Marie Antoinette Online Forum

The Real Versailles
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Author:  Louis XVI [ Mon Jul 16, 2007 3:30 am ]
Post subject:  The Real Versailles

I was wondering if any of you had any knowledge of accounts of day to day life at Versailles. I think I romanticize it a bit much, but it must have had it's share of unpleastantries (the crowds, the smell, dirtiness, formality, court intrigue, back-stabbing, dishonest servants &c.) Feel free to post any interesting facts and/or accounts here! :D

Author:  Monsieur Andre [ Mon Jul 16, 2007 5:48 am ]
Post subject: 

Well, I know courtiers peed in the corners.

Author:  meezardra [ Wed Jul 18, 2007 6:47 am ]
Post subject: 

Hmmm, well, I do know that NOW in Versailles it is often busy, of course, because of the tourists and such.
I think some ettiquette in Versailles only permitted people walking in groups during the day. That's a little answer, I suppose. They'd go to mass in the morning and in the afternoon(?). Meal times, Marie Antoinette would eat with Louis XVI, in the view of other courtiers, depending on rank, ack - confusing! But then dinner would be public, so everyone could see everyone, basically, unless I'm mistaken anyone could go and watch the Queen herself eating dinner as long as they were properly attired.

Author:  shelby.marie [ Thu Jan 31, 2008 3:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Real Versailles

did they really pee in the corners? I thought that they had little w.c.'s set up, were they only for royalty? I remember my french teacher telling me that, and I thought for sure that it couldn't be right. I do know that it was very dirty, partly due to the fact that there were so many animals running wild. The royals loved their pets and liked to have lots of them. Versailles must have had quite the stench. I suppose they got used to it.

Author:  Hellou_Librorum [ Sun Apr 27, 2008 2:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Real Versailles

If Versailles was truly such a large place couldn't they designate which rooms you could urinate? Did they at least have chamber pots on the floor? Instead of urinating or defecating on the floor? Because I am hard pressed to believe they would simply urinate on the floor.

Author:  winsan2 [ Mon Apr 28, 2008 1:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Real Versailles

I have read that the courtiers and public visitors did use the bathroom in the stairwells and behind the curtains--it wasn't actually shocking either. Plumbing, and hygeine were hardly developed and it is said that Marie Antoinette often washed only those parts of her body which were exposed by her clothing. She would not have been an unusual case therefore the atmosphere must have been heavily tainted with body odors, the stench of elimination, and the queen must have at times 'smelled like a rat'. This information comes from the Time Life Series of books one of which was on Versailles. There was also a story of an elderly courtier returning to Versailles following the many changes of the revolution; she found it difficult to recognize the palace until she was escorted past a sewer which had overflowed. Then she exclaimed 'Ah, now I know where I am. I recognize the smell of Versailles'. (paraphrsed)

Author:  Hellou_Librorum [ Mon Apr 28, 2008 10:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Real Versailles

Thank you winsan2. I was hoping they would at least have a chamber pot or two! That's revolting! I wouldn't mind a chamber pot around. That sounds down right unpleasant and unsanitary. You would think with all the rigid etiquette there would be a designated place where certain people could go by rank.

Author:  baron de batz [ Tue Apr 29, 2008 8:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Real Versailles

winsan 2 wrote:

and the queen must have at times 'smelled like a rat'

I would very much doubt that. The Queen had a bathtub and running water, hot and cold. Likewise she wore perfume. The first thing she asked for on returning from the exhausting Varennes journey was for a bath. And when she had her health problems in the Conciergerie (vaginal bleeding) we know how grateful she was to Rosalie for the fact that she daily washed her linens. It would be totally out of character for the Queen to be dirty or smell, even if we cannot judge hygiene then with exactly the same measures as today, given that they would consider our personal hygiene now as quasi obsessive.

