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Admiration to Intimacy: Versailles and the English, from Louis XIV to Louis XVI

De l’admiration à l’intimité : Versailles et les Anglais, de Louis XIV à Louis XVI
Philip Mansel

Résumés

Les Anglais étaient parmi les visiteurs les plus admiratifs de Versailles. Près de la moitié des livres sur Versailles publiés à l’étranger avant 1789 étaient écrits en anglais. Martin Lister, en 1698, le décrit comme le palais « le plus magnifique de l’Europe ». Selon lui, le jardin, « avec ses statues, canaux, bosquets, grottes, fontaines, machines d’eau et tout ce qui est agréable, est de loin supérieur à tous les jardins de l’Italie ». Versailles fut l’un des modèles (mais pas le seul) de Greenwich, Hampton Court, Boughton et d’autres palais anglais. Les Britanniques possédaient aussi les meilleures collections de Sèvres et des Gobelins en dehors de la France. Mais le véritable Versailles anglais était Versailles lui-même. Lord Chesterfield écrit en 1751 qu’une heure à Versailles valait mieux que trois heures dans son cabinet avec les meilleurs livres. La francophilie est finalement aussi anglaise que la francophobie.

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Introduction

  • 1 Black 1986, pp. 85, 93, 99, 113, 131, 150–51, 179, 182, 184, 189 and 211.
  • 2 Les anciens et irreconciliables ennemis de la France, naturellement mal disposés envers les França (...)
  • 3 Lough 1985, pp. 155 and 159.
  • 4 Ibid., p. 143.

1First the ‘Black Legend’ – I use the phrase both metaphorically and literally, since it is best expressed in a brilliant book by Professor Jeremy Black: in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, he writes, many Englishmen considered France their ‘natural enemy’, a despotism bent on persecuting Protestants. The two countries were ‘competing states, rival cultures and antagonistic peoples’. They fought each other in 1689–97, 1702–12, 1742–8, 1756–63, 1778–83, 1793–1801, finally 1803–14. The frequency of anti-French riots and incidents in England confirms the force of this view.1 Louis XIV himself called the English ‘the ancient and irreconcilable ennemies of France’: since the Hundred Years War, ‘naturally ill- disposed towards the French’.2 For their part many English visitors considered Louis XIV’s government ‘wholly arbitrary’, therefore repellent.3 A Yorkshire royalist, Sir John Reresby, wrote that ‘the French kings have a most absolute power […] the poor countryman sinks under the weight of his oppression.’4

2On the other hand, despite their frequent wars and rival governments, the two countries were also connected by a dynamic cultural and commercial synergy, during the long periods of peace from 1559 to 1689, in 1697–1702, 1713–42, 1748–56, 1763–78, 1783–93, and after 1814. Despite the contrasts between their parliamentary and absolutist systems, both were monarchies with powerful nobilities, and dominant capitals only two days’ journey apart. As admiring English reactions to Versailles would show, each country was a natural model, customer, audience and refuge for the other. The marriage in 1625 of Charles I and Henrietta Maria, and the installation of her partly French household in Somerset House in the heart of the English capital, began the shuttle between London and Paris, which has since been suspended only by war or plague. The synergy between the two countries reached a peak during the reigns of Charles II and James II, friends, cousins and allies of Louis XIV.

Under Louis XIV

3What Lord Macaulay wrote of France in general could apply to Versailles in particular:

  • 5 Macaulay 1849, vol. I, pp. 395–6.

France united at that time almost every species of ascendancy [] Her authority was supreme in all matters of good breeding, from a duel to a minuet. [] France had over surrounding countries at once the ascendancy which Rome had over Greece and the ascendancy which Greece had over Rome. French was fast becoming the universal language, the language of fashonable society, the language of diplomacy.5

  • 6 Mansel 2019, p. 224.
  • 7 London Gazette, no. 2315, 23 January 1687.

4Versailles was the supreme expression of that ascendancy. It aroused more fascination in England than any building in Europe. Indeed Louis XIV had built it not only to surpass the palaces of ancient and modern Rome and to display modern French paintings, sculptures and luxury goods, but also to impress and entertain both his own subjects, and perhaps even more, the growing number of foreigners making the Grand Tour of Europe. Detailed guide books were written by order of the King. The Mercure Galant regularly published accounts of new buildings and receptions at Versailles.6 In January 1687 ‘a model or representation of the most magnificent and Royal palace of Versailles made in copper, gilt over with silver and gold, and of all the gardens and Waterworks’, ‘24 foot in length and 18 in breadth’, made by an individual engineer, was displayed at Exeter Change in the Strand in London, every day from eight in the morning to eight at night. Despite the hundreds of admiring English visitors to Italy, no Italian building obtained such publicity.7

  • 8 Maxwell 1932, p. 1.
  • 9 Lough 1985, p. 147.
  • 10 Jacques 2017, p 133.
  • 11 Berger and Hedin 2008, p 17.

5Around half the books written by foreigners about Versailles were in English: a proportion due to the passion for travel for which the English were already famous, as well as their interest in France and court culture.8 Authors admired not only the palace and its art collections but also, in an age when monarchy resembled a religion, the opportunities it provided to watch the royal family, attending Mass in the chapel, and dining in public. In 1678 for example Dr John Covel wrote that, dining in public, ‘the Queen had the richest necklace of pearls that ever I saw and the brightest’.9 The garden was a further attraction. In 1677 the philosopher John Locke was impressed by the fountains in the gardens, although he commented that the water in them cost Louis XIV more than if it had been wine. In 1683 Tancred Robinson called the garden ‘much the best in the world’. Its statues were ‘all as good as art could possibly contrive and produce’.10 Louis XIV himself guided important guests round his gardens: for example in 1673 the Duchess of Modena, on her way to England to marry her daughter Mary to the Duke of York. In 1689 he showed the same daughter round the gardens again – this time back from England, in a new role as the exiled Queen Mary of Modena.11

  • 12 Corp, Sanson et al. 1992, pp. 66–73; Maintenon 2009–2018 [hereafter ML], vol. II, p. 611, Maintenon (...)
  • 13 Sourches 1883–92, vol. IV, pp. 20 and 130, 19 March and 8 October 1692.
  • 14 Ibid., vol. III, p. 318, 18 October 1690.

6Indeed no English visitors knew Versailles better than the exiled court of James II, whom Louis XIV lodged after 1689 in the palace of Saint-Germain. Although the journey from Saint-Germain to Versailles took roughly two hours, the two royal families, and their courtiers, (some of whom kept apartments in Saint-Germain until the revolution), met on no fewer than 548 occasions from 1689 to 1715, about every two weeks, Bernard Blasselle has counted. The ‘cour d’Angleterre’ came 303 times to Versailles or Marly (which was nearer). As Saint-Simon wrote: ‘nothing equalled the attention, the respect nor the politeness of the King for them, nor the air of majesty and gallantry with which, every time, it took place’.12 James II often accompanied the King to reviews or ceremonies, and handed French princes their shirt on their wedding night.13 Mary of Modena said that, by his hospitality, Louis XIV had made her forget her misfortunes. James II declared him to be the greatest gentleman, as well as the greatest king, in the world.14

  • 15 Van der Cruysse 1988, pp. 325–6; Jaeglé 1890, vol. I, no. 81 and 94, Madame to Electress Sophia, 22 (...)
  • 16 Sévigné 1972–8, vol. III, pp. 337 and 347, Sévigné to Grignan, 2 and 10 February 1689; Quarré 1886, (...)
  • 17 Sévigné 1972–8, vol. III, nos. 311, 319–20 to Grignan, 10, 17 January 1689.
  • 18 Dangeau 2002–2014, vol. III, p. 172, 9, 10 January 1689; Sourches 1883–92, vol. III, p. 12, 10 Janu (...)
  • 19 Sévigné 1972–8, vol. III, nos. 319–20, Sévigné to Madame de Grignan, 17 January 1689.

