Category Archives: Eighteenth Century

Things to do in 18th century Bath

It amazes me that sometimes, in my internet wanderings, when I am trying to find little nuggets of fact amidst the fog of the past that might embroider my novels with authentic detail, Google presents me with nothing exact. I mean, it’s rather obvious that Google and Wikipedia and all other random, non-authoratitive sources, might present one with unexpected ‘facts’. Sometimes they present one with outright lies, and this is often the cause of amusement.

Only today I was amazed to see someone on the internet declaring their casting off of pleasure driven pursuits such as drinking and eating bad food as they had decided to, ‘pursue a more hedonistic lifestyle’…I mean, there really is no answer for that except a pained inward groan. Then one allows oneself a little titter of amusement…until one makes a similar blunder and realises we all make mistakes and one ought to get down off one’s proverbial high horse.

Anyway, I am becoming distracted. What I am meaning to talk about is Bath. You see, I am in the throes of writing another book, which I have been enjoying immensely, and after taking a breaking because of, well, life, I have come back to it. I was getting frustrated because I had forgotten what I had already written, and felt as though I had lost the firm grasp on my characters I had. So I spent this morning re-reading what I had already written, remembering who I had created and where they dwelt, and thinking onwards onto what I wish to write next, and I was considering what activities my character might take up. They’re staying in Bath, you see, the first time one of my books has taken place in this beautiful watering hole of the 18th century, and so I did what any modern-day historical romance writer might do (but not admit to of course), I went to Le Google. I typed in the most pragmatic of phrases, ‘Things to do in 18th Century Bath’ and was greeted with, well, not much – nothing exact, you see.

You’ll be happy to know, those of you considering planning little trips away in 2017 already, that there are a plethora of guides on what to do in modern day Bath. But, believe it or not, in the onslaught of online information, no article matched my expectations. So I’ve written one. I do that with books too, if I can’t find what I want to read in a bookshop, I’ll go home and attempt to write what I am desiring instead. Sometimes it even works.

I did the same with my Things to do in 18th Century London post. I wanted to find activities that took place during the daytime that a man and woman might both attend. After all, despite what many historical romances might teach you (and I love them all), it wasn’t just about balls and gaming hells in London. And neither was Bath confined to taking the waters and the Assembly Rooms. 

It took me some time to piece together things from online articles sourced at reputable sites. You see, I don’t have easy access to my books and must sacrifice my intellectual self on the pire of the collective online brain. So, here is a wee list of things one might do in Bath to entertain oneself in the 18th Century:

1. Afternoon Tea in the Bath Assembly Rooms

That’s right, it wasn’t all about the nighttime Assembly’s in Bath with the dancing and light suppers presided over by Beau Nash, master of ceremonies. Oh, no, during the day one could enjoy an afternoon tea in respectable surroundings with relatives, friends or even potential lovers. Visit Bath is keen to establish that Jane Austen herself enjoyed afternoon tea at the Assembly Room’s, so there really is no arguing with that, is there? And for those hailing from countries where afternoon tea isn’t tradition, it usually consisted of tea, the drink, and light refreshments of both the savoury and sweet kinds.

The Assembly Rooms, Bath - National Trust

The Assembly Rooms, Bath – National Trust

2. Lover’s Lane in Bath

It wasn’t just Vauxhall and Ranelegh in London that could provide lovers with a useful tryst spot, Bath had a few spots of its own. Lover’s Lane, common parlance for the Gravel Walk (some of you might remember from the touching final get-together in Persuasion’s film adaptation), was a handy walk often used by those under cupid’s sway. And of course, Bath wasn’t short of gardens in which two young people, or older for that matter, might become lost. Sydney Gardens, situated behind Jane Austen’s Bath abode (though it must be stated she wasn’t fond of the city unlike myself), was a case in point.

Sydney Gardens, Bath

Sydney Gardens, Bath

Lots of these gardens not only had lovely little winding walks, but also bowling greens and lots of little things they could o.

3. Promenading along the Royal Crescent, Bath

The Hyde Park of Bath, this place was ideal for showing off one’s gladrags, perhaps obtained from Milsom Street, the popular shopping street in Bath, and overlooking the beautiful grey/yellow bath-stone city. For those unfamiliar with Bath, the Royal Crescent is a stunning panoramic crescent of matching Bath stone terraced houses in a palladian style overlooking the city. It’s aesthetics are beautiful for their uniformity, classical lines, and prominent position. 

Royal Crescent, Bath

Royal Crescent, Bath

My favourite part of these buildings is the modern-day birds-eye view which shows the higgeldy-piggeldy backs of these houses where successive owners have made their own changes and extensions to the properties without harming the matching fronts.

4. Bathing in Bath

It wasn’t just the Romans who chose to bathe in the warm waters springing from the Somerset earth. Bathing in Bath was considered beneficial for health complaints including rheumatism and gout. It was something generally, though not exclusively, taken advantage of by the elderly in Bath, and took place in any of these three baths on offer: the Cross bath, the Hot bath and the Minerva baths. In fact, if you are a modern day visitor, you can always visit these at the Thermae Bath Spa who describe the city thus,

‘Bath and its waters have a long association with well-being and the word SPA is related to the Latin phrase ‘Salus Per Aquam’ or ‘health through water’.’

Thermae Bath Spa

Thermae Bath Spa give the best history of bathing and the medicinal qualities of the waters at Bath that I could find online on this page of their website. The key piece I found the most helpful/interesting I have quoted below:

‘Princess/Queen Anne visited Bath regularly to take the waters seeking a cure for her gout and dropsy, which prompted the renaming of the New Bath to the Queen’s Bath. These visits and aristocratic patronage set in motion a period of development in which Bath became ‘the premier resort of frivolity and fashion’ and led to the great rebuilding of the city to produce the 18th century layout and architecture of today’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.’

5. Taking those Bath waters like a pro

Funnily enough, 18th century people weren’t all that foolish as we might like to think in our modern state. They really were onto something with the water – containing 43 minerals, it certainly has a tangy taste (I’ve tried it) and some health benefits too. 

Taking the Waters in Bath

Taking the Waters in Bath

The Thermae Bath Spa list the highest proportions of what the water contains below:

Mineral Expressed as Concentration (Hetling Spring):

Sulphate mg/l 1015 

Calcium mg/l 358 

Chloride mg/l 340 

Sodium mg/l 195 

Bicarbonate mg/l 193 

Magnesium mg/l 57 

Silica mg/l 21 

Iron mg/l 0.5

Taken from the Thermae Bath Spa’s website.

6. Sham Castle – the Folly at Bedhampton

For those who have been to Bath, you might have remembered looking up above the city and seeing a medieval castle, a shell of bygone days, looking down on the predominantly Georgian city. Perhaps you even thought, ‘Oh, jolly good, I’ll get my medieval rocks of while I’m here and pop up to those ruins.’ Well, you’d be out of luck. The castle is a sham. Sham by name, sham by nature, this folly was constructed on local gentleman Ralph Allen’s estate to add some glam to the place, in fact, it was pretty common practice in the later eighteenth century to ornament your gardens with extra, more ‘picturesque’ bits and pieces like follys and rotundas (the latter sees a good example at Petworth House in Sussex). Some even went as far as getting in a hermit to live in their grounds and drag them in for a hot meal when conversation at dinner was a little slow…I kid you not.

Sham Castle, Bath

Sham Castle, Bath

So that’s a small list of what genteel people might do to pass the time while staying in Bath. I’m going to keep reading around the subject and I’m sure it’ll be easier to find out more when my books are to hand, in the mean time, my characters will make do with some of these activities. And of course a few of them will be riding out into the Somerset countryside too (I can never resist a good horse ride), in fact, it’s quite amazing just how dramatic and delightful a ride out can be with the right people…

Caro Worth’s story

On the eve of my 3rd novel’s launch I’m sitting writing this post and it only seems natural to look back to the beginnings of that third book, Fool Me Twice

Only the other day someone asked me why I wrote my books. It’s funny, because it’s a completely reasonable question, but I was stumped. They were asking particularly about my first book, why did I write it, what made me do it, what was the reason I wrote it. It’s strange because I guess I view writing as more of a compulsion than something I set out to do. I mean, there is planning in a novel, and you set out with the determination to write and finish it, but the reason, what made me do it, why I started writing it, well that doesn’t really feel like a choice.

