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A Day in the Life of Marie Antoinette

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Reconstructed from the Memoirs of Madame Campan 

 

Wake up.  Marie Antoinette usually woke up around 8 AM.

 

Plan the day’s wardrobe.  A large book was would be presented to Marie Antoinette by the first femme de chambre which contained the pattern and description of every article in her wardrobe.  Using pins to indicate her choices, Marie Antoinette planned what she would wear for her morning dressing, her afternoon undressing and for the evening.                       

 

Eat breakfast.  She would eat breakfast either in bed or at a little table placed in front of the couch in her bedroom.  Breakfast consisted of coffee or chocolate. 

 

This time was the petites entrees.   In addition to members of her household performing their duties there were usually 10-12 other people present, including the Queen’s chief physician, her chief surgeon, her reader, physicians of the King, and the Queen’s secretary.

 

Bathe.  A bath was usually rolled into her bedroom.  She wore a long flannel gown into the bath which buttoned from top to bottom.  On those days there was a tray placed over the bath for her breakfast.  When the bath was over the bathers would hold up a sheet to shield her from sight while a towel was wrapped around her to dry her.  While the bed was warmed up, Marie Antoinette changed into a long chemise and bed-gown.  Then she hopped back into bed, read a book or worked on tapestry while the bathtub was wheeled away.

 

Get dressed. 

 

  At noon a large toilette-table was placed in the middle of the room.  Upon it was laid out the articles to be used in dressing the Queen.  Sofas were placed around the table for the Superintendant (Princesse de Lamballe), the Governess of the Children of France (Jules de Polignac) and for the ladies of honor.  Additional members of Court who had the right to grandes entrees were admitted, such as the King’s brothers, the princes du sang and various officers, who paid their court to Marie Antoinette at this time. 

 

In the beginning of her reign:

 

  Marie Antoinette would sit while her hair was styled.  The rest of her toilette was carried out by the dame d’honneur and the dame d’atours, who were assisted by the first femme de chambre and two maids.  The dame d’honneur handed Marie Antoinette her chemise, while the dame d’atours would help her into her dress and put on any jewelry.  If a princess of the royal family was present, the dame d’honneur would hand the chemise to her instead.  Then that princess would give the chemise to Marie Antoinette.  If a princess du sang was present, the dame d’honneur would hand the chemise to the dame d’atours, who would then hand it to that princess, who would then hand it to Marie Antoinette. 

 

Towards the end of her reign:

 

   After her hair was styled, Marie Antoinette would stand up, curtsy to all present, and withdraw into her closet to be dressed by Rose Bertin, the dressmaker.  This was because Mlle Bertin did not have the right to be present among all the courtiers in the Queen’s bedroom, because she had no rank.

 

Give signatures and receive presentations.  After returning to the group of courtiers attending her toilette, her secretary would present her with any orders to be signed.  Then presentations were made of any colonels taking leave of Court.  On Sundays, ladies were presented.  On Tuesdays ambassadors were presented.

 

Attend mass.  Marie Antoinette would leave her apartments followed by members of her household, any princesses of the royal family and their attendants, as well as the courtiers who had attended the entrees. They processed according to their ranking.

 

Eat. When Marie Antoinette dined there were always spectators.  To each side of the dining table there were titled ladies sitting on folding chairs, and standing behind them were ladies without titles who also had the honor of watching the king and queen eat.  Behind Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette stood high-ranking members of their respective households, including Marie Antoinette’s maitre d’hotel who directed the table service while holding a 6 ft long staff topped with a golden crown.

    

Change Clothes.  After the meal Marie Antoinette would return to her rooms to change for her evening schedule.

 

Amusement.  She might attend a play, a concert, the opera or a party.

 

Eat.  When the Queen was not eating with the King etiquette required that she be served by women only.  Her last meal of the day was usually something light- white meat, broth and biscuits soaked in a glass of water.  She usually drank either plain water, or water into which she mixed some powdered sugar.

 

Get Ready for Bed.  The wardrobe woman would bring in a basket with a nightgown, nightcap and the stockings for the following morning. Once she was dressed for bed, the women would remove the discarded clothes to the wardrobe room where they checked over and cleaned the clothes before putting them away.

 

Go to Sleep.  While Marie Antoinette was settling into bed, the first femme de chambre sat at the foot of the bed until the King arrived with his attendants to be put into the bed.  Once everything was sorted, the King’s sword resting on the armchair nearest him within the area separated off from the rest of the room by the gilt railing, this femme de chambre would escort the King’s men out and bolt the door after them.  Eventually Marie Antoinette began keeping late hours on a more regular basis so she and Louis XIV agreed that she would let him know about those nights, and he would sleep in his own apartments on those nights.



 

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