Tea is introduced.—Horse-racing of Count d’Artois.—Marie Antoinette goes to see it—The Queen’s Submissiveness to the Reproofs of the Empress.— Birth of the Duc d’Angouleme.—She at times speaks lightly of the King.— The Emperor remonstrates with her.—Character of some of the Queen’s Friends.—The Princess de Lamballe.—The Countess Jules de Polignac.— They set the Queen against Turgot.—She procures his Dismissal.—She gratifies Madame Polignac’s Friends.—Her Regard for the French People.— Water Parties on the Seine.—Her Health is Delicate.—Gambling at the Palace.
Nor were these the only innovations which marked the age. A rage for adopting English fashions—Anglomanie, as it was called—began to prevail; and, among the different modes in which it exhibited itself, it is especially noticed that tea was now introduced, and began to share with coffee the privileges of affording sober refreshment to those who aspired in their different ways to give the tone to French society.
A less innocent novelty was a passion for horse-racing, in which the Comte d’Artois and the Duc de Chartres set the example of indulging, establishing a race-course in the Bois de Boulogne. The count had but little difficulty in persuading the queen to attend it, and she soon showed so decided a fancy for the sport, and became so regular a visitor of it, that a small stand was built for her, which in subsequent years provoked some unfavorable comments, when the princess obtained her leave to give luncheon in it to some of their racing friends, who were not in all instances of a character deserving to be brought into a royal presence.
She pursued this, as she pursued every other amusement which she took up, with great keenness for a while, so much so as to provoke earnest remonstrances from her mother, whose letters were commonly dictated by Mercy’s reports and suggestions. Nor, if she felt uneasiness, did Maria Teresa spare her daughter, or take any great care to moderate her language of reproof. At times her tone is so severe as to excite a feeling of wonder at the submissiveness with which her letters were received. No express eulogy of her admirers could give so great an idea of Marie Antoinette’s amiability, good-nature, genuine modesty, and sincere affection for her mother, as the ingenuousness with which she admits errors, or the temper with which she urges excuses. To that venerated parent she is just as patient of admonition, now that she is seated on a throne, as she could have been in her schoolroom at Schoenbrunn; and, in reply to the scoldings (no milder word can do justice to the earnest vehemence of the letters which at this time she received from Vienna), she pleads not only that an appetite for amusement is natural to her age, but that she enters into none of which the king does not fully approve, and none which are ever allowed to interfere with her giving him full enjoyment of her society whenever he has leisure or inclination for it.