Marie Antoinette’s Fondness for Music

Marie Antoinette had a great fondness for music, and of all the arts, it was the only one for which she tended to offer patronage. According to the memoirs of Madame Campan, who was close to Marie Antoinette, “music was the accomplishment in which the Queen most delighted. She did not play well on any instrument, but she had become able to read at sight like a first-rate professor.” Her personal library contained many music books, ranging from harpsichord music, which was her favourite instrument to play, from sonatas to operas.

The salon de musique at Petit Trianon

While dancing was said to be the art at which Marie Antoinette most excelled, being noted for her grace, she learned music from a young age. She sang at her father’s birthday while only three years old. As a child, she also met Mozart, then himself a child of six, when he played the harpsichord for the Empress of Austria, Marie Antoinette’s mother. Mozart later went to Paris, possibly hoping for the support of Marie Antoinette, who was queen by then. Unfortunately, she was having a difficult pregnancy and was not able to meet him at the time. Marie Antoinette also supported composers such as Gluck, and enjoyed the works of Haydn.

Marie Antoinette was also acquainted with the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. An extremely talented violinist, composer, and conductor of the symphony orchestra in Paris, he is also remembered today as the first classical composer of African ancestry. The son of a wealthy planter and a slave, Saint-Georges was born in Guadeloupe. As well as being musically talented, he was also a champion fencer, and had a strong military career, leading the first all-black regiment in Europe during the French Revolution.

Saint-Georges’ immense list of talents and titled lineage (his father was a gentleman of the king’s chamber) didn’t prevent him facing some discrimination, unfortunately. Although revolutionary France’s ideals of equality and liberty mostly included people of colour – slavery had been illegal in the metropolitan areas of France since the 1300s, though it was not abolished in the French colonies until 1794 – Saint-Georges found his heritage became an issue when he was suggested as the director of the Paris Opéra. While the leading ladies didn’t mind working with Saint-Georges, they opposed the idea of working for him and wrote a petition to Marie Antoinette to put a halt to the idea.

A portrait of the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, painted by Mather Brown, 1787.

Hearing of the petition, Saint-Georges immediately withdrew his name from consideration. Marie Antoinette invited Saint-Georges to join the intimate musical evenings she had in the salon of her petit appartement de la reine at Versailles – her private chambers. These evenings were limited to a circle of friends and musicians, and were quite exclusive. Saint-Georges may have regaled the group with his violin sonatas, which he often composed himself, while the Queen likely joined in by playing the harpsichord.

It’s difficult to speculate how Marie Antoinette would have reacted to the petition if Saint-Georges had not withdrawn his name, saving her from making a decision. Since she continued to associate with him at her elite musical evenings, I like to think she would have supported him in spite of the social pressures. However, we shall never know. As part of the aftermath of this incident, her husband, King Louis XVI, also took control of the Paris Opéra, putting its management under his ‘Intendent of Light Entertainments’ (there’s a job title for you). Previously, it had been managed by the city of Paris for nearly a century.

Marie Antoinette ensured that her daughter was also given music lessons. When the royal family was imprisoned in the Tower during the revolution, one of the kindest guards, Commissioner Jacques Lepître, realized that the dilapidated harpsichord in the building was not fit for playing, and managed to have an improved one brought in so the child’s music lessons could continue.

 


The Wardrobe Mistress, a novel of one of Marie Antoinette’s wardrobe women who casually spies on the queen during the French Revolution and finds herself torn between her loyalty to the queen and her sympathy for the revolution, is available now.

Order links:
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Six Surprising Facts about Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette is probably best known for her death, as a queen shockingly executed by guillotine at the height of the French revolution. But there’s lots more to know about her interesting and sometimes scandalous life. I’ve got six surprising facts about Marie Antoinette for you, as part of my countdown to The Wardrobe Mistress publication day on August 15th.

1). She came from a huge family

The daughter of Empress Maria-Theresa of Austria and the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, Marie Antoinette had fifteen (!) siblings. Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna, as she was called before becoming a French dauphine, was the second youngest. All of them had royal titles.

2.) She had many hobbies

Since her reputation for fashion and trendsetting has lasted hundreds of years, this one might be surprising. Marie Antoinette’s interests ranged from riding – including sleigh rides, which she had fond memories of from her childhood in Austria – to gardening, interior decoration, the theatre, and music.

