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 grandnephew. 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 2.4, the author describes the court within the court of Louis XVI’s aunts, whose leader was Madame Adélaïde, the eldest surviving daughter of Louis XV.
A Childhood at Versailles, Chapter 2, Part 4 (2.4)
The little court of Mesdames the King’s aunts was a court within the court, referred to as the Old Court. Its habits were very regular. The princesses spent the whole summer at Bellevue, where their nephews and nieces constantly came for impromptu family dinners. A courier would arrive a few minutes ahead to announce them. When the courier was Monsieur’s, later Louis XVIII, the kitchen would be warned, and the dinner would be more ample and carefully presented. For the others, no warning was given, not even for the King, who had a large appetite, but was not nearly as much a gourmand as his brother.
At Bellevue, the royal family dined with everyone who happened to be there. With the people attached to Mesdames, their families, and a few regular guests, the number generally came to twenty or thirty persons.