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Romancing the bone | Dog wedding in France


At the elegant pink villa on the promontory of St. Jean Cap Ferrat, built for Charlotte Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild it is said that a very unusual wedding took place many years ago. Margo Lestz looks at the story of the marriage of two pampered poodles dressed in formal gown and suit for the occasion…

ephrussi-beatriceBorn into the Rothchilds banking family Beatrice Rothschild married Maurice Ephrussi, a friend of her parents from an equally wealthy  Russian banking family.  They had homes in Monaco, Paris and Deauville but it is said that Beatrice loved best the magnificent villa on St. Jean Cap Ferrat where legend claims, the animal loving millionairess held a rather eccentric wedding – for her dogs.

The villa at Ephrussi was kitted out with a zoo containing antelopes, gazelles, monkeys and bird houses. The animals weren’t only relegated to the grounds. Two monkeys and a mongoose were Beatrice’s favourite companions and lived in the house with her.  She even had miniature furniture made for them. You can see the little chairs in her bedroom where a dog and the mongoose slept.

A dog wedding

In December 1896 newspapers published the tale of the fantastic marriage between Beatrice’s female poodle and the male poodle belonging to her father.

Here are some excerpts from a long and detailed account in the Morning Times, a Washington DC newspaper, dated 10 January 1897.

DOGS ARE REALLY MARRIED: Latest Fad Among Members of French Smart Set

There is a new fad among the rich – dog marriages.  And the creator of this fad is none other than Madame Ephrussi, daughter of Baron Alphonse de Rothschild and wife of Maurice Ephrussi. It is well known that Madame Ephrussi is a dog lover, a trait inherited from her mother. She went searching for a new form of amusement and the dog wedding is the result. At the home of Monsieur and Madame Ephrussi  on Avenue du Bois de Boulogne in Paris.

Madame Ephrussi sent out formally engraved invitations to several hundred of her friends, announcing the approaching nuptials of Diane, her favourite poodle, and La Petite Major, a handsome poodle, owned by her father. Not only were the recipients of these invitations asked to come themselves, but requested to bring their dogs along. The humans and their dogs turned out in full evening dress.

The bride, Diane, who is described as a poodle of rare grace and beauty, wore a white satin dress trimmed with beautiful lace; a long tulle veil decorated with orange blossoms, and white kid shoes. Major, the bridegroom, wore full evening dress, swallow-tail coat, vest, trousers (not creased, because it is not fashionable to crease the trousers at weddings), patent leather shoes and gloves. On the buttonhole of Monsieur Major’s coat was a dainty orchid.

The notes of the wedding march softly floated through Madame Ephrussi’s magnificent ballroom and the ceremony commenced.  First up the aisle, walking upright, were three small poodles, each in evening dress and joined together with a white ribbon. They were followed by the bride, leaning on the hand, of her mistress. Behind them, walking on his hind feet without support came Monsieur Major accompanied by Baron Rothschild.

Then came the bridesmaids and groomsmen, the former wearing white silk dresses, and long veils; the latter in full dress and adorned with embroidered white satin coats. All these advanced upon their hind legs. At the end of the ballroom the wedding procession was met by the staunch and sober bulldog Comte de Berteux. Upon his head he wore a tall silk hat, and around his waist was tied the tricolour sash representing the office of the Mayor. After greeting the procession, the bulldog Mayor walked on his hind legs in a dignified manner, and then seated himself upon an embroidered cushion.

The Mayor looked solemnly at the young couple whose destinies he was about to unite, and then barked distinctly three times. The bridegroom gave a short bark. The bride barked low and impressively. A gold ring with a diamond setting was then slipped over the paw of the fair Diane, the Mayor barked gleefully, and the procession moved to the adjoining room, where the marriage register was signed, in this instance the owners of the dogs having to act for them.

Next came the reception and supper. Every dog was given a seat at the table, and a regular supper served. It is not stated that there was any reprehensible conduct on the part of the canine guests to any greater extent than is witnessed at a wedding supper at which only human beings are in attendance. And so passed off the first dog wedding.

Maurice Ephrussi wrote a letter to several papers denying that there was any truth to the story and demanded a retraction and some of the papers did print an apology, he was after all very wealthy and influential.However, not long after, newspapers printed a story that there would be a duel between Monsieur Ephrussi and Monsieur Paul Cassagnac who had written the original article about the dog wedding. The duel was denied by both Monsieur Ephrussi and Monsieur Cassagnac and some newspapers issued another retraction.

So did the marriage take place or not? To this day, we cannot say for sure that there was no dog wedding at the Villa Ephrussi…#

Read more about the Villa Ephrussi

Margo Lestz lives in Nice, France where she likes to bask in the sunshine, study the French language and blog as thecuriousrambler. Margo says “Life is never boring and I learn something new every day… and there are always surprises”.

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