by Nancy Armitage
For the love of Paris, & pink roses; tea & tablescapes, French Sevres dinner service plates & pearls, & always family. The connection between these two powerful women is abundant. Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington or “Madame Huntington” of Chateau Beauregard, also New York City, San Francisco, & the San Marino Ranch. She was truly enchanted by Queen Marie Antoinette of France.
In many of the Huntington Drawing-Rooms in her many mansions, Mrs. Huntington decorated the rooms in the Marie Antoinette/Louis XVI style. Both women had chateaus in Paris: Marie Antoinette lived in Palace at Versailles in Paris. For 10 years, Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington with her husband, Henry E. Huntington leased the Chateau Beauregard in Paris.
Marie Antoinette & her cabbage rose called “Rosa x Centifolia”:
In this famous painting of the Queen Maria Antoinette holding a rose (above) illustrates her love of the great pink rose. This cabbage rose is identified as “Rosa x centifolia” or also called “Rose de Mai”. Sometimes, it is called “Provence Rose”, or “Holland Rose” created by Dutch rose breeders. This rose called “Rosa x centifolia” is highly fragrant damask rose scented with honeyed notes & a citrus accent. Researchers feel it probably came from a Damask rose. “Parkinson, in his Paradisus (1629), gives a fuller description agreeing with that of Clusius, & uses a name similar to Gerard’s – “R. or Rosa provincialis sive Hollandica Damascena”, “The Great double Damask Province or Holland Rose”. I am excited about learning about Queen Antoinette’s Rose. I can’t wait to order this rose & see how fragrant it is in my garden! Mrs. Huntington also adored pink roses.
So inspired by Queen Antoinette, Arabella Huntington purchased 1000’s of objects that were once owned by the Queen herself & other royalty. Such as Louis XVI & Louis XV French furniture desk, candelabras, vases, buffets, & tables. The Huntington’s San Marino Ranch was filled with these beautiful pieces of French furniture. These women both loved their personal environments filled with beautiful things: in art, in their garden, in French furniture, in food & drink & cakes, & jewelry– especially white pearls & diamonds.
I had recent discoveries of how much Arabella was really inspired by Marie Antoinette. Mrs. Huntington purchased Marie Antoinette chandeliers (small Drawing-room at the Ranch), Marie Antoinette etchings, Aubusson Rugs, French couches, French desks, & French writing tables.
All these beautiful things owned by the young Queen Marie Antoinette herself. Mrs. Arabella Huntington adored Paris & everything French, she even taught herself how to speak French. She especially love art, furniture, & jewelry of many royals. Mrs. Arabella Huntington owned the special Marie Antoinette Aubusson rug (above), It had the queen initials, “M A” in the center cartouche on pale blue ground. The royal rug was especially woven just for the Queen.
Marie Antoinette & Arabella Huntington’s love of French furniture:
I found in the Huntington Mansion inventory (SMR) which had so much French furniture at the Huntington Library. The French Furniture at San Marino Ranch was mostly of the Louis XV & Louis XVI French style (of Versailles Palace, Paris). This was Mrs. Arabella Huntington’s influence, the Boucher tapestries & this Boucher French chairs. Located in this Large Library at the Ranch (Huntington Library) were bought in Paris by Mrs. Huntington & Mr. Duveen.
By the way, Queen Marie Antoinette was married to young King Louis XVI. So alot of the Huntington’s French furniture was once owned by Louis XVI & used by Marie Antoinette. Highly likely reupholstered in a color scheme chosen by Mr. Duveen & Mrs. Arabella Huntington.
Marie Antoinette & Arabella’s love of pink Roses:
Queen Marie Antoinette & Mrs. Arabella Huntington was very fond of pink cabbage roses, the more fragrant the better. We see a etching (above) of Marie Antoinette holding a pink rose in both hands in this little portrait. It’s by Elisabeth Lebrun colored painting we find out that the rose is a pink cabbage rose.
