The Ranums' Panat Times
A Banquet at the Hôtel de Guise, 1671
A grand fête was held at the Hôtel de Guise in February 1671, after the wedding by procuration of Marie-Angélique-Henriette de Lorraine, the daughter of the comte d'Harcourt, to a Portuguese nobleman, the Duke of Cadaval. For the signing of the contract, the bride was escorted to the Tuileries by her kinswoman, Marie de Lorraine ("Mlle de Guise") and by Louis-Joseph de Lorraine, the young Duke of Guise, Mlle de Guise's nephew, "accompagnée de tous les Princes et Princesses de la Maison de Lorraine" (Gazette de France, February 1, 1671). On February 8, the marriage was celebrated in the chapel of the Hôtel de Guise. Mme de Sévigné's comments about the fête that followed the wedding suggest the lavishness of the event. She alludes to "2000 lanterns" in the courtyards and garden, to the lights and ornaments that decorated Mlle de Guise's apartment, and to the supper with the queen to which a select group of ladies were invited. "Il y avoit quarante dames à table," she notes, "le souper fut magnifique." A ball followed (but there is no evidence that Marc-Antoine Charpentier wrote any music for this event).
Allusions to the splendid banquet made their way to Florence. Cosimo III de Médicis (and, one can presume, his wife, who was the sister of the young Duchess of Guise) was terribly curious, doubtlessly stirred by memories of the lavish entertainments that the Guises had organized during his own visit to Paris in 1669. So Cosimo sought a detailed description of the buffet offered that night by the Guises Louis-Joseph de Lorraine, Duke of Guise, Cosimo's brother-in-law; Isabelle d'Orléans, his sister-in-law; and Mlle de Guise, his mother's longtime friend and correspondent. He instructed the Medici agent in Paris to do a bit of cultural espionage and send him a description of the table and its contents, because for his own "banquets" he wanted to "imitate" the "design of the table," which he had heard was very "ingenious" (March 6, 1671).
On April 3, the Parisian agent replied that he would talk with the Guise staff and obtain an exact description, but the individual in question was unavailable at the moment. (And by the way, would Cosimo like descriptions of banquets given by Verneuil and by the Chaulnes?) The reply was, of course, "yes," and Cosimo added that he wanted descriptions of the sort to be provided him on a regular basis.
On 15 May 1671, the long-awaited description of the banquet was dispatched to Florence:
"Le soupper que son Altesse Royale [Mme de Guise ] donna à la Reyne le 7 febvrier [....the top of this page is eaten and torn because the piece of paper was very long] à peu prez commme il ensuit:
La table estoit de 24 pied 4 poulces de long sur sept piedz de large. Il y avoit au milieu de la table douze petites cuvettes d'argent en facon de corbeilles remplyes de toutes sortes de fleurs quoy que rares dans la saizon et neuf girandolles garnies de neuf bougies chacune.
The reply that Cosimo's secretary sent back to Paris is an eloquent witness of Florentine esthetics: his master wished they had more about the symmetry of the tables, and so forth.