Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Marie-Antoinette's Breguet Watch

The ambitious Frenchman's self-winding watches fascinated Marie-Antoinette. Her husband, Louis XVI, was also impressed with them and owned several. One day the doomed Queen decided that she wanted a watch with a perpetual repeating calendar as well as a self-winding mechanism and challenged the watchmaker to craft one. Hearing of this, an admirer, perhaps Count Axel Fersen, commissioned probably the most famous watch of all time for his beautiful Queen - the Marie-Antoinette. This amazing watch had a perpetual calender, a chiming repeater, a thermemeter, a power-reserve indicator and a chronograph. It was also lovely looking.

Unfortunately, the Breguet watch wasn't completed until 1827, long after the Queen was sent to the guillotine.

Here is a video about the watch:
Marie-Antoinette Watch

Next Time: The amazing story of the theft and possible recovery of the Marie-Antoinette watch.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Site Of The Week: Antoinette's Closet

Antoinette's Closet

This is an exquisite and very well-organised website about Marie-Antoinette's costumes - her real ones and those in the films. Full of beautiful photos and lots of info about the doomed Queen, it's well worth looking at. This will be one of my favourite sites!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Where Is Empress Elizabeth's Wedding Dress?

Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria, fell in love with beautiful sixteen year old Elizabeth from Bavaria at first sight. He was meant to marry her sister, Helene, but to his dominating mother's sorrow, could not resist young and impulsive 'Sisi'.

The wedding was suitably splendid, but, unfortunately Sisi's wedding dress has been lost. It was a royal tradition to donate the dresses to a church - it became the property of the basilica Maria Taferi. Now only the silver embroidery which became part of a priest's robe remains. It is on show at the Vienna Sisi Museum.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Marie-Antoinette's Dress: Podcast

This is an interesting podcast about the restoration of one of Marie-Antoinette's dresses. It was designed by her couturier, Rose Bertin: Marie-Antoinette's Dress

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Happy Birthday, Prince Charles!

Happy Birthday, Prince Charles! He turned 60 recently.

Whatever you think of the Prince, he has helped many people with his Prince's Trust

Prince Charles meets the crowd on his 60th Birthday

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Monday, October 6, 2008

Star of Sisi Diamond

The robbery of one of Empress Elizabeth's jeweled hair-pins last year shocked all of Vienna. Made by Alexander Koechert for beautiful Empress 'Sisi' to adorn her thick, brown hair which fell below her knees, Sisi's 27 diamond pins looked wonderful in Winterhalter's famous portrait of her.

It was a brazen crime. It was taken from a glass case when the palace was busy and replaced with a fake.

Surprisingly, it turned up in Canada in the criminal's granny's house! Daniel Blanchard, the head of a large criminal gang responsible for many robberies of banks and jewels, admitted the crime to police and led them to the jewel.

Blanchard's girlfriend has recently been sentenced for her part in the crime.

Legend of Sisi's Tiara

Just before Elizabeth and Emperor Franz Joseph married in 1864, their aunt, Dowager Empress Caroline Augusta, looked at the wedding presents. As she was looking at the gorgeous pins, her mantilla got caught in Elizabeth's tiara and sent it crashing to the floor. This was seen as a bad omen. Indeed, the marriage was unhappy and Sisi was a tragic figure who traveled through Europe in search of happiness, lost her son in the famous Mayerling tragedy, and was eventually assassinated.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Empress Elizabeth's Jewel Case

See Sissi's spectacular jewellery case here: Rau Antiques Video

NB: This doesn't seem to be working but it's easy to look up and it's worth seeing!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In The Wake Of The Queen

In The Wake Of The Queen: Perfume Inspired by Marie Antoinette

When Elizabeth Feydeau, the author of A Scented Palace: The Secret History of Marie Antoinette’s s Perfumer, asked the perfumer, Francis Kurdjian to create a fragrance similar to Marie Antoinette’s, he said that it would be ‘impossible’ and ‘too expensive.’ He thought this because the perfume would have to be created with natural ingredients.

He became fascinated by the enigmatic Queen who loved luxury, however, and couldn’t resist the challenge. Feydeau knew that it would be popular amongst collectors and women who want to wear a fragrance that Marie Antoinette could have worn.

Kurdjian chose the time in Marie Antoinette’s life when she was a young mother and pictured her at the Triannon in her flowing muslin dresses, care-free and escaping from the restrictions of court life. He based the perfume on her favourite flowers – roses, irises, orange blossom and tuberoses. Marie-Antoinette once requested her perfumer, Fargeon, to create a perfume that would ‘capture Triannon’ for her (Mimi Frou Frou.com). Perhaps Kurdjian had a similar idea.

It took eighteen months of research, blending and poring over an encyclopaedia created by Fargeon, Marie-Antoinette’s perfumer, before he felt that it was correct. Kurdjian didn’t know if it was an exact reproduction of Marie-Antoinette’s perfume, but believed that it was a fragrance that she could have worn. She would not have worn just one scent, however, but many different ones because of the transient nature of the natural materials in them.

