This week, we visited the Palace of Versailles, not too far outside Paris. It was simply amazing. But privacy…. not a thing. Originally, King Louis XIII built this “hunting lodge” as a way to escape palace life- to gain some moments of privacy.
His son, King Louis XIV (any inaccuracies are completely mine….) expanded this lodge to a palace and moved the French court and seat of government to Versailles, where a complete town grew up around it to support the influx of nobles and their needs.
But Louis XIV essentially had no privacy. From the waking up ceremony at 8:30 am witnessed by over 100 members of the court to activities, dining, and retiring to bed, he was constantly in company. The court considered it a right to be in the presence of the Sun King.
Even childbirth was in front of hundreds of witnesses until Marie Antoinette, wife to Louis XVI, nearly died in childbirth. Hundreds of people from nobles to chimneysweeps (the latter of which climbed onto sofa backs to have a better, direct view) crowded the chamber to witness the birth. A royal birth must be witnessed to ensure the babe is truly the royal one. Marie Antoinette fainted, supposedly from the heat caused by all the bodies, lack of air flow, and stress of a long birth. King Louis XVI, quite scandalously in love with his queen, had everyone removed (some forcibly) and the windows thrown open. He then declared that no royal births would be so public. The witnesses were thereafter decreased to those necessary, which still number a few dozen.
So, if one is a Royal (present author excluded), privacy is a rare and unexpected gift.