These ladies of announcement, or first ladies of the chamber, or readers, as the reader may please to call them, had under their orders six femmes de chambre, who entered the Empress’s rooms only when summoned there by a bell. These latter arranged her Majesty’s toilet and hair in the morning; and the six first ladies took no part in her toilet except the care of the diamonds, of which they had special charge. Their chief and almost only employment was to follow the steps of the Empress, whom they left no more than her shadow, entering her room before she arose, and leaving her no more till she was in bed. Then all the doors opening into her room were closed, except that leading into an adjoining room, in which was the bed of the lady on duty, and through which, in order to enter his wife’s room, the Emperor himself must pass.
With the exception of M. de Meneval, secretary of orders of the Empress, and M. Ballouhai, superintendent of expenses, no man was admitted into the private apartments of the Empress without an order from the Emperor; and the ladies even, except the lady of honor and the lady of attire, were received only after making an appointment with the Empress. The ladies of the private apartments were required to observe these rules, and were responsible for their execution; and one of them was required to be present at the music, painting, and embroidery lessons of the Empress, and wrote letters by her dictation or under her orders.
The Emperor did not wish that any man in the world should boast of having been alone with the Empress for two minutes; and he reprimanded very severely the lady on duty because she one day remained at the end of the saloon while M. Biennais, court watchmaker, showed her Majesty a secret drawer in a portfolio he had made for her. Another time the Emperor was much displeased because the lady on duty was not seated by the side of the Empress while she took her music-lesson with M. Pier.
These facts prove conclusively the falsity of the statement that the milliner Leroy was excluded from the palace for taking the liberty of saying to her Majesty that she had beautiful shoulders. M. Leroy had the dresses of the Empress made at his shop by a model which was sent him; and they were never tried on her Majesty, either by him, or any person of her Majesty’s household, and necessary alterations were indicated by her femmes de chambre. It was the same with the other merchants and furnishers, makers of corsets, the shoemaker, glovemaker, etc.; not one of whom ever saw the Empress or spoke to her in her private apartments.