At the start of every new year the king, queen, princes and princesses of the blood and members of the royal family gave New Year’s gifts to show their appreciation or friendship to members of the Court.

Usually on New Year’s Day, the king generously handed out a number of gifts, such as gold snuffboxes commissioned by the Menus-Plaisirs administration from the greatest Parisian goldsmiths. In his Memoires, the Duke of Luynes wrote an account of Louis XV giving such a gift on Monday 4 January 1740: “Yesterday Mme de Vintimille showed us a gold inlaid box that the king had given her for New Year on Thursday, New Year’s Eve. The king asked her lots of questions: whether she had ever been given a New Year’s gift, if she wanted to receive one. Afterwards everyone sat down to dinner and, during the meal, the king gave the snuff box to the Duke of Villeroy, which he immediately gave to Mme de Vintimille.”  

Louis XVI wrote down his personal expenditure in his journal every day, so it is easy to see who benefitted from these royal gifts. His younger sister, Madame Élisabeth, appears almost every year alongside Marie-Antoinette as receiving the most generous gifts from Louis XVI. Between 1780 and 1783 the king spent the colossal sum of more than 148,864 Livres on jewellery for New Year’s gifts for Madame Élisabeth. The goldsmith Ange-Joseph Aubert supplied such gifts, which included diamonds, necklaces, rings and gold snuffboxes.

 

Between 1780 and 1783 the king spent the colossal sum of more than 148,864 Livres on jewellery for New Year’s gifts for Madame Élisabeth. The goldsmith Ange-Joseph Aubert supplied such gifts, which included diamonds, necklaces, rings and gold snuffboxes.

In the Court during the Ancien Régime, gifts were not given at Christmas like today, but on New Year’s Day and at Easter.