The floor of the Hall of Mirrors is filled with fractured glass.
Marie Antoinette skips gaily across the shards in untied ballet shoes and bonnet atop her seventy two inch face: six feet from chin at base through powdered visage and scaffolded hair above.
The queen and women of her toilette encased in immense dresses a la Polonaise are costumier conjurers’ sleights of hand in damasks, plain silks, laces, bustles, embroiders, and petticoats, petticoats, petticoats.
They have come to disdain the deliberately deranged destruction of the night before. To review the revels and not speak of revolution.
Around them a haze of powder hangs in heavy air. They beg to deceive with orange blossoms, roses, jasmines and musk. But the nose cannot be fooled.
Despite their perfumed protests this place is menagerie not orangery.
Their very gowns give them away: nothing can counterfeit the crust of human excreta that forms on every surface.
The sweat of the near-extinguished attic seamstress infuses every sewn detail of the skirts; the drool of the fawning courtier in search of sexual and political favours forms dried rivers on each sleeve; a distressing, animal dampness rises from decolletages disturbed by distant cousins’ amourous graspings.
And all around, amongst the fallen soldiers of the soon to be ancien regime: felled by drink, excess and fornication, an unseen feral mob is rising too.
Beneath floors and between walls, in attics and unused ante chambers a mass of minks swirls with civets and the escaped sheep of a pet farm, together feeding on crumbs of the vanilla cake of a court that has banished bread.
‘More powder!’ commands our monarch and asks her resins be brought forward to staunch the stench. But no amount of balsam can retrench the putrid perfume of a palace in its death throes.
From a grand salon far off in a distant wing of her vast sarcophagus she catches music in three four time and begins involuntarily to dance.
One slither of a mirror slices through her shoe and draws a steady line of blue blood from her pale royal skin.
Death is in the room and will not depart.
Bal a Versailles is a dangerous, irresistibly repugnant scent for men and women prepared to dance the dance of death. For all its wondrous beauty nothing can disguise the beating of its monstrous bestial heart.
Amongst its resinous superfluities beyond the brief orange opening there may be flowers and powder a plenty but this is an unappologetically animal aroma with a zoological garden of tooth and claw.
With silage the size of a herd of wildebeest and longevity the length of an elephant’s memory this is not a commitment to be taken likely.
Accept its invitation and you are bid welcome to the wildest party of a lifetime, but stay too long and you too may succumb to the guillotine’s blade.
But hell is worth the risk!!