Places of the French Revolution: Place Louis XV

Statue of Louis XV, Public Domain
Inauguration of the Statue of Louis XV, Public Domain

Among the places of the French Revolution was the Place Louis XV (later called the Place de la Concorde). It was located between the Palais des Tuileries and the Champs Élysées. The square, which was originally a spot where market-gardeners grew cabbage and lettuce, was established and named in honor of King Louis XV. Ange-Jacques Gabriel designed the square and laid it out in 1755. The center piece was a statue commissioned by the city of Paris in 1748, sculpted by Edmé Bouchardon, and completed by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle after Bouchardon’s death. It was an equestrian statue of King Louis XV: “The king, crowned with laurels and arrayed in Roman costume, sat a top a prancing charger of bronze.”  Continue reading

Duel Between the Count of Artois and Duke of Bourbon

Comte d'Artois in 1798, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Count of Artois in 1798, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Duels were a popular way to settle insults in the eighteen century. One famous duel involved Louis XVI’s younger brother, the Count of Artois, and his cousin, the Louis Henri of Bourbon-Condé (known as the Duke of Bourbon). The incident began with an insult during a masked ball on Shrove Tuesday in 1778.

Madame Carrillac had been mistress to the Duke of Bourbon, but she left the Duke for the Count of Artois. In addition, the Duke’s wife, the Duchess of Bourbon had feelings for the Count of Artois. One night at a masked ball the Count offered his arm to Madame Carrillac, and the Duchess of Bourbon, who was upset about Madame Carrillac, recognized the Count and Madame Carrillac. She then began following the pair spewing sarcastic remarks at Madame Carrillac. Continue reading

Glossary of French Terms Used in the Quadrille

Quadrille Dancers, Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France
Quadrille Dancers, Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France

The Quadrille was a popular square dance that became fashionable in the late 18th century. It was first introduced at Louis XV’s court sometime around 1760 and was first performed with two couples facing each other.

In 1816, the Quadrille reached England through Sarah Sophia Child Villiers, Countess of Jersey. The Countess was an aristocrat and well-known patroness of Almack’s, and, because of her, the Quadrille became ultra-fashionable with the upper crust.

Elements of the Quadrille changed over time, and it evolved into the waltz. Additionally, other couples were added to the dance so that the Quadrille included eight persons thereby forming a square and allowing couples to take turns resting and dancing.

Because of its French origins, the terms used for the Quadrille were French, and, over time, some of the terms were done away with or changed. The following list provides the most frequent French terms used for the Quadrille by the mid 1800s, and it includes their English counterparts: Continue reading

The Murder of Comte d’Antraigues and His Wife

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

Emmanuel Henri Louis Alexandre de Launay, comte d’Antraigues, was a French citizen. While living in France, d’Antraigues become involved in an incident known as the Favras Plot. When his involvement was discovered he fled to avoid execution. His mistress, a celebrated French operatic soprano named Madame de Saint-Huberty, followed him. They eventually married and lived in several countries before finally settling in Russia. However, the comte and his wife were expelled in 1806 because the comte published a pamphlet against Napoleon and the French Empire. Because of the expulsion, the comte and his wife moved to England. Continue reading

One Victorian Man’s “Hints to Unmarried Ladies”

Hints to Unmarried Ladies
The Bride is Embellished by her Girl Friend, 1859, Courtesy of Wikipedia

In the late 1800s, getting married was one of the signs of adulthood and marriage was certainly one of the foremost things on the mind of young women and men. Men liked marriage because it gave them a steady sexual partner and women like marriage because it allowed them to have a companion and they could create a warm, welcoming home.

A certain Victorian gentleman by the name of Mr. Finlayson created a table showing a woman’s chance in 1,000 of marrying for every year of her life from the ages of 14 to 39. One Australian newspaper came across it and published it in 1880 under the title of “Hints to Unmarried Ladies.” Here is that article almost verbatim: Continue reading

Running Footmen

running footmen
A Footman in His Livery, Author’s Collection

Running footmen were used by some people in the 1700s, while other people claimed they were not particularly useful. For those that thought running footmen useful, they claimed they were a necessary part of traveling equipage and a dignified way to show a passenger’s importance. For those who thought otherwise, they said running footmen were selected based on their physical attributes alone. However, running footmen did sometimes help: They occasionally lifted a vehicle out of rut, assisted the coach or carriage as it crossed a river, or ensured the vehicle did not overturn because of ditches, tree roots, or other obstacles.

