An Anecdote of Marie Antoinette
Mrs. [Sarah] Austin, Lady Duff Gordon’s mother, met forty years ago, in Dresden, the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, who told her this story on the authority of his mother-in-law, the Empress of Russia:
“When Paul and his wife went to Paris, they were called, as is well known, de Comte and la Comtesse du Nord. The Comtesse du Nord accompanied Marie Antoinette to the theater at Versailles. Marie Antoinette pointed out, behind her fan, all the distinguished persons in the house. In doing this, she had her head bent forward; all of a sudden she drew back with such an expression of terror and horror that the Comtesse said, ‘Pardon, madame, mais je sui sur que vous avez vu quelque chose qui vous agite.’
The Queen, after she had recovered herself, told her that there was about the Court, but not of right belonging to it, a woman who professed to read fortunes on cards. One evening she had been displaying her skill to several ladies, and at length the Queen desired to have her own destiny told. The cards were arranged in the usual manner, but when the woman had to read the result she looked horror struck, and stammered out some generalities. The Queen insisted on her saying what she saw, but she declared she could not. ‘From that time,” said Marie Antoinette, ‘the sight of that woman produces in me a feeling I can not describe of aversion and horror and she seems studiously to throw herself in my way.”
Cincinnati [OH] Daily Gazette 14 September 1877: p. 2
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Lady Duff-Gordon, was, of course, the famous couturière Lucile. “Paul” was Paul I, the Russian emperor, son of Catherine the Great. His wife was Sophie-Dorothée Augusta Luisa von Württemberg, later Empress Marie Feodorovna. The trip, which lasted 14 months through 1781-82, took them to Poland, Austria, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Germany and France, where the couple was presented at Versailles.
Mrs Daffodil has wondered about the identity of the fortune-teller and thought perhaps it might have been the legendary card-reader Marie-Anne Lenormand [1772-1843], but she was too young to have been reading cards for the French court in the early 1780s. Lenormand later correctly predicted Josephine Beauharnais’s future when she was imprisoned during the Terror.
Other persons have claimed to have divined the fate of the Queen in the verses of Nostradamus and by finding words in the letters of her name and titles. Given Marie Antoinette’s extravagance and unpopularity, one imagines that dark prophesies of death for the Queen were to be found among all classes, and not just with the Initiated.
That Royalist person over at Haunted Ohio has posted about a man who claimed to have seen the ghost of King Louis XVI, a year to the day after he was guillotined. Mrs Daffodil previously posted about the Trianon fish in gold collars who prophesied doom for France and about Marie Antoinette’s death warrant.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.