16 may 1770
After traveling in a bon bon box of a carriage across Europe for weeks on end, Marie Antoinette (neé Maria Antonia Josepha Joanna de Lorraine, Archduchess of Austria) found herself in the forest near Compiègne where the road crossed the river: the Bridge of Berne.
Marie Antoinette was introduced to her husband-to-be, Dauphin of France, Louis Auguste. (He would not be known as Louis XVI until his grandfather died and he ascended the throne.) Related as the most awkard encounter imaginable, the teens’ cursory salutation culminated with Louis’ heroic mustering of a peck on Antoinette’s cheek.
In the middle of this forest popular for deer hunting, Marie Antoinette also met the Mesdames Tantes, the king’s three spinster sisters. Horace Walpole described them as “clumsy, plump old wrenches” and, in the year 1770, was quite accurate. Madame Adélaïde (38) had been nicknamed “Rag” by her brother when they were children. Madame Victoire (37) had grown so corpulent Louis XV had dubbed her “Sow.” Grub was the moniker the king gave his youngest sister Madame Sophie (36).
Most importantly, the new dauphine met her Monsieur mon frère et très cher grand-père, the King of France Louis XV. From that point on, Marie Antoinette would address the monarch as “Papa-roi”. (Oddly not “grandpapa-roi?”) She dropped to her knees in front of the King and he raised her up, touched by the gesture. He found her to be a charming, yet physically immature girl. He admitted out loud that he’d checked out her rack. He questioned his ambassador to Austria if he’d done the same. “Oh didn’t you? That’s the first thing I look at.”