Places of the French Revolution: Palais-Royal

The Palais-Royal was original known as the Palais-Cardinal. It was the personal residence of Armand Jean du Plessis, known as Cardinal Richelieu. Designs were made by his architect — Jacques Lemercier — in 1629 and construction began in 1633. It took six years of hammering and pounding to complete and was not finished until 1639. By that point, it had assumed the form of a square with a large garden in the center.

Palais-Royal in 1641. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

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Animal Fads and Fashions in the 18th and 19th Century

Monstrosities of 1818, Courtesy of Library of Congress
Fashion “Monstrosities of 1818.” Courtesy of Library of Congress.

It seems as if animals have always had some effect on fashion. Beavers were all the rage in the 17th century to the point they became decimated in Europe and paved the way for North America to become the premier supplier of beaver pelts. But it was not just beavers that consumers wanted. Other animals became fashionable and all sorts of crazes for these animals appeared in the 1700 and 1800s. Moreover, these animal fads and fashions were not just popular in London or France, they were popular across the European continent. Some of the fashionable animals of these times included the stoat, giraffe, chimpanzee, rhinoceros, and various birds. Continue reading

A French Subscription Ball in 1801

French Subscription Ball: La Walse, Le Bon Genre, Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
“La Walse, Le Bon Genre,” Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Balls were a popular diversion in Paris in 1801, and an English traveler to Paris attended a public subscription ball held by a society known as le salon des étrangers in December 1801. The ball was held in a popular hotel in the Rue de la Grange Bateliere, which is today in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. The Englishman noted attendees included not only Frenchmen but also “most of the foreign ambassadors, envoys, &c … and many of the most distinguished persons of both sexes in Paris.” Frenchmen were admitted by ballot, and foreigners were introduced by a member and paid the annual subscription rate of five louis to attend. Continue reading

Childbirth and Forceps Delivery

Regina Jeffers
Regina Jeffers

Please welcome my guest Regina Jeffers. Regina, an award-winning author of historical cozy mysteries, Austenesque sequels and retellings, as well as Regency era romances, has worn many hats over her lifetime: daughter, student, military brat, wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, tax preparer, journalist, choreographer, Broadway dancer, theatre director, history buff, grant writer, media literacy consultant, and author. Living outside of Charlotte, NC, Regina writes novels that take the ordinary and adds a bit of mayhem, while mastering tension in her own life with a bit of gardening and the exuberance of her “grand joys.”

Today Regina has chosen to write on childbirth and forceps delivery in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Here is her post: Continue reading

The Comet Scare of 20 May 1773

Jacob Bernouilli, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Jacob Bernoulli, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Comets and the idea that one would hit the earth and destroy it, have long been a concern of humans. Seventeenth-century mathematician Jacob (also called James or Jacques) Bernoulli predicted the famous comet of 1680. It was called “Kirch’s Comet,” the “Great Comet of 1680,” or “Newton’s Comet,” and Bernoulli thought it would return and cause a terrible fracas on 17 March 1719. He was mistaken. The 1680 comet — the first comet discovered by telescope but reputedly so bright it was easily visible at daytime — was not “an infallible sign of the wrath of heaven,” and the world did not end despite Bernoulli’s prediction. Continue reading

John Defined

Pope John XXI, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Pope John XXI, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Among the long line of disastrous JOHNs is a list of popes ranging from JOHN I to JOHN XXIII. Many of these JOHNs were either nonentities or suffered some sort of bad luck. For instance, Pope JOHN I died in jail, as did JOHN X, JOHN XI, and JOHN XIV. At least one JOHN, Pope JOHN XII, was assassinated and Pope JOHN XXI (who decided to skip XX and become XXI) was crushed to death when his apartment at the papal palace at Viterbo collapsed, crushing him. There was also Pope JOHN VIII who was imprisoned by a duke, later mocked for his effeminacy, and finally poisoned to death.

But Popes named JOHN were not the only unlucky ones. There was also a slew of royalty named JOHN that suffered calamities or bad luck. For instance, JOHN STUART ascended the throne in Scotland in 1390 and changed his name to Robert (becoming Robert III of Scotland) but that did not stop the calamities and infirmities that befell him. JOHN OF ENGLAND suffered a bad reign resulting in the baronial revolt that ultimately resulted in his sealing the Magna Carta. There is also Yohannes IV, Emperor of Ethiopia, but known as KING JOHN to the English, who suffered bad luck. As he was fighting the Madhis in 1889 and victory was going his way, he behaved rashly, went behind enemy lines, and died from a mortal wound. Continue reading

Places of the French Revolution: Hôtel de Ville

Statue of Étienne Marcel by Antonin Idrac Next to the Hôtel de Ville, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Statue of Étienne Marcel by Antonin Idrac Next to the Hôtel de Ville, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Administration for the city of Paris has been located in the same spot — the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, formerly called the Place de Grève — since July of 1357. At that time, Paris’s provost of merchants (essentially mayor), Étienne Marcel, bought the maison aux piliers (House of Pillars) in the name of the city. This was also the spot that merged with the Place de Grève (“Square of the Strand”) and the spot where public executions were conducted since its inception.

Although almost always in need of repairs, the House of Pillars served Paris’s needs until the 1530s. At that time, Paris had become the largest and grandest city in Europe, and because of its grand reputation, King Francis I decided in 1533 to build a city hall he thought worthy of Paris. To accomplish his vision, Francis I appointed two architects, Italian Dominique de Cortone and Frenchman Pierre Chambiges. Continue reading

Quotes Said During the French Revolution

French Revolution quotes
Napoleon Bonaparte, Author’s Collection

The French Revolution was a tumultuous ten-year period that forever changed France. Those people who experienced these tumultuous times saw monumental social and political change. It also ultimately created the Emperor Napoleon and did away with the ancien régime beheading its leader Louis XVI. The words of some of the people involved in the French Revolution and the drastic changes, are provided below:

Non sire, ce n’est pas une révolte, c’est une révolution.
No sire, it’s not a revolt; it’s a revolution.
This was said by the Duke of Rochefoucauld, a French social reformer, the morning after the storming of the Bastille when Louis XVI asked him, “Is it a revolt?” Continue reading

Schönbrunn Palace, Marie Antoinette’s Childhood Summer Home


Schöbrunn Palace by Bernardo Bellotto in 1758. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Antoine (later Marie Antoinette) was the fifteenth and second to last child of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and his wife, Maria Theresa, who ruled jointly with her husband. Antoine was born on 2 November 1755 in an armchair in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. However, while the Hofburg Palace may have been where she was born, it did not mean it was the place where she spent most of her time as a child. Continue reading

Social Climbing Through Ladies’ Boarding Schools

Today my guest is Naomi Clifford. After a long career in magazine journalism in the UK, Naomi returned to her first love: history (which she studied at Bristol University in the 1970s). She is now happy to be a freelance writer based in London, which gives her the time and freedom to explore the delights of the British Newspaper Archive, the National Archive and the British Library, and to write non-fiction books about the Georgian era, the first of which, The Disappearance of Maria Glenn, has just been published. With that introduction, here is Naomi’s guest post. Continue reading