Versailles & Le Chocolat

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Photo: wikipedia

It was in the 17th century that Anne d’Autriche, the daughter of the King of Spain, married Louis XIII and introduced chocolate, as Spain held the monopoly on cacao at that time. When Louis XIV married a Spanish princess, Marie-Therese, it was said that she had two passions:  the King and chocolate!  The King considered chocolate as something that satiates the appetite but isn’t filling.  On May 28, 1659, the King granted an officer to the Queen the position of selling a certain composition of chocolate throughout the kingdom and created a corporation of 150 “limonadiers” (beverage vendors) who were the only ones authorized to sell the chocolate drink.

IMG_0056At the court of Versailles, chocolate became fashionable and was served on certain days, no one certain of what
it really was: a gourmandise or a medicine.  Madame de Maintenon, the 2nd wife of Louis XIV, had chocolate served during certain celebrations. However, other opinions at that time stated that chocolate would physically cure your ills and that it would cause palpitations and sudden fever that would continue until death. (Perhaps, that is where the saying death by chocolate originated!?)

The taste for chocolate passed from the court to aristocrats, with France developing the cultivation of cacao in its colonies of Martinique, Les Antilles, and Guyane, but was reserved for rich clients that could afford its high cost.  In 1705, limonadier Pierre Masson introduced a gourmand beverage that consisted of cacao from Spain, vanilla, clove, cinnamon, and sugar mixed with water or milk.

Madame Pompadour, mistress to Louis XV, was the first to order chocolate served in the china/porcelain manufactured in Sevres. At the court of Louis XV, the taste for chocolate continued with the King preparing his own chocolate in his private apartment’s kitchen – chocolate said to have aphrodisiac properties. Madame Pompadour favored chocolate with vanilla and amber in order to heat one’s blood.

Until the 19th century, chocolate was considered a type of medicine, known for its digestive properties.  It was a pharmicien, Sulpice Debauve who was passionate about chocolate, who made the famous chcolate candy with almond milk (pistols de la Reine) for Marie-Antoinette. As chocolatier to the Queen, he invented for her various chocolates made with orchid bulbs for fortification, orange flowers for nerves, and almond milk for digestion.

For more than three centuries, the success of chocolate in the town of Versailles has continued, hosting many artisanal chocolate specialists and local patisseries – a ‘royal’ treat indeed!

Source: Magazine “Versailles” no. 81

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2 thoughts on “Versailles & Le Chocolat

  1. Alison. says:

    Interesting – thank you Kim!

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