Being Presented at the Royal Court

While the etiquette in the royal courts of the twenty-first century are much more relaxed than the one of its predecessor’s; one can only imagine being crammed into the stuffed and damp rooms of the royal court pertaining to the reign of past Kings. To be invited to the crisp gilded halls of court was the the ambition of many, to survive the viper’s pit that it was, was another thing. Many young ladies of impeccable breeding and ancient surnames were presented at court in hopes of landing a profitable marriage, or becoming the King’s latest mistress.

Yes, the halls gilt in gold and marble pillars certainly dazzled to a young girl’s eyes when she finally arrived; this would exacerbate her insatiable hunger to triumph above all others all the more. Her hair heavily powdered and stacked upon her head with a throng of pins scraping her scalp. Not to worry though, this was completely normal for a woman in the eighteenth’s century “toilette” so she might as well grow accustomed to that. Now, after sitting for approximately three hours getting her hair stacked, curled, and powdered, she would develop a splitting headache which would make her vision falter. Not to forget the excruciating pain the shoulders and neck were exposed to. To add to the agonising pain her neck was experiencing, she would have to wear the lofty and burdensome family jewels (most likely diamond encrusted diadems or coronets) just to have an advantage in hopes of outshining all her rivals vying for the recognition of the King.

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Her dress had to have panniers which often stretched out three feet to the side and weighed about forty pounds. Added to this enormous weight was the ribbons and laces placed on dresses, the garments deemed fit for court must have had traces of cloth of gold or silver. After all this was applied, the young noblewoman would have her face immersed in various creams and powders caked on to create a milky complexion. Rouge was applied although you had to be wary of the quantity; too much would seem wantonly and too little would just bore. With her head about to burst and shimmering with diamonds even down to her buckles of her shoes, the young noblewoman was deemed suitable to debut at court.

With all this preparation and anxiety, the added pressure of observing and maintaining impeccable etiquette was another strain placed upon her. She would have to address each and every member of the nobility by the correct way of addressing them. To call the King or Dauphin “monsieur” upon meeting them would be an atrocious offence, for the correct term would be “monseigneur” or “Majeste”. One reported incident of this being violated would be one in the childhood of Louis XVI. His cousin, the Duc de Chartres, mistakenly called the young Louis XVI “monsieur” instead of the proper way of “monseigneur” which upset Louis greatly. Thankfully, the Comte de Provence notified the young Louis that the Duc should address him simply as “cousin”.

Now, after all this was done, the lady presented at court would have to waltz in a room in full view of malicious spectators devouring her every step she took on the polished marble floors. She first went into the King’s chamber, managed a few polite sentences, and then had to walk away backwards while kicking the train of her dress in the meanwhile attempting to look calm, collected, and graceful. Unluckily, this torture was not over, the Queen’s room was still left.