As soon as the introductions were over, the King took my hand and led me to the Dauphin, who I had barely noticed since entering the room. He seemed to be trying his best to hide from view and looked uncomfortable and ill at ease in his suit of white satin, sewn all over with diamonds and gold embroidery and I noticed with irritation that he was scratching at his neck underneath the fine white linen of his shirt collar, leaving red scratch marks beneath his powdered wig.
‘Are you ready?’ the King asked as he gave my hand to the Dauphin. ‘All of Versailles awaits you.’
I nodded, feeling the Dauphin’s hand grow hot and clammy against my own. ‘I am ready.’
The King nodded to the waiting footmen and they instantly flung open the huge doors that led to the Hall of Mirrors. The Dauphin led me out and the King, royal family and our attendants arranged themselves behind us so that we formed a long, glittering procession.
I paused for a second in the doorway, my courage failing me as I looked at the rows upon rows upon rows of splendidly dressed courtiers who all stared at me as they jostled each other rudely for space. I wanted to be able to remember this scene, my first proper glimpse of Versailles for the rest of my life. There was light and crystal and marble and splendour wherever I looked and I knew that the Abbé had not lied when he told me that the Hall of Mirrors was the most beautiful room in all of the world.
‘Madame,’ the Dauphin murmured, gently reminding me that there was no time to stand and stare.
I gathered up all of my bravado and lifted my head high before allowing him to lead me slowly down the gallery and then through a series of equally opulent and gorgeously appointed rooms, all of which were crammed with beautiful furniture, portraits, statues and wonderful ceiling paintings depicting Roman deities. Each room was filled with people, who fell silent and curtsied with insolent stares as I went past. The women openly looked me up and down then whispered to each other behind their painted fans while the men’s gazes were much more appraising and lingered on my bosom then my ankles, which were just visible beneath the heavy silver skirts.
‘This is the way to the chapel,’ the Dauphin whispered as we went down some stairs, leaving the King who would be watching from his balcony upstairs. Oh marvellous, he likes to lecture me as well. What fun. ‘We go this way to Mass every morning.’
‘In front of all those people?’ I whispered back, aghast.
He looked at me then and I believe that I saw the faintest glimmer of a smile. ‘Naturally.’
It did not take us long to reach the royal chapel and there was a small pause in the vestibule as my ladies came forward and tweaked my skirts and tried their best to hide the wide expanse of lacing at my back which betrayed the fact that my dress was much too small for me. ‘Good luck,’ Madame de Mailly whispered as they melted back again, their silk skirts rustling against the marble floor. ‘You look beautiful. Look straight ahead at the altar and ignore all the stares.’
I smiled and squeezed the Dauphin’s hand reassuringly, wishing, now that I had overcome my own fears that there was some way that I could bring the colour back to his cheeks and stop him trembling. ‘It will be over soon,’ was the best that I could manage as we stepped forward into the luminous white and gold light of the chapel.
This is the end of the first part of Marie Antoinette’s journals. I am going to be taking a short break now while I work on a different project but never fear, we will be picking up again very soon so please don’t unsubscribe! I hope that you have enjoyed reading this imagined diary, please feel free to let me know what you thought! Comments are always welcome. Many thanks for all the support. x