7Versailles however was a harsh school for students of human nature. Even kings were criticized. Louis XIV’s sister-in-law, James II’s cousin Madame, called ‘notre bon roi Jacques’ ‘the silliest man I have seen in my life’. The more she saw him, the more she admired William III.15 Madame de Sévigné also learnt to despise James II: ‘when you listen to him, you immediately understand why he is here’. Courtiers called him ‘a fool who had lost three kingdoms for a mass’.16 The Queen by contrast delighted Versailles. With her dark eyes, good skin and figure, and ‘perfection’ of dress, she combined majesty, intelligence and good manners. Madame de Sévigné called her ‘a very self-possessed person who pleases greatly’ (‘une personne fort posée qui plaît fort’).17 She permitted French duchesses to sit on a tabouret in her presence in the French fashion, rather than making them stand as all ladies did at formal ceremonies in England.18 A Queen of England suited Versailles better than Louis XIV’s wife Marie-Thérèse or, in the eighteenth century, Marie Leszczyńska or Marie-Antoinette, both of whom preferred entertaining their intimates to receiving the court. Implicitly criticizing his wife’s memory, Louis XIV said of Mary of Modena: ‘this is how a queen should be, both in body and soul, holding her court with dignity’.19

8The war between Louis XIV and William III, begun in 1689, ended in 1697. Louis XIV, persuaded by his ministers, acknowledged William III as king of England. William III’s ambassador Willem (or William) Bentinck Earl of Portland described the gardens of Versailles for his master, in terms which show that both courts had similar tastes:

  • 20 Grimblot 1848, vol. I, p. 192, Portland to William III, 1 March 1698.

The orange trees at Versailles are extremely beautiful and large and numerous, the trunks fine and high, but the heads not like those at Honslaerdyck. […] Of all the thousands of flowers of which Your Majesty has heard so much, that the parterres were full of them at all seasons, I have not seen a single one, not even a snowdrop [] Trianon is very agreeable and charming but Meudon surpasses all in situation [] the whole place would be to Your Majesty’s taste.20

  • 21 Le plus agréable jardin que j’aye vu et qui plairait à Votre Majesté. Les machines d’eau sont d’un (...)

9Portland called Marly ‘the most agreeable garden which I have seen’, one ‘which would please Your Majesty’, although he was shocked by the time and money required to build the Machine de Marly.21

  • 22 Legg 1921, pp. 71 and 97, Matthew Prior to Charles Montagu, 10 April 1698.

10One of the most acerbic observers of Versailles was Portland’s secretary the poet Matthew Prior. Of Madame de Maintenon he wrote: ‘tis incredible the power this woman has; everything goes through her hands and Diana made a much less figure at Ephesus’.22 A famous passage on Louis XIV exaggerates his differences with William III:

  • 23 Ibid., pp. 68 and 80, Prior to Montagu, 18 February and 30 August 1698.

His house at Versailles is something the foolishest in the world; he is strutting in every panel and galoping over one’s head in every ceiling […] I verily believe that there are of him statues, busts, bas reliefs and pictures above two hundred in the house and garden. […] The memorials of my master’s actions are to be found everywhere but in his own house.23

  • 24 van Raaij and Spies 1988, pp. 66, 71, 101; Jacques and Horst 1988, p. 81.

11In reality William III also had self-glorifying portraits in his palaces – although not as many as Louis XIV. Like Louis XIV, he was represented as a hero from classical mythology – not as Jupiter by Lebrun on the ceiling of the Galerie des Glaces, but as Hercules by Verrio on the walls of the King’s Staircase at Hampton Court, the palace he was then rebuilding in rivalry with Versailles.24

  • 25 Lister 1699, p. 207.

12Other English visitors also admired Versailles, suggesting the degree to which the two countries shared a taste for regal splendour. In 1698 the English doctor Martin Lister, who had come in Lord Portland’s household, described it as ‘the most magnificent of any in Europe […] The esplanade towards the gardens and parterres are the noblest things that can be seen’. The apartments were easy to visit, especially when the King was absent and you had a letter of recommendation.25 In 1701, another doctor, John Northleigh, called Versailles:

  • 26 Northleigh 1702, p. 732.

The most beautiful palace in Europe […] that [side] which fronts the Garden surpasses all that can be imagined sumptuous; its Roof glittering with Gold affords a glorious Prospect at a Distance. […] The garden, ‘for statues, canals, groves, grotto’s, fountains, waterworks or what else may be thought delightful, far surpasses anything to be seen of this kind in Italy […] [Inside, the great gallery was] the noblest that I ever beheld in my life.26

  • 27 Quoted in Mansel 2019, p. 225.

13In the same year yet another travelling English doctor, Ellis Veryard, wrote that the gardens and fountains in ‘this masterpiece of Art’, ‘in my opinion far exceed those of Frascati and Tivoli so much boasted of in Italy’.27 Versailles was as important for English visitors to France as the Louvre today, for it was not only the most famous royal palace and park in Europe, but also contained the cream of the French Royal Collections of paintings, antiquities, sculptures, coins and medals.

From Louis XV to Louis XVI

  • 28 Stevens 1756, pp. 38–44.
  • 29 Nugent 1749, vol. IV, pp. 113, 118, 123.

14After the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 started a new era of peace, English visitors returned to France. The attractions of Versailles, like those of Paris, helped defuse English Francophobia and anti-Catholicism. Sacheverell Stevens, for example, after a visit in 1739, wrote: ‘The grand staircase is very wide and composed of the most beautiful marbles.’ He called the garden facade ‘noble indeed’, and admired the gardens, the orangery and Trianon. Visitors were allowed into the gardens, ‘provided they are equipped with a bag wig and sword’. At Christmas Mass in the chapel, ‘the music and singing was exceeding fine’. Only the furniture he considered ‘much soiled, far inferior to Windsor, Hampton Court or Kensington’.28 Writing a guide to ‘the Grand Tour’ in the 1740s, Thomas Nugent also called the palace ‘one of the finest in all Europe’, ‘the great marble staircase surpasses anything in antiquity’.29

  • 30 Garrick 1928, pp. 22, 5, 6, 7 June 1751. However, another Huguenot living in England, John Breval, (...)
  • 31 Broderick 1754, vol. I, pp. 139–45; Pennant 1948, p. 27, 24 March 1765.

15The same admiring tone can be found in the diary of the famous actor David Garrick for 1751. Although his father had been a Huguenot refugee, he attended Mass in the chapel: ‘The inside is indeed noble and royal, ye pictures fine and ye Gallery magnificent.’30 The travels of Thomas Broderick, published in 1754, call the interior ‘magnificent and superb in an extreme degree […] the statues and the paintings very fine’, and he also admired the collection of medals in the King’s private apartment, showing that it was accessible to visitors.Thomas Pennant in 1765 found ‘every part of the palace far exceeded my expectations’. and he enjoyed, like so many English visitors, the public spectacles of the royal family at dinner and Mass in the royal chapel.31

16The supreme expression of English admiration for Versailles came in the Letters to His Son by Lord Chesterfield, Lord of the Bedchamber to George II. They were one of the most popular manuals of manners and morals of their time: eight editions appeared in 1774, the year of publication in London and Dublin. They suggest that the real ‘English Versailles’ was not Hampton Court or Chatsworth, but Versailles itself. Chesterfield wrote to Philip Stanhope in May 1751:

  • 32 Chesterfield 1775, vol. III, pp. 181, 192, 222, 10, 23 May, 24 June 1751.

Go and stay sometimes at Versailles for three or four days […] Go to the King’s and the Dauphin’s levees […] an hour at Versailles, Compiegne or Saint Cloud is now worth more to you, than three hours in your closet with the best books that ever were written.32

  • 33 Mansel 2019, p. 243; Boutier 2017, p. 237.

17His words help explain the popularity of Versailles: it was not just a spectacle, but also an education, where Germans and Poles, as well as English, went to learn the art of conversation, and what were considered the best manners in the world.33 Other English, however, could be critical. The novelist Tobias Smollett, in his 1766 Travels through France and Italy, wrote:

  • 34 Smollett 1766, vol. I, p. 68.

