I’ve been interested in British and French history since I was a teenager, and relish the art, fashion, and scandalous stories of royalty, the elite, and the demi-monde of the 17th to 19th century. Perhaps this stems from reading childhood tales of kings and queens, courtesans and courtiers, who surrounded themselves with the luxurious accouterments that were an intrinsic part of their lavish lifestyles.
Are there still craftsmen who create exquisite cabinets and commodes in precious ebony, marble, porcelain, and gold? Couturiers who use thirty yards or more of fine velvet for a ballgown, spangling it with real diamonds and gold thread, and icing it with lengths of delicate handmade lace? Each era features its own excesses defined by prevailing trends – certainly no one wears that kind of clothing anymore - yet it seems that nothing made now can truly compare to the creations of the past.
My favorite portrait of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France. Titled “Marie Antoinette a la rose” it was painted in the rococo style in oils on canvas in 1783 by Marie-Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Le Brun, the Queen’s favorite portrait painter. Image from here.
Fortunately much material still survives from those years, for our present edification. “Marie Antoinette’s Gossip Guide to the 18th Century” and “Tea at Trianon” are among the best blogs on the subject.
On the subject of scandal, Scandalous Woman is the most informative blog I have come across. It’s been said that the very rich and the very poor have no morals – the former because they possess the money to do whatever they want, and the latter because they don’t and have nothing to lose. The behavior of some of these entitled nobles and their hangers-on still raises eyebrows today.