Marie Antoinette Online Forum

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Author:  doritmi [ Wed Oct 17, 2007 4:01 am ]
Post subject:  Etiquette

I'd like some views on this comment I made on another forum -

MA's scorn for etiquette strikes a chorde with many of us, especially those from the US, since these formalities are very foreign to us. But MA's blanket scorn seemed to have blinded her to the important roles of etiquette, and prevented her from using a potentially powerful political tool at her disposal. What were the roles of etiquette, and how did MA relate to them? let's use the famous story of madame campan - of MA's toilette where increasingly high-status ladies came in and her shirt had to be passed.
a. ordering: rules of etiquette functioned, among other things, as a
way to regulate and order a group of around 5000 proud and promotion
seeking nobles, setting rules of behavior and aiming at smoothing life
so everyone will know what to do next. Yes, sometimes it annoyed a
young foreign princess (though less documented are all the occasions
where etiquette mandated she go in front and sit in comfortable seats,
which she probably approved of). But without these rules, life in the
close confinement of court could be even more confusing and stressful.
imagine the hustle every morning if it was NOT clear who gets to help
MA with her shirt.
b. Signaling status: in a heavily structured society, where your place
in the hierarchy was all important, etiquette helped determine who was
above who. And it was REALLY important to people there. the only reason
MA allowed herself to poo-poo it is that she knew that however it
works, she's on top. It was an expression of arrogance. I know I'm on
top, so I don't care where below me you fall. After all, MA cared about
HER status just as much as all the others cared about theirs; she had
great pride in it. ignoring the importance status had for others was
insensitive. All the people below the dauphine and later the queen
cared passionately about their status, and her approach probably hurt
their feeling tremendously.
c. regulating access to the monarch. Etiquette, among other things, set
times and rules in which the monarchs had to be available and people
could (i) see them (ii) approach them. by throwing out the whole thing,
MA missed out on political opportunities to create an image and
establish alliances.

Was the etiquette ossified at that point? oh, yeah. Did it require
reform? yes. But good reforms are done thoughtfully, with attention to
the positive attributes of the institution you're removing. MA's
approach of "let's get rid of the stuffy old rules" without putting
much in place instead was not politically wise.

Author:  baron de batz [ Wed Oct 24, 2007 3:01 pm ]
Post subject: 

You must remember firstly that she came from a background where etiquette was very much less present, the court of Vienna. So it was more habit than arrogance. Secondly this is a trend that had already started with Louis XV, who had difficulty observing the strict ritual set up by his predecessor Louis XIV. But is it true that he went through the motions. But Louis XVI like his wife had no time for certain anachronous elements of Versailles etiquette and avoided them as best he could. Versailles was changing, inevitably, as its aura diminished and that of Paris increased, attracting more and more courtiers away.

Author:  Therese [ Wed Oct 24, 2007 11:11 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hi, dorit! It is not that the Queen shunned ALL etiquette. Even in Vienna they observed certain formalities. She merely sought to simplify it, as did Louis XVI, and discard some of the medieval customs. And it must be remembered that at Versailles the etiquette had become more stringent under Queen Marie Lescynska, Louis XV's wife, who was the daughter of a dethroned Polish king, and needed solemnity to enhance her image. But Marie-Antoinette, the "daughter of the Caesars," felt she needed no such excess.

Author:  Pimprenelle [ Thu Oct 25, 2007 3:56 pm ]
Post subject: 

Following the Girault de Coursac's works, Marie Antoinette did not change anything that Louis would not want to. But Mercy exagerated her changes in order to make her look more powerful than she actually was.

Author:  Ele [ Sun Dec 30, 2007 12:46 pm ]
Post subject: 

I hope my question is related to etiquette. We all know that Marie-Antoinette had to dress in the presence of ladies in court every morning. How long did this tradition last? I mean, did she make any changes to that when she became queen?

Author:  Divine Empress [ Wed Jan 09, 2008 9:09 am ]
Post subject:  Etiquette.....

Yes, The Queen did make changes to the Dressing Protocol and Ceremony.
3 years after the Coronation, The Queen introduced a new Protocol that was simpler and more personal. From then on only four Ladies were present, and they consisted of Her Favorites amongst the highest Ranked Ladies. Occasionally, it has been said, Her Dress designers where allowed to be present. But this has not been confirmed, but it does make sense.
However, She had become aware to some extend of the importance of Royal Protocol, as She had favored the maintenance of certain protocols relating to "the Presence" of The Queen. In addition, it is well documented that She began to like Her role as Queen more and more with time and also became more Majestic along with this. Witness for instance the height of Her Wigs advancing with time.......

Author:  Queens Honor [ Fri May 23, 2008 2:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Etiquette

Can you please confirm a few of the "titles" that I've heard/read about regarding this court, as I don't truly understand what they all mean:

Who is the "Mistress of the Household" and how did she get this position (it almost seems like she is a Royal Personal Assistance, is that right??) and how much power did she have at Versailles?

