Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Louis XIV's Morning Etiquette

“The Duke of Saint-Simon, who kept the memorials of Versailles, wrote of Louis XIV: With an almanac and a watch, you could be three hundred leagues from here and say what he was doing. The King’s day was timed down to the last minute so that the officers in the service of the Monarch could plan their work as accurately as possible.” – From www.chateau

The following was just part an ordinary morning of the Monarch, Louis XIV of France, day after day, and year after year, in the Palace of Versailles:

At 8 o'clock in the morning to servants carefully entered the chamber of the King. One, if the weather was cold or damp, brought dry wood to kindle a cheerful blaze upon the hearth, while the other opened the shutters, carried away the collection of soup, roasted chicken, bread, wine and water, which had been placed, the night before, at the side of the royal couch, that the King might find a repast at hand in case he might require refreshment during the night. The valet de chambre then entered and stood silently and reverently at the bed-side for one-half hour. He then awoke the monarch, and immediately passed into an ante-room to communicate the importance intelligence that the King no longer slept. 

Upon receiving this announcement an attendant threw open the double portals of a wide door, when the dauphin and his two sons, the brother of the King, and the Duke of Chartres, who awaited the signal, entered, and approaching the bed with the utmost solemnity of etiquette, inquired how his Majesty had passed the night. After the interval of the moment the Duke Du Maine, the Count De Toulouse, the first lord of the bed-chamber, and the grand master of the robes enter the apartment, and with military precision took their station by the side of the couch of recumbent royalty. Immediately there followed another procession of officers bearing the regal vestments. Fagon, the head physician and Telier, the head surgeon, completed the train.

The head valet de chambre then poured upon the hands of the King a few drops of the spirits of wine, holding beneath him a plate of enameled silver, and the first lord of the bed-chamber presented the monarch, who was very punctilious in his devotions, the holy water, with which the King made the sign of the cross upon his head and his breast. Thus purified and sanctified he repeated a short prayer, which the Church had taught him, and then rose in his bed. A noble lord then approached and presented to him a collection of wigs from which he selected the one which he intended to wear that day, and having condescended to place it, with his own royal hands, upon his head, he slipped his arms into the sleeves of a rich dressing-gown, which the head valet de chambre held ready for him. 

Then reclining again upon his pillow, he thrust one foot out from the bed-clothes. The valet de chambre reverently received the sacred extremity, and drew over it a silk stocking. The other limb was similarly presented and dressed, when slippers of embroidered velvet were placed upon the royal feet. The King then devoutly crossing himself with holy water, with great dignity moved from his bed and seated himself in a large arm-chair, placed at the fire-side. The King then announced that he was prepared to receive the First Entrée. None but especial favorites of the monarch were favored with an audience so confidential. These privileged persons were to enjoy the ecstatic happiness of witnessing the awful ceremony of shaving the King. One attendant prepared the water and held the basin. Another lathered the royal chin, and removed the sacred beard, and with soft sponges, saturated with wine and water, washed the parts which had been operated upon and smoothed with silken towels.

And now the master of the robes approaches to dress the King. At the same moment the monarch announces that he is ready for his Grand Entrée. The principal attendants of royalty, accompanied by several valets de chambre and door-keepers of the cabinet, immediately take their station at the entrance of the apartment. Princes often sighed in vain for an admission to the Grand Entrée. The greatest precautions were observed that no unprivileged person should intrude. As each individual presented himself at the door, his name was whispered to the first lord of the bed-chamber, who repeated it to the King. If the monarch made no reply the visitor was admitted. The Duke in attendance marshalled the newcomers to their several places, that they might not approach too near the presence of his Majesty. 

Princes of the highest rank, and statesmen of the most exalted stations were subjected alike to these humiliating ceremonials. The King, the meanwhile, regardless of his guests, was occupied in being dressed. A valet of the wardrobe delivered to a gentleman of the chamber the garters, which in turn he presented to the monarch. Inexorable etiquette would allow the King to clasp his garters in the morning, but not to unclasp them at night. It was the exclusive privilege of the head valet de chambre to unclasp that of the right leg, while an attendant of inferior rank might remove the other. One attendant put on the shoes, and fastened the diamond buckles. Two pages, gorgeously dressed in crimson velvet, overlaid with gold and silver lace, received the slippers as they were taken from the King's feet. –New York Times, 1852

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

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