And that’s not a negative. There’s something cathartic in writing. Even now, writing this blog, I feel calmer for it. It’s like drawing out the things from within which might otherwise struggle to find voice, and allowing them freedom. That’s how it was with Fool Me Twice. Quite randomly, I was listening to the song Welcome to Burlesque by Cher for the motion picture Burlesque, and there she was, sitting in my imagination; Caro Worth.

She wasn’t sat there for long. She rose and began to traverse the gaming tables, and that’s when I realised she was in a gaming hell. Her dress gave away her origin as the 1770s, and the darkness of the place, creeping in at the edges as candles worked their hardest to push it away, it hinted at the secrets that Caro Worth kept hidden.

And there she stayed, in my mind, winding around the tables, playing another game of cards, waiting for her story to be written. She was beckoning me, and only her face, her path, was clear to me from among the blurred faces of that hell. I couldn’t ignore her, not when she dwelt in my mind, she compelled me to write her story, from that first night in the hell where we met, until…

Well, I guess you’ll just have to read the novel when it’s released on the 1st…

 

 

Researching historical costume: Worthing Museum & Art Gallery

So, it turns out, little did I know that Worthing, of all places, has one of the largest costume and textiles collections in the UK. A little seaside town, snug on the South coast, it really is an unassuming little place so, who knew?

You wouldn’t necessarily attach much significance to it like you would the V & A or the Bath Costume museum, but for those who are historic clothing enthusiasts, it’s well worth a visit. They don’t have quite as much on display as the Bath Costume Museum or the V & A, so you won’t be spending more than half a day in their costume department, but if you’re as avid as me about historical clothes then it could be worth going to. Worth going to Worthing…hehehehe…at least I make myself chuckle….

My highlight was the 1760s court mantua gown which you can check out in the slideshow below. Just look at the beautiful embroidery and detail? It’s missing it’s own detailed and patterned stomacher and petticoat – hence the plain lavender silk – so don’t go thinking that this was all there was to this dress! It has the slightly flared sleeves and lace at the elbows which faded out during the 1770s. I have to say it was about my size – perhaps I should ask if they’re up for selling it?

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Well, the mantua was my highlight, and the shoes of course! These were all rather delightful:

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The shoes decrease in age as you go up in this image. Don’t you just love how the Victorian shoes on the top row are harking back to what are known as Louis XIV heels?

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The pumps on the left and in the middle are both made of kid leather – for those Georgette Heyer readers among you, you’ll like that…and the ones on the right are made from satin. All of them are c.1820

As I’m now researching and writing a new novel set back in the Regency era, around 1814-15 to be exact, I am once again enjoying the dresses of the period:

Pelisse and Spencer Jacket c.1820 | Historical Dress | Philippa Jane Keyworth

Military style yellow pelisse (women’s long coat) and Spencer jacket (short style jacket). My mum pointed out that the latter looks spooky in it’s odd hovering display arrangement!

Spencer Jacket and Regency Dress c.1820 | Historical Dress | Philippa Jane Keyworth

Spencer jacket and white muslin dress with decorated edge and embroidered hem c.1820 – look at that waist!

I should add, there wasn’t much in the way of 18th or 19th Century menswear which is why my photos are heavily female orientated. That, and the fact that I happen to be slightly more interested in the clothing I might have worn if I had been born back then!

Aside from the 18th century and Regency attire on display I was treated to some early and mid-Victorian dresses. It was lovely seeing some early 1850 dresses which would have been similar to those worn by Margaret Hale in North and South which I recently read.

