Marie Antoinette was my husband’s grandfather’s aunt, and, secretly, I idolized her. Various portraits of “Madame Deficit” –as the French continue to refer to her–hung about both the Hof and the summer castle, Schönbrunn. Sure, her life ended badly, but it was great fun while it lasted.
She had a sanguine temperament (unlike me and my constant battle with melancholy), and had such a salon of interesting friends, most notable among them, her suspected lover, Count Fersen. Whether they did, or did not, consummate their affections remains gossip-worthy even now, a hundred years later, as I listen to the casual chit-chat of my ladies, while they tend me.
What we have in common more than anything, Marie and me, is perhaps our mutual appreciation for a good party–and I don’t mean one of those stuffy state Court affairs–no, I like to kick up my slippers at a festive ball. And by festive, I mean, one that excludes parents! (Including a certain Archduchess who shall not by named.)
Back in the early days of marriage, I would arrange these parties in my apartment, and they came to be known as Sisi’s “orphan balls.”
Most famous was one where I’d invited 25 couples and expressly forbid any consorts or mothers. The speculation, of course, was that I was “acting out” after a fight with my mother-in-law, and that due to political and domestic pressures my husband had taken up with some tart or another, and perhaps all of that played a role in my need to host a ball where I called the shots, but I like to think that I held parties so I could move, unrestricted, at long last.
Dancing until dawn, watching the sunrise out the ballroom windows. The poetry readings! The singing! It was all so very Marie. Ah, for those salad days once more.