Marie Antoinette’s Wedding
Marie Antoinette arrived at Versailles on May 16 1770. She was only 14 years old. Upon arriving, she was greeted by the King and her fiance, and introduced to her new family. She was then taken to her toilette where she was made ready for the wedding ceremony. According to tradition, the Dauphine’s wedding dress was made from white-hued cloth of silver. The dress was covered in diamonds, wedding gifts from her mother. There was one catch; the dress didn’t fit. Try as they might, the ladies of the court could not get the dress to lace completely in the back. Rather, much of the Dauphine’s shift shown through. Someone had mismeasured the lady, leading to her dress being made a few sizes too small.
Then began the wedding ceremony. According to eye witness accounts,
“The Dauphin and the Dauphine, followed by the old monarch, advanced toward the altar and knelt on a cushion placed on the steps of the sanctuary. The archbishop of Rheims, Monseigneur de la Roche-Aymon, grand almoner, offered them the holy water, then after having exhorted the young couple, blessed the thirteen pieces of gold and the ring. The dauphin took the ring and placed it on the fourth ringer of the Dauphine, and gave her the gold-pieces. The archbishop pronounced the nuptial benediction, and as soon as the king had returned to his prie-Dieu, opened the mass. The royal choir sang a motet by the Abbe de Ganzargue; after the offertory the Dauphin and Dauphine went to make their offering. At the Pater a canopy of silver brocade was spread above their heads, — the bishop of Senlis, Monseigneur de Roquelaure, grand almoner to the king, holding it on the side of the dauphin, and the bishop of Chartres, grand almoner to the Dauphine, holding it on the side of that princess.
At the end of the mass the grand almoner approached the prie-Dieu of the king and presented to him the marriage register of the royal parish, which the cure had carried. Then the cortege returned to the king’s apartment in the same order, and the Dauphine, alter going to her own apartment, received the officers of her household and the foreign ambassadors.”
According to reports, “an immense crowd filled the royal city. Paris was deserted: the shops were closed; the entire population had betaken itself to Versailles to assist at the celebrations and fireworks which were to finish the day.”
Despite this, a violent storm arose and the fireworks were canceled. Though wet and stormy outside, inside Versailles “the day ended brilliantly. The courtiers, in sumptuous attire, eager to see and above all to be seen, crowded the apartments; a magnificent supper was served in the theatre, transformed into a banqueting-hall and lighted by a prodigious number of candles. All the ladies in full dress in the front of the boxes presented a sight as surprising as it was magnificent. The court had never seemed so brilliant.”
After the wedding celebrations had ended, the King conducted the new couple to their bedchamber. “The archbishop of Rheims blessed the bed. The king gave the chemise to the dauphin, the Duchesse de Chartres to the dauphine.
But despite the splendour of the celebrations and the promising aspect of the future at that moment, certain obstinate pessimists could not help regarding the rumbling of the storm as a menace from Heaven ; and the superstitious recalled that the young wife, in signing the marriage register, had let fall a blot of ink which had effaced half her name.”
After the couple had been placed in bed, the King and court left them to their own devices. However, nothing happened. I will discuss this in a later article.
Though Louis Auguste seemed disinterested in his wife, “Louis XV was enchanted with the young Dauphine; all his conversation was about her graces, her vivacity, and the aptness of her repartees.
She was yet more successful with the royal family when they beheld her shorn of the splendour of the diamonds with which she had been adorned during the first days of her marriage. When clothed in a light dress of gauze or taffety she was compared to the Venus dei Medici, and the Atalanta of the Marly Gardens. Poets sang her charms; painters attempted to copy her features…” A bright future seemed to lay ahead for the beautiful, new Dauphine of France.