Mrs. Arabella Huntington adored her fragrant pink & white roses, over all the roses that grew at the ranch. Mrs. Huntington requested weekly flower arrangement showcasing her beautiful roses. Especially the intense hot- pink, “General MacArthur” rose shrub (highly fragrant). General MacArthur’s hybridizer was E. Gurney Hill Co. before 1904. Arabella also enjoyed, pink & white roses called, “White Killarney” & “Pink Killarney” ( a rose shrub, colors are light pink to dark pink to seashell-pink, sometimes with hot pink edges on the petals ). Pink Killarney was hybridizer: Alex Dickson II in 1898. The roses was considered showy and very fragrant and a wonderful cut flower.
Mr. Hertrich ordered 100’s of these pink & white rose plants for the Huntington’s San Marino Ranch. They had 3 greenhouses, one was just devoted to propagating roses, another greenhouse was for orchids, & the 3th was for other flowers. Then the Huntington’s had a gigantic Lath House that was a massive hothouse or greenhouse. The Lath House was filled with exotic plants & palms.
The Queen’s Fragrance & Arabella Huntington’s fragrance:
A French perfumer named Jean Louis Fargeon made a special perfume just for Queen Marie Antoinette. It was said that this perfume was his masterpiece, it seems to have all the very best scents. Also, called the “Trianon perfume” because he used most of the flowers that grew in Marie Antoinette’s garden at Petit Trianon at Versailles Palace in Paris.
Marie Antoinette’s Perfume: was made of Tuberose [& Rose petals], Orange Blossoms, Lavender Blossoms, Essential oil of Citron & Bergamot Orange, Galbanum, Iris, Violets, Jasmine, Lily, Vanilla bean, Cedar, Sandalwood, Amber, Muse, Dash of Benzoin.
In our modern world, a perfume company named Lubin, Paris makes a perfume named Black Jade. It is made from the flowers of Queen Marie Antoinette Secret Garden at Petit Trianon at Versailles. The recipe is a bit different then the above ingredients. Top notes: Galbanum, Bergamot, & Cardamon Middle Notes: Rose, Jasmine, Incense and Cinnamon Base Notes: Indian Sandlewood, Patchouli, Vanilla Bean, Tonka Bean, and Amber. It is said that this fragrance is quite seductive.
“Diana’s Bath” (Huntington Mansion No. 2 E. 57th St. NYC)
Mrs. Arabella Huntington fantastical royal-like bathroom described in the New York Times newspaper : “Diana’s Bath” owned by Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington’s bathroom built for $15,000.00 [in 1895]. It included a huge black onyx bathtub & floors, Persian rugs, blues striped tiles & marble. In millionaires household, $1,000.00 for bath towels & bathing luxuries like “Attar of Roses” delicacies like perfume cologne ran out of the water spigot, Fancy French soaps -finest fragrant soaps (Lavender, violets & rose), scented waters for the bath, water softener & whitening acids, complexion beautifiers after the bath, myriad toilet articles, garden of the mansion: palm trees, plants, white fragrant flowers (lily of the valley & gardenias), fresh flowers daily, scented lake, shades of glass windows, butler polished brass & silver in Diana’s Bath”. Document: NY Times newspaper article no date: HEH Collection HEH Box 199 [ Huntington family personal papers] The Huntington Mansion basement was like a amazing 5 star hotel spa with treatment rooms & massage rooms, exercise rooms & special baths, with Turkish baths. Document: Architectural Records Magazine 1903.
Mrs. Arabella Huntington’s favorite fragrance: I would say was fragrant roses or “Attar of Rose” which her bath water was perfumed with (see above Diana’s Bath). Attar of Rose defined is a essential oil, also called essence of rose, oil of rose, otto of rose, or rose oil. These essential oils is distilled from fresh rose petals of Rosa damascena & R. Gallica. Mrs. Huntington was also fond of French lavender, violets (she grew them at her Throggs Neck estate called “Homestead” in her garden) she also loved violet soap & Rose Petals.
The Queen’s tea: Marie Antoinette Royal Tea of Versailles / Mrs. Belle Huntington & Rose Petal tea:
Marie Antoinette enjoy afternoon tea that was infuses with her favorite rose scent. Several tea rooms in Paris make a version of “Marie Antoinette” tea. Nina’s Paris makes a tea in a light pink tea tin (the original “Marie Antoinette tea”). Marie Antoinette tea is black tea from Sri Lanka & flavored with rose petals & apples. Sometimes, I have seen the Queens tea with Ceylon tea , rose petals & apples (all from the Kings Kitchen garden at Versailles, Paris). Another French tea house, Laduree in Paris, makes a “Marie Antoinette tea” using China black tea with rose petals, citrus (could be orange or mandarin) & honey.