She decorated the royal property of Saint-Cloud in her favourite colours, also choosing the furniture with care. She preferred light colours like pale blue and green, as well as lavender grey. The Great Bathroom at Versailles was painted this colour, and decorated with sea motifs of shells and corals. She disliked orange and never wore it.

At her favourite retreat of Petit Trianon, she envisioned a romantic garden filled with trees, a paradise where one could wander in peace. She also enjoyed the jardin Anglais, a landscaped style of gardening the depicted an idealized view of nature with groves of trees.

3.) Before her marriage, she had her teeth straightened

Historical dentistry doesn’t sound appealing to anyone, but poor Maria Antonia had her teeth straightened at a young age. In fact, when she was ten years old, negotiations began for her marriage to the dauphin of France, and it was deemed important that she become more physically attractive to the French. This included a new hairstyle to play down her forehead (considered too high) and straightening her teeth. The early form of braces was a horseshoe-shaped device made of metal. Gold wire was threaded through the evenly spaced holes – much like modern braces, but a little more rustic and made of gold! It was called “Fauchard’s Bandeau”, named after Pierre Fouchard, who was significant to the development of modern dentistry and orthodontics.

As a new technology, and without the aid of any modern painkillers, the braces were likely quite painful. However, Marie Antoinette’s smile was considered quite charming and pretty, so it seems to have been a successful ordeal.

4.) She contributed to philanthropic efforts

Aside from being generous with her friends (which she was – sometimes she even had signature perfumes made for them as gifts), Marie Antoinette liked to help others wherever she could. She established a home for unwed mothers, and often made visits to poor families to distribute food and money. Once, before she was queen, her carriage accidentally ran over a wine grower. Marie Antoinette rushed out of the carriage to assist the wounded man, and paid for his family’s expenses for the next year while he recovered from a broken limb.

Two years before the start of the revolution, in 1787, she also provided grain for struggling families and downgraded the quality of grain for the royal family so that there was more to share.

5.) She was only nineteen years old when she became Queen of France

She had been dauphine of France for several years, but when Louis XV (the predecessor of Marie Antoinette’s husband, Louis XVI), passed away on May 10, 1774, she became queen. The late king had been ill for some time, and when the candle in his window was extinguished to show that he had succumbed to his sickness, all the courtiers who had been hovering outside his rooms stampeded toward Marie Antoinette and Louis, determined to be the first to pay compliments to the new rulers. Apparently the crash of their footsteps made a sound like thunder.

Together, Marie Antoinette and Louis knelt and prayed for their future, with the words “Dear God, guide and protect us. We are too young to reign.”

6.) She cared about the revolution and tried to help

In contrast to her husband, Louis XVI, who often remained indecisive, Marie Antoinette took action to address the issues spurring the revolution, and to protect the royal family. She met with ministers and ambassadors, and corresponded with other sovereigns. Her increased involvement in politics led the king to rely on her advice, and he occasionally baffled his royal ministers by leaving the room to consult with her if she was not present at the meeting. When France’s popular finance minister, Jacques Necker, was dismissed by Louis, she sought to appease the people’s outrage and persuaded Louis to reinstate him, even though she and Necker had not always agreed and were sometimes enemies.

It is worth noting, however, that in her youth, Marie Antoinette remained mostly indifferent to political schemes. She became more involved as political tensions rocketed dangerously high, at which time it was possibly too late.

 

I hope I’ve passed along some extra facts about Marie Antoinette besides that she said ‘let them eat cake’ – or did she? More details about the life of the scandalous French queen to come!

 


The Wardrobe Mistress, a novel of one of Marie Antoinette’s wardrobe women who casually spies on the queen during the French Revolution and finds herself torn between her loyalty to the queen and her sympathy for the revolution, is available now.

Order links:
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | BAM | Macmillan

 

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Publication Day Approaches!

It feels like I’ve been talking about and excitedly anticipating the publication date for The Wardrobe Mistress forever. And it has been a year! But now the big day is actually within reach, and I will freely admit that I’m pretty much bouncing off the walls with exhilaration. I received my first copy in the mail and I can hardly describe the thrill of holding a real copy of a book I wrote! A bit surreal, but wonderful.

To share my excitement, I’ll be updating my blog more often in the next couple of weeks, counting down to pub day with lots of interesting facts about Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution. A few of them are guest posts elsewhere, so I’ll post the links on my own page as well.

Of course, I’ve written about Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution a few times here before, including her beloved dogs, that time she made a really bad decision, how researching her gave me luxurious tastes in hot chocolate, everything I learned about the guillotine, and how loyalty became a theme in The Wardrobe Mistress.

