Queen Marie Antoinette’s birthed a brief craze for Caca Dauphin, a shade of brown that resembled the contents of the new prince’s diapers.
Carolyn Purnell in The Sensational Past describes how “wealthy people could spend the equivalent of a dozen dollars to wear clothes in the colors of baby poop”.
It was a “way for the nobles to assert their support for the monarchy while following the fashion of the moment.”
An article in the Belle Assemblee (1807) huffed:
Finally, have we not seen, and this undoubtedly is the height of ignominy, have we not seen the fair sex seeking the colour of their ribbons in the very excrement of the royal infant! The colour Caca Dauphin adorned every dress, and this word, which I cannot now write without repugnance, was then in the mouths of all the best bred women! What a ridiculous taste, that would attempt to dress beauty in disgusting images!
To reduce any..um..odor , colorist Louis-Eugène Chevreul created a new formula for Caca Dauphin: “4 orange-yellow 8 tones slightly folded”.
In reality, a yellowish-greenish colour.
At the time, everybody was in the royal business.
Menstrual fluxes of princesses and queens were all the subject of widespread discussion.
At the delivery of her first child in December 1778, Marie Antoinette shared her inner chambers (and inner chambers!) not only with her physicians and the King, but also the extended royal family and court favorites.
The queen’s chambermaid, Madame de Campan, recalled in her memoirs how “the stream of curious people who had rushed into the chamber was so numerous and tumultuous that it was feared that the queen would perish.”
Before they were thrown out, two men had even climbed up on the furniture for a better view of the royal nether regions.
Notwithstanding Caca Dauphin or Prince Poo, colours then had more evocative names.
No Oatmeal or Magnolia at the royal court!
A yellow colour similar to Marie Antoinette’s hair was dubbed “Queens hair” (Cheveux de la Reine). “Paris Mud” or “Goose Shit” epitomized iridescent brown.
“Opera Fire”, an incandescent red, was named after the real Paris Opera House fire of 1763.
A greyish pink colour named Puce became all the rage when Louis joked that it reminded him of fleas. (Puce is the French word for flea).
Bizarrely, one colour was even “entrails of little master”.
So don’t poo-poo it.
Siobhan is a freelance writer, research addict and lover of twisted history. If you like horrible but amazing history, check out her website www.interesly.com or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/interesly. Or you can reach her through www.siobhanoshea.com.