Sunday Mass at the Chapel Royal in Versailles
The Chapel Royal at Versailles a wonder, one of the best examples of baroque architecture in France.
In Mistress of the Revolution, my heroine, Gabrielle de Montserrat, is presented at Court at the age of seventeen, and she attends Sunday Mass in the Palace of Versailles with her elderly cousin and friend the Duchess d’Arpajon. Here is an excerpt of the novel.
The King appeared before one o’clock to lead the Queen to the Royal Chapel. The Duchess and I joined the ladies who glided behind in rows of four. We were ever mindful of the others’ trains and hoped that no one would step on ours. The King and Queen would pause on their way to say a few words to the most favoured courtiers. The Duchess always insisted that I walk at the outside of our row of ladies. Thus some of the gentlemen waiting for the royal cortege would step forward and whisper compliments to my ear.
Once in the Salon of Hercules, which led to the entrance to the Royal Chapel, the Duchess would beckon to her lackey. The man was posted there among a crowd of his fellow servants, all carrying the gold-tasseled red velvet bags that held their mistresses’ prayer books.
The King and Queen entered the Chapel. It was the cue for the ladies to pick up their trains and rush forward, for any woman who had been presented could hear Mass from the upper galleries on either side of the royal family. There was no more graceful gliding. The ladies jostled, with the help of their lackeys, to secure the seats closest to the King and Queen. Sometimes I pictured my friend and myself trampled under the feet of that elegant mob. The melee subsided at last.
We could then sit, arrange our paniers, put away our trains and retrieve our prayer books from the depths of the red velvet bag. By that time Mass was already well under way. The Duchess and I found those devotions devoid of spiritual comfort. We preferred to attend Sunday High Mass in Saint Paul-Saint Louis, her parish church in the Marais district.
My source here? Mostly the excellent Memoirs of the Marquise de La Tour du Pin, who was a lady-in-waiting to Marie-Antoinette, and would have been Gabrielle’s age.
This photo above is taken from the place where the royal family would sit. Picture Gabrielle, the Duchess and the other ladies in Court dresses jostling for position in the galleries on each side…
For a virtual visit of the Chapel Royal, follow this link.
All posts in the Footsteps of Gabrielle series: