May 8 2010
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Chapter 1 The Flanders Regiment Banquet Oct 1, 1789
If there was anything Marguerite St. Just was certain of doing well, it was executing a grand entrance to perfection. She could predict the oohs and ahhs her fashionable sapphire-on-white embroidered gown would affect. She knew exactly how the plume on her fiery hair would lend a towering illusion to her medium height. And that the best angle for which to display the diamonds around her porcelain neck was to enter facing the chandeliers at precisely 45 degrees.
Countless nights had she played to enthralled audiences at the Theatre Comedie. Tonight might be no different, except that the atmosphere was tense, the stage, was a royal banquet and the man at her side, her cousin, Louis-Antoine, recently made a Lt. Col of the French National Guard.
Not her usual set-up perhaps.
The actress in her however, could not help but turn over in her head what she might say as they entered tonight’s dinner banquet. "What a disgusting display of pomp and arrogance!" Had not the rumors about Versailles been confirmed from the moment they had set foot upon this estate? Here one would find all the riches that rightfully belonged to the people of France! Surely all this ostentatious display of wealth would reach a gaudy climax in the King’s own Opera House.
But instead Marguerite held her tongue, for she could not be sure what she was in for. It was this same prudence that had earned her the title, "the cleverest woman in France."
The dinner this evening was given in honor of the Flanders Regiment. As it was customary that a banquet be held for any touring troops at Versailles, this was no exception. However, a growing public disapproval for lavish feasts at this country palace lent a sour taste to tonight’s feasting.
Louis St. Just had countless times asked to escort her to various functions, but only recently had these invitations revealed a more refined taste, thought Marguerite. He could be very crude sometimes, inviting her to unsavory fetes and places of ill repute. Using language ridden with sexual innuendos. This was not surprising given that his claim to fame was an explicitly lewd document that raged against Church and King. But as he often reminded her, they were family. And quite frankly, she owed him her entry into the Paris stage. And so she had agreed. After all, she thought, she had always wanted to see Versailles.
"Mademoiselle Marguerite St. Just et Monsieur Louis St. Just!" bellowed the royal butler as they paused at the entrance to Opera House.
So unexpected was the weakening of her knees upon entering the double doors that she held fast to Louis’s arm for support. When she looked up at the ceiling she beheld the dazzling sight of crystal chandeliers. Such beautiful hues in the painting above were picked up by the heavy turquoise and gold curtain that draped down upon the theater’s main stage.
But for the chance to perform in a place such as this, she thought!
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