In spite of all the ornaments that have been lavished on Versailles, it is a dismal habitation. The apartments are dark, ill-furnished, dirty, and unprincely. Take the Castle, chapel, and garden all together, they make a most fantastic composition of magnificence and littleness, taste and foppery.34 

  • 35 Thicknesse 1768, p. 215–6.

18Philip Thicknesse found the interior ‘unclean’ and considered the palace ‘built with more expense than judgement’. Nevertheless he admired the King’s ‘handsome goodliness’. He was ‘extremely affable and well-bred’, while the Queen was ‘a little cheerful-looking woman […] and much beloved’.35

  • 36 Eagles 2011, pp. 197–212.

19After Britain’s triumph in the Seven Years War and the end of French support for the Jacobites, relations between the two ruling classes became increasingly intimate. In 1771–2 Lord Shelburne, later first Marquess of Lansdowne, visited France and Versailles, with a tutor of Huguenot origin, M. Barre. The Lansdownes’ Francophile tradition, promoting peace between the two countries, dated from these years. Shelburne helped negotiate Britain’s peace with France in 1783. His son would keep open house for French émigrés in London during the revolution, his grandson would marry a Frenchwoman, Emilie de Flahaut. His great-grandson Lord Lansdowne would be the foreign secretary who signed the Entente Cordiale in 1904.36

  • 37 Walpole 1903–1905, vol. VI, p. 455 to Lady Hertford, 20 April 1766.
  • 38 Ibid., vol. VI, p. 393, Walpole to Lady Hervey, 11 January 1766.
  • 39 Ibid., vol. VI, p. 307, Walpole to Lady Hertford, 3 October 1765, and p. 310, to John Chute, 3 Octo (...)
  • 40 Ibid., vol. VI, p. 309, Walpole to Chute, 3 October 1765.
  • 41 Ibid., vol. VII, p. 316, Walpole to George Montagu, 17 September 1769.

20Both a patriot and a cosmopolitan, Horace Walpole is an example of the growing Anglo-French intimacy. He knew French almost as well as English, and visited France – not once in a lifetime, as most Grand Tourists, including Walpole himself, visited Italy – but on five occasions, for months at a time. He made the confession of an Anglo-Frenchman: ‘I could make an agreeable nation out of France and England; but I don’t quite like either as they are.’37 At times he preferred France to England. In 1766 he wrote to Lady Hervey, a Jacobite who chose to live in Paris: ‘France is so agreeable and England so much the reverse that I don’t know when I shall return.’38 Having been scornful on his first visit to Versailles in 1739 (calling it ‘a lumber of littleness’), after presentation to Louis XV in 1765, Walpole wrote, like Philip Thicknesse: ‘The King is still much handsomer than his pictures and has great sweetness in his countenance.’39 ‘Versailles like everything else is a mixture of parade and poverty, and in every instance exhibits something dissonant from our manners.’ Like many English visitors, he was surprised by the sight of ‘people selling all sorts of wares on the stairs, even in the antechambers of princes’.40 After watching Madame du Barry at Mass in the chapel, he could not help smiling at ‘the mixture of piety, pomp and carnality’.41

  • 42 The privilege du tabouret accorded the right to remain seated in the presence of the queen. Richmon (...)
  • 43 Northumberland 1926, pp. 109, 110, 113, 117, 120, 15 and 16 May 1770.
  • 44 Ibid., p. 128, 21 May 1770.
  • 45 Ibid., pp. 111 and 127, 16 and 18 May 1770.

21Versailles’s peak of splendour occurred not in the reign of Louis XIV, but during the festivities for the marriages of four grandchildren of Louis XV: the Dauphin in 1770; the comte de Provence in 1771; the comte d’Artois in 1773; and Madame Clotilde in 1775. Showing the magnetism of Versailles, many English people came especially to watch the celebrations, which included fireworks and illuminations in the gardens, as well as balls and performances in the opera house especially constructed for the 1770 wedding in the north wing. The Duchess of Northumberland’s journal for 1770 confirms that English duchesses enjoyed the tabouret at Versailles.42 Madame de Mirepoix and Madame du Barry [in her role as a leading lady of the court, encouraging hospitality] arranged that ‘[she] was admirably placed for seeing the ceremony in the chapel […] in the same place where the Peeresses stood’ or, on another occasion, with ‘the best place in the salle de l’opera’. Madame du Barry lent the Duchess her house in Versailles for the duration of the celebrations, and insisted on her ‘sending to her Stables, Kitchen and Cellar as though they were my own.’ She also used ‘Sheets and Table Linen from the Palace’.43 As a mark of exceptional favour, Louis XV himself ordered her a dish of coffee of ‘his own roasting, grinding and preparing’, and enquired later whether she had enjoyed it.44 Of the Dauphin she wrote – suggesting the contempt already being expressed, or organized, against the future Louis XVI: ‘I expected to have found him horrid, but on the contrary his figure pleased me very well.’ She noticed that he showed no impatience to be with his new wife.45

  • 46 Ibid., pp. 114, 116, 118–22, 135, 16 and 17 May, 9 June 1770.
  • 47 Ibid., p. 118, 16 May 1770.

22One of the richest heiresses in England, mistress of Alnwick Castle (which now contains Louis XIV’s two massive ‘Cucci cabinets’ formerly at Versailles until their sale in 1745), and a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Charlotte, the Duchess of Northumberland admired Versailles for its splendour. The courtiers’ clothes were ‘excessively magnificent’, and they were ‘very polite […], very civile [sic] to me’. Cards in the gallery were ‘really a fine sight […] such magnificence never [seen] before, nor such crowds’. The ball and Festin Royal in the Salle de l’Opéra were spectacles more magnificent than any ‘since the time of the Romans’.46 She also recorded Louis XV’s famous remark to the comte de Saint-Florentin, Ministre de la Maison du Roi: ‘Monsieur, nous sommes vieux, mais nous n’avons jamais vu ni si grand nombre de gens, ni tant de magnificence.’47

23Even more striking for its admiring tone is the famous passage by Edmund Burke evoking the same wedding celebrations, written twenty years later in his best-selling (30,000 copies in the year of publication) Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). A visit to Versailles, ‘the most splendid palace in the world’, helped inspire the first philosopher to attack the revolution in its entirety:

  • 48 Burke 1790, pp. 106 and 112.

It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she had just begun to move in, – glittering like the morning star full of life and splendor and joy. Oh, what a revolution! […] I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards, to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone. – That of sophisters, economists and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished for ever.48

24At the ball for the wedding of Madame Clotilde in 1775, Horace Walpole too was seduced by Marie Antoinette:

  • 49 Walpole 1903–1905, vol. IX, p. 238, Walpole to Countess of Upper Ossory, 28 August 1775.

It was impossible to see anything but the Queen. Hebe and Flora and Helen and the graces are street walkers in comparison to her. She is a statue of beauty when standing or sitting, and grace itself when she moves. […] Monsieur is very handsome and the Comte d’Artois a better figure and better dancer.49

  • 50 Malmesbury 1870, vol. I, p. 317–20, Dr Jeans to James Harris, 23 August 1775.
  • 51 Kisluk-Grosheide and Rondot 2017, pp. 29 and 246.
  • 52 Bentley 1977, pp. 43–7, 1 August 1776.

25Another English visitor to the same wedding festivities, Dr Jeans, also found the French court ‘exceedingly brilliant and numerous’. He praised the celebrations’ ‘great order and regularity’, the ‘great distinction’ with which foreigners were treated, and ‘the profusion of refreshments’. The music at Mass was ‘the finest I ever heard’. The ‘magnificence of a bal paré [formal ball] at Versailles on account of a Royal marriage is not to be described or imagined.’50 In 1775 Mrs Thrale, the friend of Dr Johnson, also found the palace and its furniture surpassed anything she had seen for luxury, splendour and beauty.51 In 1776 Thomas Bentley, a manufacturer of pottery, was impressed by the palace, the chapel, the theatre, the gallery, the statues in the garden, and the public dinner: ‘Their Majesties talked and laughed much at dinner. The Queen is young and very handsome. She appears to be extremely lively and gay, without the forms and attentions that might be expected from her high rank.’ ‘The palace seems rather a city than a royal house’; ‘the garden front of the palace is very grand and regular’. Like Walpole, he, too, was surprised by the ‘shops of various kinds upon the grand staircase and in the passages to the principal apartments […] many very ordinary people admitted to the pleasure of being at court and walking in these fine apartments’.52 James Harris, later Lord Malmesbury and one of the most celebrated British ambassadors of his time, would call France Britain’s ‘natural enemy’, but praised Versailles in a letter to his brother, dated from Lyon, 28 April 1777 (he had already been there, and been presented to the King, in 1768) : ‘The whole had a degree of magnificence superior to any thing I had any idea of’. (See Appendix II for the complete text).

