A Childhood at Versailles consists of the first 5 chapters of the memoirs of Mme de Boigne (1781-1866), née Adèle d’Osmond, who was a French salon hostess and writer. She was born in the Château de Versailles and lived at the court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette until her family fled to England during the Revolution. Later in her long life, she married a rich soldier of fortune 30 years her senior, hosted a brilliant salon in Paris, and became an intimate of the last French queen, Marie-Amélie, consort of King Louis Philippe (r. 1830-1848). Childless herself, Mme de Boigne addressed her memoirs to her nephew. The memoirs were not published until 1907, under the title Récits d’une tante, or An Aunt’s Tales. They’ve never been published in English, as far as I know, so I’ve decided to translate the first 5 chapters, the ones that take place mainly at Versailles, and post them here on this blog for interested readers to enjoy for free.
The chapters are quite lengthy, so I’ve broken each one into several parts. In Part 1.3 (see below), Mme de Boigne recalls the sharp class distinctions among the courtiers residing at Versailles on the eve of the Revolution. Hint: Not everyone who lived at Court was a courtier.
A CHILDHOOD AT VERSAILLES, PART 1.3
It was soon after my parents settled into Versailles that I came into the world. My mother had already been delivered of a still-born infant, so I was welcomed with transports of joy and pardoned for being a girl. I was not swaddled, as was still the custom, but dressed in the English manner and nursed by my mother in the midst of Versailles. I promptly became the plaything of the princes and the court, all the more since I was very well-behaved, and also since children in those days were as rare a species in a drawing room as they are common and tyrannical today.
My father fashioned a routine for himself and ended up reconciling himself with Court life.