Murder by the French Priest Delacollonge

French Priest Delacollogne, Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France
French Priest Delacollonge, Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France

The French priest Delacollonge lived in Dijon. On occasion a woman by the name of Fanny Besson visited him at his rectory. Besson who was a milliner and said to be “mild, modest, and very religious,” was renting a room in Dijon from a Madame Vulot. Besson told Vulot that her “husband  had fled for a political offence, and she had no friend but her brother [Delacollonge].”

In May of 1834 a pregnant Besson arrived at Delacollonge’s house and remained there for two or three months. During this time, Delacollonge helped her gain lodging for her accouchement, and numerous people mentioned the tenderness Delacollonge displayed towards Besson during this time. Unfortunately, soon after the baby’s birth, the child died. Continue reading

Pampering the French Royal Dog in the 1700s

Pampering the French royal dog
Marie Antoinette’s Dog Kennel, Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum

Marie Antoinette was known to love dogs. When she first traveled from Austria to France to marry the Dauphin, her beloved pug Mops was with her. Unfortunately, she had to leave Mops at the border, although she did later manage to retrieve him. But Mops wasn’t the only dog that Marie Antoinette owned and neither was it the only dog at Versailles. There were many other dogs, and just like their masters or mistresses, they received royal treatment.

One way royal canines were pampered was with their furniture. Dogs did not just sleep on the floor or on top of a cushy pillow, they slept in what the renown Dr. Samuel Johnson defined as a “little hut or house for dogs.” Typically these were a basket or some sort of container that allowed the dog to enter and exit from one or two sides. However, among the well-heeled aristocrats and the royals, it became common practice to provide them with furniture that was sometimes elaborate. Continue reading

Two Men Suffocated in One Grave

St. Botolph's Aldgate, Courtesy of Wikipedia
St. Botolph’s Aldgate, Courtesy of Wikipedia

In 1838, an inquest was held in the parish of St. Botolph’s, Aldgate. The inquest was held because of a horrible accident. The accident involved 53-year-old Thomas Oakes, a gravedigger, and a 20-year-old passerby, who was also a fish dealer and the father of two children, named Edward Luddett.

It began after Oakes arrived at work. He opened a trap door covering a grave and descended into the grave. Shortly after his descent, the sexton’s daughter went to look for him and found Oakes insensible at the bottom of the grave. She screamed for help and her screams drew numerous bystanders. In addition, Oakes’s condition was passed to police constables who hastened to the spot, removed the trap door, and discovered Oakes lying on his back apparently dead. They called for a ladder to remove Oakes from the grave. Continue reading

Parisian Fortune-Tellers in the Eighteenth Century

Parisian Fortune-Tellers, Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France
Fortune-Tellers, Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France

Parisian fortune-tellers were plentiful in eighteenth century France, and many fortune seekers visited them during the French Revolution hoping to learn if they would keep their head or not. One man wrote that when he visited the Pont Neuf, fortune-tellers regular used a deck of cards to predict a person’s future. However, a deck of card was not the only way a person discovered his or her future. Some fortune-tellers used a long pipe and placed one end in the ear of the fortune seeker and the other end near the fortune-teller’s mouth. The fortune-teller then explained in a quiet voice the fortune seeker’s “futurity … [and promised] lavish wealth and prosperity at the moderate price of deux sous.” Fortunes could also be obtained by the fortune-teller reading the dregs of a person’s coffee cup.

Yet, perhaps, what was more interesting than fortune-tellers using cards, pipes, or coffee dregs to predict the future, was how the fortune-tellers were able to accomplish it. Their abilities and success caused more than one curious person to investigate the field of fortune-telling closely. It also resulted in three stories about Parisian fortune-tellers in the eighteenth century. Continue reading

Louis-Marie Prudhomme

Louis-Marie Prudhomme, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Louis-Marie Prudhomme, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Louis-Marie Prudhomme, was born in Lyon in 1752. His first job was as a librarian. He then moved to Meaux, where he worked as a book binder. In 1787, he moved to Paris, and it was there he wrote lampoons. Among the lampoons attributed to him was the three-volume Résumé général, ou Extrait des cahiers de pouvoirs, instructions, demandes ou doléances remis par divers bailliages, sénéchaussées et pays d’État du royaume, which was written in conjunction with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and François-Silvain Laurent de Mezières and seized by police.

