When chocolate first appeared in France, brought by Spanish conquistadors, it was only for the nobility and upper bourgeoisie. The Kings and Queens of France, from Louis XIII to Marie-Antoinette, enjoyed the hot drink which was all the rage at the Court of Versailles. Recognised for its many fortifying, aphrodisiac or energetic qualities the consumption of chocolate increased over the centuries before becoming more accessible to the people during the industrial revolution.
Chocolate was introduced into France in 1615, at the wedding of Louis XII and Anna of Austria in Bayonne. At Versailles, the delicacy became a culinary habit in all its forms under Louis XIV who popularised its consumption at the Court. In the following century, however, Louis XV was considered the greatest lover of the cocoa-based drink. Occasionally, the King himself would prepare his own beverage in the kitchens of his Private Apartments. Louis XV’s recipe has travelled down through the ages:
“Place the same quantity of chocolate bars and glasses of water in a coffee maker and boil gently; when you are ready to serve, place one egg yolk for four servings and stir over a gentle heat but do not boil. If prepared the night before, those who drink it every day leave a leaven for the one they make the next day; instead of an egg yolk you may use a whisked egg white after having removed the first mousse, mix it with some of the chocolate from the coffee maker then pour back into the coffee maker and finish the preparation as with the egg yolk.”
Source: "Les Soupers de la Cour ou l'Art de travailler toutes sortes d'aliments pour servir les meilleurs tables suivant les quatre saisons" (Court dinners or the Art of working different foods for the best restaurants based on the four seasons), by Menon, 1755 (BN, V.26995, volume IV, p.331)
Louis XV’s favourites, including Madame du Barry, couldn’t resist the exotic cocktail either, valued particularly for its qualities as an aphrodisiac. At the same time, the first machines designed to manufacture chocolate were created and several specialised workshops were established in Paris.
In 1770, when Marie-Antoinette married Louis XVI, she arrived at the Court of Versailles with her own chocolate maker, who was given the very official title of “Chocolate Maker to the Queen”. The chocolate maker invented new recipes and mixed the chocolate with orange blossom and sweet almonds. But cocoa beans only became accessible to the public in the 19th century with the arrival of major factories with such famous names as the English, Cadbury and French, Meunier.