I’m also sharing pictures of historical fashion items, similar to what the characters might have worn, on my Instagram page.

Last thing, the prequel short story The Diamond Deception is still available as a freebie for newsletter subscribers. A copy gets emailed as part of the confirmation of sign up. I’ll close off this post with a snippet from the story.


The queen of France tosses the sheaf of papers aside, paying no attention as one of the pages drifts to the floor like a crisp autumn leaf.

“Henriette, you’ve made excellent time. I didn’t expect you to arrive until this evening.”

“With good roads and a fast coach, the road from Crespy is not so long.”

When she smiles, happiness sparking in her blue-grey eyes, I feel my own mouth curling in response. Her charm can be irresistible, and I’m glad she summoned me back from the country estate. The last few days especially, I’d felt quite ready to return to court and my position as the first lady-in-waiting to the queen. Since she’s currently at her beloved retreat of Petit Trianon, the pastoral village within the grounds of Versailles, instead of the grand palace itself, I can ease back into the structure of court life.

“And Monsieur Campan and the family are well?” Marie Antoinette rises from her seat on the sofa. The toes of her violet shoes peek out from under the white muslin fall of her skirt as she approaches.

“Yes, thank you. My in-laws are preparing for the grape harvest.” It’s kind of her to ask, especially since she always remembers names and details. The queen meets so many people that I’m proud she remembers my family. I suppose after the fifteen years I’ve spent at her side, serving as one of her femmes de chambre, she must feel almost as if she knows them.

As we chat, one of the queen’s other attendants quietly retrieves the scattered piece of paper, stacking it back into the pile.

“I was just rehearsing,” the queen says. “I think I wrote you that I’m to play Rosine? Le Barbier de Seville is quite an amusing play.” She reaches for the script, casting a brief smile to the helpful lady who straightened the papers. “I’d like to rehearse now, if that suits you. No one else reads as well as you, Henriette.”

“Of course, let’s begin.” Although it’s customary between us that I often read aloud to her, while she’s sewing or in the bath, the praise still settles over me like a beam of sunshine. I’m glad to see she is in good spirits; I’d wondered a little about that strange visit from Monsieur Boehmer, while I was away, but the issue must have been resolved.

“Leave us, please.” She dismisses the other ladies, fanning the script in the direction of the sideboard. “We had tea earlier. I think there’s some left, or lemonade, if you’re thirsty.”

I cross to the sideboard, relaxing under the more casual atmosphere of Petit Trianon. We’d rarely sit at such ease at Versailles, where there’s always an audience or a person wanting an appointment. I pour for myself, and also for her since I’m fairly certain she’ll want to moisten her throat after reading Rosine’s lines for an hour.

She takes the cup with a graceful dip of her head, sweeping her skirt aside to sit back on the sofa. There’s a rose leaf caught in the ribbon of the pale blue sash tied around her waist, and though I’m sure she’s unaware, it fits with the rustic, carefree charm of Petit Trianon. Marie Antoinette is always happier here, briefly escaping from the rigorous ceremony of daily life at Versailles. She can truly be herself here, enjoying flowers and fresh air and harmless amusements like plays.

As we rehearse, and I read for the other characters, the queen finds more strength in her delivery of Rosine’s lines. After an hour, she smooths the script pages against her lap, and sits back with a pleased smile.

“I think that will do. The performance is tomorrow. Just friends, of course, both acting and as audience members. I do enjoy these amusements at Petit Trianon.” Her smile fades, and after she finishes her lemonade, she clears her throat. “Henriette, I must ask you why you sent that dreadful jeweler, Boehmer, to me. He called unexpectedly, giving your name, but I would not see him. I have nothing to say to him.”

Dread clutches at me.  I certainly had not sent Monsieur Boehmer to Her Majesty. In fact, I’d told him the opposite.

 

 

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Flash Fiction – Haunted

The story that came out of this eye-catching photograph wasn’t quite what I expected, but I think it turned out better that way. It reminded me just how much I love writing flash fiction.

Photo via Visual hunt

As I unfold the silky blue cloth wrapping keeping them safe, the fragrance of the daisies drifts through the air; sweet as grass, clean as raindrops, haunting as the pages of an old book. Fresh enough that if I close my eyes, the image of a sun-kissed meadow, scattered with the confetti of wildflowers, forms in my mind and lulls me into a sense of peace.

