Just two days after meeting him for the first time, Marie Antoinette married the future King Louis XVI of France in person.
On 16 May 1770, the ceremony took place at the Royal Chapel at the Palace of Versailles. Marie Antoinette arrived at Versailles from La Muette at 9.30 in the morning, not yet dressed in her wedding dress. She was taken to the ground-floor apartments that had belonged to her late mother-in-law to prepare for the wedding. She briefly met her husband’s young sisters, nine-year-old Clothilde and six-year-old Elisabeth. She also met his two brothers, the Counts of Artois and Provence, who were 12 and 14, respectively.
She was then presented with the jewels entitled to her as Dauphine of France. As there was no Queen, she also received a collar of pearls which had been bequeathed to the Queens of France by Anne of Austria, Queen of King Louis XIII of France. Anne was not only her husband’s ancestress but also her own.
Marie Antoinette was dressed in a “diamond-studded cloth-of-silver wedding gown”, which had an embarrassing gap at the back through which her underwear could be seen.1 Her “bearing of an archduchess” was commended during the long mass.2 By contrast, her new husband was considered to be sulking, and he trembled as he placed the wedding ring on her finger.3
The following celebrations were felt to be part of the “finest royal wedding anyone had ever seen.”4 After the wedding ceremony, a ballet and an opera were performed at the brand-new theatre. This was followed by a state dinner with a gold service.5
The ritual bedding ceremony was still to come. The Archbishop of Rheims blessed the nuptial bed, and King Louis XV handed his grandson his nightgown. Marie Antoinette received hers from the Duchess of Chartres. They were then formally put to bed before everyone with the Rights of Entry bowed or curtseyed and departed. And then… nothing happened. The marriage would remain famously unconsummated for many years to come.