Madame Victoire and Lent

I told you we would return to the daughters of Louis XV before long.  So let’s go back once again to Madame Campan’s remembrances of Madame Victoire:

Madame Victoire, kind, sweet-tempered and affable, lived with the most amiable simplicity within a society that cherished her; she was adored by her household. Without quitting Versailles, without sacrificing her downy chair, she fulfilled the duties of religion with punctuality, gave to the poor all she had, and strictly observed the fasts and Lent. True, one faulted the table of Mesdames for acquiring a reputation for dishes of abstinence, spread abroad by the parasites who assiduously attended that of their maître d’hôtel. Madame Victoire was not indifferent to the pleasures of food, but she had the most religious scruples respecting dishes allowed at penitential times.

Madame Victoire Roslin

Madame Victoire by Roslin

I saw her one day exceedingly tormented by her doubts about a water-fowl, which was often served up to her during Lent. The question to be determined irrevocably was whether it was lean [allowed] or fat [forbidden, as all meat during Lent]. She consulted a bishop, who happened to be of the dinner party: the prelate immediately assumed the assured tone of voice, the grave attitude of a judge who
is about to pronounce a final sentence. He answered the Princess that, in a similar case of doubt, it had been resolved that, after the bird was cooked, it should be pricked over a very cold silver dish; if the gravy of the animal congealed within a quarter of an hour, the creature was to be deemed fat; but if the gravy remained in an oily state, it might be eaten at any time without scruple.

Madame Victoire immediately made the experiment: the gravy did not congeal; and this was a source of great joy to the Princess, who was very fond of that sort of game. The abstinence which so much preoccupied Madame Victoire was so disagreeable to her, that she waited with impatience for the hour of midnight on Holy Saturday; and then was immediately supplied with a good helping of fowl and rice and other delicious dishes. She confessed with such amiable candour her taste for good food and the comforts of life that one must have been as severe in principle as insensible to the excellent qualities of the Princess, to fault her for it.

Dear Madame Victoire, torn between her heartfelt devotion and her love of creature comforts…

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7 Comments to “Madame Victoire and Lent”

  1. Catherine Delors says:

    Nana, Hazel – Thank you!

    Louise – True, the dress shows astonishing workmanship. The sleeves seems indeed to have been painted on, but the matching blossoms on the bodice look three-dimensional silk flowers. I would say the gown is a mix of both techniques. A stunning effect.

    Elena – I tend to share Victoire’s weakness for good food, so I will not be the one to cast the first stone…

  2. I always enjoy reading about Madame Victoire and her scruples over water fowl. The fact that she gave “all she had to the poor” shows the sincerity of her convictions, in spite of her weakness for good food. Thank you for bringing the Aunts to life and thank you for the link to my post, Catherine!

  3. Your blogspot has been recommended to me and I can’t wait to see and read more

  4. Hazel says:

    What a labour of love this site is. I look forward to reading more of it and checking out your novel.

  5. Louise says:

    It shows what a relative thing abstinence or self-denial can be, doesn’t it?

    That’s a stunning dress in the portrait, btw. Is it embroidered or maybe painted silk, I wonder? There’s obviously a lot of applied detail, but that diagonal line of flowers across the upper arm looks flush with the surface of the fabric. 18th century style isn’t my favourite line, but the workmanship of the clothes is breathtaking.

    Now (even further off topic) that reminds me of the court lady complaining to her shoemaker that her shoes wore out too fast – “But Madame, you must have walked in them!” was his horrified response. I can’t remember who it was supposed to be in this tale.

  6. Catherine Delors says:

    Glad to hear, Penny, that the rabbi and the bishop would have agreed on this fine point!

  7. Penny Klein says:

    I am not sure whether to take this seriously or not. too bad that they had that religion thing. a rabbi would have told her water fowl are not meat. I think her religious figure though wanted to help her get around what he problably thought to take the middle ground. something for her and something for his conscience.

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