A breach of étiquette at Versailles

Versailles étiquette may sound daunting, but it fell by the wayside on special occasions. Such was the case during a masquerade in the Hall of Mirrors on the 25th and 26th of February 1745. It was given in honor of the Mardi-Gras period that precedes the Lent fast, and in celebration of the marriage, two days earlier, of the sixteen-year old Dauphin Louis-Ferdinand, son of Louis XV (and future father of Louis XVI) with his cousin, Infanta Maria Teresa Rafaela of Spain.

Queen Marie Leszczynska, wearing no mask,  appeared at midnight. She was very elegant in a white gown, all embroidered with pearls, and the enormous Régent and Sancy diamonds in her hair. With her were the Dauphin, dressed as a gardener, and his lovely bride as a flower vendor. The new Dauphine danced all night with the utmost grace, only to discover in the morning that the elegant masked Spaniard who had been her dancing partner was not a grandee, as she had believed, but a cook!

The Princesse de Conti, a member of the royal family, was tired of dancing and went to a nearby salon where refreshments were served. Alas, all the chairs were already taken by other ladies. She took off her mask to reveal her identity and rank, but everyone pretended not to recognize her, and not one guest gave up her seat to her. She left the ball, furious.

What about King Louis XV? He was part of a group of eight gentlemen, identically disguised as the trimmed yew trees that decorate the park of Versailles (do you notice them to the left of the picture?) This gave this famous ball its name: Bal des Ifs (“Ball of the Yew Trees.”) And among the ladies eager to attract His Majesty’s roving eye was an ambitious young woman who would soon be known as the Marquise de Pompadour…

Versailles Hall of Mirrors Ball of the Yew Trees

Versailles Hall of Mirrors Ball of the Yew Trees



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9 Comments to “A breach of étiquette at Versailles”

  1. Neville Robinson says:

    Feel free to mail me at neviller@iburst.co.za

  2. Neville Robinson says:

    I have been researching life at the court of Versailles and am intrigued by the differences between courtly French and the French spoken elsewhere. Can anyone help with information?

  3. Oh yes, Penny. Peter the Great when he built St. Petersburg, was inspired by the art and architecture of Western Europe, and Versailles in particular. His successors no less. The Russian palace that reminds me most of Versailles is Tsarskoie-Selo.

  4. Penny says:

    am watching Renee Fleming, American opera singer at St. Petersburg, I swear the palace in which she is singing reminds me so much of Versailles, was there an influence of Versailles there?

  5. felio vasa says:

    These are such fabulous post on Carnival. I’m so loving the trees costumes.

  6. Catherine Delors says:

    Glad to hear it, Penny, and looking forward to your impressions!

  7. Penny says:

    thanks for the post, i learn something new everyday. and i am reading Chantal Thomas.

  8. Catherine Delors says:

    I could link to your blog any day, Judith! It was your post that gave me the idea of an entry on the Bal des Ifs. Versailles was not always so straight-laced…

  9. Judith says:

    Bravo! I love this post! What a fun and interesting story! I have heard that the King was so distraught over losing Madame du Pompadour that he didn’t want to be recognized at the ball, all of the women were after his affections! Oh these royals! Thank you for the mention, I always love that, especially in your posts! Thank you~

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