Queen Hortense eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 341 pages of information about Queen Hortense.

The usage of the old era, “the public dinner of the royal family,” was also reintroduced; and the grand-master of ceremonies not only found it necessary to make preparations for this dinner weeks beforehand, but the king was also compelled to occupy himself with this matter, and to appoint for this great ceremony the necessary “officers of provisions”—­that is to say, the wine-taster, the cup-bearers, the grand doorkeepers, and the cook-in-chief.

At this first grand public dinner, the celebrated and indispensable “ship” of the royal board stood again immediately in front of the king’s seat.  This old “ship” of the royal board, an antique work of art which the city of Paris had once presented to a King of France, had also been lost in the grand shipwreck of 1792, and the grand-master of ceremonies had been compelled to have a new one made by the court jeweller for the occasion.  This “ship” was a work in gilded silver, in form of a vessel deprived of its masts and rigging; and in the same, between two golden plates, were contained the perfumed napkins of the king.  In accordance with the old etiquette, no one, not even the princes and princesses, could pass the “ship” without making a profound obeisance, which they were also compelled to make on passing the royal couch.

The king restored yet another fashion of the old era—­the fashion of the “royal lady-friends.”

Like his brother the Count d’Artois, Louis XVIII. also had his lady-friends; and among these the beautiful and witty Countess Ducayla occupied the first position.  It was her office to amuse the king, and dissipate the dark clouds that were only too often to be seen on the brow of King Louis, who was chained to his arm-chair by ill-health, weakness, and excessive corpulency.  She narrated to him the chronique scandaleuse of the imperial court; she reminded him of the old affairs of his youth, which the king knew how to relate with so much wit and humor, and which he so loved to relate; it devolved upon her to examine the letters of the “black cabinet,” and to read the more interesting ones to the king.

King Louis was not ungrateful to his royal friend, and he rewarded her in a truly royal manner for sometimes banishing ennui from his apartments.  Finding that the countess had no intimate acquaintance with the contents of the Bible, he gave her the splendid Bible of Royaumont, ornamented with one hundred and fifty magnificent engravings, after paintings of Raphael.  Instead of tissue-paper, a thousand-franc note covered each of these engravings[40].

[Footnote 40:  Amours et Galanteries des Rois de France, par St. Edme, vol. ii., p. 383.  Memoires d’une Femme de Qualite, vol. i., p. 409.]

On another occasion, the king gave her a copy of the “Charter;” and in this each leaf was also covered with a thousand-franc note, as in the Bible.

For so many proofs of the royal generosity, the beautiful countess, perhaps willingly, submitted to be called “the royal snuff-box,” which appellation had its origin in the habit which the king fondly indulged in of strewing snuff on the countess’s lovely shoulder, and then snuffing it up with his nose.

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Queen Hortense from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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