Exactly as they’re meant to. It startles me, shaking off the drowsiness, and I bring the flowers closer to my face, inspecting them. I guess I didn’t really believe, even though I let myself be tempted into buying them. It seemed like a good story, to buy supposedly magical flowers from the witchy lady at the Renaissance Faire. She sold jewelry too, rings twisted to silver flowers and ravens and Celtic knots, everything as dramatic and beautiful as the pentacle at her throat. Her ears, glinting with gold earrings, tapered almost to a point, and as her papery voice whispered about dreams and escape, I believed her. Head spinning with overpriced mead and an edge of adrenaline, I’d laughed and agreed, lumping the flowers into the cost of the bronze ring now curled around my finger.

“They’ll bring peace and inner calm,” she’d said.

“Who doesn’t need that?” My voice rang, brash and hard, drawing too much attention. Her mouth smiled in response but her eyes stayed slated as mirrors.

I want it now. Tranquility, a reprieve from the curl of nervousness that pinches my stomach and dries my mouth. Even a placebo effect will be enough to give me a moment of peace, if I believe hard enough. I put the flower in my tea, as instructed. It shrivels in the hot water but tastes purer than chamomile.

My heartbeat slows, a steady drumbeat instead of the thrum of a hummingbird’s wings. Warmth steals through my veins, droops my eyelids. I sling my body against the couch cushions, half-listening to the sound of music drifting through the open window.

I wake with sourness and a needle-jab at my temples. My ears hum. Slowly, the nervousness creeps back, sharpened to an edge now that I’ve lost another day and success matters all the more now.

I work all day to make up for precious lost time, dragging my attention from one task to another with methodical resignation. My bones ache with weariness, thoughts drifting like obscuring mist over a mountain peak. At night, I drink a glass of wine, resolutely focusing on the rest of my to-do list, ignoring the flowers.

At bedtime, my resistance crumbles like chalk, and I lift the second flower to my mouth. Its white petals are velvet against my lips before I swallow it whole and let blissful ignorance and apathy wash over me. Dreams don’t exist; I float as nothing, forgetful and calm.

The after effects linger much longer this time, and on the fourth day, I stare at the last flower for ten minutes before gritting my teeth and lifting it into the flame of a lighter held over the sink. The heat stings my thumb, and as the bittersweet smoke curls into the air, I drag it into my lungs.

The shadowy peace twirls out of reach, nagging at the corners of my eyes, fidgeting its way through my fingers. Destroyed, it won’t work again now, and after moment of mourning, a sense of relief rinses over me. The anxiety comes back, but I embrace it because it feels like something. The shining moments need darkness to make them gleam like a pinprick of light.

 

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Book Addiction: The Waking Land

I just finished reading The Waking Land by Callie Bates, and this lyrical novel is my latest book addiction. Growing, up, I was obsessed with Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness” series and The Waking Land captures a similar vein of magic through a vivid, well-drawn universe and a heroic and likable protagonist, with a bit more of a grown-up voice.

Beautifully written and evocative, The Waking Land is the story of Elanna, raised as a hostage in a rival kingdom. She grows to view the king as a father, but when he’s poisoned and she’s accused of his murder, Elanna finds herself back in her homeland of Caeris, where everyone is counting on her to lead a rebellion. Full of magic, romance, and dangerous encounters, it’s a tale of torn loyalties and adventure that will keep readers turning the pages ceaselessly. I particularly loved the fresh twist of Elanna’s magical connection with plants.

Callie Bates has kindly agreed to an interview to talk about her debut novel. Welcome, Callie!

What was your inspiration for The Waking Land?

I wanted to write a story about a young woman, raised as a hostage, who’s taught to despise her people and homeland, but still has an indelible connection to them due to her forbidden magic. I also wanted to use that magic to play with the symbiotic relationship between humans and the natural world. And then I wanted to have some fun with romance, rebellions and poisonous mushrooms! 🙂

Did you face any unexpected challenges or pleasant surprises while working on the novel?

Before I signed with my literary agent, I completely rewrote the book from third person past tense to first person present tense! This was much more than a line-by-line change; I reworked the voice, pacing, character arc, and much of the storyline. I really enjoyed the challenge.

What was your favourite scene to write?

It’s hard to answer this question without spoilers—there’s a scene at the end that’s my true favorite!—but I’m very proud of the prologue. It took a lot of finessing to cram enough backstory into it, keep the perspective of a seven-year-old, and maintain growing tension as she’s taken hostage!

What’s your writing process like? Do you have a strict schedule or can you write anywhere, anytime?

