Madame Marie Lafarge, Murder, and Arsenic

Madame Marie Lafarge, Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France
Madame Marie Lafarge, Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France

Charles Pouch-Lafarge was a coarse and repulsive 28-year-old man. He was also not having much luck in life. He had married and his wife had died shortly thereafter. In addition, his father had purchased property in the hamlet of Le Glandier in Corrèze and it had fallen into disrepair. To make it profitable, Lafarge turned part of into a foundry, which resulted in him falling into massive debt and being on the verge of bankruptcy. For this reason, Lafarge decided to find a wife that could help him financially, and to accomplish that he hired a marriage broker, a man by the name of Monsieur Foy.

In Picardy, France, Marie-Fortunée Capelle was born in 1816. Her father was an artillery officer, and her grandmother was rumored to be the illicit love child of Stéphanie Félicité, better known as Madame de Genlis, and Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orleans. If that was true it made Marie a descendant of Louis XIII of France. Yet, despite her royal credentials, Marie was described as “not greatly blessed with beauty.” She, similar to Lafarge, also had some bad luck. Her father died when she was twelve and her mother died several years later. Thus, she found herself at the age of eighteen the adopted daughter of her maternal aunt. Continue reading

The Stranding of the Oroya, 1895

Hugh Lauder in 1896.
Hugh Lauder in 1896.

My guest today is Suzan Lauder. She has a passion for Regency history, but a chance purchase of a book that turned out to be written by her great-great-great-grandfather in 1896 inspired the following post.

“The traveller who makes up his mind to undertake a journey round the World may well be excused if, as the day and the hour approaches when he must start, he feels like he were on the eve of a great experience in life, an experience which may be associated with events important and far-reaching in their results.” These are the opening words of Notes of a Trip Round the World written by my great-great-great-grandfather Hugh Lauder of Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland, in 1896. I’ll refer to him as Mr. Lauder, since the alternate is rather cumbersome! Continue reading

Manners and Customs of the French According to Punch

A Punch Title Page and Customs of the French
A Punch Title Page, Author’s Collection

Punch, or The London Charivari, was established in 1841 by Henry Mayhew and engraver Ebenezer Landells. It was a British weekly filled with humorous and satirical stories and illustrations, and Punch not only poked fun at the English but also the French. Here is one article published in 1851 that is related to the manners and customs of the French and is provided almost verbatim:

They are so extremely polite that, if a revolution is going on — which is not at all improbable — it is always difficulty to get the troops to fire. A whole regiment will ground their muskets, and taking their shoes off to the insurgents, say with the great good-humour, “Apprès vous, messieurs.

Should any stranger, or lady, accidentally be in the streets whilst an émeute [riot] is going on, the firing will instantly cease, a guard of honour is appointed to escort the stranger to his abode, and it is only on the return of that guard of honour, that hostilities (if the civilities which are paid by one side to another are worthy of that name) are renewed. Continue reading

Wrong Doings of Married Women

Married women, Courtesy of Wikipedia

In 1833, two English women — a Mrs. Emma Lush (wife to a groom employed by the Royal Family) and Mrs. Sarah Wolfe (a servant in a distinguished family) — decided to go on a shopping excursion. After making several purchases, they fell into the company of two strangers who prevailed upon them to accompany them for drinks. Despite not knowing the men — John Clack and a man named Faulkener — Mrs. Lush and Mrs. Wolfe decided to have some enjoyment and went with the men. Continue reading

Georges Cuvier, Father of Paleontology

Georges Cuvier, Author's Collection
Georges Cuvier, Author’s Collection

Georges Cuvier was born 23 August 1769 and came from a humble background. His father was a lieutenant in the Swiss Guards and his mother, a homemaker who diligently schooled him. He was baptized Jean-Léopld-Nicholas-Frédéric Cuvier, and later added Dagobert. However, after his older brother Georges Charles Henri died, he adopted the name Georges.