26After the French victory in the war of American independence, the commercial treaty of 1786 was designed to introduce a new era of peaceful trade between the two countries. It had the personal backing of Louis XVI and his foreign minister Vergennes. Versailles provided English visitors with a setting for intimate friendships, and close observation of the royal family, as well as admiring tours of the public rooms and gardens.

  • 53 Mansel 2019, p. 244.
  • 54 Auckland 1861–2, vol. I, pp. 151, 217, 220, 10 October 1787. Similarly, the comte de Vaudreuil, Mad (...)
  • 55 Crewe 2006, pp. 91, 137, 141, 143, 6 January, February, 1 August 1786; see also Lady Clermont’s let (...)

27The negotiator of the trade treaty, William Eden, for example, was invited to one of the power centres of Versailles: the salon of the duchesse de Polignac. As Gouvernante des Enfants de France and favourite of the Queen, she had a large apartment on the ground floor of Versailles. Eden wrote: ‘The evening assemblies at madame de Polignac’s were subjects of greater animadversion than all the extravagance of the court.’ They were probably intended by the King and Queen to enhance the court’s role as a centre of hospitality for foreigners and French alike (as ‘Appartement’ had done under Louis XIV)53: ‘some of the principal Foreign ministers and their ladies, other foreigners of distinction and a large circle of courtiers of both sexes went. The Queen conversed, played at trictrac or billiards and often had a concert in which she stood as one of the singers and sometimes a small ball at which she danced.’54 Frances Anne Crewe, a leading Whig hostess in London, also visited Madame de Polignac, whom she found ‘meek and modest’. Louis XVI was ‘good humoured and unaffected but I find here sad complaints of his want of grace and bow.’ One evening he spilt tea over another English friend of the royal family, Lady Clermont. The Queen, according to Mrs Crewe, had become too fat to dance, and had begun to lose her looks.55

  • 56 La Tour du Pin 1913, vol. I, p. 71. The peers were Lords Dillon and Falkland.
  • 57 Swinburne 1895, vol. II, p. 11, 29 October 1786, 13 and 7 February 1787.

28By then so many English were visiting Versailles that Madame Dillon and her daughter Madame de La Tour du Pin were chosen as dames du palais de la reine partly because, through their Jacobite ancestors, they were related to English peers.56 Henry Swinburne, an English Catholic educated in France who had written books on Spain and the Two Sicilies, was another visitor to Versailles under Louis XVI. His reactions to Italy were aesthetic, to France political and personal. He, too, attended the Polignacs’ salon and found the Queen ‘very fat and her features begin to be strongly marked’. At one of the Queen’s balls in 1787, ‘the assembly was full but by no means brilliant in dress […] the King walked about and talked to several people without ever sitting down […] there was no gaiety’.57

  • 58 Walpole 1903–1905, vol. VI, p. 332, to Thomas Brand, 19 October 1765, pp. 352–3, to Thomas Gray, 19 (...)
  • 59 Ibid., vol. VIII, pp. 8 and 62, 30 July 1771.
  • 60 Bongie 1965, pp. 1 and 14; Letourneur 1776; Hardman 2016, pp. 17–18; cf. Lambin 1969.

29French politics began to dominate English accounts of Versailles. Already in 1765 Horace Walpole had noted that in Paris ‘men and women one and all are devoutly employed in the demolition of God and the King’. He found the philosophes ‘insupportable, superficial, overbearing and fanatic’. Their ‘avowed doctrine is atheism’.58 A friend of the Choiseul family, he wrote in 1771, again showing the campaign of contempt launched against the future Louis XVI, that he was ‘an imbecile both in mind and body’.59 This was untrue: Louis XVI could be clumsy and indecisive, but he was well educated and fit, and as bilingual as Horace Walpole himself: he could translate English newspapers into French for his ministers, and encouraged an early French edition of Shakespeare.60

  • 61 Swinburne 1895, vol. II, p. 22, 19 July 1787.
  • 62 Auckland 1861–2, vol. I, pp. 277, 366, 399, 401, 8 November 1787, February 1787.

30In July 1787 Henry Swinburne wrote: ‘The abuse bestowed on the King and the Queen and the Archbishop of Toulouse [Loménie de Brienne, the principal minister] is incredible.’61 William Eden noticed posters saying the King should go to Charenton [a madhouse], the Queen to the Sainte Pélagie prison. He admitted the French ‘rage’ against the commercial treaty and regretted some of its points (although it also helped the import of Sèvres china and French wine into Great Britain). He found Breteuil, Ministre de la Maison du Roi, ‘a good man of business’, and paid Vergennes one of the most remarkable tributes ever adressed by a British diplomat to the foreign minister of another country: ‘I never met any man whose manner of acting both in official and private life was to me more satisfactory or more pleasing.’62 Vergennes, however, died in February 1787; Breteuil resigned in August 1788.

  • 63 BL, f. 5, 19 July, 1 August 1788.
  • 64 BL, f. 73, October 1788 copies.

31That month the Loménie de Brienne ministry fell, its reforms rejected by French elites. With the help of the Queen and the Austrian ambassador, Necker came to power. The letters of Mrs Swinburne, a protégée of the Queen whose son was serving as a page, relate the gossip of the court: ‘The Queen’s mind is torn to pieces. Never was Versailles in such a taking as it is at present […] the king is half mad, talks to himself and makes a noise when in bed.’63 ‘People talk of the king being set aside as incapable of reigning, a regency declared and the Q. in a convent.’64

  • 65 Chatsworth Archives, Madame de Polignac to Duchess of Devonshire, 12 December 1779: ‘Je crois qu’en (...)

32Few English visitors were better informed about Versailles than the Whig grandee the Duke of Devonshire, his wife, Georgiana, and his mistress, Lady Elizabeth Foster. They had met the Polignacs’ at Spa in 1779 and became intimate friends, despite the American War of Independence. The surviving letters of the Polignacs to the Devonshires (no answers have been located) never mention politics or the King and Queen. More civilized than many contemporaries, the duchesse de Polignac hated war: ‘your court and ours enjoy making people fight […] this terrible America, since it has been discovered, has only done harm, therefore I detest it […] my god what a horrible thing war is.’ She too, like Horace Walpole, felt Franco-British: ‘Let us end this one, I beg you, is it possible that two nations which respect each other, suit each other, seek each other out and love each other so much, should have the rage to destroy each other?’65 In 1783 the duchesse de Polignac sent ‘ma chere Georgine’ a present of French lace, hoping that her patronage could help ‘l’éclat de nos manufactures’ [the brilliance of our industries].In 1791 Lady Elizabeth Foster wrote of her friend Axel von Fersen what few French people confided to paper:

  • 66 Fellowes mss, Lady E. Foster journal, 29 June 1791.

He was considered as the lover and was certainly the intimate friend of the Queen for these last eight years [since his return in 1783 from serving in the War of American Independence], but was so unassuming in his great favour, so modest and unpretending in his manner, so brave and loyal in his conduct that he was the only one of the Queen’s friends who had escaped the persecutions of malice and who had not shared the inveteracy that existed against the Queen.66

  • 67 Bessborough 1955, p. 107, Dorset to Bess, 6 April 1786.
  • 68 Ibid., pp. 107–108 and 130, Duke of Dorset to Duchess of Devonshire, 18 May 1786, 12 June 1788: ‘I (...)
  • 69 Lacour-Gayet 1963, p. 238, n. 247, Dorset to Duchess of Devonshire, ‘jugez quel empire a mrs B. sur (...)