He did use all natural ingredients and the very best oils and essences to make an ‘intensely floral’ perfume. Kurdjian even used rhizomes from Tuscan irises which had been cured for five years as they were in the Queen’s day.

Perfume was stronger in Marie-Antoinette’s time and the perfumer made allowances for this. She wore fragrance mostly to mask the unpleasant smells of the court and the dreadful odour of the open sewers nearby. Although it was expensive, it wasn’t the unnecessary luxury that it is today, but regarded as a necessity by the aristocracy.

The fragrance is called La Sillage de La Reine, which means ‘In the Wake of the Queen’. has been advertised by the Chateau de Versailles as: “...a perfume with a sillage, elegant and light like the breeze blowing on a light dress. The queen's olfactory preferences have been assembled like a bouquet of confidences.”

25 ml of the fragrance costs $900.00. However, the prestige edition vials in Baccarat crystal cost over $11,000.00 each! Some have been sold to collectors and the wealthy, such as a sheik of Oman. In a nice touch, the Chateau gave Sofia Coppola, the creator of the beautiful movie, some vials.

NB: I have also published this article at www.luxuryfame.com and at Constant-Content.)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Tragic Empress Elizabeth of Austria

Beautiful Empress Elizabeth of Austria, nicknamed ‘Sissi’, became a legend in her own lifetime. The Hungarians especially loved this ‘lonely Empress’ because she helped their nationalist cause. She is also famous for being devoted to other causes and charities and her poetry. The Empress was ‘a woman of many parts’ – a Queen, an equestrian and a writer – who, sadly, had a very tragic life.

Born in the Christmas of 1837 in Munich, this daughter of Duke Maximilian and Maria Ludowika, enjoyed a carefree existence in the stunning countryside of Bavaria. Raised in Possenhofen Castle, she liked to ride, hunt, and play games with her many siblings.

This life of freedom ended soon after she met Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria. Elizabeth was only 15 when she met the emperor. A marriage between Franz Joseph and Elizabeth’s older sister, Helene, had been arranged and he had come to meet her. He fell in love with the young Elizabeth instead and they were engaged a day after they met at Bad Ischl.

They married in April 1854. Elizabeth found the strict protocols of court life very difficult after living an enjoyable life in the country. She also disliked her mother-in-law, Sophie, who accused her of making many mistakes and faux-pas. Their relationship became fraught when Sophie took charge of the upbringing of the Empress’s three children, Sophie, Gisela and Rudolph. She refused to let the young Empress breastfeed the children and insisted on taking charge of their education.

Elizabeth eventually became very ill with tuberculosis and her doctor ordered her to travel to a healthier climate. She went to Madeira, Corfu and Venice.

Eventually she recovered and returned to Austria where she became very interested in the nationalist cause of the Hungarians. Empress Elizabeth learned Hungarian, became friendly with the nationalist Count Andrassy, and devoted herself to the cause. She was instrumental in the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 which gave the Hungarians more freedom. She and Franz-Joseph became the King and Queen of Hungary in 1867.

After this Elizabeth had another daughter, Maria Valerie, who became her favourite. She taught her Hungarian and raised her to love Hungary as much as she did.

Elizabeth devoted herself to the sick and injured her great beauty, and her equestrian skills. She also tried again to be a good wife to the Emperor.

Beset by tragedies, including the deaths of her parents and her sister, she soon started traveling and writing again. She loved to learn about the world of the ancient Greeks, and commissioned a palace at Corfu which she called Achilleron after her hero, Achilles. Here she wrote poetry in the tradition of her favourite poet, Heinrich Heine, and learned Greek history and mythology.

When her son committed suicide at Mayerling, the Empress blamed herself for opposing his intended marriage to Mary Vetsera. She began to dress in black and gave her daughters her clothes and jewels. Anorexic and very miserable, Elizabeth sought refuge in traveling but she wrote that she longed for death. She was killed by an anarchist on the shores of Lake Geneva.

The ‘tragic empress’ has a cult following on the Internet and many books, films and plays have been written about her. Many people know about her because of the ‘Sissi’ films starring Romy Schneider, with their splendid settings and costumes. There is even a Sissi Museum in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, which is supposed to be well-worth visiting.

Prince Joachim of Denmark's Wedding: Some Photos

Prince Joachim and Miss Marie Cavallier - Wedding

I’d like to start with a few happy occasions because I have a few articles to post about tragic royal lives so here are some photos from this wedding. This is ‘our Mary’, i.e. Crown Princess Mary and Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark at the wedding. I love Mary’s pretty blue tiered dress!

Prince Joachim and Miss Marie Cavallier - Wedding

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Welcome to a rendezvous with royalty! History, scandals, titbits - I hope to write about all of these and provide some pictures as well. I will also review books about royalty. I like to read about history and royalty so I am happy to start a blog which combines these interests.
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