When Cuvier was ten he discovered a copy of Conrad Gessner’s Historiae Animalium, the first modern zoological work that attempted to describe all the animals known. He read and reread it along with other natural history books, so that by the time he was 12 “he was as familiar with quadrupeds and birds as a first-rate naturalist.” In addition, his school years proved exceedingly fruitful. He excelled above all other students and graduated from the Caroline Academy with top honors. However, because of his humble origins, he found it necessary work and obtained a job in Normandy where he began tutoring the only son of the Count of Héricy, a Protestant noble. Continue reading

Murder of the Duchess de Choiseul-Praslin

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

Seventeen-year-old Fanny Altarice Rosalba Sébastiani married nineteen-year-old Charles Laure Hugues Théobald, Duke de Choiseul-Praslin, on 18 October 1824. The Duke was a French nobleman, politician, and leading figure under the reign of Louis Philippe I. The Duke and Duchess had been visiting in Praslin and had returned to Paris on the Corbeil railway on Tuesday night, 17 August 1847. Each had made several separate visits to friends and then returned to their home located at 55 Faubourg Saint-Honoré. It was late by the time the Duke and Duchess got their children to bed and even later when they retired to their separate apartments. The Duke’s and Duchess’s apartments were located on the ground floor and divided by an ante-chamber that opened onto a flight of stairs. To its left was a boudoir connected to the Duchess’s room and on the right a little room preceded the Duke’s bedroom. Above their apartments were those of their servants. Continue reading

Letters on the Death of Francis I

death of Francis I
Francis I, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Marie Antoinette’s father, Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, reigned twenty years and died unexpectedly on August 18, 1765, while at Innsbruck from a massive apoplexy attack. His death greatly affected his wife, Maria Theresa of Austria. In fact, she never recovered and thereafter wore widow weeds. Replacing the Emperor was his oldest son, Joseph who became Joseph II and who reigned in conjunction with his mother, Maria Theresa.

In response , Maria Theresa and Joseph II wrote separate heartfelt letters to the Archduchesses (Maria Theresa’s daughters and Joseph’s sisters) on the death of Francis I. At the time there were seven — Maria Anna, Maria Christina, Maria Elisabeth, Maria Amalia, Maria Josepha, Maria Carolina, and the youngest, Maria Antonia, who was the future Marie Antoinette and nine years old at the time. Continue reading

Mr. Broughton’s Seven Boxing Rules of 1743

John "Jack" Broughton, Courtesy of Wikipedia
John “Jack” Broughton, Courtesy of Wikipedia

When boxing was in its infancy boxing rules were loosely defined and varied from fight to fight. The winner was usually determined to be either the boxer who hit the hardest or submitted to the greatest punishment. On 16 August 1743, a boxer by the name of John (Jack) Broughton formulated and printed seven rules that he framed at his amphitheatre. These seven rules became known as “Mr. Broughton’s Rules” and are provided below:

  1. That a square of a yard be chalked in the middle of the stage; and every fresh set-to after a fall, or being parted from the rails, each second is to bring his man to the square and place him opposite to the other; and till they are fairly set-to at the lines, it shall not be lawful for one to strike the other. Continue reading

Eugene Delacroix, French Romantic Painter

Eugene Delacroix, Public Domain
Eugène Delacroix, Public Domain

Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix was born on 26 April 1798 in Charenton-Saint-Maurice in Île-de-France, near Paris. His father was Charles-François Delacroix, a French statesman who became Minister of Foreign Affairs under the Directory, and his mother, Victoire, the daughter of a cabinet-maker. However, there are claims that his father was infertile because of an enormous growth he had on one of his testicles and persistent rumors at the time claimed Delacroix’s real father was Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, who was a French bishop, politician, and diplomat.

Supporting the rumors that Talleyrand was Delacroix’s real father is the fact that Talleyrand was a well-known womanizer. It was also reported that “Delacroix looked like Talleyrand, exhibited many of his behavioral traits, and was anonymously supported by the foreign minister during his early years.” However, today most contemporary historians who have examined this father-son connection do not believe Delacroix was Talleyrand’s son. Continue reading

10 August: A First Hand Account (Part 2)

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Public Domain
Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Public Domain

Scottish born John Moore continued to record his observations about the 10 August storming of the Tuileries Palace in 1792. He made the following notations in his journal on 11 August, which are provided below almost verbatim:

When the King and Queen entered the hall of the National Assembly, they were accompanied by the Dauphin, their daughter, and the Princess Elizabeth, and attended by the ministers and some members of the municipality of Paris. Continue reading