Carytownteas make a strong floral “Marie Antoinette tea” with apples, dried hibiscus, & rose petals with fruit notes of berries. So this tea would be a bright red-pink tea with hibiscus & berries in it. Nmteafoundry adds all the good things to their “Marie Antoinette Black tea blend”: Black tea (French Earl Grey), citrusy bergamot, French lavender blossoms, rose petals, & Tahitian vanilla extract. Another tea company makes a “Marie Antoinette Blend” of tea with green & white tea with rose petals & hints of raspberry berries, raspberry leaves, & blueberries.
Mrs. Arabella Huntington was a Southern Victorian woman who would have been quite inspired by “Marie Antoinette” rose petal tea in Paris, France. Mrs. Arabella Worsham & Collis Huntington visited Paris in the 1870’s, when she was about 20 years old. Mrs. Huntington favorite blend of tea was a mixture of Ceylon tea & India tea, which makes a Orange Pekoe tea. A very Victorian way to make tea is to sprinkle some rose petals in the hot tea, to bring out the rose fragrance. Use a French coffee press for this, it is so much easier.
French Tea Blend “Creme de Fleur”
I found this romantic French tea blend on a menu & I had to try to make it.
Make 4 c. Large mason jar of tea:
4 oz. Ceylon Orange Pekoe tea
4 oz. India tea (Peets Assam golden tip)
8 oz. lavender blossoms, whole & dried
8 oz. rose petals, dried
4 oz. calendula or marigold flowers or petals, dried
120 drops Cooks vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, add tea & herb blossoms. Using a essential oil dropper, drop vanilla extract all over the tea & herbs. Spoon into a large air tight container. Recipe: Nancy Armitage
For a Teapot/French coffee press of “Creme de Fleur”
I recommend using a French coffee press for your teapot; it will filter the loose tea leaves & herbs. Mrs. Huntington would have used her French Sevres teapot or her French Silver tea pot to enjoy her tea with guests.
5 c. boiling water
6 t. Creme de Fleur tea blend (5 for each cup of water & 1 t. for the teapot)
Boil water. Add tea blend to teapot/French coffee press. Pour hot boiling water over the tea. Let steep 7-8 minutes. If using a teapot, use a tea strainer. Enjoy.
Brie en croute (Brie baked in pastry)
This is a delicious French cheese appetizer that has a lot of different versions. It is served best when you spread 2 different jams or marmalades on top of the cheese, half and half. It would be lovely & elegant on New Years Eve or a romantic evening.
1 wheel of French Brie or French Camembert soft cheese
1 pkg. frozen puff pastry or refrigerator dinner rolls
2-3 T. Lavender honey or French lavender jelly or pomegranate jam or cranberry chutney
2-3 T. Orange marmalade
1/4 c. dried cherries or chopped 1/4 c. dried apricots,
1/4 c. nuts: pecans or pine nuts or pistachios,
sprinkle of lemon thyme leaves
water crackers or petit square bread toast with raisin & nuts to serve with the Brie en croute
green & red grapes & sliced apples can be served with it
It very simple to make, but a very showy appetizer on a pretty French plate with a little lip (or a pie dish) with a pretty cheese knife. The lip on the dish is necessary because the brie/camembert when hot will ooze out of the pastry. In a square purex dish/pie dish, wipe little oil or butter. Line the bottom of dish with puff pastry or dinner rolls. Place a wheel of French brie cheese or camembert French cheese on top of laid out dinner rolls or puff pastry. Spear orange marmalade on one side & pomegranate chutney/ lavender honey or lavender jelly on the other side. Sprinkle with dried cherries or dried chopped apricots & any roasted nut you choose. Cover with puff pastry or dinner rolls. With a knife or pizza cutter, cut out leaves with the puff pastry/dinner rolls. Place leaves in a swirl on top on the mound. Brush with a egg wash (opt.) Bake at 425 for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Marie Antoinette’s Dinner Service Set and Mrs. Arabella Huntington Dinner Service Set
King Louis XVI & Queen Marie Antoinette ate off these beautiful plates (above) at Palace of Versailles. They invented “Society Dinners” to which 40 people were asked to dine with the King & Queen. Each person was seated to their station of merit. Instead of 40 people just looking at them eat, which was quite uncomfortable.
They had grand multi-course dinners, “Grand Couvert” usually took place at 10:00 pm. Quite late to have dinner. They could be up to 30 different dishes served to the King & Queen oh my! Served with French wine & French champagne with each course. The finest porcelain tableware & plates, made by Sevres was used at the Kings Table.
A table was set with white tablecloth with their collection of beautiful Sevres dishes on the table. The 1st Service was called hors d’oeuvre, like pate in a crust or shellfish, followed soups to wet the appetite. Followed by roasts or pies made of chicken, capon, venison, fish, beef or lamb oysters, or sea-fruit & even turtles. Each course could have a side dish, like rice, or vegetables. This tradition of the royals gave birth to the famous “Service a la Francaise” (one course at a time to enjoy each dish) All vegetables were grown in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles, so they ate seasonal, to have the freshest of ingredients.
King Louis XVI it is said ate each day: 3 potages (soups), 4 entrees, 3 roasts, 4 entremets, pastries to finish with jams & fruit from the gardens of Versailles. This would have been about 15-20 dishes or courses, His food was always accompanied by the finest French wines.
This was a very exciting discovery! These plates were once owned by Mrs. Arabella Huntington at her New York City mansion. These dishes were finely decorated with birds of plumage in landscapes and swag of roses and flowers. They had 5 blue “shields” on each plates & enriched with gilt butterflies. What make these plates so expensive & valuable was the Blue color. With each shield-shaped panels of deep “Mazarin Blue”. Mrs. Huntington’s was significant because of the Mazarin Blue, which looks between Hyacinth Blue, Sapphire Blue & Cyanine Blue. It would have been difficult to make this beautiful purpley-blue.
This huge Mecklenberg table service of Chelsea was ordered thru Duveen Bros. from H. E. Huntington as a gift for his wife (probably for Christmas) in Oct./Nov.1923. It was comprised of 4 candelabras, 1 Epergne, 2 oval soup tureens, 65 Meat plates, 30 soup plates, 5 Dessert plates, 6 salt cellars, 5 sugar castors & covers 4 Double cruet frames and 1 circular dish. Each dish had a different botanical bird in the middle with swags of roses in between the blue shields. These plates were used at H. E. & Arabella Huntington’s Mansion at No. 2 East 57th Street in New York City, NY. Arabella often collected items of royalty: plates, jewelry, etc. Document: Rare book #425016 Catalog from NYC Anderson Galleries, 1926 auction from Huntington mansion in NYC. Found at Huntington Library, San Marino, CA
When Mr. & Mrs. H.E. Huntington (Belle & Edwards) “dined” very formal at the San Marino Ranch like dressed like royalty every night. The women wore long sequin typed gowns & the men in white tie & tails. They dined like royalty with 4 footmen/butlers waiting on them, often invited 12 people to join them for dinner. Mrs. Huntington loved the number 12 at her Dining Room table for luncheons & dinners. In the 1890s, at the No. 2 NYC mansion, they dined with 24 guests in the East Salon & served often 9-12 courses or more. At Mrs. Huntington’s Nob Hill- San Francisco Mansion, Collis & Arabella Huntington had a ball- room/”picture gallery” for dining in elegance. This large spacious room could fit 110 dinner guests; I have seen a menu with 16 dinner courses for one of Collis Huntington’s Southern Pacific Annual Banquet located in this room.
French Chocolate Bon-Bons, French Truffles, Petit fours, & Fancy Almonds – Gold Almonds or Jordan Almonds in Pastel colors:
All women like is a little bit of chocolate now & again & chocolate cake. Can you image wearing the costumes both of this women had to wear? Little bites seems like what they would enjoy, appetizers & desserts. Remember Marie Antoinette was only 14 years old when she married Louis Phillippe. She would have loved what a teenager would have loved: chocolate candy, bon-bons, chocolate truffles, petit fours (small fancy iced square cakes), French silver or gold almonds, or Jordan Almonds & Parisian French macaroons (pastel colored) that melt in your mouth.
