Saturday, February 1, 2020

'What They Said' Saturday: "Goodbye, dear sister. I kiss you on both cheeks."

'What They Said' Saturday: a day for quotations of all kinds, including excerpts from letters written by Marie Antoinette and her contemporaries, memoirs, non-fiction, novels and everything in between.

 [image: Madame Clotilde and Madame Elisabeth/Bibliothèque nationale de France]

 One of the more interesting aspects of Marie Antoinette's first few years at Versailles is her correspondance with her siblings, which at times was more carefree and open than the letters she wrote to her mother. In a letter to her sister Christina dated September 8th, 1772, Marie Antoinette described her "beautiful little sisters," Clotilde and Elisabeth. 
"You reproach me, my dear Christine, for not talking to you about my beautiful little sisters Clotilde and Elisabeth; it is true that I have not had the opportunity. Their education being not yet finished, they are entrusted to a lady, Madame de Marsan, and [I see them little] in the summer; I see them very much when I am at Versailles. 

Madame, that is to say, Clotilde, remains what she was, a very kind child, smiling, open, who wants to please everyone and succeeds in being loved by everyone. [At] 13 she is as reasonable as if she was 20. Elisabeth is 8 years old and requires a lot of attention for her education. 

… [In regards to a feast hosted by the sisters] Clotilde enchanted everyone at the party by [greeting all the ladies with kisses on the cheek] one after the other, while Elisabeth gave them only her hand to kiss. 

Goodbye, dear sister, I kiss you on both cheeks."

Readers will no doubt notice Marie Antoinette's valediction, which references Clotilde's 'enchanting' actions at the party (kissing the ladies on the cheek) while also expressing Marie Antoinette's affectionation for her sister. Christina and Antoinette's relationship would become frostier over the years, but their correspondence was notably warm for most of their relationship, despite Maria Christina's status as the favored daughter of Maria Theresa.

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