Pups of the past: Marie Antoinette's dogs

August 11, 2011

Pups of the past: Marie Antoinette's dogs

I have been doing a little bit of reading on some historical pups of money. I have never had a dog of my own, but I see the appeal! So lets start off with Mops.

Le Doguin.

Mops was the young archduchess' pug.  In Caroline Weber's Queen of Fashion, the pup is described as tawney in color and as one of the accessories that could not be brought to France.  Mops had to ride back to Vienna without his owner.  Weber's mention of Mops implies that dogs were too much of a liability, for a lady who needs to keep a perfect image.  "His dirty paws could simply not be trusted around a woman who, now more than ever, was going to have to look her best."

Mops was eventually sent to France and reunited with the new dauphine.

Henri-Pierre Danloux, Studies of a Spaniel. Black chalk on fine-textured blue paper, 1791.  Ashmolean Museum.

And how could we forget Thisbe?  This little spaniel belonged to the queen during her later years, and some revolutionary stories about the pup give him a Greyfriars Bobby-like tale!  The little spaniel, known as Thisbe, was with the queen and her family when they were imprisoned in the Temple.  When Louis XVI was guillotined, the pup stayed with the queen and her children, and still when the children were taken.  Only were they separated when Marie Antoinette was moved to the Conciergerie.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Banquet of Antony and Cleopatra; detail of a dog. Fresco. Palazzo Labia.

Well you can't keep a pup from his owner, and little Thisbe tracked down the door to where Marie Antoinette was held.  He sat outside all day.  People began to talk about just who the dog was waiting for, "The queen herself..." 

A certain Madame Arnaud couldn't pass the sad dog without sympathy. She discreetly kept him fed and even let him sleep at her house.  Concerned friends and family warned her of the danger showing any favor to anything related to the royal family.  Under this pressure, she sent the spaniel to her sister.

Her sister cared for the dog, but found him to be most disagreeable.  Yipping and howling all day, barely eating his food, she undoubtedly wondered why her sister cared for him so much.  Perhaps to the delight of both parties, Thisbe was able to sneak out of the house one day, when someone cracked open the door- he quickly darted through!

Anonymous French, Studies of a Spaniel. Red chalk on paper, 18th century. Ashmolean Museum.
He traveled back to his spot near the gates of the conciergerie, where he kept his post as before.  When the doors finally opened, a cart of people rolled through.  This remarkable animal, recognizing his owner, followed this cart through the streets, and wandered around as the prisoners were unloaded. 

"The Queen's head fell-there was a moment's dead silence-then the loud, agonising howl of a dog. In an instant, a soldier's bayonet pierced its heart. "So perish all that mourn an aristocrat" he cried; and mourning indeed an aristocrat died. Thisbe le chien de la Reine."

E., C. o'C. . "The Queen's Favourite." The Irish Monthly: A Magazine of General Literature 14 (1886): 390-91.
Ross, Estelle. 1922. The book of noble dogs. New York: Century Co.

Related: Pups of the Past: Dogs at Versailles
Pups of the Past: Louis XV


  1. The French Revolution was a godless horror!

  2. I knew about Mops but not the ill-fated Thisbe. *wipes away tear*

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  4. C'est degueulasse!/This is disgusting! I shall call P.E.T.A., A.S.A.P.!
    I hope Thisbe was given a proper burial? Otherwise, the next time I visit Paris I shall make sure my dog pees and poops ALL OVER la Place de la Concorde/Louis XV!!!! Then, I will place an indignant placard; " Ici ci-git, Thisbe chien fidele meme jsq'la mort de S.M. la reine Marie-Antoinette, tue par un connard bourgeois le 16 octobre 1793/Here lies, Thisbe beloved dog of Her Majesty Queen Marie-Antoinette, killed senselessly by a common A$$hole the16th October 1793.

  5. I'd never heard about Thisbe before, what a sad story for such a loyal dog.

  6. Pups should not be punished in a revolution!

  7. This story is super sad! But I have to wonder if it is not merely a sympathetic tale like the recently disproved Greyfriar Bobby one?

    ...a Victorian publicity stunt?

  8. If anyone knows of any images of the queen's dogs let me know. Thanks!

  9. Poor, loyal, beautiful Thisbe! This made my heart ache so! The fact that the revolutionaries could kill an innocent dog, justifying it because it was a "royalist," is too terrible for words. It just turns my stomach at how demonic these people were.

  10. Is the story of Thisbe's loyalty true? I suppose even if it's not, it might be touching to include part of it in the third novel of my MA trilogy. I knew she had a small dog in the Temple and I was pretty sure it was allowed into the Conciergerie with her and the jailers (or the maid, Rosalie) took care of it afterwards (which would put the lie to Thisbe's brutal murder).

    Marie Antoinette definitely owned another famous dog during the years she was queen. Count Axel von Fersen gave her a dog from Sweden (it was his idea, but her request for "a large hound" because she wanted a change from her lapdogs. She named the dog Odin (after the king of the Norse gods).

  11. @Juliet Grey interesting! Thanks for sharing!!

  12. Oh my God, what a touching story about Thisbe!

  13. hey, if he's an aristocrat he should've been guillotined. vive le revolucion.

    1. You're sick if you'd guillotine a freaking puppy!

  14. Replies
    1. I haven't come across any information on Mops' death but if I ever do I will be sure to share it! I am going to guess he passed rather spoiled and old.

  15. I would like to know what your resources are for this post. My daughter has to do some research on Marie Antoinette's dogs but it's hard to find sources she is allowed to use in citations (.org, .edu, etc.). Any help would be great.