Saturday, April 25, 2015

Etiquette at Versailles ~A Victorian View

Men's high heeled shoes, tights and garters, all helped to show off their muscular calves which was very fashionable for the day ~ Louis XIV, also known as the "Sun King", (reigning from 1643–1715, one of the longest reigning monarchs in history), decreed, among other oddities, that only nobility could wear heels that were coloured red, and that no one’s heels could be higher than his own.

A Victorian Era Take on the French Royal Court: In the First Quarter of the 18th Century-

The tension of the struggle which the previous century had witnessed was withdrawn, and society sprang back with the recoil to a light-hearted gayety, unlike our national earnestness.

The nation took its ease from grave pursuits. Life retained a little of the adventurous. Men had wealth to gratify and leisure to cultivate new tastes; they acquired literary reputations as amateurs or critics. The club and coffee house, the newspaper, the bookseller and publisher, proclaimed the rise of an idle class and a reading public, and heralded the time when plebeian genius no longer needed a patrician Maecenas.

Moral and metaphysical inquiry was the chief stimulus to thought, as faction was to energy. A new premium was set on the acts of society when women became a power, and when the difference between the tie-wig and the full-bottom or the upset of a teacup was fraught with the fate of an empire. The romance of life was concentrated on the pursuit of gallantry.
At Versailles, artificial manners and strict etiquette were combined with loose conduct.

Pope was never more truly the mirror of his own times than when he threw all the passion of which he was capable into the love epistle of Eloisa. Moral refinement fell hopelessly behind advancing civilization. As at Versailles, artificial manners and strict etiquette were combined with loose conduct. It was not 'til decorum was outraged that the moral law was considered. Unless misconduct sinned against taste it was hardly regarded as an offense but at Versailles vice was draped with all the grace and painted with every allurement which civilization could supply.

At St. James's she was sufficiently brazen to move without a blush for her nakedness, and society imitated the coarseness of the Court. Over the social and political memoirs of the day is shed the charm of that class of French literature; there is the same incongruous juxtaposition of serious and gay, politics and scandal, combined with something of the same neatness and finish of mind that touches lightly the light things of society, and something of the same sprightly wit and sparkling epigrams to temper the despotism of the Whig aristocracy. 
The Dog Barber~ For sport hunting, specially designed enclosures for accomodating dogs (according to the type of game they hunted), kennels at Chantilly also housed not only all of the various valets needed, but a bakery too.

Poetry shared in the same lack of enthusiasm. It was the poetical age of reason. It was still the fashion for men of letters to appear before the public in verse, but prose was usurping the place of poetry. Artistic elegance and scholarly form replaced the varied fancy, the exuberant imagination of the older English school. Poetry subsided into an argumentative, didactic, useful character. It grew classical and courtly, embellished familiar objects and every-day events. But it ceased to be "intellectual opium eating." It was kept in touch with all the movements of the day, scientific, political, religious, social.

And this picture of contemporary life was not conveyed through any literary medium. The generation which placed Roman heroes on the stage in perruques and buckles, or adorned the hand that wrote upon the wall at Belshazzar's feast with ring and ruffle, did not seek the disguise of classical or mediaeval costume. Its active interests were represented in a simple straightforward style in the ordinary dress of the day. The sublimity and greatness of poetry disappeared, but it was instinct with natural life. 
The Edinburgh Review, 1884

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura Graber, is the Site Moderator for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia