Constance Louisa Bouchier Smith and the Grandson of the Young Pretender

Grace Dalrymple Elliott, Courtesy the Met Museum
Grace Dalrymple Elliott, Courtesy the Met Museum

We are delighted to be asked to pay a return visit to Geri’s blog. For those who have not met us before we are Sarah and Jo and we host the blog ‘All Things Georgian’. We are also joint authors of An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, the definitive biography of the eighteenth-century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott.

Grace, young, tall and beautiful, made a ‘marriage-a-la-mode’ to a successful doctor in 1771, with disastrous consequences. Her husband, Dr John Eliot, was much older (and reputedly much shorter too), than his new wife and when Grace was discovered at a bagnio with the much younger and handsome Viscount Valentia a divorce swiftly followed, leaving Grace, still not legally an adult, to survive on her looks and her wits. Continue reading

The Great Cartomancer – Mademoiselle Lenormand

Mademoiselle Lenormand, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Mademoiselle Lenormand, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Marie Anne Adelaide Lenormand gained considerable fame during the Napoleonic era for her fortune-telling abilities. In fact, she was called the “The Sibyl of the Faubourg Saint-Germain” and “casting horoscopes, palmistry, divination by cards, were, it seems, among her cabalistic arts of unveiling the future.” She was also considered the greatest cartomancer in France and because of her skills she greatly influenced the French field of cartomancy (fortune-telling or divination that uses a deck of cards).

Born to a draper in 27 May 1772, in Alençon, Normandy, Lenormand was orphaned at the age of five and educated in a Benedictine convent school. From an early age she “was put in communication with heavenly bodies.” At the age of seven Lenormand found “herself suddenly endued with this supernatural intelligence. Her debut in the art of divination took place … when she learnt her first catechism. The youthful scholar predicted the head of the convent would soon be discharged. She was put en penitence for this prediction, but it turned out to be [true].”

From that point forward Lenormand’s course seemed set and that accurate prediction was followed by many others. Continue reading

The Regent Diamond

Marie Antoinette Wearing the Regent Diamond. This Photo comes from Ventura County Museum of History Art, Courtesy of TripAdvisor.
Marie Antoinette Wearing the Regent in Her Hair. This Photo Comes From Ventura County Museum of History Art, Courtesy of TripAdvisor.

A diamond, a whopping 410 carats uncut, was found by a slave in the Kollur mine in India. The slave smuggled it out of the mine: Some say in his rectum and others claim it was placed in a large wound in his leg. Then an English sea captain killed the slave, stole the diamond, and sold it to a merchant in India.

An English merchant named Thomas Pitt bought the diamond from the merchant while in Madras in 1701. Because of Pitt’s ownership, the diamond became known as the Pitt diamond. Pitt cut the diamond into a 141 carat cushion brilliant that was described as “almost round in shape, of a thickness equal to its width, perfectly white, free from all blemish, cloud, or speck of admirable water.”

Pitt attempted to sell the diamond to various European royals, including Louis XIV without success. Eventually, however, it was purchased by Louis XV’s Regent, Philippe II, Duke of ‘Orléans in 1717. The duke was encouraged to purchase it by his friend, the famed memoirist, Louis de Rouvroy, Duke of Saint-Simon.

Continue reading

Jewel Cabinet of Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette's Jewel Cabinet
Armoire à Bijoux, Author’s Collection

Marie Antoinette had several jewel receptacles she used for her trinkets. The ones that were modest in form and size were “covered in leather and lined with satin.” Others that were “monumental [in] proportions.” One monumental one was the armoire à bijoux (jewel cabinet), shown at the right, that is opulent and extraordinary in appearance.

The monumental armoire à bijoux was 8 feet 9 inches high by 6 feet 9 inches wide and 2 feet 2 inches deep. Yet, for its overall size it was probably too small to hold all the Queen’s jewels. The armoire was created in 1787, after the city of Paris commissioned a German cabinetmaker named Jean-Ferdinand-Joseph Schwerdfeger to create it at Marie Antoinette’s request. Continue reading

The Favras Plot

Comte d'Antraigues, Public Domain
Comte d’Antraigues, Public Domain

There were numerous plots afoot to save the royal family after the French Revolution began. One well-known plot involved Louis-Alexandre de Launay, Comte d’Antraigues, who was a French pamphleteer, spy, and political adventurer. D’Antraigues had been elected to the Estates-General in 1789 and initially supported the French Revolution. However, after Versailles was stormed and the royal family was taken to the Tuileries Palace (essentially as prisoners), he switched sides and became a staunch defender of the monarchy.

As a counter-revolutionary, d’Antraigues soon found himself aligned with the audacious Thomas de Mahy, marquis de Favras. Favras came from an impoverished but aristocratic family. At seventeen he became captain of the dragoons and later served as a first lieutenant in the Swiss Guard for Louis XVI’s younger brother, Comte de Provence (future Louis XVIII). It was because of Favras’s relationship with the Comte de Provence that Favras became drawn into a plot to save the royal family, restore the French monarchy, and end the French Revolution. Continue reading

The Red Inn Affair

Old postcard of L'Auberge de Peyrebeille, Called L'Auberge rouge (The Red Inn Affair)
Old postcard of L’Auberge de Peyrebeille, Called L’Auberge rouge (The Red Inn), Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Red Inn, known as l’auberge rouge, became notorious in the nineteenth century after a hostel customer named Jean-Antoine Enjolras was found dead with a smashed skull. Evidence seemed to point to the proprietors of the inn — Pierre and Marie Martin — and their employee, Jean Rochette. Because of that the three were arrested. The ensuing trial (which is sometimes dubbed “The Crimes of Peyrebeille”) was sensational, and beside being charged with murder, the Martins and Rochette were also accused of the horrid crime of cannibalism. Continue reading

School of Love: Dorimon and Alithea


In 1773 answers for the love lorn could be found in an eighteen century magazine. The magazine had the School of Love providing the advice, and among those who had concerns about their love life was an eighteenth century married woman named Charlotte. Charlotte posed the following question to the School of Love:

“My husband and I have lived happily for seven years. Of late his affections have begun to wander from me: I do not know upon what account, but I fear there is some other woman behind the screen. — In any case, what am I to do?” Continue reading

Jane Austen and the Brothers Wellesley


My guest today is Stephanie Barron. Stephanie was born in Binghamton, New York, the last of six girls (opposite of me as I’m the oldest of six girls). She attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history, before going on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Since then, she has written fifteen books, including her latest Austen mystery, Jane and the Waterloo Map. Without further delay here is her post on her whirlwind blog tour.

Those of us who shamelessly read other people’s letters know from invading a few of Jane Austen’s that she visited the Prince Regent’s London home, Carlton House, in November 1815. I walk right into this royal residence at Jane’s side in my latest Austen mystery, JANE AND THE WATERLOO MAP. When Miss Austen stumbles over a dying soldier in the Regent’s library, she is off and running on her latest detective adventure. Continue reading

Assassination of the Duke of Berry

Charles Ferdinand d’Artois, Duke of Berry, was the youngest son of Charles X. The Duke was said to be a jovial, vain, and somewhat ill-mannered person, and he was considered the black sheep of the family because he constantly attracted trouble. Moreover, while living in exile in England he had a torrid affair with a Protestant English woman named Amy Brown Freeman, whom he had two daughters with and whom he secretly married. Continue reading