An Act Of Kindness – Never To Be Forgotten

September 2, 2021

The Forest of Fontainebleau by François-Auguste Ortmans.

But her best-known deed, and the one which made the greatest sensation, was that which is known as the incident of Achères. It was at Fontainebleau, during the hunt again, on Oct 16, 1773. The deer, being at bay, took refuge in a small enclosure of the village of Achères.  Finding no issue thence, and rendered furious by his despair, he turned upon a peasant who was cultivating the enclosure, and gored him twice with his antlers, – once in the thigh and once in the body. The man was thrown down, severely wounded. His wife, wild with grief, flew toward the hunters and fell in a faint. The king, after giving orders that she should be looked after, withdrew.

Deer in the forest at Fontainebleau, by Rosa Bonheur.

The dauphiness descended from her carriage, made the unfortunate woman inhale her salts, and after having brought her out of her faint, showered upon her money, consolation, and tears. She then made her get into her carriage and commanded that she should be taken to her house; nor did she rejoin the hunt until she had assured herself that the two invalids would receive the necessary attention. The entire court, moved by her noble example, hastened to aid the unfortunate ones. The dauphin emptied his purse into their hands; the Comtesse de Provence did the same. On the following day, Marie Antoinette did not fail to send to inquire after the wounded man, whose condition had at first seemed critical, but who recovered, nevertheless, thanks to the care that the surgeons of the court, on the order of the young princess, bestowed upon him.

Marie Antoinette’s act of compassion was immortalized in a pencil and ink drawing by Jean-Michel Moreau the Younger. The print, titled “Act of Kindness by the Dauphine, October 16, 1773”, now hangs in a museum in Vienna.

The public, on learning these details, and delighted with the tears of sympathy that the dauphiness had shed, was inexhaustible in its praises of her. There was but one cry of admiration for her. At Fontainebleau the people crowded together wherever there was a chance of seeing her. At Marly, at Versailles, they greeted her with such enthusiasm and acclamation when she went out as almost to frighten her.

The Life of Marie Antoinette, Volume 1 By Maxime de La Rocheterie, Chapter VII, Page 78-79.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 793



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