The presentation to Queen Marie-Antoinette at Versailles

salon-of-the-nobles-versailles

The Salon of the Nobles at Versailles

The heroine of Mistress of the Revolution, Gabrielle de Montserrat, has arrived in Paris as a teenage widow. The next step is her “presentation” at Court. What were the requirements to be presented at Court? You had to (1) prove that your family had been noble since at least the year 1400, and (2) find another lady, herself presented, who would introduce you to the Queen, King and princes of the royal blood.

Gabrielle has no trouble in this regard: her family belongs of the most ancient nobility, and her friend and cousin the Duchess d’Arpajon proposes to act as her presenting lady.

What were the advantages of being presented? You could be admitted in the presence of the royal family on every official occasion and meet the most prominent courtiers. In particular, presented ladies were allowed to sit in the galleries of the Royal Chapel and enter the Queen’s Bedchamber (which will be the topic of the next post in the series.)

The presentation of a lady occurred in the Salon of the Nobles, which served as a sort of throne room for the Queen. This particular room in Versailles has been recently restored and the furniture in this picture is the one chosen by Marie-Antoinette herself.

Here is the relevant excerpt from Mistress of the Revolution:

Versailles Salon of the Nobles ceiling

Versailles Salon of the Nobles ceiling

We walked to the doors of the Salon of the Nobles, where dozens of ladies were crowded, their bulky paniers pressed against each other. The colours of their gowns jarred against the apple-green damask that covered the walls.

“Are you not glad to be wearing white?” whispered the Duchess. “This shade of green is the Queen’s favourite colour, and this room was redone according to her directions. Now remember to stay away from the windows whenever you are in her presence. Otherwise she would think that you are flaunting the radiance of your skin. Her complexion is beginning to fade and she resents the freshness of younger women.”


This remark helped me remember that Marie-Antoinette, though she was the Queen, was not exempt from the petty vanities shared by many women. My heartbeat quieted and my composure returned. I followed the Duchess into the salon. The crowd parted to make way for us. All eyes were on me, and not all were friendly.


At last I saw the Queen standing at the far end of the room. She was dressed in a blue gown embroidered with sapphires and diamonds. I tried to remember what my late husband had said of her. She did have an elongated face, a thick lower lip, bulging blue eyes and ruddy cheeks, either naturally or from too much rouge. Yet what her features lacked in fineness was compensated by the majesty of her countenance. She was almost as tall as I, but rather stout. Her breasts seemed ready to burst out of her glittering bodice.

The Duchess made a deep curtsey and announced: “Madam, the Baroness de Peyre!”

I advanced towards the Queen, pausing three times to curtsey. Then, bowing until my forehead almost touched the floor, I removed my right glove and seized the hem of the Queen’s gown to bring it to my lips. The Duchess, during our rehearsals, had warned me that Her Majesty never allowed any lady to complete that part of the ritual. The Queen, with a tap of her fan, did withdraw her skirt before I had time to kiss it. I put on my glove, rose and, careful not to trip on my own train, walked backwards in the direction of the Duchess. My presentation to the Queen was over.

“You did very well, dear,” whispered the Duchess.”

My sources here were the Memoirs of the Marquise de La Tour Du Pin, lady-in-waiting to Marie-Antoinette (to whom I owe the bit of advice about keeping clear of the windows) and those of the Comtesse de Genlis.

_________________________________________

All posts in the Footsteps of Gabrielle series:

Return to Fontfreyde

Cottage life

Arriving in Paris

Fashions in Paris before the Revolution

Dressing for Court

Discovering Versailles

The presentation to Marie-Antoinette in the Salon of the Nobles

The Royal Chapel

The Queen’s Bedchamber

The sweetness of living

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38 Comments to “The presentation to Queen Marie-Antoinette at Versailles”

  1. Very interesting article and informative as well. i have lots of pic on my side and gonna apply it thanks.

  2. Valuable information which you have discussed in your article.I enjoyed very well while reading.I will let my friends to know about this for sure.Thanks for providing this for us.