I write my first, loose drafts by hand in a notebook, then transfer to a computer to rewrite and revise. I try not to be too strict or ritualistic, so that I can write in any place and at any time of day. Though I have a desk, the couch is probably my favorite spot!

Do you share an affinity for plants, like your protagonist Elanna? What’s your favourite flower?

I did give Elanna my own love for the natural world–though, alas, I don’t have her magic with plants! And I am not much of a gardener. I love roses of all varieties, especially wild roses. I love wild mushrooms as well—some of which are deadly, and inspired a scene in the book!

If you could pair your book with any drink or snack, what would you suggest?

The Waking Land would pair well with a malty Scottish whiskey, or perhaps some lovely mead!

How can we stay updated on your book news?

I post updates on all my social media feeds: I’m @calliebywords on Twitter and Facebook, and @callie_bates on Instagram. You can also check my website, calliebates.com! 

From the book jacket:

In the lush and magical tradition of Naomi Novik’s award-winning Uprooted comes this riveting debut from brilliant young writer Callie Bates—whose boundless imagination places her among the finest authors of fantasy fiction, including Sarah J. Maas and Sabaa Tahir.

Lady Elanna is fiercely devoted to the king who raised her like a daughter. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Elanna is accused of his murder—and must flee for her life.

Returning to the homeland of magical legends she has forsaken, Elanna is forced to reckon with her despised, estranged father, branded a traitor long ago. Feeling a strange, deep connection to the natural world, she also must face the truth about the forces she has always denied or disdained as superstition—powers that suddenly stir within her.

But an all-too-human threat is drawing near, determined to exact vengeance. Now Elanna has no choice but to lead a rebellion against the kingdom to which she once gave her allegiance. Trapped between divided loyalties, she must summon the courage to confront a destiny that could tear her apart.

Author Biography:

Callie Bates is a writer, harpist and certified harp therapist, sometimes artist, and nature nerd. When she’s not creating, she’s hitting the trails or streets and exploring new places. She lives in the Upper Midwest. THE WAKING LAND is her debut fantasy novel and first in a planned trilogy.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Diamond Deception – a free short story

My debut novel, The Wardrobe Mistress, comes out in less than a month! Set during the French Revolution, it’s the tale of Giselle, an aspiring dressmaker who works in  Marie Antoinette’s household. When she’s asked to spy on the queen, she jumps at the chance, but as she becomes torn between her loyalty to the queen and her sympathy for the revolutionary cause, she risks losing everything…maybe even her head.

To share my excitement, I’ve got a free short story for you. Called The Diamond Deception, it’s a prequel to The Wardrobe Mistress by about three years, and centers on the ‘Diamond Necklace Affair‘, a real event in history where a diamond necklace was stolen under the pretense that Marie Antoinette was buying it in secret. Though the queen was an innocent victim in this crime, it still damaged her reputation.

How do you get your hands on this short story? Just sign up for my newsletter, and you’ll receive a confirmation email with a downloadable pdf of the story.

My newsletter goes out a few times a year and contains book news, snippets of what I’m currently writing (that I don’t share anywhere else), book recommendations, and related historical items of interest.

Already subscribed? Don’t worry, I’ll be sending The Diamond Deception out to existing subscribers as well.

 

Stay tuned next week for an amazing new Book Addiction, and in the weeks leading up to August 15th, the publication date of The Wardrobe Mistress, I’ll be sharing lots of Marie Antoinette themed posts. Ever wondered if she really said ‘let them eat cake?’ I’ve got that answer for you, and plenty more, too.

 


The Wardrobe Mistress, a novel of one of Marie Antoinette’s wardrobe women who casually spies on the queen during the French Revolution and finds herself torn between her loyalty to the queen and her sympathy for the revolution, publishes on August 15th with St. Martin’s Griffin.

Pre-order links:
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | BAM | Macmillan

 

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The Pets of Queens

The lives of queens through history are often so overwhelmed by politics and court ritual that it can be difficult to sense their personalities as individuals. Finding the small details that provide a spark of illumination into a queen’s hobbies and penchants are thrilling, especially for a historical author. During my research for my forthcoming novel, The Wardrobe Mistress, I remember the surge of excitement I felt when I discovered that Marie Antoinette preferred purple and disliked orange, that she loved children to the extent that she’d often call out to them in a crowd, that she liked dogs and some of hers had been gifts from friends. These are all things that brought her to life for me, showed me why my protagonist, Giselle, who worked for the queen, would be sympathetic to her.

