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I Do: The Wedding of Louis and Antoinette

The wedding of Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna von Habsburg-Lothringen to Louis-Auguste de France, which happened on this day in 1770, was no small affair.  Over five-thousand people were invited to attend the royal nuptials, tiers of seating were erected in the Hall of Mirrors so curious onlookers could observe the wedding procession, and a veritable fortune was spent on festivities and the bride's trousseau.

The Bride Wore...

One of Marie Antoinette's
gowns, created by Rose Bertin.
 What did the slender, charming, teenage Antoinette wear to her wedding?  It might shock you to learn that the bride did not wear white!  She actually wore a brocade gown that glittered with diamonds and had a long, heavy train.

According to the critical and snippy Duchess of Northumberleand, Antoinette wore a gown that was too tight.  "the corps of her robe was too small and left quite a broad stripe of lacing and shift quite visible, which had a bad effect between two broader stripes of diamonds.  She really had quite a load of jewels." 

A Royal Procession

The royal procession made its way through the Hall of Mirrors.  Antoinette, praised for her smooth and graceful gait, moved across the white marble floor as if pulled on wheels, followed by a bevy of bejeweled ladies.  What a dazzling site that must have been to behold! 

The Royal Chapel at
the Chateau de Versailles
 With drums rolling and flutes cheerfully chirping, Louis and Antoinette entered the royal chapel.  They knelt on silken cushions for the ceremony.  After the mass, as was the custom, the royal couple signed the register of Notre Dame, brought to Versailles by the parish-priest.

Antoinette then returned to her private apartments to receive the allegiance of the officers of the house and then the ambassadors and ministers of foreign courts.

Finally, the royals partied!  The king played cards, the royal family ate dinner in the new theater, and they listened to an orchestra.  Then the royal couple were escorted to their nuptial chamber!

The celebrations didn't end there!

Fireworks Display
 For days following the nuptials, the royal family and guests enjoyed theatrical performances (including one by the famous actress, Mademoiselle Clarion), masked balls, banquets, boat rides in the Grand Canal, operas, and a fireworks display of over 20,000 rockets!

Every girl dreams of her wedding day, but few dream of gowns encrusted in diamonds or elaborate celebrations that last for days. (Perhaps because they do not have the coffers of France and Austria at their disposal)

Fast Facts About The Royal Wedding:
  • Two days before the wedding, the King's Master of Ceremonies gave Antoinette twelve wedding rings.  She tried on each one until she found one that fit her finger.
  • Arriving by her private coach, Antoinette arrived at Versailles on the morning of her wedding to find debris in the courtyards, statues overturned, and fountains clogged with rancid, green water. (Welcome home!) 
  • The morning of the nuptials was dark and overcast. 
  • Antoinette did not wear white.
  • 5,000 people were invited to the wedding, but many more arrived in hopes of catching a glimpse of the royal couple.
  • The Saturday following the wedding, the palace hosted an prodigious fireworks display, firing over 20,000 rockets.
  • Over 200,000 people watched the fireworks display celebrating the nuptials of Louis, the Dauphin of France, and his new bride, Antoinette.
  • One of the worst fireworks-related disasters occurred on Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette's wedding day. In honor of the event, the palace hosted a fireworks display. After the show, the crowd began pushing and hundreds of people were trampled.
  • Only a few, privledged people were allowed to play cards in public in the days following the wedding.
  • Louis came to the nuptial chamber wearing a simple nightshirt.
  • Louis and Antoinette, exhausted after their long wedding day, simply fell asleep.  In other words, Louis did not get a little something-something.
  • Antoinette got a little something-something...from her grandfather-in-law.  Louis XV gave her an "elaborate set of blue enamel, a chain of diamonds, a pocket box, a watch, and a fan encrusted with diamonds."  (Marie Antoinette, Huisman)
  • Despite the raucous celebrations and throng of well-wishers, Antoinette felt alone during her first days as Dauphine of France.  Homesick, she missed her family, her pets, and felt overwhelmed by the strange customs of a new court.
Further Reading:
  • Would you like to watch a podcast about one of Marie Antoinette's dresses, created by Rose Bertin?  Click here.
  • Want to know what Madam Campan had to say about Antoinette's Royal Wedding?  Click here.
  • Read more about Marie Antoinette's wedding on Elena Maria Vidal's blog, Tea at Trianon.
  • Learn about 18th Century Wedding Customs on Catherine Delors blog, Versailles and More.

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