Marie Antoinette: Dauphine

It took several weeks to reach France, but on 7th May 1770, Marie Antoinette finally entered her new country. There was a ceremony to mark the occasion and afterwards, she met her French attendants. Marie Antoinette was now officially French. Seven days later she met the King Louis XV, who was charmed by this young girl, her future husband, Louis, Dauphin of France and the rest of the royal family.

On 16 May 1770, the wedding of Louis and Marie Antoinette took place at the Palace of Versailles. The ceremony was followed by lavish celebrations, including a firework display that ended in tragedy with people getting trampled over and killed. After the festivities, the ritual of the bedding took place. The young couple was put to bed and everyone expected they would consummate the marriage straight away. However, 8 years would pass before that would finally happen.

The French people seemed to really love Marie Antoinette at first, but not everyone at court approved of the marriage and the alliance with Austria.Louis XV’s daughters, who had a great influence on the young Dauphin Louis, made fun of Marie Antoinette and Adelaide, the oldest, labelled her L’Autrichienne. Madame Du Barry also complained that the Dauphine wouldn’t speak to her. Du Barry, having a lower rank, couldn’t be the first to speak and Marie Antoinette didn’t want to have anything to do with the king’s mistress, finding her position at court appalling. But snubbing the king’s mistress was snubbing the king and criticising his behaviour so Marie Antoinette had to give in in the end.

Having grown up at the informal Austrian court, Marie Antoinette also found it difficult to get used to the strictly regulated life at Versailles. In the morning, there was the ritual of the lever (morning dressing) where the toilette was performed with the assistance of several people, and at night, there was the ritual of the coucher (evening undressing). The royals also had to dine in public. Everyone who was decently dressed could go to Versailles and look at the royal family eating. Marie Antoinette hated these rituals but had no choice but go through with them.

In a letter written to her mother, the Empress Maria Theresa, in 1770, Marie Antoinette described her daily routine: she woke up between nine and ten, dressed informally, said her morning prayers, ate breakfast and visited the royal aunts; at 11 o’clock she had her hair done and at noon, she applied her rouge and got dressed in front of a lot of people; then she attended Mass and dined with her husband in front of the whole world. And every month, she had to write to her mother.

Marie Antoinette went hunting with her husband (although she herself didn’t hunt) to try and get closer to him by sharing his favourite pastime. She also gave little dances in her apartments. In the meantime, she made a couple of lifelong friends: Marie Louise de Savoy, the Princess de Lamballe, and Yolande, Duchess de Polignac. The Princess de Lamballe was more intellectual and cultured, while the Duchess de Polignac more frivolous, but also a devoted mother and friend. 

To alleviate her homesickness, her marital problems and sadness, Marie Antoinette adopted a lifestyle full of enjoyable distractions: she began gambling, spending lots of money on clothes and visiting the theatre and the opera more often. Although all this would change when Marie Antoinette became a mother, the bad reputation gained in the first years of her marriage would never go away. But at the moment, the lively Dauphin is leading a pleasant, if not happy, life at Versailles. A life that ended on 10 May 1774 with the death of Louis XV.

Louis and Marie Antoinette were now King and Queen of France..

Further reading:
Louis XVI And Marie Antoinette Before The Revolution by Nesta Webster
Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser

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