Practical Joker

"People think it very easy to play the queen - they are wrong. The constraints are endless, it seems that to be natural is a crime."  Marie Antoinette in a letter to her sister
Though her position required her to be steeped in formality and etiquette, Marie Antoinette managed to take herself lightly and to maintain a sense of humor. While most fashionable and aristocratic ladies of her day would suppress smiles and swallow laughter, Marie Antoinette would laugh right out loud. She was also a pratical joker.

During a formal dinner, where dozens of courtiers were present and sitting on benches or standing and watching every royal move, Marie Antoinette decided to lighten the mood by flicking bread crumbs across the table. One can only imagine the shocked courtiers, their eyes as wide as dinner-plates and their mouths hanging slack.

Marie Antoinette and her friends would often snatch each others bonnets and throw them in to the canal. What a site the queen must have been, running down the closely clipped lawns, hat ribbons streaming behind her, giggling with glee.

Once, when Marie Antoinette witnessed two people shaking hands, she burst out laughing. She had never seen that form of greeting and found it vastly amusing. From that point on, she never failed to tease the hand-shakers about their odd greeting.



  1. MA sounds as if she would have been a fun queen to attend to during her younger years. Are there any writings by any of her Lady-in-waiting describing what that experience might have been like? That would be really interesting to read.

  2. Oui! The book listed as RECOMMENDED READING in the post above is an interesting account of life at Versailles, as written by Mme Campan, one of Marie Antoinette's most faithful femmes de chambre. I will be posting more on Madame Campan in the future, but for now you should know that her memoirs were published in 1815 (many years after the Revolution) and its accuracy has been called into question by historians. Some say Mme Campan invented or emblished stories and others contend her deep affection and sentimentality gilded her writing.

  3. DUH! I just now saw that! Well, whatever the case may be, I am quite certain there is some truth to Mme Campan's writing, and if she loved MA that much, surely MA was simply that loveable!


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