33The Duke of Dorset, George III’s ambassador, was another English witness of Versailles under Louis XVI. A frequent guest at Trianon, he wrote that the chief amusement after one dinner was to throw each other’s hats in the water.67 Their English friends’ code names for the King and Queen were Mr and Mrs Brown, or Mr and Mrs B; according to Dorset, the Queen’s reputation was ruined not by the Cardinal de Rohan (arrested in Versailles in 1785 in the Affair of the Diamond Necklace), but by her patronage of the baron de Breteuil: ‘tyrannical, haughty and silent […] the little Po [the duchesse de Polignac] and all her friends are all against ce diable de baron’.68 Dorset believed that Breteuil’s rival Calonne had been dismissed in April 1787 because of the ‘empire of Mrs B over the mind of her husband’. That August, Calonne arrived in London with his fortune and his picture collection – the first of many French émigrés to enliven the capital after 1787 – and another sign of the growing intimacy between the two cities.69

Witnesses to the Revolution

  • 70 Young 1905, pp. 15–16, 27 May 1787.

34Another English witness of Versailles’ last years as a royal residence was Arthur Young, a friend of the Grand Maître de la Garde-Robe, the duc de Liancourt. This ‘enlightened’ writer on agriculture was scornful in 1787 of the ceremony for the installation of the duc de Berry as Chevalier du Saint-Esprit and of the public dinner (‘these stupid forms’) and called the palace and the garden ‘not in the least striking’: ‘what can compensate the want of unity? A splendid quarter of a town but not a fine edifice’. He, too, noted that there was little love for the king.70 Young was, however, impressed by the public’s access to Versailles:

The whole palace except the chapel seems to be open to all the world; we pushed through an amazing crowd of all sorts of people to see the procession, many of them not very well dressed […] but the officers of the apartment in which the king dined made a distinction and would not permit all to enter promiscuously.

  • 71 Ibid., pp. 15–16, 101–102, 23 October 1787.
  • 72 Ibid., pp. 179–80, 27 June 1789.

35Walking through the King’s apartment on the first floor were ‘men whose rags betrayed them to be in the last stage of poverty: one loves the master of the house who would not be hurt or offended at seeing his house thus occupied’. The key to Marie-Antoinette’s relations with Fersen was her control of access to her private apartments. When Young asked whether he could see the Queen’s private apartment, as he had the King’s, he was told: ‘ma foi, monsieur, c’est une autre chose’ [that is quite a different matter, Sir].71 Young noted as early as June 1789: ‘the French guards will refuse obedience to fire on the people. They have been disgusted by the treatment, conduct and manoeuvre of the duc du Chatelet their colonel’ – appointed in 1788 on the death of the previous colonel, the maréchal de Biron.72

  • 73 Chapman 2002, p. 99, quoting diary of Lady Elizabeth Foster, 27 June 1789.

36In late June and July 1789, as the monarchy lost control of events, the Devonshires were staying in Paris, and often visited Versailles. Their personal preoccupations made them almost unheeding of French politics. Similarly, Thomas Coutts, their banker, was more concerned to oblige the Duchess of Devonshire, who owed him money, to take his daughters to the duchesse de Polignac’s salon than to observe the French revolution. On 27 June, after the King’s first surrender to the National Assembly, a dinner attended by the Devonshires was, according to Lady Elizabeth Foster, ‘silent and thoughtful such I had never seen before at Versailles’.73 The Duke of Devonshire was one of those Englishmen who, dull and apathetic in their own country, came to life abroad. ‘He likes Versailles very much and feels himself quite at home in Mme de Polignac’s room […] the Duke likes it of all things and goes there Thursday to be formally presented. The people are wild with joy and all our friends miserable’, wrote the Duchess of Devonshire.

  • 74 Bessborough 1955, pp. 149–50, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire to Lady Spencer, 1 July 1789.

37Going to Mass on 28 June, ‘the King stopped and spoke to Bess and I a great deal. He is less fat, better looking and today was better drest than I expected [she was as surprised as the Duchess of Northumberland in 1770]. Monsieur likewise talked to us and the Comte d’Artois of course as he has been living with us [at the Polignacs’]’. The chapel continued to impress: ‘La Messe du roi was amazing fine and inspired one, I think, with a great sensation of devotion. The Elevation of the Host was accompanied by beautiful musick [sic], drums etc and very striking indeed.’ They also saw their friend the Queen, as her world fell apart: ‘She received us very graciously indeed, though very much out of spirit with the times […] She is sadly altered, her belly quite big and no hair at all, but she has still great eclat.’ They finally left Paris for Brussels on 12 July, passing crowds rushing to the Palais-Royal, and missing by two days the Fall of the Bastille.74

Conclusion

  • 75 Stuart 1899, p. 122.

38The admiration and intimacy reflected in English reactions to Versailles suggests the strength of English taste for court life. Far more than national or political hostility, indifference to the court, or unwillingness to fund it, after 1688 personal factors deprived the English of the splendid court life which they had enjoyed under the Tudors and Stuarts. The ill-health of William III and Queen Anne; the destruction of Whitehall Palace in the fire of 1698 and the court’s subsequent move to Saint James’s Palace and Kensington; the preference for private life of the first three Hanoverians (except George II before the death in 1737 of his wife, Queen Caroline): all contributed to what Lady Louisa Stuart, daughter of George III’s first Groom of the Stole and Prime Minister Lord Bute, called ‘a woeful deficiency of regal splendour’.75 The English taste for Versailles also suggests that Francophilia could be just as natural as Francophobia. Admiration was not limited to members of the nobility, such as Lord Chesterfield, the Duchess of Northumberland and the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Middle-class admirers quoted in this article include Martin Lister, John Northleigh, David Garrick and Edmund Burke. In peacetime the two countries were so closely linked that, particularly in 1770–75 and 1783–9, Versailles acted for some English almost as an alternative court, as Paris in the nineteenth century would act as an alternative capital.

  • 76 Lacour-Gayet 1963, pp. 91, 195, 269n; Foreman 1999, p. 279.

39The warmth of French émigrés’ reception in Britain after 1789 partly reflected their hosts’ desire to reciprocate the hospitality they had previously enjoyed at Versailles. The Duchess of Devonshire entertained the comte d’Artois, the Polignacs’ grandchildren, and other émigrés, including Calonne, but her biographer Amanda Foreman thinks their letters were burnt.76 The Prince Regent, later George IV, would be the culmination of English admiration for Versailles. Although he never went there, he filled his residence at Carlton House with furniture and works of art inspired by or purchased from Versailles, as well as French servants. He also provided the splendid court receptions of which London had long been deprived, frequently entertained the comte d’Artois and Louis XVIII, and helped ensure their dynasty’s restoration to the French throne in 1814. His role, and the deep and lasting influence of Versailles in England, will be explored in a further article.

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Bibliographie

Printed primary sources

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Broderick Thomas, 1754, Letters from Several Parts of Europe, and the East Written in the Years 1750, &c., Dublin, printed for George Faulkner, 2 volumes.

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Chesterfield Philip Dormer Stanhope, 1775, Letters Written by the Late [] Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, to his Son Philip Stanhope, Eugenia Stanhope (ed.), London, J. Dodsley, 4 volumes (6th edition).

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Dangeau Philippe de Courcillon, marquis de, 2002–2014, Journal, Clermont-Ferrand, Paleo, 35 volumes.

Dickinson Violet (ed.), 1919, Miss Eden’s Letters, London, Macmillan & Co.

Garrick David, 1928, The Diary of David Garrick: Being a Record of his Memorable Trip to Paris in 1751, Ryllis Clair Alexander (ed.), New York, Oxford University Press.

Grew Marion (ed.), 1924, William Bentinck and William III (Prince of Orange), the Life of Bentinck, Earl of Portland, from the Welbeck correspondence, London, J. Murray.