The Huntington’s New York City mansion over the years the Head house keeper or Butler ordered pounds of these French chocolate treasures. Like French Bon-Bons, Chocolate Truffles & treats. Often, Mrs. Huntington if she was entertaining or it was Christmas time; she would hire a dessert chef to come in temporarily. So what was Mrs. Huntington’s sweet tooth? A French chocolate, “Bon-bon” which is a small chocolate truffle, lovely on a pretty doily-lined plate.
At her San Marino Ranch mansion, Mrs. Huntington often served fancy French “Bon-bons” served with coffee and after dinner liqueurs. Using Bon-bon Gorham silver spoon in a Gorham Bon-Bon silver dish with a handle. They would be enjoyed after dinner & during the entertainment in the Large Drawing-Room (SMR). Bon-Bons or Chocolate Truffles are like a piece of American See’s candy (nuts & chew variety) or Huylers NYC candy store, the Huntington’s ordered chocolates from them, often. I found many invoices from Huylers, NYC candy store with dozens of peppermint bon-bon & chocolate bon-bons.
Also, Mrs. Huntington would order candies & cakes from Louis Sherry, also in New York City. The top of the box said “Louis Sherry New York & Paris”; beautiful & fancy 1 lb. tin boxes with delicious candy & their special chocolates. At first, these boxes were designed to give as a gift for steamship passengers. Louis Sherry opened their shop in 1919, they had 1lb. or 2 lb. & 5 lb. tin boxes, some beautiful hot pink with a purple & green wreath on the top of the tin boxes. They would have reminded Arabella Huntington of Paris, her favorite place.
French Sevres porcelain “Compotes”
Mrs. Arabella Huntington had a affection for “compote” in pretty French Sevres or Coalport porcelain. Which was a beautiful footed large & tall dish. She could pile up many bon-bons or petit fours on one of these beautiful compotes. A petit four is a small square of cake that has been iced with Royal Icing or melted Chocolate. The soft cake sometimes has raspberry jam or buttercream inside. Sometimes, petit fours had designs on top of the cake, like initials to honor someone’s birthday or just a sweet sugared flower. Mrs. Huntington ordered pounds of pastel-colored Jordan almonds. She served Jordan almonds & chocolate “bridge mix” of nuts at her “At-home” Tuesday tea parties at her mansion in NYC & SF with 50 guests..
French Peach Compote
In Paris a “Peach Compote” was pure & simple. When the Huntingstons were staying at Hotel Bristol in Paris, they ordered this compote. In summertime, it could be made with fresh Peach slices, sugar (or brandy) & lemon juice, it could be boiled for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, reduce heat & let simmer for 7 minutes. Another recipe would be Peaches, crème fraiche, Lavender honey, cinnamon, & raspberries sprinkled on top.
Monograms of their initials on fancy porcelain plates & linen
Queen Marie Antoinette’s initials were painted in the middle of Dresden plates, the pattern called “Marie Antoinette” plates. Her initials “M” & “A” were intertwined beautifully in the middle of decorative tea plates. I found in researching Mrs. Arabella Huntington she had a couple different monograms: I found a French clothing list with her personal items. 3 personal items with her initials sewn on the cloth items, with simply “AH” for Arabella Huntington. I was surprised at the simplicity. For San Marino Ranch tea towel, luncheon napkins, & dinner cloth napkins, some had the initials “HEH”. For formal dining in the H. E. Huntington & Arabella Huntington private railroad car, Mrs. Huntington had “SMI” embroidered on the napkins for formal luncheons & formal dinners.
Marie Antoinette & Arabella Huntington French Royalty Sevres Plates:
Marie Antoinette adored pretty French plates, Sevres, Haviland, & Limoges, too. There is a lovely Limoges pattern is a super simple called “Marie Antoinette”, it is a scallop white plate with a gold ribbon on the rim & edge. Mrs. Huntington had several pattern of gold & white plates she used at the San Marino Ranch.
Marie Antoinette had a lovely Sevres dinner service set (below). It was blue , green, & white set of dishes just for her, at her Petit Trianon in Paris, France. It is lovely & delicate with blue cornflowers around the edge with lime green bands of white pearls on the plates. Mrs. Huntington had a variety of blue, white, & gold plates. Some were Sevres, or Coalport dinner dishes.
