In several web pages and articles, I have alluded to the fact Charpentier's "French" notebooks for the period August 1671 through April 1673 contain very few pieces. I have attributed this to the grand deuil being observed by Son Altesse Royale Isabelle d'Orléans ("Mme de Guise") after the death of her husband, Louis-Joseph de Lorraine, Duke of Guise, in July 1671, and then of her mother, Marguerite de Lorraine, Duchess of Orléans, in April 1672. These periods of mourning were also observed by Son Altesse Marie de Lorraine ("Mlle de Guise"), a "foreign princess naturalized in France" who was not only the aunt and guardian of the late duke but also the cousin of the late duchess.
In none of my articles (nor in my Portraits around Marc-Antoine Charpentier) did I evoke the visual and psychological ambiance at the Hôtel de Guise during these twenty-one months of mourning. One can nonetheless imagine what these back-to-back periods of mourning must have been like for the householders of the two Guise women. In 1671 a void was abruptly created when the weeping princesses withdrew to the abbey of Montmartre for forty days, sometimes summoning up the courage to receive speeches of condolence in their great beds, but sometimes refusing to receive dignitaries who were eager to express official condolences. (1)
Despite the women's absence, protocol demanded that the Hôtel de Guise be draped in black. The vast rooms of the Hôtel de Guise were abandoned to householders who tiptoed about and conversed in whispers, to honor their late master.
Less than a year later, the Guise women were plunged into another period of grand deuil, this time for the late "Madame," duchess of Orléans.
The following two quotations permit us to imagine the ambiance of the months of deep mourning that hung over the princesses and their householders.
The first quotation comes from Dirk Van der Cruysse's Madame Palatine (Fayard, 1988), pp. 421-22. The German-born Madame describes the protocol she had to observe in 1702 during the forty days that followed the death of her husband, Louis XIV's brother. It is virtually certain that young Mme de Guise observed this protocol, and that she too received condolences in her great bed, dressed more or less like a nun. Mlle de Guise almost certainly did the same, albeit in a somewhat less sumptuous manner befitting her lower status. We know, for example, that she received the Florentine envoy in her bed at the Hôtel de Guise, just as Mme Palatine received the king and queen of England in her bed.
"J'ai dû recevoir le roy et la reine d'Angleterre en cérémonie dans une tenue extravagante: le front ceint d'un bandeau de lin blanc, au-dessus une cape nouée sous le menton, une cornette sur la cape, sur la cornette un tissu de lin comme un voile attaché aux deux épaules comme une mante de crêpe avec une traîne de sept unes de longueur. J'avais au corps une longue jupe de drap noir avec de longues manches jusqu'au poignet, et de l'hermine d'une largeur de deux mains sur les manches; une ceinture de crépon noir tombant devant par terre, et une traîne à la jupe d'hermine également d'une longueur de sept aunes. On m'a installée en cet appareil dans une pièce toute noire; même le parquet était couvert et les fenêtres drapées. On m'a couchée sur un lit noir, la traîne disposée de façon à montrer les hermines. Un grand lustre de douze chandelles alumées éclairait la pièce, et dix ou douze chandelles sur la cheminée. Tous mes domestiques grands et petits en longs manteaux de deuil, et quarante ou cinquante dames en mantes de crêpe. Tout cela avait l'air affreux ..."
The second quotation comes from Saint-Simon, who recounts how, after the funeral, Madame Palatine removed the headband, the veil and the mante, and how Louis XIV "suppressed" the "rest of this équipage lugubre, pour ne pas voir tous les jours de objets si tristes." (I interpret this as meaning that the black hangings were removed from the reception room, and that courtiers were permitted to go about without the usual cumbersome black mantels.)
According to Saint-Simon, Madame continued to wear her mourning clothes when she appeared in public, but in private she rebelled and removed part, if not all, of the uncomfortable headdress: Saint-Simon states that: "Il ne laisse pas de paraître fort étrange de voir Madame en public [...] en tourière des filles de Sainte-Marie [nuns of the Visitation, often called the "Visitandines, depicted in this contemporary painting"], à leur croix de près, sous prétexte qu'étant avec le Roi et chez lui, elle était en famille." During the year of mourning (which ended with a mass marking the bout de l'an), Madame, according to D. Van der Cruysse, "allait porter une année entière cet habit réduit."
