How did Marie Antoinette celebrate her 21st birthday?

Château Fontainebleau is the only royal and imperial château to have been continuously inhabited for seven centuries. Photo via Musee château Fontainebleau 

When a Queen turns 21, you have to do something big! Of course a party would be planned for her birthday, but what could be done to make the event even bigger? How about starting the party before her birthday even arrived? 36 hours before Marie Antoinette turned 21 the Faro tables opened!

 Marie Antoinette's 18th birthday party was depicted in the film, Marie Antoinette. 

It began at château de Fontainebleau, around 7pm on October 30, with a room full of players from Paris who acted as bankers for the game.  They ran the Faro tables for the guests to enjoy. Of course she had all her friends there! Tons of money circulated through the night in an all-out continuous party. Yes, 32 hours!¹ There were drinks and excitement to carry those who became tired throughout the night with the party finally wrapping up at three in the morning on November 1st.

 Falling asleep during Mass! From the 2006 film, Marie Antoinette.

What everyone may not have been thinking about during the party was going to church the next morning. When the Mass of All Saints was held for the court the following day it was a bit of a disaster. Those who made it, and you really should have made it.... were pale as ghosts, dark circles under the eyes and most were hunched over from exhaustion. It was quite the scandal and everyone was talking about it.

What did Louis have to say about this event?
"When the king taxed his wife with this, she replied naughtily: 'You said we could play, but you never specified for how long.'
The King merely laughed and said quite cheerfully: 'You're all worthless, the lot of you.'"²
The celebration was certainly in contrast to how she spent previous birthdays. According to the Comte De Mercy, in a letter dated November 2, 1772, she spent her seventeenth birthday as she had always, in devotion and retreat.³

¹Hilaire Belloc, Marie Antoinette.  (New York: Doubleday, Page & Co, 1909), 133.

²Alfred Von D'Arneth and Geffrey M. A. Marie Antoinette. Correspondance Secrète Entre Marie-Thérèse Et Le Cte De Mercy-Argenteau, Avec Les Lettres De Marie-Thérèse Et De Marie-Antoinette. Vol. 2. (Paris: Libraire De Firmin Didot Frères, Fils Et. Imprimeurs De L'institut, Rue Jacob, 56, 1874), 10, quoted in Fraser, Antonia. Marie Antoinette the Journey. (New York, NY: N.A. Talese/Doubleday, 2001), 141.

³Lillian C. Smythe, Mercy d'Argenteau, Florimund, The Guardian of Marie Antoinette; Letters from the Comte De Mercy-Argenteau, Austrian Ambassador to the Court of Versailles, to Marie Thérêse, Empress of Austria, 1770-1780, (London: Hutchinson, 1902), 220-221.

Images: Marie Antoinette. Directed by Sofia Coppola. Performed by Kirsten Dunst. United States: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2007.


  1. Now that's a party! I think I got sushi and saki (def not up to par)

  2. If you're going to turn 21, that's the way to do it.

  3. It sounds like the 18th century version of "Spring Break"!

  4. Life is short so eat that cake, take that trip, and live life to the fullest because you never know when it will end