The only queen of France who matters, Marie Antoinette, runs a Sunday advice column in this space. To have the queen weigh in on your life quandary, email whatwouldmarieantoinettedo at gmail dot com.
Your royal highness, I’m up for a promotion. Initially, I was excited about the ideas I have for the job but now I’m worried that only I’m excited about making changes. I don’t want a lot of push back and negativity. What should I do?
-Not yet working for the change
I made my own changes in my day. The intensely public life of a French queen meant that I was on display 24 hours a day even as a dauphine. I’d been raised in a more informal court in Austria and knew that pomp and ceremony did not need to be a constant element of a ruler’s day. In desperate need of some work / home balance and I did away with the things that made me crazy.
Old way: I was surrounded by strangers, older women, never my own confidants or women my age.
New way: I put people I knew and was comfortable with in the positions closest to me.
Old way: I’d stand naked and freezing while various princesses and courtiers entered at their whim to help me dress (the lever).
New way: I made my lever, or dressing ceremony, private and aided by friends and professionals in hairstyling and fashion.
Old way: No male guests could attend supper when members of the royal family were present.
New way: Family-style supper with royals of both sexes as guests.
Old way: No female princess could be in the presence of an unrelated male until she turned 25.
New way: Courtiers such as the Marquis de Bombelles could stay in the room on occasions when Madame Elisabeth, Louis XVI’s sister, visited his wife.
Old way: I was followed by 2 dames du palais anywhere she went.
New way: I was followed only by a page.
Were the changes rocky? Yes. Courtiers thought it was unbecoming of a monarch to walk without attendants, to frolic with her children and to spend time away from court. My detractors, jealous to lose positions so close to the queen, accused me of looseness and depravity. For me, it was worth the risk. The old system was driving me crazy and for me it was worth the risk. At the very end, only the King enjoyed the fuller ceremonies of the court. At the very night of the royal family’s escape to Varennes, he still participated in the full coucher and had a valet sleeping at the foot of his bed. (The Valet wore a ribbon tied to his finger that the King could pull should he need anything, the original instant message system.)
Your situation is much better than mine. You can engage your colleagues so they have ownership of the changes, something I could not do in my time. Realize that if you think you really can’t make these changes, and that they aren’t ready at all, you probably can’t stay at this company. However, it seems your superiors might be looking for a top-down revolution, led in part by you. Your company recognizes your vision. It’s time for you to agree.
What do you think? Did the queen get it right? Weigh in on the issue in the comments.