Prudhomme gave up lampooning when a patriotic journalist and pamphleteer, Antoine Tournon, encouraged him to write a pamphlet about the attack on the Bastille. Prudhomme’s pamphlet proved to be a huge success: It had lively writing, numerous etchings, and sold out even after its fifth edition. Because of the pamphlet’s popularity, Tournon convinced Prudhomme to join him and write a weekly newspaper.

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Executed for Jealousy, Elizabeth Richardson

Elizabeth Richardson and Pilmott's Murder
Pilmott’s Murder, Public Domain

Elizabeth Richardson (alias Forrester) was seduced at an early age and when older, she subsisted on wages made from “casual prostitution.” It was her casual prostitution that allowed her to meet an attorney named William Pilmott (perhaps Pilmot or even Pimlot or Pimlott). His chambers were located at Symond’s Inn.

Their relationship seemed to be filled with passion, and Pilmott liked Richardson enough to keep her. It is unclear whether or not the pock-marked Richardson had cause for jealousy, but whether she did or not, she was intensely jealous of Pilmott. In fact, her jealousy drove her to regularly visit Pilmott at his chambers thinking she would find him engaged in some sort of compromising situation with another woman. Continue reading

Images of Bourbon Restoration Fashions 1814-1819

Bourbon Restoration Fashions from 1814, Author's Collection
Fashions from 1814, Author’s Collection

The Bourbon Restoration began after the fall of Napoleon, and, at the time, as “the white flag floated from the dome of the Tuileries … there was a passion for white gowns.” These white gowns were generally trimmed at the bottom with flowers and worn to both private and official balls. In addition, there was “more than one lady at the court of Louis XVIII [who] trimmed the edge of her skirt with a wreath of lilies, while she altered but little the shape of her gown, which remained as short waisted as under Napoleon I.”

In 1814 and 1815, besides the passion for white gowns, many French women were also seized with “anglomania” when it came to fashion. But this predilection for everything English was not embraced by everyone. For instance, when one mother tried to get her young daughter to wear an English dress, the daughter replied, “Gracious! how frightful! what dreadful taste! To think of wearing English fashions!” Continue reading

Character of the French Nation by a Gentleman in 1773

Frernch Nation

One “gentleman” (likely English) who resided many years in France did not have the most favorable view of the French. In 1733, he submitted his opinion of the French to an English magazine of arts, literature, and miscellaneous interests that began in 1732, lasted until 1785, resurfaced in the 1800s, and is still published today. The name of the magazine was the London Magazine, Or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer.

Here is his assessment verbatim: Continue reading

Tricoteuses: Knitting Women of the Guillotine

The Women's March on Versailles, Courtesy of Wikipedia
The Women’s March on Versailles, Courtesy of Wikipedia

In October of 1789, at the start of the French Revolution, hunger drove thousands of angry market women to march on Versailles. Their march resulted in their demand for bread being met. They also forced King Louis XVI and his family to move to the Palace of Tuileries in Paris. Because of their success, the market women’s status was elevated. They became heroines in the people’s eyes, and “formed…societies after the fashion of the Jacobin Club, presided over by Renée Audu, Agnès Lefevre, Marie Louise Bouju, and Rose Lacombe, and went about the streets of Paris insulting respectably dressed people, and hounding on the sans-culottes to deeds of atrocity.” Continue reading

A French Brigand – le Beau-François

French brigand
Louis d’or from 1788, Courtesy of Wikipedia

One dark December night in 1797, 29 brigands, or as they called themselves chauffeurs, assembled together for a great gypsy feast in the forest of Lifermeau (in the district of Orgères). They survived by  pillaging and robbing, and their feast consisted of stolen poultry. At the feast, the chauffeurs’ also plotted to attack a well-to-do farmer named Fousset. The chauffeurs believed Fousset possessed “coffers full of louis-d’or, and chests crammed with linen and plate.”

Leading the French brigand band was a man who had several aliases — François Pelletier, Jean Anger, and François Girodot. Although is real name was unknown, he most frequently used the name Girodot but was generally known within the band as le Beau-François. Beau-François was about 30 and described as a tall, handsome man with penetrating blue eyes and a clear translucent complexion. He had been an itinerant rabbit skin seller but succeeded the band’s former leader, Fleur d’Epine who was guillotined in the September Massacres. Continue reading