 

From the top left clockwise we have a dress c.1880 of dark grey and olive silk complete with button down chest and rear bustle. Then in the largest photo we have a blue damask dress c.1850 finished with a chemisette (a section of white muslin or cotton which made it seem as though the wearer had a full shirt on beneath the dress – it was for modesty). Finally, and the most striking of the three for me is a lavender silk dress c.1850 with wide loose sleeves, tassels dropping down the front to cover the button and a beautiful silk with natural swirling patterning occurring within it.

I really don’t know what it is about historic dress that fascinates me, but it really does do just that, fascinates me. I can spend ages staring at the line of a dress, the embroidery of a sleeve and the shape of a heel.

I

Just

Love

It

Visit Worthing Museum if you fancy a gander – they have a much larger collection of 20th century clothing and accessories on display which I didn’t photograph as well as some fantastic old photos – like a display on weddings every decade from the late Victorian period until the 1970s!

 

3rd novel Fool Me Twice – a Georgian romance – to be published!

I’m so pleased to announce that my 3rd novel Fool Me Twice is now under contract with Madison Street Publishing and should be emerging into the public light by the end of 2016!

 Fool Me Twice | Historical Georgian Romance | Philippa Jane Keyworth

I signed the contract last week and am really looking forward to the publishing journey again. Now the fun begins, the cover designs, the polishing, the preparing and the final exposure – it’s enough to make me shiver in anticipation. My characters are excited too. Tobias Felton is feeling particularly mischievous as he thinks about the worldwide public observing his antics, whilst Caro Worth hides her face behind her fan, embarrassed to be so scrutinised, a factor which her good friend Lady Rebecca Fairing is looking forward to. It’s all go, and soon the world of Fool Me Twice will be laid before readers’ hungry eyes to be devoured and enjoyed.

The blurb…

I’m sure I will have more to share with you about the book over the coming weeks and months, including being properly introduced to my characters; Lady Etheridge is particularly pleasing to those of us who enjoy cutting humour and people who do not suffer fools lightly. In the mean time, if you cannot bear the agony of waiting for the next morsel of news, why not read the blurb of Fool Me Twice here.

A Georgian romance…

I feel hugely blessed and chuffed to be in this position, and excited by the departure of period from my previous novels (you really will have to read my blurb to find out what I’m talking about…unless you’re an historical fiction buff).

Here’s to the next book!

Inspirational Scrapbooking – 18th century Georgian style!

Since late last year I decided that I wanted to start scrapbooking. Previously I have kept a memories scrapbook which is notoriously fat with everything I’ve kept (I’m a bit of a sentimental hoarder), stuck in with any adhesive I could find. If a notebook could look like it was going to explode, this one certainly would.

Other than that I started on Pinterest a few years ago – it was actually due to stumbling across the absolutely FANTASTIC boards of Lucinda Brant, who uses them for her research (she’s got 114 boards – you’ll get lost in there) – and since then I have started creating my own collection of inspiration boards.

But, just like the Kindle will never completely eclipse the printed book (in my opinion, and I’m unbiased because I own both), there is nothing like having those inspirational/researching images in your hands.

With that in mind and with the help of a friend, I managed to purchase an A3 (at least I think it is, how is a writer supposed to know? We only deal in A4 manuscripts), sketch/painting spiral bound book.

Cover Scrapbook

When I showed it to my sister, with the beginnings of the scrapbooking inside, she told me it was a travesty to any painter (she is an artist herself) to be sticking things onto such beautifully thick paper which would benefit from some lavish paintwork to bring out it’s true master-piece soul. I told her tough.

It’s lucky we have such a good relationship 😉 Anyway, I have split the book into two halves, a fantasy half for things like The Edict. This is really helpful as with fantasy you are creating worlds in your head, and because they don’t exist, all you can find in photos and images is the merest traces of what you imagine, but combine those traces in a scrapbook and you can start to form a world, a person, a culture all your own.

