Versailles


Versailles, May 2017

A visit to Versailles is always a massive treat and especially so when you’re there with someone special who has never been before and so get a chance to show off all your special history and art history knowledge to a (mostly) captive audience! I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Versailles six times now, first going there in 1989 when I travelled to Paris for the bicentenary of the French Revolution, and feel like I have been privileged to see the palace grow, change, develop and even blossom over the decades since that first amazing visit. I remember that back […]


Marie Antoinette: An Intimate History

I’m so sorry about taking a month off from my blog but I hope you’ll all forgive me when I reveal that the reason for my absence was a brand new book about Marie Antoinette, based on decades of pretty obsessive research (both primary and secondary) and thoughts and questions from all of you. A couple of years ago I threatened my poor, unfortunate blog readers with a light hearted ‘pulp’ biography of Marie Antoinette, which at the time I intended to call ‘Teen Queen to Madame Guillotine’. However, other projects intervened and my plan was temporarily shelved as I […]


La Mode à la Cour de Marie Antoinette

How beautiful is this book? I was pleased as punch when I got La mode à la Cour de Marie-Antoinette from my brother in law as a Christmas present, and also rather astounded by how big it is as it is HUGE. Which can be a bit annoying when it comes to finding it a space on my many bookcases, but any inconvenience is well worth it because the size means that the illustrations, many of which take up an entire page or even a fabulous double page spread, can be viewed in unprecedented detail due to their larger than […]


Marie Antoinette and the Petit Trianon

The Petit Trianon is a sumptuous jewellery box of a house, tucked away in the Versailles park. Designed in 1762 by Ange-Jacques Gabriel and paid for by Louis XV, it was intended as a present for Madame de Pompadour – its elegant lines a perfect setting for her own delicate, exquisite beauty. Sadly, however, Madame de Pompadour died before her romantic Versailles hideaway, her maison de plaisance in fact, was completed and instead it ended up in the hands of her successor, Madame du Barry, who despite the lurid tales attached to her background, had some seriously good taste in […]


How to Ruin a Queen

‘On 5 September 1785, a trial began in Paris that would divide the country, captivate Europe and send the French monarchy tumbling down the slope towards the Revolution. Cardinal Louis de Rohan, scion of one of the most ancient and distinguished families in France, stood accused of forging Marie Antoinette’s signature to fraudulently obtain the most expensive piece of jewellery in Europe – a 2,400-carat necklace worth 1.6 million francs. Where were the diamonds now? Was Rohan entirely innocent? Was, for that matter, the queen? What was the role of the charismatic magus, the Comte de Cagliostro, who was rumoured […]


Alexandrine Le Normant d’Étoilles

Alexandrine Le Normant d’Étoilles, Boucher, private collection. Although Versailles is better known as a very adult sort of playground, full of gilt and priceless treasures, I’ve always been fascinated by the children who lived there over the decades that it was inhabited by the French court, and to whom it must surely have been like living in the midst of some sort of crazy fairytale. I love their portraits too – dressed up like miniature adults in their finery, gazing solemnly out of the canvas and clearly barely stifling their impatience to be off and away somewhere else, the only […]