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One of the largest Baroque palaces in Germany

Ludwigsburg Residential Palace

Duke Carl Eugen with Duchess Franziska, Imperial Countess zu Hohenheim, in a silhouette-style etching by J.F. Knisel. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Robert Bothner
A duke and the ladies

Blue shoes

Prominent scholar Johann Caspar Lavater saw unfailing virility in the duke's facial features. Fact: Duke Carl Eugen loved women, and made no secret of his passion. He supposedly made sure that the royal household was informed.

Baroque lady's shoe in the fashion museum at Ludwigsburg Residential Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Ludwigsburg local administration

Lady's shoe with silk embroidery.

What did the ladies of the Württemberg court wear?

It is said that Carl Eugen ordered all women with whom he'd had a relationship to wear blue shoes. In 1765, a contemporary of his wrote: "By virtue of a new court ceremonial, all women who were not pledged to the duke were prohibited from wearing blue shoes. And vice-versa, all of those whom he had or would honor by allowing them to grant him their virtue... were ordered to never appear without this distinguishable fashion."

Detail of a painting of Duke Carl Eugen von Württemberg. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Dieter Jäger

Portrait of the fashion-conscious Duke Carl Eugen.

Sensual footwear

Small feet were a beauty ideal in the 18th century. The graceful slippers made of expensive fabrics and worn by the elegant ladies of the Rococo period were primarily intended to display delicate ladies' feet in a sensual way. The erotic significance of such slippers is alluded to in paintings and texts of the period. Thus it is no coincidence that this duke wanted to identify his lovers by the appearance of their shoes.

Truth and fiction

Blue shoes or no, the truth is that Carl Eugen had many different affairs in his life as an absolutist ruler, and in this way, he was not very different from other sovereigns of the time. He was constantly accompanied by different mistresses: "Maitresse en titre" (chief mistress) was an official position at court, and was generally acknowledged and very coveted. Whether or not the women accommodated his demands willingly is not known. In any event, his wife, Elisabeth Friederike, returned to live with her parents after a few years of marriage, possibly because of the numerous affairs. However, it is also interesting to note that the duke cared for his illegitimate children. Depending on rank and lineage, the mistresses were given a one-time sum and their grown sons were offered a military position, while their daughters were given a dowry for marriage.

Couple in historic costumes in the courtyard at Ludwigsburg Residential Palace. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

A courtly couple in blue: the scene at a Ludwigsburg Palace Festival.

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