Author:  Hellou_Librorum [ Tue Apr 29, 2008 11:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Real Versailles

Yes I also agree with Baron_de_Batz, I think the Queen was far more concerned about cleanliness than most courtiers were! And what I've noticed since she's German/Austrian, since I've been there, they are very clean people and like efficiency! I loved it. :)

Author:  Comte de Provence [ Tue Apr 29, 2008 10:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Real Versailles

mhm, its just shocking to us nowadays.
i really wish it wouldve been cleaner...

Author:  Hellou_Librorum [ Tue Apr 29, 2008 10:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Real Versailles

It actually seems cleaner than what my imagination conjured.

Author:  Comte de Provence [ Tue Apr 29, 2008 11:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Real Versailles

well, i think it wasnt really as clean.
but like, the rooms were big, so the smell mightve been a bit better...

Author:  Marija Vera [ Thu May 01, 2008 11:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Real Versailles

During the reign of Louis XIV things had been much worst than during the reign of Louis XVI. I like to think that all those stories of courtiers peeing on the floor refers more to the 17th century and the reign of Louis XIV than the late period of 18th century which is known for some improvements in terms of hygiene.

I’ve already posted this text on the other topic but here it’s also suitable-
Contrary to popular opinion, people did wash carefully. Although bathrooms were rare, bathtubs were not, and water was piped into the houses of the rich. Bedrooms were furnished with washstands, and soap was plentiful, with 63 soap factories in London (Pears famous transparent soap was created in 1789).
Lord Chesterfield, who wrote copious advice by letter to his illegitimate son Philip, wrote in 1750, 'In your person you must be accurately clean, and your teeth, hands and nails should be superlatively so.' He advised the daily cleaning of teeth with a sponge and tepid water. Nonetheless, it was common to lose teeth, and ladies might wear 'plumpers' of cork inside their cheeks to avoid the sunken cheeks that this caused. No woman would admit to wearing them, however, and they were sold under the counter.
Soot was used as a dentifrice, as was lemon juice mixed with burnt alum and salt. Mouth washes were used, made of wine, bramble leaves, cinnamon, cloves, orange peel. Gum lacquer, brunt alum and honey infused in hot ashes. Decayed teeth could be drilled with a hand-drill and filled with tin, lead or gold. Dentures of ivory, bones, or wood were available, and set with teeth of ivory, porcelain, or even real human teeth. The prototype of the modern toothbrush was invented in 1780 by William Addis.

P.S.-They had used pots in Versailles only my tour guide had said that they had been throwing it content through the window. :?

Author:  Marija Vera [ Thu May 01, 2008 11:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Real Versailles

Even if they had only washed the uncover body parts (so they could seem clean), isn’t then odd that they would let their homes to get so dirty that everyone could see?? Besides helping their masters, servants certainly had some other job to do in the Versailles.

Author:  winsan2 [ Thu May 01, 2008 8:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Real Versailles

Ya'll are romantics, like me, however I'm more practical. The use of spices and scents was common in covering up unpleasant odors (in spoiled food, too) as well as for just smelling good. There was no knowledge of antiseptics, even washing hands before delivering a child was unknown to be hygienic--this resulted in many childbirth deaths. The practice of basic hygiene was just not as we know it today although certainly there were baths--they just weren't considered necessary for health or cleanliness. I cite again, but a different source: Andre Castelot's book on Marie Antoinette. I also read extensively about other historical periods in other countries and believe I have acquired a weltenschaung of this historical period during which hygiene remained fairly stable across the countries. Why would Versailles be any different from other grand palaces in other countries? How come ya'll don't include citations to support your cleanliness theories. Remember, even in the early 1900's people bathed and washed their hair only weekly.

Note: I have been to Paris and Versailles and believe I can speak fairly intelligently about these subjects after viewing them and doing extensive amateur research.

12/8/2008 addendum: please let me refer you to an excellent biography of Versailles filled with many answers to the questions posed here. Versailles, A Biography of A Palace by Tony Spaworth. I bought it online and it is worth every 'franc'. :book:

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