After three centuries of rivalry, France and Austria had been allies since 1756. To reinforce these diplomatic ties, Louis XV and the Empress Maria Theresa decided to wed their respective children: the Duc de Berry, Dauphin of France, aged 15, and Marie-Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria, aged 14. The festivities commenced on 16-17 May in Versailles.
The idea of a marriage between the two crowns came to fruition only in 1770. On 19 April a wedding by procuration between the Dauphin, grandson of Louis XV, and Marie-Antoinette, youngest daughter of Maria Theresa was held in Vienna. The young Archduchess arrived in Versailles on 16 May. After entering the grounds of the Château through the ornamental gates around 10 am, she was installed in the grand apartment of the queen where she prepared for the official wedding in the royal chapel. At 1 pm she made her entry into the king’s study. The Dauphin, dressed in a suit of gold with the diamond of the Holy Spirit, took her hand.
Followed by the king and the princes of royal blood, the young couple crossed the grand apartment packed with people. In the chapel they knelt in front of the altar where the Archbishop of Reims officiated. The king and the royal family surrounded them on their prie-dieus. The dauphin placed the ring on the slender finger of his bride. After the ceremony came the signing of the marriage registry. In his apartment in the early afternoon, the Dauphine received her wedding presents from the groom: a splendid carved chest containing a profusion of jewellery and precious objects.
The young couple then attended the reception of the ambassadors before moving to the illuminated Hall of Mirrors looking out over the gardens, but the fireworks display was postponed because a storm broke out. The day ended with a sumptuous celebration in the brand new royal opera house designed by Gabriel. Then came the ritual of the ceremony of the going-to-bed: the young couple was then led into the nuptial bedchamber of Marie-Antoinette. The bed was blessed by the Archbishop of Reims. The king gave his nightshirt to the Dauphin and the Duchess of Chartres gave hers to the Dauphine. They went to bed in the presence of all the Court to show that they were sharing the same bed. Before closing the curtains, Louis XV gave some advice to his grandson. A waste of time! The marriage was not consummated until 7 years later!
The festivities continued until 30 May, the date of the tragic fireworks display given on the place de la Concorde, when 132 people died. A dismal portent for a tragic reign!.