Now those scrapbook-page-babies aren’t finished so I’m not posting them. However, I’ve made more progress on my Georgian pages as I’ve been pretty keen on those whilst doing Fool Me Twice, especially as it’s a nice way of keeping in touch with your story so you don’t lose your momentum, but giving yourself time in front of the tele to chill out between writing bouts.

I’ve posted a few pictures below – bearing in mind that I am pretty new to scrapbooking and I’m not known for my patience with pinickety-ness. This is pretty ironic as those of you with scrapbooking keenos as friends will know that real, full-on scrapbooking is a very precise art. However, I’m doing this to chill out and have fun so, in the immortal words of my husband when I’ve been whining about something insignificant for far too long, “Who cares!”

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In fact, just as I was uploading them I noticed some of the scrapbook pictures aren’t even stuck down yet! So you can tell it’s a working progress, and one which I’m really enjoying.

Straight after I finish proofing this post I’m going to sit down with my scrapbook, some food, a bit of Robin Hood on TV, and enjoy doing some more!

 

 

 

Things to do in 18th Century London

So, I have been editing Fool Me Twice and in my first draft the hero and heroine have a scene where they meet in a public place – quite by chance obviously. The only problem is, that now I’m editing it, I’ve realised that where they meet is not quite appropriate so I’m going to have to change it. This prompted me to think of places that a man and woman of polite society could meet in London – what did they do during the day in 18th Century London that could lead to them bumping into one another?

panoramic_view_of_london_in_1751_by_t-_bowles

A view of London from the East 1751 by T. Bowles

 

Now, when I write a first draft I’m not one for stopping every page or so and checking my historical accuracy or doing a little research, I’m more inclined to speed on ahead because I’m excited and want to get it all down. It’s in the editing stage that I really dig into those more time consuming but ever-so enlightening research moments and this is one of those.

Now, although I do have a few books knocking around which I could have flicked through, being the lazy 21st century sort of person I am I just whacked the query ‘what to do in 18th century London‘ into Google. It brought up a bunch of results, the only problem was, the results were focused on either things that were primarily domains of one or other sex, or they were looking at activities to do at night, such as visiting Vauxhall gardens which opened around 5/6pm or popping to Almack’s, or enjoying a ball. But I wanted something that my characters could do during the day.

More than that, I wanted something different to shopping or strolling in Hyde park, there must have been more to do in a bustling metropolis right? With that in mind, I did some digging and came up with 4 things to do in 18th century London, during the day-time, for both sexes. It was quite interesting actually, I’ve learnt rather a bit, added to my research folders and popped it down here for anyone who’s interested as I couldn’t find a list myself:

  1. The Pot and Pineapple (later Gunter’s Tea Shop) at no.7-8 Berkley Square. 

Originally owned by the Italian Domenico Negri from c.1757 and taken over by James Gunter completely by 1789 (it would become known as the famous Gunter’s Tea Shop), the Pot and Pineapple was a confectioners. They had all sorts of sweet-meats (meaning candied or crystallised fruits), cakes, biscuits and ices to try (not to mention their catering business for soirees and so on) and one could enjoy it all with a good pot of tea.

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Domenico Negri’s Trade Card

Jane Austen’s World has a great post on The Pot and the Pineapple and Gunter’s which goes into far more detail.

2. Twinings Tea Shop at 216 Strand

twinings-tea-shop-and

Twinings has inhabited the same building since  was established in 1706.

Britain Express gives a good run-down on the growth of Britain’s tea-craze and its ironic emergence first from coffee houses! But aside from that history, popping into Thomas Twining’s Tea Shop would have been just the thing and one might bump into a person of the opposite sex in there with far more propriety than in a male-dominated coffee house.

Interestingly, the characteristic touch of Bergamot (oil extracted from the rind of a Bergamot orange) in Earl Grey tea prior to that tea’s formation in the early 19th Century, was used to flavour ices at The Pot and Pineapple.

