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The Yew Tree Ball took place on 25th February 1745 in the Hall of Mirrors, Chateau de Versailles. Known in French as Le Bal des if  (which conjures up a mood of possibility when translated into English doesn’t it?), this masked costume ball attended by over 15,000 people was overtly to celebrate the marriage of the Dauphin to Maria Theresa, the daughter of King Philip V of Spain. The Dauphin and the Dauphine greeted their guests dressed as shepherd and shepherdess and had laid out buffets of fish, cakes, towers of fruit, wines & liquers to feast upon before throwing open the the grand doors into the great hall. However, the true popularity underlying this event, which began at 11.30pm and lasted until 8.30am the next day (they knew how to party!), was not truly a marital celebration. The hitherto mistress of King Louis XV, Mme de Châteauroux, had died the previous year and the ball was an opportunity for the king to appear incognito amongst thousands of hopeful women, although the king already had his eye on the pretty Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, wife of M. Le Normant d’Etiolles, who would later become the king’s official mistress Marquise de Pompadour.

So what do you dress up as if you want to turn heads but don’t want to be distinguished from your courtiers? Topiaries of course! And sure enough, before long a nicely manicured yew tree was spotted cavorting with a shepherdess shortly after this riotous party had begun. And what was the first thing she said to him? “My heart has always been set on yew.”**

Read more ‘Foraged History’ posts on Forages & Finds.

**Author may have taken some liberties with the details of this story.

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 Information taken from Chateau de Versailles website.

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