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  4. Adamshefard says:

    It’s really great post, nice blog..I would like to appreciate your work and would like to tell to my friends.

  5. Natalia says:

    Lovely pictures, awesome these are looking so romantic and locations are great.

    Adamshefard,

  6. Miss meldon says:

    I have been reading a lot of stuff about it. but it is different presented, i loved to read this. keep it up.

    Online Furniture Retailers UK

  7. Catherine Delors says:

    Thank you, Sharon! The Trianon would have been great for Mistress of the Revolution, but wouldn’t work for For the King, set in 1800-1801. This second book has much more of an urban setting (Paris, of course.)

  8. Sharon says:

    Beautiful work, lovely explanations. I’m going to Amazon to look for your books! PS–how about the beautiful walls of the Petite Trianon for inspiration on the background for your site?

  9. Great honor to be submitted to the queen. Dreaming I can also worship Ms Serene and kiss her hand

  10. Catherine Delors says:

    Congratulations! I have frankly no idea of the value of this heirloom. Big auction houses such as Christie’s or Sotheby’s, as well as any reputable antiques dealer specializing in this period, may be helpful.

  11. Patrick Lupia says:

    I have a silver picture and frame approx. 4 x 3 titled “presentation de la mariee”. Any idea how I might find out the value?

  12. Catherine Delors says:

    With these qualities, I have a feeling you wouldn’t have fit to well in Versailles, Penny! I am not sure whether I would have acquitted myself as well as Gabrielle did on that occasion. Walking backwards in huge panniers must have been quite a feat.

  13. Penny says:

    i am enying this page. I could never make it as a courtier. i am still falling over myself when i try to curtsy and i hate black tie formals. alas i am a tomboy at heart. the court would laugh at me had i been noble & french.

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  16. In the footsteps of Gabrielle: the Queen’s Bedchamber

    This In the footsteps of Gabrielle series will become a regular Wednesday feature on this blog. Expect a slight change next week, though… The last post had Gabrielle presented to Marie-Antoinette. My heroine is now part of the Court, though she has not been offered any official position (yet.) As a presented lady, Gabrielle is admitted to the Queen’s Bedchamber. This room, like the Salon of the Nobles, looks very much as it did in Marie-Antoinette’s time. You can see, against the back wall, the monumental jewelry case she ordered. On the mantel, a bust of the Queen. Above the …

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  26. In the footsteps of Gabrielle: the return to Fontfreyde

    This post, in all fairness, should have been the first in the series, but I guess I was dazzled by all the glitter of Versailles. So here is the beginning of the story. Gabrielle is eleven years old. She has been raised first by her wet nurse, then by the nuns of the Benedictine Convent of Vic, in Auvergne. Her father has died, and she does not remember anything of her mother. Then one fine day, her elder brother and guardian, the Marquis de Castel, abruptly takes her from the Convent and brings her to a home she does not …

  27. In the footsteps of Gabrielle: the return to Fontfreyde

    This post, in all fairness, should have been the first in the series, but I guess I was dazzled by all the glitter of Versailles. So here is the beginning of the story. Gabrielle is eleven years old. She has been raised first by her wet nurse, then by the nuns of the Benedictine Convent of Vic, in Auvergne. Her father has died, and she does not remember anything of her mother. Then one fine day, her elder brother and guardian, the Marquis de Castel, abruptly takes her from the Convent and brings her to a home she does not …

  28. In the footsteps of Gabrielle: the Queen’s Bedchamber

    This In the footsteps of Gabrielle series will become a regular Wednesday feature on this blog. Expect a slight change next week, though… The last post had Gabrielle presented to Marie-Antoinette. My heroine is now part of the Court, though she has not been offered any official position (yet.) As a presented lady, Gabrielle is admitted to the Queen’s Bedchamber. This room, like the Salon of the Nobles, looks very much as it did in Marie-Antoinette’s time. You can see, against the back wall, the monumental jewelry case she ordered. On the mantel, a bust of the Queen. Above the …