3. The British Museum at Montagu House in Bloomsbury

Let’s face it, I can’t put it any better than The British Museum’s website itself:

‘The British Museum was founded in 1753, the first national public museum in the world. From the beginning it granted free admission to all ‘studious and curious persons’. Visitor numbers have grown from around 5,000 per year to today’s 6 million.’

montagu-house-by-james-simon

The original location of The British Museum was Montagu House

Made up of Sir Hans Sloane’s (1660-1753) collection of books, manuscripts and natural specimens with some antiquities such as coins, medals, prints and drawings, The British Museum was not quite what it is today, but did I mention that Sloane had collected a total of 71,000 objects?!

On 7th June 1753, an Act of Parliament established the museum and opened its doors on 15th January 1759 for free to all of the public. This was a landmark moment for us today and it would have been a great place to visit in the 1770s.

4. Royal Academy’s Annual Exhibition at the print warehouse on Pall Mall

Generally open from 1st May until July, the Royal Academy’s (founded 1768) exhibition could certainly draw a crowd and in the 1770s, artists such as Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds were showing their glorious works.

If one wanted to check out their rivals, one could always pop over to the Society of Artists from which the Royal Academy stemmed. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find where their exhibitions were based so if anyone can shed light on that it would be great.

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The Portraits of the Academicians of the Royal Academy (1771-72) by Johann Zoffany

And I’m afraid that’s all I have time to research and share with you, I must get back to editing!

Now that I have chosen one of these for the setting of a scene in Fool Me Twice, and you won’t know which one until you read it ;-), it’s back to editing for me.

Thank goodness my great neighbour just gave me the rest of a chocolate orange torte she made and couldn’t finish – this’ll keep me going…

References:

Books:

Cunningham, Peter , Handbook of London: Past and Present (London: John Murray 1850)

Kloester, Jennifer , Georgette Heyer’s Regency World (London: Arrow Books, 2008)

Postal, Martin, ‘Visual Arts’ in Samuel Johnson in Context, ed.Jack Lynch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp.385-392.

White, Jerry, London in the 18th Century: A Great and Monstrous Thing (London: Random House, 2012)A History of 18th Century London by Jerry White

Websites/Blogs:

Jane Austen’s World

Britain Express

The British Museum

 

Marie Antoinette: Queen of French Fashion

I am delighted to welcome Ginger Myrick onto my blog for a guest post and excerpt from her latest historical fiction novel exploring the life of the enigmatic Maria Antoinette – enjoy:

 

Marie Antoinette was perhaps most iconically known for her sense of style. Although many of the ideas of French fashion we associate with her—the elaborate gowns, towering wigs, and fanciful headpieces—were already in place at Versailles by the time she arrived on the scene, she did take some of the concepts to new heights and bent the rules to make her own way. But she wasn’t always as chic as we have come to regard her.

When fourteen-year-old Archduchess Maria Antonia first crossed the River Rhine and arrived at the border of France, she was dressed in the Austrian fashion. The fabrics and cut of her gown were luxurious and very expensive, but Austrians had the reputation for being much more staid and businesslike than their French counterparts. Although the young archduchess was the offspring of the Holy Roman Empress and considered a Daughter of the Caesars—the most high-born of European royalty—she was still looked upon as provincial by the sophisticated French. The first thing they did, before even allowing her to cross into their land, was to strip her of all things Austrian—undergarments, jewelry, hairpins, etc.—and dress her à la française. This meant that nothing from her homeland was to cross into France with her, even her little pug Mops. All of her former belongings were left on the Austrian side of the border, and Maria Antonia, clothed, made-up, and with her hair dressed according to the customs of Versailles, emerged on the French side of the line of demarcation as Dauphine Marie Antoinette. Although this process was meant as more symbolism than fashion statement, she now looked the part of first lady of the most stylish court in Europe.

Anyone who has dealt with a finicky daughter knows what it’s like to go through several changes of clothing in one day. For the new Dauphine, though, it was not persnicketiness but a necessary evil of her position. There was a huge difference between the stylish new gowns she desired to wear and being dressed appropriately for her state duties. When Marie Antoinette woke in the mornings, she went through the steps of her lever–the everyday toilette routine of her rising–during which she was dressed somewhat informally for the pre-noon activities she could not accomplish in her dressing gown. At noon, she went through the process of Chambre–her formal toilette–during which she applied her make up and donned her official court gown in front of whomever had been admitted to Versailles for the day.