During that year, Madame gradually was permitted to attend those -- and only those -- court entertainments conducting in the private quarters of the royal family: "Pendant cette période de deuil," notes D. Van der Cruysse, "la chasse et les spectacles lui étaient en principe interdits, mais on la vit accompagner le Roi chassant dans sa calèche à Fontainebleau, et assister l'hiver suivant à des comédies jouées dans l'intimité de la famille royale."
To these two quotations let me add a few sentences taken from vol. 2, p.19, of Philippe Erlanger's edition of Saint-Simon, Mémoires, 1695-1699 (Paris: Editions Ramsay, 1977). Saint-Simon wrote: "Ma mère étoit encore dans son second deuil et son appartement noir et gris...." Erlanger, note 1, explains: "A cette époque les deuils avaient encore leur durée primitive, qui fut diminuée de moitié par l'ordonnnance de 1716. Le deuil de veuve était donc de deux ans. Pendant la durée du deuil, les antichambres devaient être tendues de noir, la chambre à coucher et le cabinet de gris; durant les six premiers mois, tous les meubles, glaces, tableaux, etc. disparaissaient sous ces tentures."
In other words, we can assume that, at the Hôtel de Guise and/or at the Palais d'Orléans, in 1671-1673 and again in 1675, the antechambers were draped in black, the bedrooms of the princesses were festooned with grey draperies, and the furniture, mirrors and paintings in the principal reception rooms "disappeared under these hangings."
The sources suggest that although music was not totally excluded during those long months, it had to evoke mourning or profound sorrow. For example, H.94 in cahier 2 suggests that during Holy Week of 1672, concealed by the obscurity of the old romanesque church at the abbey of Montmartre where they were lodging at the time, the two grieving women attended a Tenebrae service; and H.157 and H.95 in cahier 6 suggest similar musical devotions during Holy Week of 1673. It also seems likely that some, if not all the pieces in cahiers 3, 4 and 5 were used/reused at the bout de l'an of the Duke of Guise and the reception of the heart of the Duchess of Orléans. A momentary exception to this withdrawal from the world was, of course, granted to Mme de Guise, who appeared in full mourning garb when her mother's body was borne to Saint-Denis, and when the funeral was held there forty days later.
To conclude, in the French notebooks dating from late July 1671 to April 1673, there are several long works suitable for funerals and/or bouts de l'an; plus a few pieces for Tenebrae that coincide with grand deuil at Montmartre. But there are no works that suggest that, even for a few hours, the princesses abandoned the year of formal mourning. By contrast, the Roman notebooks for those same years (cahiers I-XVII) contain numerous religious works for large ensembles, plus the cheerful music the Charpentier wrote for Molière's Malade imaginaire.
1. Florence, Archivio di Stato, MdelP, 6161, Aug. 7, 1671: "Madame et Mlle de Guise se sont refermées à Montmartre pour y passer quarante jours où elles ne voient personne si ce n'est la maison royalle. " Both women were still at Montmartre on Sept. 11. When Mme d'Orléans died on April 3, 1672, "Madama di Guisa e tornata da Montmartre ....." where she began to receive visits of condolence, MdelP 4670, 3 April 1672. The death of the little duke of Guise on March 16, 1675, provoked a similar withdrawal from the world -- this time for more than the usual forty days: "Madama di Guisa ... che inconsolabile tuttavia si è retirat in Montmartre, accompagnata cola dentre dal istessa Madamigella essandis," MdelP 4817, March 14, 1675. Gondi, the resident in Paris for the Grand Duke of Tuscany, was unable to see them because, he wrote on March 22, they are seeing no one. They were still at Montmartre on April 20. On May 31, when Gondi's brother finally was received at the Hôtel de Guise and expressed the Medicis' condolences to Mlle de Guise, she was still in deep mourning: "stando ella à Letto conforme allo stile pratticato qu'a di Ricevere simile sorte di complemente." She was surrounded by a large number of ladies, and her reply was punctuated by weeping (MdelP 4817).