Grimblot Paul (ed.), 1848, Letters of William III and Louis XIV, and of Their Ministers, Illustrative of the Domestic and Foreign Politics of England, from the Peace of Ryswick to the Accession of Philippe V of Spain, 1697 to 1700, London, 2 volumes.

Jaeglé Ernest (ed.), 1890, Correspondance de Madame, duchesse d'Orléans : extraite de ses lettres originales déposées aux Archives de Hanovre et de ses lettres publiées par M. de Ranke et M. L. W. Holland, Paris, E. Bouillon, 3 volumes.

La Tour du Pin Lucy de, 1913, Journal d’une femme de cinquante ans, 1778–1815, Aymar de Liedekerke-Beaufort (ed.), Paris, Imprimerie de R. Chapelot, 2 volumes.

Le Tourneur Pierre, 1776, Shakespeare traduit de l’anglois, dédié au roi, Paris, Duchesne.

Levantal Christophe, 2009, Louis XIV : Chronographie d’un règne ou biographie chronologique du Roi-Soleil établie d’après la « Gazette » de Théophraste Renaudot, les 28121 journées du Roi entre le 5 septembre 1638 et le 1er septembre 1715, Paris/Golion, Infolio, 2 volumes.

Lister Martin, 1699, A Journey to Paris in the Year 1698, London, Jacob Tonson.

Louis XIV, 2007, Mémoires ; suivis de Manière de visiter les jardins de Versailles, Joël Cornette (ed.), Paris, Tallandier.

Maintenon Françoise d’Aubigné, marquise de, 2009–2018, Lettres de Madame de Maintenon, Hans Bots, Eugénie Bots-Estourgie et al. (eds), Paris, H. Champion, 11 volumes.

Malmesbury James Harris, Earl of, 1870, A Series of Letters of the First Earl of Malmesbury, His Family and Friends from 1745 to 1820, London, Richard Bentley, 2 volumes.

Motteville Françoise de, 1904–1911, Mémoires sur Anne d’Autriche et sa cour, Paris, Hachette, 4 volumes.

Northleigh John, 1702, Travels Through France, in Harris John (ed.), 1748, Navigantium atque itinerantium bibliotheca, or, A Complete Collection of Voyages and Travels Consisting of Above Six Hundred of the Most Authentic Writers, London, T. Woodward.

Northumberland Elizabeth Baroness Percy, Duchess of, 1926, The Diaries of a Duchess: Extracts from the Diaries of the First Duchess of Northumberland, 1716–1776, James Greig (ed.), London, Hodder and Stoughton.

Nugent Thomas, 1749, The Grand Tour. Containing an Exact Description of Most of the Cities, Towns, and Remarkable Places of Europe […], London, printed for S. Birt, D. Browne, A. Millar and G. Hawkins, 4 volumes.

Pennant Thomas, 1948, Tour on the Continent, 1765, G. R. de Beer (ed.), London, B. Quaritch.

Quarré d’Aligny Pierre, 1886, Mémoire des campagnes de M. le comte Quarré d’Aligny, sous le règne de Louis XIV jusqu'à la paix de Riswich, Beaune, Imprimerie Arthur Batault.

Richmond Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox, Duke of, 1911, A Duke and His Friends: The Life and Letter of Charles, Second Duke of Richmond, London, Hutchinson & Co., 2 volumes.

Sévigné Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, marquise de, 1972–8, Correspondance, Roger Duchêne (ed.), Paris, Gallimard, 3 volumes.

Smollett Tobias, 1766, Travels through France and Italy, Dublin, Robert Johnston, 2 volumes.

Sourches Louis-François Du Bouchet, marquis de, 1882–93, Mémoires du marquis de Sourches sur le règne de Louis XIV, Gabriel-Jules de Cosnac and Arthur Bertrand (eds), Paris, Hachette, 13 volumes.

Stevens Sacheverell, 1756, Miscellaneous Remarks Made on the Spot […], London, printed for S. Hooper.

Stuart Lady Louisa, 1899, Lady Louisa Stuart: Selections from Her Manuscripts, J. A. Home (Hon.) (ed.), Edinburgh, D. Donald.

Swinburne Henry, 1895, The Courts of Europe at the Close of the Last Century, London, H. S. Nichols & Co., 2 volumes.

Thicknesse Philip, 1768, Useful Hints to Those Who Make the Tour of France, London, R. Davis, G. Kearsley and H. Parker.

Torcy Jean-Baptiste Colbert, marquis de, 1828, Mémoires du marquis de Torcy, Paris, A. Foucault, collection des mémoires relatifs à l’histoire de France, 2 volumes.

Vaudreuil Joseph-Hyacinthe-François-de-Paule de Rigaud, comte de, 1889, Correspondance intime du comte de Vaudreuil et du comte d’Artois pendant l’émigration : 1789-1815, Paris, Plon, 2 volumes.

Walpole Horace, 1903–1905, The Letters of Horace Walpole, Fourth Earl of Orford, Mrs Paget Toynbee (ed.), Oxford, the Clarendon Press, 16 volumes.

Young Arthur, 1905, Arthur Young’s Travels in France: During the Years 1787, 1788, 1789, Matilda Betham-Edwards (ed.), London, G. Bell.

Secondary literature

Berger Robert W. and Hedin Thomas, 2008, Diplomatic Tours in the Gardens of Versailles under Louis XIV, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press.

Black Jeremy, 1986, Natural and Necessary Enemies: Anglo-French Relations in the Eighteenth Century, London, Duckworth.

Bongie Laurence L., 1965, David Hume, Prophet of the Counter-Revolution, Oxford, Clarendon Press.

Bouchenot-Déchin Patricia and Farhat Georges (eds), 2013, André Le Nôtre en perspectives, exh. cat. (Versailles, Château de Versailles, 22 October. 2013–23 February 2014), Paris, Hazan / Versailles, Établissement public du château, du musée et du domaine national de Versailles.

Boutier Jean, 2017, ‘Le Grand Tour, les noblesses européennes à Versailles’, in Kisluk-Grosheide D. and Rondot B., Visiteurs de Versailles […], pp. 234–41.

Bruin Renger Evert de and Brinkman Maarten (eds), 2013, Peace Was Made Here: The Treaties of Utrecht, Rastatt and Baden 1713–1714, exh. cat. (Centraal Museum, Utrecht, 11 April–22 September 2013; Fundación Carlos de Amberes, Madrid, 26 November 2013–23 February 2014; Wehrgeschichtliches Museum, Rastatt, March 6–June 15, 2014; Historisches Museum, Baden, 7 September 2014–1 March 2015), Petersberg, Imhof.

Chapman Caroline, 2002, Elizabeth & Georgiana: The Two Loves of the Duke of Devonshire, London, John Murray.

Corp Edward T., Sanson Jaqueline et al., 1992, La cour des Stuarts à Saint-Germain-en-Laye au temps de Louis XIV, exh. cat. (Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Musée des Antiquités Nationales de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 13 February–27 April 1992), Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux.

Eagles Robin, 2011, ‘Opening the Door to Truth and Liberty: Bowood’s French Connexion’, in Aston Nigel and Orr Clarissa Campbell (eds), An Enlightenment Statesman in Whig Britain: Lord Shelburne in Context, 1737–1805, Woodbridge, Boydell & Brewer, pp. 197–214.

Foreman Amanda, 1999, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, London, Harper Collins.

Hardman John, 2016, The Life of Louis XVI, New Haven and London, Yale University Press.

Jacques David, 2017, Gardens of Court and Country: English Design 1630–1730, New Haven, Yale University Press.

Jacques David and Horst Arend Jan van der, 1988, The Gardens of William and Mary, London, C. Helm.

Kisluk-Grosheide Daniëlle and Rondot Bertrand (eds), 2017, Visiteurs de Versailles. Voyageurs, princes, ambassadeurs, 1682-1789, exh. cat. (Versailles, Château de Versailles, 22 October 2017–25 February 2018), Paris, Gallimard / Versailles, Château de Versailles.

Lacour-Gayet Robert, 1963, Calonne : financier, réformateur, contre-révolutionnaire, 1734-1802, Paris, Hachette.