Marie Antoinette favorite porcelain pattern was this lovely pattern of Sevres (below) made in 1781. It is simple & elegant at the same time, white, gold & blue (cornflowers) . On the rim, it has 2 rows of white pearls surrounding the plates; her love of pearls depicted on the plates. The Queen Maria Antoinette loved cornflowers in her beautiful Petit Trianon garden.
Mrs. Huntington loved French-made plates like Sevres, Haviland, & Limoges plates. Her many patterns of Limoges plates were gold & white. At the Chateau Beauregard, there was a amazing beautiful set of plates & fine porcelain pieces existed. We do know with Mrs. Huntington purchased a portion of the Rudolph Kann Collection, she got 4 sets of Dresden porcelain plates & dishes. One of the 4 different patterns of Dresden was called “Empress” and “Queen Antoinette:” with a large M & A in the middle of the plates & colorful flowers & roses all over the rim of the plate.
In Mrs. Huntington’s “Homestead” estate at Throgg’s Neck in Westchester Co. in New York, she had a stunning garden. Her large rose garden was a exact replica of Marie Antoinette’s flower garden at the Versailles Palace in Paris. Mrs. Huntington Homestead rose garden is pictured in the Bennett book, The Art of Wealth. Mrs. Huntington also had a large Victorian conservatory hot house there, which she used to plant & propagate her favorite violets. Her son, Archer Huntington would teased her about her massive amounts of violets, stating she could open up a violet farm she had so many.
At the Huntington’s Chateau Beauregard, there were those beautiful Buffon bird plates (above) from the Paris Sevres Factory. Once owned by Miss Harriet Howard, was a English actress, who was also the mistress of Napoleon III. Napoleon gifted the chateau to Miss Howard & named her “Comtesse de Beauregard”. She owned Chateau Beauregard La Celle-St. Cloud Chesney, Paris France. I did find out that this elegant porcelain dinner service set was used at the Chateau. These plates were a lime-sage green version of this beautiful French royalty porcelain plates. They called them the bird Buffon plates because each plate depicted a different exotic birds. Some plates had green parrots, a toucan bird, or my favorite – the Victorian crowned pigeon in the middle; with a cameo style portrait of 3 people on the rim. The whole background of these plates were pink circles with green dots with the lime-sage green.
These French Sevres Dinner Service Sets come with many pieces: vegetable tureens, soup tureens, footed compotes, teapot & coffee pot, chocolate pot, champagne canister, & so much more. It was fine bone porcelain Sevres Meissen Buffon Bird in the middle; often decorated with gold & pink roses &/or swags of roses. Most of her fancy plates & porcelain vessels came out of the Sevres factory. I have seen a version of Sevres with pink rose swags and they call it Meissen Buffon bird.
Chateau Beauregard was just down the road from the Sevres porcelain factory & Marie Antoinette’s Versailles Palace. I am sure, Mrs. Arabella Huntington visited the Sevres factory often, when she was vacationing in Paris.
Marie Antoinette & her husband both had several beautiful dinner service sets made by Sevres. Each set might have over 100 pieces of porcelain in it. Louis XVI had made a stunning dinner service set of blue & white plates & this one (above) with roses & flowers.
Mrs. Arabella Huntington in her San Francisco house had Sevres Gold knives. They were porcelain Sevres blue & white & gold knives with roses on one side & birds on the other side. I am sure that Mrs. Huntington must have had a Sevres blue, white, & gold dinner service set to match these Sevres- gold/ blue, gold, & white knives. In 1906, Mrs. Huntington’s Nob Hill- San Francisco mansion was completely destroyed by the great 1906 EQ/Fire.
Document: Anderson Galleries New York City, Catalog 1926
Document: International Dendrology Society Tree & Shrubs [and Roses]
Document: HEH Collection HEH Box 126 (Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington
Document: HEH Coll. MS 38/11 (No 2 NYC house- Household Bills- 1919)
Document: HEH Coll. HEH 38/6 (San Marino Ranch papers- ADH monogrammed napkins & towels)
Document: HEH Coll. MS 12/1-30 uncat (Chateau Beauregard papers)
Document: Vogue article about the movie Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” with Kristen Dunst
Book: Anderson Galleries 1926 Auction #425016 Rare book at Huntington Library, San Marino, CA