Funny And Not So Funny Things That Happened At The Court Of Louis XIV, Part Six

A lady at her toilet-table, late 17th century.
A lady at her toilet-table, late 17th century.

Marly-le-Roi appears to be the perfect place for playing pranks on others, as we have learned, but it also seems to be a good place to try new things at. The King’s daughters Françoise-Marie de Bourbon, Duchesse de Chartres, and Louise-Françoise de Bourbon, Duchesse de Bourbon, while visiting Marly, borrowed pipes from the Swiss Guards. They were eager to try and taste tobacco, unfortunately for them, the not so subtle odour swept into the rooms of their father. Their experiment ending in a good scolding for both of them.

Marly had laxer rules of etiquette than Versailles. Monsieur de Vaudemont tried to take advantage of this. He had heath problems, which made it difficult for him to walk or stand for long, he thus used the more lax etiquette in Marly to accustomize people to see him sitting, even in company of his superiors in rank or the Royal Princes. In Marly no-one really cared too much, but as he tried the same in Versailles, it caused a outrage and Monsieur de Vaudemont was rebuked.

Who was allowed to sit where and when was a serious matter and no chance was left out to improve one’s sitting situation. Even on occasions such as funerals. Madame de Saint-Simon, the mother of the memoir-writing Duc de Saint-Simon, was invited by Monsieur le Prince to follow the body of his deceased daughter, Mademoiselle de Condé. She was only distantly related to the Condé’s, but still meant to sit next to Mademoiselle d’Enghien, the sister of the deceased. As Madame de Saint-Simon was about to board the carriage to take her place, the Duchesse de Chatillon rushed past her and placed her ducal behind on the very seat, a place of honor, meant for Madame de Saint-Simon. She thus refused to enter the carriage and begged Mademoiselle d’Enghien to either ensure she gets to sit were she was meant to sit, or to be allowed to withdraw. At the same time, the Duchesse de Chatillon argued that she was closer related to the deceased and that in situations like this, relationship and not rank, she was below in rank to Madame de Saint-Simon, determined who gets to sit where. The situation could only be solved as a forth person was called by and judged Madame de Saint-Simon was in the right. She took her seat, but it was not the end of the story. The Duchesse de Chatillon in her carriage then tried to overtake the carriage in which Madame de Saint-Simon was seated and had to be stopped from doing so.

One evening, all the gold tassels and fringes of the curtains and furniture in the King’s State Apartment at Versailles mysteriously vanished. It was astonishing and a great sensation, for nobody had seen anything, and that in a place as packed with people as Versailles was. Not even the guards had a clue who had taken the tassels and fringes. Monsieur Bontemps, the Premier Valet, was in despair and had the whole palace searched, but both, the objects and thief, were not discovered. A true mystery. A few evenings later, as Louis XIV sat down for his public supper, a large bundle landed suddenly on his table. The courtiers gasped in shock, but the King only remarked quietly and without being startled, “I think that must be my tassels.”.
The parcel was checked and carefully opened, for it was feared by the guards it might be explosives in there. (You never know what the Dutch are up to….)
There was no bomb inside however. Inside were the missing fringes and tassels, along with a note written in a feminine but obviously disguised hand. It said “Take back your fringes, Bontemps, the worry is greater than the pleasure. I kiss the King’s hands.”
“That is very insolent,” remarked Louis XIV, but nothing further was said or done. The mystery of who took the fringes and tassels was never solved.

 

 

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