Up until the end of the eighteenth century roads were bad, and coach travel was usually slow (seldom above five miles an hour), which was one reason running footmen could keep up. Nevertheless, the running footman needed to be a healthy, agile man. Moreover, the footman needed to also wear appropriate clothing to perform his duties. His dress usually involved “a light black cap, a jockey coat, white linen trousers, or a mere linen shirt coming to the knees, with a pole of six or seven feet long.” On top of the pole was a hollow ball. The hollow was the spot where the footman kept a small refreshment, such as a hard-boiled egg or some sips of wine. Apparently, the pole originated from a long silver-headed cane and was still used in the 1800s by footmen who rode at the back of carriages of the nobility. Continue reading

Being Broken on the Wheel in the 18th Century

Public Square in 4th Arrondissement of Paris, Now Called Place de l'Hôtel de Ville (City Hall Plaza) was, Before 1802, called Place de Grève, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Public Square in 4th Arrondissement of Paris, Now Called Place de l’Hôtel de Ville (City Hall Plaza) was, Before 1802, called Place de Grève, Courtesy of Wikipedia

In France, in the 1700s, when people were condemned to death, those convicted of certain atrocities were sometimes condemned to be broken on the wheel in a public execution. Sometimes after being broken on the wheel, blows were also given on the chest or the abdomen of the condemned person. These blows were called coups de grâce, or in other words, “blows of mercy,” as they were fatal to the condemned. If these blows were not given, a condemned person might live for hours or days, and they might be subject to birds pecking at them until they died. In addition, on occasion, a special grace, known as the retentum, was granted where a condemned person was strangled after the second or third blow, or in special cases, even before the breaking began.

This practice of being broken on the wheel was reported on by an Irish gentleman visiting Paris, France, in 1788. He wrote a letter to a friend in Ireland dated July 23rd, and, in the letter, he described the torturous punishment that one Parisian criminal experienced on the wheel. Here is his letter verbatim: Continue reading

Jean-Paul Marat Lauded Then Despised

Jean-Paul Marat, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Jean-Paul Marat, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Jean-Paul Marat was a well-known journalist and radical Jacobin during the French Revolution. He was admired by many revolutionaries and considered to be a “friend of the people,” having taken up the cause of the Third Estate. Marat also inspired numerous people to join in the Jacobin cause. However, he also inspired the ire of a 24-year-old woman name Charlotte Corday. She read enlightened works and became politically active, sympathizing largely with the less radical Girondins who wanted an end to the monarchy but also resisted the revolution.

Corday’s sympathy toward the Girondin’s cause resulted in her murdering Marat in his shoe-shaped bathtub in July of 1793. Although Corday may have wished to hurt the Jacobin’s cause and improve the position of the Girondins, just the opposite happened. When Marat’s murder came to light, the well-respected French painter, Jacques-Louis David, “delivered an emphatic panegyric of [Marat] … and declared that his art should reproduce the traits chéris du vertueux ami du peuple [and] he afterwards painted him at the moment of assassination, the blood streaming from the wound.” Continue reading

A Lawyer’s Escape During the Reign of Terror

La Marseillaise in 1792, Courtesy of Wikipedia
La Marseillaise in 1792, Courtesy of Wikipedia

During the Reign of Terror, a period during the French Revolution that lasted from 1793 to 1794, Marseilles (spelled Marseille by the French) was a highly patriotic city filled with revolutionaries. These revolutionaries were so patriotic they began to sing a catchy tune on Marseilles street corners and when they marched into Paris they sang it there too. This catchy tune soon caught on, and as revolutionaries fought against tyranny and foreign invasion, the song, known as La Marseillaise, was adopted and became the French Republic’s national anthem on 14 July 1795. Continue reading

“The Monsters” or the “Vere Street Gang” Homosexuals

Vere Street Sign in Westminster, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Vere Street Sign in Westminster, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Police received a tip about the “rendezvous of a society of miscreants of a detestable description.” These rendezvous involved homosexuals and had been occurring for six months at the White Swan. Based on tips, police raided a public house on Sunday, 8 July 1810. It was located on Vere-street and when officers proceeded to search it, police netted 26 people, “the whole of whom, together with the landlord of the house, they apprehended, and lodged for the night in the watch-house of St. Clement’s parish.” Continue reading