Lambin Georges, 1969, ‘Louis XVI angliciste’, Études anglaises, XXII, 2, pp. 118–36.

Legg Leopold George Wickham, 1921, Matthew Prior: A Study of His Public Career and Correspondence, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Lough John, 1985, France Observed in the Seventeenth Century by British Travellers, Stocksfield, Oriel.

Macaulay Thomas Babington, Lord, 1849, The History of England. Vol. I: From the Accession of James II, Paris, A. and W. Galignani and Co., quai Malaquai.

Mansel Philip, 1981, Louis XVIII, London, Blond and Briggs.

Mansel Philip, 2019, King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV, London, Allen Lane, an imprint of Penguin books.

Mansel Philip, 2020, Paris capitale de l’Europe, 1814-1852, Paris, Perrin.

Mansel Philip, forthcoming, ‘George IV and Louis XVIII: the first Entente Cordiale’, The Court Historian.

Maxwell Constantia, 1932, The English Traveller in France 1698–1815, London, George Routledge & Sons.

Van der Cruysse Dirk, 1988, Madame Palatine : princesse européenne, Paris, Fayard.

Van Raaij Stefan and Spies Paul, 1988, The Royal Progress of William & Mary, Amsterdam, D’Arts.

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Annexe

APPENDIX I: Leading British visitors to Versailles, excluding diplomats

Year of visit

Name

1665

Christopher Wren

1669

Duke of Monmouth

1670

Duke of Buckingham

1677–8

John Locke

1683

Gilbert Burnet

1685, 1690, 1729, 1748

Dukes of Richmond

1688–1712

James II, ‘James III’, Mary of Modena and ‘la cour d’Angleterre’

1698

Martin Lister

1701

Ellis Veryard

1702

John Northleigh

1714–5, 1741

Lord Chesterfield

1751

David Garrick

1763 

David Hume

1765

Tobias Smollett

1770

Edmund Burke

1770

Duchess of Northumberland

1773

Lord Shelburne

1739, 1765, 1771, 1775

Horace Walpole

1775

Samuel Johnson and Mrs Thrale

1776

Richard Bentley

1768, 1777

James Harris

1777

Edward Gibbon

1778

John Soane

1785

Duke of Portland

1786

Frances Anne Crewe

1788, 1789

Duchess of Devonshire

1788, 1789

Lady Elizabeth Foster

1786, 1787

Henry Swinburne

1787–9

Lady Clermont

1787–9

Arthur Young

APPENDIX II: Letter to his brother from James Harris, April 28 1777, from Lyon (Harris papers)

The most pleasant day I spent whilst I was in Paris was the first Sunday after we came, when we all got full drest (I with a bag for my hair and a sword at my side) and went to Versailles as the court are in mourning for the late King of Portugal. I was dressed in a full court suit of black hired for the purpose from the taylor in our coach, it is about ten miles from Paris, and before we came to the palace you might easily perceive it was the residence of a King, the whole place was filled with Soldiers and persons of all ranks. When we arrived we first order’d our dinner at an Hotel and then we went to see the palace, but it is impossible to give you an idea of its magnificence from a comparison with any thing you can see in England. We soon got into a grand Gallery with Windows towards the Gardens and on the other side and answerable to the window were placed large looking Glasses that you might see yourself from head to foot with niches between them in which were placed very fine statues of white marble, a vast quantity of gilt carved work filld up every corner of the gallery. The ceiling was painted by Le Brun. The Rooms were filled with Nobility and Gentry &c all full dress but with no great variety as the Court at present is in mourning. All the rooms between the King’s private apartments and the Chapel Royal were now open and the company walking up and down waiting to see the King go to Mass. We had not been long in the Gallery before we were told he was coming and and every body drew back to make way for him and those of his Court to pass. The Count de Artois went first, then follow’d the Count de Provence, the King’s two Brothers, both in Black with diamond stars and diamond knots upon their shoulders; they are handsome men. Then came the King in Purple [the King’s mourning colour] with diamonds as the others, all three were attended by divers Noblemen and pages. The King walk’d so near me that I could have touch’d him with my hand. We then moved and follow’d him as close as we were able and by the help of one of the Swiss Guards who had taken us under his care, we were quickly drove into a Gallery of the Royal Chapel amidst a crowd of quality, when we had a sight of the King during the whole time of mass performing which was about a quarter of an hour. The whole had a degree of magnificence superior to any thing I had any idea of. The moment the King enter’d the Chapple, the organ accompanied by a grand band of musick began and continued playing during the whole time we were there. I suppose it must have been the finest concert I had ever heard. As they say every performer has twenty Livres d’Or for playing while the King and Queen are at Supper, as to the Chapel it is loaded with gilding and carved work.77

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Notes

1 Black 1986, pp. 85, 93, 99, 113, 131, 150–51, 179, 182, 184, 189 and 211.

2 Les anciens et irreconciliables ennemis de la France, naturellement mal disposés envers les Français (Louis XIV 2007, pp. 125, 131, 156). Cf. Motteville 1904–1911, vol. IV, pp. 255–6 : ‘il dit lui meme qu’il sentait naturellement pour les Anglais l’antipathie que l’on dit avoir toujours été entre les deux nations’.

3 Lough 1985, pp. 155 and 159.

4 Ibid., p. 143.

5 Macaulay 1849, vol. I, pp. 395–6.

6 Mansel 2019, p. 224.

7 London Gazette, no. 2315, 23 January 1687.

8 Maxwell 1932, p. 1.

9 Lough 1985, p. 147.

10 Jacques 2017, p 133.

11 Berger and Hedin 2008, p 17.

12 Corp, Sanson et al. 1992, pp. 66–73; Maintenon 2009–2018 [hereafter ML], vol. II, p. 611, Maintenon to Madame de Fontaines, 12 October 1695, vol. IV, pp. 207 and 226, Maintenon to Ursins, 17 October 1707.

13 Sourches 1883–92, vol. IV, pp. 20 and 130, 19 March and 8 October 1692.

14 Ibid., vol. III, p. 318, 18 October 1690.

15 Van der Cruysse 1988, pp. 325–6; Jaeglé 1890, vol. I, no. 81 and 94, Madame to Electress Sophia, 22 August 1690 and 19 June 1692.

16 Sévigné 1972–8, vol. III, pp. 337 and 347, Sévigné to Grignan, 2 and 10 February 1689; Quarré 1886, p. 222.

17 Sévigné 1972–8, vol. III, nos. 311, 319–20 to Grignan, 10, 17 January 1689.

18 Dangeau 2002–2014, vol. III, p. 172, 9, 10 January 1689; Sourches 1883–92, vol. III, p. 12, 10 January 1689.

19 Sévigné 1972–8, vol. III, nos. 319–20, Sévigné to Madame de Grignan, 17 January 1689.

20 Grimblot 1848, vol. I, p. 192, Portland to William III, 1 March 1698.

21 Le plus agréable jardin que j’aye vu et qui plairait à Votre Majesté. Les machines d’eau sont d’une depence [sic] et d’un travail excessif’ (Bouchenot-Déchin and Farhat 2013, p. 300 and Grew 1924, pp. 304, 312, 316 and 339, Portland to William III, 5 February and 4 May 1698).

22 Legg 1921, pp. 71 and 97, Matthew Prior to Charles Montagu, 10 April 1698.

23 Ibid., pp. 68 and 80, Prior to Montagu, 18 February and 30 August 1698.

24 van Raaij and Spies 1988, pp. 66, 71, 101; Jacques and Horst 1988, p. 81.

25 Lister 1699, p. 207.

26 Northleigh 1702, p. 732.

27 Quoted in Mansel 2019, p. 225.

28 Stevens 1756, pp. 38–44.

29 Nugent 1749, vol. IV, pp. 113, 118, 123.

30 Garrick 1928, pp. 22, 5, 6, 7 June 1751. However, another Huguenot living in England, John Breval, was more critical, calling Versailles, which he visited in 1724, ‘low and squat’, ‘crowded and confused’; see Maxwell 1932, p. 65.

