Versailles Railway Accident of 1842

Louis Philippe I, by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Louis Philippe I, by Franz Xaver Winterhalter. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Sunday, 8 May 1842, was the day scheduled to honor Louis Philippe I in the Gardens of Versailles. Among other things, waterworks and fireworks were scheduled. About 5:30pm, after the waterworks finished, many attendees went to the Versailles Left Bank Railroad to depart for home. The train was unusually long that day. It consisted of at least 17 carriages and 3 engines, two up front and one in the rear.

When the train left the station it was hauling no less than 640 passengers who were locked into their cars. The train was clipping along at about 25 miles an hour and everything was fine until the train began to descend near Meudon. Apparently, at that point, according to one newspaper report that is when the trouble began:

“[T]he engine now commenced wabbling, and as the train proceeded, the weight behind and the pushing forward of the six-wheel locomotive [caused the train’s speed to increase, which rendered the train unsteady] … and in avoiding a curve it pressed violently on each side of the rail [and caused] … the axle [to snap off].”[1] Continue reading

Fontainebleau Forest Murderess

Fontainebleau Forest , Courtesy of Wikipedia
Map of Fontainebleau, Courtesy of Wikipedia

One morning in May 1867, some peasants were heading to work and passed a wood hollow frequented by tourists in the Fontainebleau Forest. They saw “a woman lying on the grass, about twenty-five yards from the road, her head concealed by a parasol.” The peasants assumed the woman was resting. But the next day when the woman was still resting on the grass, one of them became suspicious and investigated.

What the peasant discovered horrified him. The woman was dead, “partially decomposed, lying on [her] … back, [her] right hand clutching a handful of grass … and [her] face frightfully disfigured.” This discovery resulted in a postmortem examination of her body and revealed wolves had mutilated her face. In fact, the only way officials were able to identify the body was through an engraved wedding ring the woman wore. It was also discovered the woman’s death was not natural, which, of course, caused “much excitement” and resulted in a criminal investigation. Continue reading

Grace Dalrymple Elliott and a Fateful Trip

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

To mark the publication of An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott in the USA, we are delighted to have been invited back by the wonderful Geri Walton for another guest blog on her fascinating website.

Grace is remembered to history chiefly for two things: as an infamous courtesan who counted earls, dukes and princes amongst her lovers, and for her experiences in France during the revolutionary years (she left behind her a journal detailing her adventures which was published posthumously). But there was much more to her than that and we hope our biography of Grace and her family, the most detailed to date, will give a true picture of the spirited woman she was.

However, today we are going to look at the event which set her on the path to becoming that ’infamous courtesan’ which happened 242 years ago.

Continue reading