These court dresses were very different than the regular gowns in fashion at the time. They were made with heavy traditional fabrics—brocades, satins, and laces—and trimmed with excessively ornate accessories—tulle, bows, tassels, and trains. You name it, it was thrown on there. The panniers required to hold these confections out to their best advantage were nearly twice the size of the ones worn under everyday dresses. There are accounts of women having to enter rooms sideways to accommodate their gowns. The necklines were low-cut and revealing, and the tightly fitted bodices—which lent even more contrast to the bell-shaped skirts—required a corset to be worn underneath.

This seemed to be one of the things that Marie Antoinette objected to the most. There are letters still in existence today in which her mother chastised her over and over again for refusing to wear her corset. When Marie Antoinette became Queen of France, along with her subservience to her elders, her corset was one of the things she cast aside in the name of her newfound independence.

This was also when her relationship with Rose Bertin began in earnest. As Dauphine, Marie Antoinette frequented the dressmaker’s fashionable boutique and occasionally sent for her to come to Versailles. Now they began a more regular association. The couteurière packed up her tools of the trade twice a week and trundled them to the new Queen’s apartments to plan their creations for whatever the upcoming schedule of events had in store. Marie Antoinette also designed many of her own fabrics, usually a light background embroidered with light and airy floral patterns. This custom needlework found its way into Rose Bertin’s designs and many accessories of the Queen’s personal habitations. There were chairs, draperies, even silk wall panels and tables made to her specifications.

Working with the Queen’s hairdresser, Léonard, Mademoiselle Bertin also designed custom poufs—the inner pads and cushions—that supported the towering hairstyles of the time, some of which measured over three feet tall. Although wigs had been a required part of the costume of Versailles since its inception they literally reached new heights during the reign of Louis XVI and were cunningly sculpted to celebrate current events, one of the most famous commemorating the King’s inoculation against smallpox.

Shortly after Louis XVI’s coronation, he gifted his Queen with le Petit Trianon, which became her personal escape from the rigors of her position. Along with discarding the strictures of etiquette, she also put away the detestable corset and opted for simpler gowns that did not require one. Of course there were still state occasions when she had to revert to the overdone court dresses, but left to her own devices, she resorted to the comfort and easiness of poplin, muslin, tulle, or cotton lawn topped with a straw hat to complete the look. She even had a portrait painted dressed in this same simple manner. It sparked an unforeseen controversy, drawing nasty remarks ranging from outrage from courtiers at the Queen being depicted in her nightgown and diminishing the standing of the royals, to the common folk clamoring against her ‘playing at’ being a peasant. Although innocently done, many such unwitting blunders contributed to the disparaging of her character and the vilification of her public image, in part, leading to the downfall of the monarchy and the rise of the French Revolution.

* * *

EXCERPT:

As the Austrian party looked on, the teenager was summarily stripped and every last vestige of her homeland discarded. Even her little dog Mops was removed from her possession, and she cried out in surprise in her upset. Finally she stood there, naked and trembling without even her shift to shield her. She brought her hands up to cover the most feminine parts of her anatomy as a sour-faced woman, in charge of her transformation from Austrian to French form of dress, began an impersonal and meticulous inch by inch inspection of her flesh.

Antoine tried to keep her disdain from showing. Was this painstaking process really necessary with so many people in attendance? Surely this part of the ceremony could have been accomplished more quickly and privately. The thought occurred to her that she had probably not been so closely examined in the moments following her birth. It was said that her mother had only paused her paperwork long enough to push Antoine into the world then resumed her signing of documents immediately after. The picture was a silly one and produced a reflexive giggle from the fourteen-year-old, already discomfited over standing so exposed before a roomful of onlookers.

The woman interrupted her prodding to shoot the Austrian girl a reproving glare, mistaking Antoine’s amusement for contempt. She cleared her throat audibly and went on to explain in a haughty tone.

