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Gabrielle de Polignac, queen Marie-Antoinette's alter ego

Gabrielle | the lost gallery / CC-BY
Castle French Revolution Tragic destiny Marie-Antoinette Gabrielle de Polignac La Voûte-Polignac castle

Gabrielle de Polignac

The Polignac abandoned La Voûte in the 18th century: they preferred Versailles! Let's meet the most famous Polignac: Jules de Polignac and his wife Gabrielle de Polastron, friends of queen Marie-Antoinette!

Gabrielle’s dreams

Yolande-Martine-Gabrielle was born in a noble but poor family. At 18, she married Jules de Polignac. Hard luck! The aforesaid Polignac, a colonel, was poor, too… But Jules was lucky, his wife was amazing: graceful, charming, with a little turned up nose, beautiful blue eyes, rosy lips… She was so pretty! But she was penniless! So, she stood back away from Versailles’ court, and only dreamt about it, lost in her castle in Auvergne! One day, she went to Versailles and… the queen finally noticed her, during a ball, in 1775. Gabrielle was 26. Marie-Antoinette said she never saw her before. Gabrielle answered without any embarrassment she could not afford it. Antoinette seemed touched by her frankness: she would be her new best friend!

The Polignac’s privileges

The queen took her under her wings, gave her lots of privileges. People always saw them arm in arm in Versailles… And Gabrielle’s indebted family was happy: her dad became ambassador and get a big income, her sister-in-law Diane (ugly, humpback, scandalous, but funny) became lady-in-waiting, and of course Gabrielle herself became governess for the king’s kids. And their 400000 livres’ debts were paid back! The family costed to the queen 1 half-million per year, while people of France were starving, em... We understand now why Gabrielle became the perfect instance of the depraved nobility, spending their fortune without counting the cost! The Polignac were everywhere in the Court, people became jealous of them...

Jealous get mad

But soon people accused the pretty Gabrielle: she had gave bad advices to the royal family, for instance, and worst… she had dubious relationship with the queen! Because Gabrielle was Antoinette’s sun beam. And yet, just look at them: do you see them? Laughing, whispering things in each other ears, messing up their hairs and always bickering. But when you were a queen of France, those kind of things were forbidden by the etiquette… The court started to gossip. Mercy-Argenteau informed Marie-Antoinette’s mum in a letter (1779) that her daughter spent hours with Gabrielle, locked in a room… Their hugs and kisses chocked everyone! Gabrielle was a real friend, in this artificial and false court! A friend, imagine… a rare present! Because Marie-Antoinette was not only a queen: she was a young woman, full of life… Besides, she said: ″Alone with her, I’m not the queen anymore, I’m myself!″ Meanwhile, the French people started to growl and the squibs arrived.

Venom for Gabrielle

After her lovers Fersen, count d’Artois and Lauzun, the queen had another one, said gossips: Gabrielle! Antoinette became a lecherous and insatiable woman. Smutty squibs arrived, like this Godemiché Royal (″Royal dildo″, genuine!) or Les Fureurs utérines (″The Uterine rages″)…. In La liste civile (″The Civil List″), Gabrielle became a ″prostitute, seducer and cheater″. Homosexual relationships were established, no doubt! ″Adieu, my dearest friend! Oh, this word is so awful… but we have to. Adieu! I only have the strength to kiss you″ wrote the queen in 1789, just before Gabrielle’s emigration. This one died in 1793: not on the guillotine! But of a breast cancer at the age of 44, in Vienna… 50 days after Antoinette.

The Polignac: the return

During the French Revolution, owners were forced to leave their castle. Then this one was damaged, plundered and sold. But wait! The Polignac get their castle back in 1815... Guy de Polignac restored it from 1888: he only altered the southern façade.

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!