Modern History Sourcebook:
The Duchess of Orleans:
Versailles Etiquette, 1704
The Duchess of Orleans was married to the king's brother, the
much younger Duchess of Bourgogne to the king's grandson. Here
the obsessive concern with manners is well-evidenced.
From Letter of the Duchess of Orleans
4th January, 1704, Versailles.
To the DUCHESS OF HANOVER.
I must really tell you how just the King is. The Duchesse de Bourgogne's
ladies, who are called Ladies of the Palace, tried to arrogate
the rank and take the place of my ladies everywhere. Such a thing
was never done either in the time of the Queen or of the Dauphiness.
They got the King's Guards to keep their places and push back
the chairs belonging to my ladies. I complained first of all to
the Duc de Noailles, who replied that it was the King's order.
Then I went immediately to the King and said to him, "May
I ask your Majesty if it is by your orders that my ladies have
now no place or rank as they used to have? If it is your desire,
I have nothing more to say, because I only wish to obey you, but
your Majesty knows that formerly when the Queen and the Dauphiness
were alive the Ladies of the Palace had no rank, and my Maids
of Honour, Gentlemen of Honour, and Ladies of the Robe had their
places like those of the Queen and the Dauphiness. I do not know
why the Ladies of the Palace should pretend to anything else."
The King became quite red, and replied, "I have given no
such order, who said that I had?" "The Maréchal
de Noailles," I replied. The King asked him why he had said
such a thing, and he denied it entirely. "I am willing to
believe, since you say so," l replied, "that my lackey
misunderstood you, but as the King has given no such orders, see
that your Guards don't keep places for those ladies and hinder
my servants from carrying chairs for my service," as we say
here. Although these ladies are high in favour, the King, nevertheless,
sent the majordomo to find out how things should be done. I told
him, and it will not happen again. These women are becoming far
too insolent now that they are in favour, and they imagined that
I would not have the courage to report the matter to the King.
But I shall not lose my rank nor prerogatives on account of the
favour they enjoy. The King is too just for that.
From G. S. Stevenson, ed., The Letters of Madame, (New
York: D. Appleton and Co., 1924), pp. 232-233.
This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook.
The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted
texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World
Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the
document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying,
distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal
use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source.
No permission is granted for commercial use of the Sourcebook.
(c)Paul Halsall Aug 1997