31 Broderick 1754, vol. I, pp. 139–45; Pennant 1948, p. 27, 24 March 1765.

32 Chesterfield 1775, vol. III, pp. 181, 192, 222, 10, 23 May, 24 June 1751.

33 Mansel 2019, p. 243; Boutier 2017, p. 237.

34 Smollett 1766, vol. I, p. 68.

35 Thicknesse 1768, p. 215–6.

36 Eagles 2011, pp. 197–212.

37 Walpole 1903–1905, vol. VI, p. 455 to Lady Hertford, 20 April 1766.

38 Ibid., vol. VI, p. 393, Walpole to Lady Hervey, 11 January 1766.

39 Ibid., vol. VI, p. 307, Walpole to Lady Hertford, 3 October 1765, and p. 310, to John Chute, 3 October 1765 for his description of the whole royal family.

40 Ibid., vol. VI, p. 309, Walpole to Chute, 3 October 1765.

41 Ibid., vol. VII, p. 316, Walpole to George Montagu, 17 September 1769.

42 The privilege du tabouret accorded the right to remain seated in the presence of the queen. Richmond 1911, vol. I, p. 184 shows that in 1729 the Duke and Duchess of Richmond also received ‘all the honours of the court’.

43 Northumberland 1926, pp. 109, 110, 113, 117, 120, 15 and 16 May 1770.

44 Ibid., p. 128, 21 May 1770.

45 Ibid., pp. 111 and 127, 16 and 18 May 1770.

46 Ibid., pp. 114, 116, 118–22, 135, 16 and 17 May, 9 June 1770.

47 Ibid., p. 118, 16 May 1770.

48 Burke 1790, pp. 106 and 112.

49 Walpole 1903–1905, vol. IX, p. 238, Walpole to Countess of Upper Ossory, 28 August 1775.

50 Malmesbury 1870, vol. I, p. 317–20, Dr Jeans to James Harris, 23 August 1775.

51 Kisluk-Grosheide and Rondot 2017, pp. 29 and 246.

52 Bentley 1977, pp. 43–7, 1 August 1776.

53 Mansel 2019, p. 244.

54 Auckland 1861–2, vol. I, pp. 151, 217, 220, 10 October 1787. Similarly, the comte de Vaudreuil, Madame de Polignac’s lover, defined the Polignacs’ role as dispensers of what is today called ‘government hospitality’: ‘running a royal inn, by the wish of the King and the Queen, doing the honours of Versailles to the town, the court, the foreigners, all Europe’ (‘tenant auberge royale, faisant par la volonte du roi et de la reine les honneurs de Versailles à la ville, à la cour, aux etrangers, à l'Europe entiere’, Vaudreuil 1889, vol. I, pp. 69 and 184). Artois came to dinner and supper every day, the Queen often, the King sometimes.

55 Crewe 2006, pp. 91, 137, 141, 143, 6 January, February, 1 August 1786; see also Lady Clermont’s letters to Lady Spencer in British Library (hereafter BL), Add Mss 75692,3.

56 La Tour du Pin 1913, vol. I, p. 71. The peers were Lords Dillon and Falkland.

57 Swinburne 1895, vol. II, p. 11, 29 October 1786, 13 and 7 February 1787.

58 Walpole 1903–1905, vol. VI, p. 332, to Thomas Brand, 19 October 1765, pp. 352–3, to Thomas Gray, 19 November 1765.

59 Ibid., vol. VIII, pp. 8 and 62, 30 July 1771.

60 Bongie 1965, pp. 1 and 14; Letourneur 1776; Hardman 2016, pp. 17–18; cf. Lambin 1969.

61 Swinburne 1895, vol. II, p. 22, 19 July 1787.

62 Auckland 1861–2, vol. I, pp. 277, 366, 399, 401, 8 November 1787, February 1787.

63 BL, f. 5, 19 July, 1 August 1788.

64 BL, f. 73, October 1788 copies.

65 Chatsworth Archives, Madame de Polignac to Duchess of Devonshire, 12 December 1779: ‘Je crois qu’en fait de bonne il n’y a rien que vous ne soyiez mais votre cour et la nôtre se plaisent à faire batter [sic] les gens, cette vilaine Amérique depuis qu’on l’a découverte n’a fait que du mal, aussi je la déteste […] mon dieu la vilaine chose que la guerre ! Finissons celle ci, je vous en prie. Est il possible que deux nations qui s’estiment, se conviennent, se recherchent et s’aiment autant, aient la fureur de s’entre détruire !

66 Fellowes mss, Lady E. Foster journal, 29 June 1791.

67 Bessborough 1955, p. 107, Dorset to Bess, 6 April 1786.

68 Ibid., pp. 107–108 and 130, Duke of Dorset to Duchess of Devonshire, 18 May 1786, 12 June 1788: ‘I am exceedingly concerned for Mr and Mrs B […] amazingly out of spirits’.

69 Lacour-Gayet 1963, p. 238, n. 247, Dorset to Duchess of Devonshire, ‘jugez quel empire a mrs B. sur l’esprit de son mari’, 19 April 1787.

70 Young 1905, pp. 15–16, 27 May 1787.

71 Ibid., pp. 15–16, 101–102, 23 October 1787.

72 Ibid., pp. 179–80, 27 June 1789.

73 Chapman 2002, p. 99, quoting diary of Lady Elizabeth Foster, 27 June 1789.

74 Bessborough 1955, pp. 149–50, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire to Lady Spencer, 1 July 1789.

75 Stuart 1899, p. 122.

76 Lacour-Gayet 1963, pp. 91, 195, 269n; Foreman 1999, p. 279.

77 Letter kindly communicated by Johnny Yarker.

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Philip Mansel, « Admiration to Intimacy: Versailles and the English, from Louis XIV to Louis XVI », Bulletin du Centre de recherche du château de Versailles [En ligne],  | 2020, mis en ligne le 08 décembre 2020, consulté le 26 janvier 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/crcv/18708 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/crcv.18708

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Philip Mansel

Educated at Eton College and Balliol College (Oxford), Philip Mansel obtained his Doctorate at University College (London) with a thesis on the Court of France from 1814 to 1830. He has written for many reviews and exhibition catalogues, notably Trésor du Saint-Sépulcre in 2013 and Le Roi est mort : Louis XIV – 1715, in 2015–16, at Versailles. His books include lives of Louis XVIII and the Prince de Ligne, studies of the monarchies of the Middle East and the Court of France from 1789 to 1830, histories of Constantinople and Paris in 1814–52, as well as a biography of Louis XIV, King of the World (Penguin, 2019 and University of Chicago Press, 2020). All these books have been translated into French. P. Mansel is Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Institute of Historical Research (London). For twenty years he was editor of The Court Historian, bi-annual journal of the Society for Court Studies, of which he was a co-founder in 1995 (www.courtstudies.org). He is now President of the Comité Scientifique of the Centre de Recherche du Château de Versailles (website www.philipmansel.com).
Élève d’Eton College, puis de Balliol College (Oxford), Philip Mansel a obtenu son doctorat à l’université de Londres en 1978 avec une thèse sur La cour de France de 1814 à 1830. Il collabore depuis plusieurs années à de nombreux quotidiens, revues et catalogues d’expositions (dont à Versailles Trésor du Saint-Sépulcre, en 2013 et Le Roi est mort : Louis XIV – 1715, en 2015-2016). On lui doit des biographies de Louis XVIII et du Prince de Ligne, des études sur les monarchies du Moyen-Orient et sur la cour de France de 1789 à 1830, des histoires de Constantinople et de Paris au xixe siècle, ainsi qu’une biographie de Louis XIV, King of the World (Passés composés 2020). Tous ces travaux ont été traduits en français. P. Mansel est Fellow de la Royal Historical Society et de l’Institute of Historical Research (London). Il a pendant vingt ans été rédacteur en chef de The Court Historian, revue bi-annuelle de la Society for Court Studies (www.courtstudies.org) qu’il a co-fondée en 1995. Il est actuellement Président du Conseil scientifique du Centre de recherche du château de Versailles (site web : www.philipmansel.com).
E-mail : philipmansel[at]gmail.com

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