In her fondness for pets, Marie Antoinette was not alone. Many queens enjoyed the company of their pets, especially dogs, which many modern people can relate to as well. Historical figures weren’t always so different from us as we think. From dogs to parrots, here are some famous queens through history and their beloved pets.

From the 2006 film, Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette with Mops.

Marie Antoinette had a pug named Mops, whom she brought with her to France from Austria. Nervous to be leaving her home and going to a foreign court, she clung to Mops and was said to be extremely fond of him. Sadly, he had to be sent back to Austria with most of her other belongings, in order for her to start fresh as a new French dauphine at Versailles. Thankfully, she was later able to send for him, and princess and pug were reunited.

She also received a dog as a gift from Count Axel von Fersen, the courtier often believed to be her lover. While it’s difficult to find absolute proof of this, it’s undeniable that the two were quite close. Little is known now about this dog, but it’s was likely a Swedish dog, similar to Fersen’s own, which was called Odin. Marie Antoinette also had a red and white spaniel named Mignon, a gift from her dearest friend, the Princesse de Lamballe. The spaniel was called Thisbée originally, but Marie Antoinette’s affectionate nickname of Mignon eventually stuck. Mignon was left behind at the Tuileries after the chaos of the invasion of the Parisian palace during the revolution, but was later reunited with the queen at her imprisoned lodgings within the Tower.

Anne Boleyn was also fond of dogs. There are records of her greyhound, Urian, as well as a little lap dog called Purkoy. His name is thought to be derived from the French word ‘Pourquoi’, meaning ‘why’, so it’s easy to imagine that Purkoy must have been an inquisitive looking little canine. His exact breed isn’t known. Purkoy came to a tragic end, falling out of a high window. It’s said that all the courtiers were afraid to tell Anne, knowing how distraught she would be, and it fell to Henry VIII himself to break the bad news. Anne also had a songbird that was sent to her by Lady Lisle, wife of the Governor of Calais. She found great pleasure in listening to it sing.

Mary, Queen of Scots is another queen who could usually be found in the company of one of her beloved lap dogs. In fact, her Skye terrier, usually recorded as being called Geddon, was found huddled, frightened and blood-spattered, under her skirt after her execution by beheading. I don’t know what happened to poor Geddon after this, but I hope someone gave him a kind home. It’s nice to think that these three doomed queens – each of them executed – found some comfort in their last days through the company of their pets.

Catherine and Zemira

Fortunately, many other queens through history found joy in their animal companions, without the executions. Catherine de’ Medici is said to have possessed a long-tailed monkey from the Indies. Queen Isabella of Spain had a pair of Cuban Amazon parrots, brought back to her by Columbus. Catherine the Great of Russia was extremely attached to her little greyhound called Zemira. The dog slept in the queen’s room in a pink silk-lined cradle. She was also painted with her mistress, since one of Catherine’s favourite activities was walking with her little dog. Zemira’s likeness lives on in various sculptures as well, since the queen’s affection for her meant she became something of a muse for artists seeking the queen’s patronage.

In China, Empress Dowager Cixi apparently owned over a hundred Pekingese dogs and was so fond of them that she supervised their daily baths. Pekingese dogs were quite exclusive, and for a period of time in history, they could only be owned by members of the Chinese Imperial Palace. With their unique lion-like appearance, the little dogs were believed to bring luck and protection against evil spirits.

Imperial ladies holding pekingese dogs

In Egypt, gazelles were common pets through history. Queen Isiemkheb loved her pet gazelle so much that she couldn’t bear to be parted from it after death. Unfortunately, the gazelle’s name is unknown to us today, but it’s custom made sarcophagus still exists, carved with the image of the gazelle. The mummified gazelle was found with Isiemkheb in her tomb, both preserved in such a way and possessing amulets to ensure that they would someday be united again.

And of course, in more modern history, Queen Elizabeth II is famous for her pack of corgis, as well as for being an excellent rider, even venturing out on horseback at ninety years of age. That’s dedication to spending time with animals!

Plenty of writers have pets too, so if you enjoy linking up adorable or eccentric pets to famous faces, I’ve blogged about the pets of writers, too.

 


The Wardrobe Mistress, a novel of one of Marie Antoinette’s wardrobe women who casually spies on the queen during the French Revolution and finds herself torn between her loyalty to the queen and her sympathy for the revolution, publishes on August 15th.

Pre-order links:
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | BAM | Macmillan

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