  29. In the footsteps of Gabrielle: the return to Fontfreyde

    This post, in all fairness, should have been the first in the series, but I guess I was dazzled by all the glitter of Versailles. So here is the beginning of the story. Gabrielle is eleven years old. She has been raised first by her wet nurse, then by the nuns of the Benedictine Convent of Vic, in Auvergne. Her father has died, and she does not remember anything of her mother. Then one fine day, her elder brother and guardian, the Marquis de Castel, abruptly takes her from the Convent and brings her to a home she does not …

  30. In the footsteps of Gabrielle: the return to Fontfreyde

    This post, in all fairness, should have been the first in the series, but I guess I was dazzled by all the glitter of Versailles. So here is the beginning of the story. Gabrielle is eleven years old. She has been raised first by her wet nurse, then by the nuns of the Benedictine Convent of Vic, in Auvergne. Her father has died, and she does not remember anything of her mother. Then one fine day, her brother and guardian, the Marquis de Castel, abruptly takes her from the Convent and brings her to a home she does not know.We …

  31. In the footsteps of Gabrielle: the return to Fontfreyde

    This post, in all fairness, should have been the first in the series, but I guess I was dazzled by all the glitter of Versailles. So here is the beginning of the story. Gabrielle is eleven years old. She has been raised first by her wet nurse, then by the nuns of the Benedictine Convent of Vic, in Auvergne. Her father has died, and she does not remember anything of her mother. Then one fine day, her brother and guardian, the Marquis de Castel, abruptly takes her from the Convent and brings her to a home she does not know.We …

  32. In the footsteps of Gabrielle: return to Fontfreyde

    This post, in all fairness, should have been the first in the series, but I guess I was dazzled by all the glitter of Versailles. So here is the beginning of the story. Gabrielle is eleven years old. She has been raised first by her wet nurse, then by the nuns of the Benedictine Convent of Vic, in Auvergne. Her father has died, and she does not remember anything of her mother. Then one fine day, her brother and guardian, the Marquis de Castel, abruptly takes her from the Convent and brings her to a home she does not know.We …

  33. CATHERINE DELORS says:

    Thank you for this link to your excellent post, Monsieur de Brantigny. Indeed Louis XIV was a very dressy man.

    And I noticed that the Sacred-Heart appears prominently on your blog. It keeps coming back in my second novel, as the emblem of the Order of the Visitation of Mary, and as the war sign of the Chouans.

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  35. In the footsteps of Gabrielle: the Queen’s Bedchamber

    This In the footsteps of Gabrielle series will become a regular Wednesday feature on this blog. Expect a slight change next week, though… The last post had Gabrielle presented to Marie-Antoinette. My heroine is now part of the Court, though she has not been offered any official position (yet.) As a presented lady, Gabrielle is admitted to the Queen’s Bedchamber. This room, like the Salon of the Nobles, looks very much as it did in Marie-Antoinette’s time. You can see, against the back wall, the monumental jewelry case she ordered. On the mantel, a bust of the Queen. Above the …

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  37. CATHERINE DELORS says:

    Thank you, Daphne, you encourage me to continue with this series of posts! In fact the next one, about the Queen’s Bedchamber, is almost ready.

    I love illustrated books, and think it is a pity “grown-up” novels no longer have any pictures. The neat thing will be to gather all of these posts into a free ebook when I am done with the series.

    If you look in the sidebar to  the right, you will see that I installed a In the Footsteps of Gabrielle feature (just below the My Website link.)

    And I do hope you get to visit Paris and Versailles some day. In the meantime, enjoy the posts!

  38. Daphne says:

    I really like this feature – it helps to visualize the settings in the book. Plus, it’s probably the only way I will ever get to see them! I can imagine that the beauty of the place would have alone been very intimidating.

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