Who are these "Prince & Princesses of the Blood"? They don't appear to ALL be brothers/sisters of the Dauphin, so are these cousins or how are they involved?

Oh to be American and ignorant on the subject of royalty. Sorry! :oops:

Author:  Marquis [ Sun May 25, 2008 5:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Etiquette

Mistress of the Household was in charge of the Kings household and court she made sure everything ran smoothly. Princes and Princesses of the blood were related to the king or the previous king such as his sons, daughters, and grandchildren.

Author:  Ray [ Sun Aug 24, 2008 2:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Etiquette

I don't agee that her disdain for French etiquette was based on the security of her exalted position and therefore, on her 'arrogance'. On the contrary, being raised at the Hapsburg court, she saw that her mother, Maria Theresa, did not bother with the Austro-Hungarian aristocracy very much and really didn't consider them politically at all. The Hapsburgs were the most egalitarian court in Europe and Marie and her siblings were allowed to play with non-royals as well as those from her own class. Her mother, Maria Theresa would even visit some of her friends who were commoners in their houses. It is true that Marie was spoiled, doted on by her governesses and teachers and pretty much allowed to run wild (in the Greek fashion) until it was suddenly expected of her to be 'grown up'. What you see at France is probably her reaction not only to the overly elaborate and finicky rules of the court (which were actually needed there if one considers the character of the French aristocracy in general), but also a reaction to the falseness and underhandedness of most individuals at the French court. Since they never really posed a threat to their own ruler, her mother had always ignored her own aristocrats, unless there was reason to consider them and so, Marie probably did the same. If a person wasn't nice and fun, why should she bother with them? Like Melanie Wilkes, I don't think that she could even conceive of the lowliness of the court mentality around her until it was too late. Perhaps this is why she would withdraw from them and apparently even tried to build a 'court within a court' just to escape from their viciousness. It is said that she was attracted to the Princesse de Lamballe precisely because of her soft manners and her humility and sweetness. This says a lot about her in my opinion. The French aristocrats could be fatal adversaries and yet, she herself was not like that at all from what I have read and understood. It is even said that she always looked for any opportunity to do some good.


Author:  Ludy [ Sat Sep 13, 2008 5:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Etiquette

I couldn't agree more. What is both peculiar and charming about MA's personnality is that she was, in a way, an excellent queen as regards to representation. She didn't shun the etiquette by and large but yearned for the privacy she had enjoyed in Vienna. Thus, saying that she disregarded etiquette as a whole is somewhat unfair. She dismissed what she considered as hypocrisies, since etiquette was only roughly explained to her by Madame de Noailles. She didn't realize, with her poor knowledge of French history, its very purpose as regards to the nobilty. It's a pity, because etiquette is one of the many things she was clever enough to understand, but that nobody thought appropriate to explain to her. And as she wasn't a particularly meek and submissive woman ...

Author:  Rosalie [ Mon Sep 15, 2008 9:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Etiquette

Thank you, Ludy and Ray, for your very interesting interpretation, on which I deeply agree.
I also think that MA's main problem was that she didn't understand the role of etiquette at the court the Versailles. I thin kshe acted as any human being would, if he wasn't aware that such a set of rules has a precise historical and social meaning...that is, being upset by its hypocrisy and, in some cases, absurdity. This shows her intelligence and freedom of spirit, according to me. She also anticipated some developments that happened in many courts of Europe in the end of that the 18th century: that is, an increased simpleness in court life, a greater space given to private an family life for the sovereigns, etc.
Of course, this earned her a lot of enemies, or at least of critics; and it's a real pity that she wasn't prepared to understand how things actually worked in France, just to know how to face, or maybe avoid, such critics.

Author:  versailles [ Mon Sep 15, 2008 10:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Etiquette

Also at Vienna her mother was ruling the empire and making matches for ther children so she really didnt have time for etiquette and teaching her children more than the bare basics. Finally, France had the most strict etiquette of all the other countries and what were the chances of her daughter becoming Queen? I get the feeling that to get Versailles customes you have to have been practising them for most of your life not just the few years or even months before you get married.

Author:  DreamersRose [ Tue Sep 16, 2008 3:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Etiquette

MA was also a young teenager when she came to court, unformed and immature. Teenagers struggle to find their own identity during this time, and tend to be perceived as rebellious. I doubt if Antoinette was any different.

Author:  Rosalie [ Tue Sep 16, 2008 9:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Etiquette

The main problem was the difference of historical backgroud between Vienna and Versailles. The court of Vienna didn't have such an ossified etiquette, beacuse it didn't really need it. In France, all the system relating to the court and etiquette had been established in its fullest form (correct me if I'm wrong) by the Sun King, in order to regulate the relationships between the nobles and the Crown, which were not always that easy. For someone who doesn't come fro that background, and, morever, who has had just a few months to get prepared to that it is not very easy to adapt oneself to a set of rules that, from the outside, can really look absurd sometimes.

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