“These strict traditions have their origins in times long past. I assure you that they are completely necessary. They allow us to determine that you are exactly the pure and wholesome bride we are expecting and welcome you to France with great ceremony, leaving your former life behind. Essentially, you are entering on one side as Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria, and you shall exit on French soil as Marie Antoinette, Dauphine and future Queen of France. Oh,” she said with a frown, “what is this here?”

Antoine turned and glanced over her shoulder to see what the woman had discovered to provoke the comment. The view of the woman’s dark eyes peering out over the curve of her bottom was almost more than she could bear. Her lips quirked to one side as she stifled her rising giddiness, reluctant to incur another reprimand.

“That’s just a scar left from small pox,” she managed in a normal sounding voice. “I had a mild case when I was a baby. Of course I don’t remember, but now I am immune, which is all to the good, because it means I can’t get infected.”

“Yes, it would be terrible for you to get infected,” the woman said enigmatically, looking up at her charge out of the corner of her eye. But she was still not convinced. “Are you certain? It is shaped somewhat like a bite mark,” she insisted, manipulating the flesh of the surrounding area, making sure it showed no signs of recent infection, no discoloration or seepage.

“My brothers may have been rough with me on occasion, but I don’t recall them ever biting me,” Antoine remarked wryly. Especially on my behind! she added to herself.

She shivered in her state of undress, wishing the woman to be done with the inspection and get on with the job of dressing her. When she had imagined herself as the Queen of France, this had not been a part of the vision. It was decidedly unlike the fairytale she had conjured.

Eventually the woman seemed to have satisfied her misgivings and called for the fine French linen chemise, which she settled down over the girl’s head with her own two hands. Her part accomplished, she signaled for the other ladies to bring forth the remainder of the garments necessary for the transformation. Then she sat back to make sure they performed the task to her exacting standards. Finally, the Austrian girl was dressed à la française to the satisfaction of the woman in charge and stood waiting for her next cue.

“It is now time to bid goodbye to Austria and be welcomed into France.”

Antoine began the process almost gaily, testing out her new persona with alacrity, buoyed by the beautiful French gown and elaborate new coiffure with its glittering adornments. But as the realization set in that this was probably the last time in her life she would see these staid, upright Austrian nobles, so representative of her native soil, she began to sniffle in sadness, dreading the final separation. By the time she reached the end of the line and her carriage companions stood before her, equally as miserable, the tears were flowing in an unstoppable stream. She clung fast to the princesses, knowing that as soon as they released each other, their connection would be severed in fact as well as principle.

As the last of her Austrian entourage vacated the room, Antoine was immediately set upon by the French attendants, who dried her tears and attempted to repair the damage to her meticulously applied maquillage. They wiped away the black smudges under her eyes and the streaks on her cheeks left by her tearful farewells. They dabbed white face paint over the bare patches followed by powder and rouge and relined her eyes with kohl. When Antoine was once again presentable, one of the friendlier girls drew close and made a show of neatening her hair.

“Courage, Madame Dauphine,” the girl whispered under her breath. “You must now be presented to your French family, but first, la Comtesse de Noailles. If you will suffer a bit of advice, even la Dauphine would be wise to obey. The Comtesse prides herself on her strictness and adherence to the rules and regulations of etiquette. She attended the previous Queen of France and will not suffer the merest hint of insolence.”

“Thank you,” Antoine whispered back with a meaningful look.

The girl gave her a mischievous wink then turned and declared, “Madame la Dauphine is ready.”

* * *

Although my latest release, INSATIABLE: A MACABRE HISTORY OF FRANCE ~ L’AMOUR: MARIE ANTOINETTE, is a work of alternate history and borderline horror, I have stayed true to Marie Antoinette’s reputation and include ample mention of the Queen’s panache and her concerns with the world of fashion. The eBook editions of INSATIABLE (Kindle and Nook) are currently on sale for an introductory price of $2.99 and are available at:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes&Noble

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