The Sublime Porte was the first embassy to be received in the Hall of Mirrors since 1715, but it was nevertheless welcomed in accordance with long-established ritual. The occasion was an important one: an alliance between France and the Ottoman Empire was at stake. The War of the Austrian Succession, fought with Austria, France’s sworn enemy, had started.

No ambassadors had been received in the Hall of Mirrors since the Persian embassy in 1715, and when the visit of Mehmed Efendi, ambassador of the Sublime Porte, was announced, the custom had been somewhat forgotten. Louis XV studied the procedure of 1715 and pored over the description of the event left in the journal of Dangeau, a memorialist in the reign of Louis XIV. The position of the throne and the tiered seating, the number of steps up to the platform and the rugs covering the wooden flooring were planned with the same historical exactitude. However, one problem remained: where to stand, or sit, queen Marie Leszczyńska, since no queen had ever attended a reception of ambassadors in the Hall of Mirrors. In the end, the queen was placed behind a small rostrum to the right.

The ceremony was held in accordance with the custom established by Louis XIV. Louis XV sat on his throne, flanked by the Dauphin and the princes of the blood. When the ambassador entered the hall he bowed, placing his right hand on his chest. The king stood up in all his splendour. The ambassador bowed a second time when he reached the middle of the hall, and a third time when he arrived at the foot of the platform. He was accompanied by several men including an interpreter, the Introducer of Ambassadors, the Grand Equerry and the Governor of Versailles. When he reached the top of the platform he paid his compliments to the king, and the latter replied. The ambassador’s secretary, who was behind him, stepped onto the platform and gave him the letter from the Grand Vizier. The ambassador presented it to the king, who handed it to his minister of foreign affairs. The ambassador then presented the Maréchal of the embassy and his son, before descending the steps backwards while the king greeted the Maréchal. As he left the hall the ambassador bowed in the same places he had when he had approached the throne. Louis XV remained standing until he had bowed out entirely.

The letter from the Grand Vizir contained the promise of support that France had been hoping for in its fight against Austria. The country’s military situation had never been worse, and the king believed that he could reverse the situation with additional support from Russia and Prussia. In the end, though, peace came only six years later, in 1748.

ANECDOTE

When the ambassador entered the hall he bowed with his right hand on his chest. The king stood up in all his splendour. The ambassador bowed a second time when he reached the middle of the hall, and a third time when he arrived at the foot of the platform.