
have always been very content.

But whatever effort one makes
To sing well of Our Lord,
Our spirit puts in his place
It is a good heart,
A greatness,
A warmth, a sweetness.
The honor of his family.
He knows so well
how to charm the boredom
of the holy sacrifice
That to no other service
Would we go but here.

Grimm (T5 - 1762, 48)

Author:  Christophe [ Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Christmas

Christmas was a time of solemn religious observance and reflection (or at least a pretense of it, for those libertines among the Court). New Years was the joyous holiday in which gifts were exchanged and lavish feasting took place. The new year marked the beginning of a season of gaiety that lasted until Shrove Tuesday, usualy in mid-February.

Page 1 of 1 All times are UTC
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group