Pierre Poulailler the 18th Century Robber

Pierre Poulailler
Hen-house, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Despite being a handsome child, Pierre Poulailler acquired a reputation at birth of belonging to the devil. He demonstrated this devilish reputation when, even as a toddler, he behaved incorrigible. At the age of ten, he ran away and became a cabin-boy on a merchant ship, but his sea career did not last long. He deserted at age twelve, went to England, and tried to pass himself off as the son of a French duke, which failed. He then found himself back in France attached himself to a band of gypsies, who taught him the art of pilfering, quackery, and he “passed through all the degrees which lead to downright robbery.” Continue reading

Freemasonry and the “Masonry of Adoption” in 18th Century France

Freemasonry Masonic Square and Compass
Masonic Square and Compass, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Freemasonry membership in France included French nobles and many military men, but the largest portion of membership was the bourgeoisie who liked the idea of being members because they appreciated Freemasonry’s motto of equality. Those excluded from joining included Jews, actors, employees, workers, and servants, as well as women. 

Fortunately for women, sometime in the 1730s or 1740s, the idea developed to create a mixed-sex form of Freemasonry known as Maçonnerie d’Adoption or “Masonry of Adoption” or “Rite of Adoption.” One person later wrote that the reason men allowed females to join was because the practice of Freemasonry was “a practical means of giving to their wives and daughters some share of the pleasures which they themselves enjoyed in their mystical assemblies.” Moreover, the Freemasonry assemblages included “commendable fidelity and diligence … [and were] distinguished by numerous acts of charity.” Continue reading

21 Facts About the Guillotine in the 1700s

Not the Guillotine but the Halifax Gibbet
Halifax Gibbet, Early Example of a Decapitating Machine, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Before the guillotine, there were other beheading devices. One early one used in the town of Halifax, West Yorkshire, England, in the sixteenth century was an alternative to beheading by axe or sword and called the Halifax Gibbet. Yet, the decapitation machine that would become the most well-known was the French guillotine, named for Dr. Joseph-Ignance Guillotin.

Interestingly, Dr. Guillotin was opposed to the death penalty and hoped it would be abolished. As that seemed unlikely, he gave a speech and proposed a decapitation machine he thought less painful and more humane. He said, “Now, with my machine, I cut off your head in the twinkling of an eye, and you never feel it!” His statement quickly became a joke and resulted in the circulation of a humorous song that thereafter tied his name to the machine and caused many people to believe he invented it.

Besides the guillotine not being the first decapitation device and Dr. Guillotin not being the inventor of the guillotine, there are 21 other interesting facts about the guillotine. Continue reading

Louis XVI’s Sibling: Marie Clotilde of France

Marie Clotilde
Marie Clotilde, Public Domain

Marie Adélaïde Clotilde of France was once described as “fat as butter, very merry, and good-natured.” On the other hand, her husband, Charles Emmanuel, Prince of Piedmont (later Charles Emmanuel IV of Sardinia), was just the opposite. He was described as “thin and sickly, like a worn-out man.” Their marriage was part of a wider political scheme of marriages by Marie Clotilde’s oldest brother, Louis XVI. For example, Louis XVI had arranged the marriage of his brother, the Count of Provence, to Charles Emmanuel’s younger sister, Marie Joséphine in 1771, and, in 1773, he arranged the marriage of his other brother, the Count of Artois, to another of Charles Emmanuel’s sisters, Maria Theresa of Savoy.

Marie Clothilde would have preferred not to marry because of her pious character. Her parents were both dead by the time she was eight (her father died from consumption in 1765 and her mother from tuberculosis in 1767). She was raised under the supervision of a royal governess, Madame Marsan, with her younger sister, Madame Élisabeth. She and Élisabeth both focused on religion and virtue and adapted themselves at a young age to strict Catholic devotion. In addition, their aunt, who was Louis XV’s daughter, Madame Louise, was a nun in the Order of the Carmelites, and both girls had a strong desire to follow in their aunt’s path. Continue reading

The Four Soldiers of the La Rochelle Conspiracy

Four Accused Men of the La Rochelle Conspiracy, Public Domain
Four Accused Conspirators, Author’s Collection

In 1821, under the Bourbon Restoration, a sergeant-major named Jean-Francois Louis Leclerc Bories was in the 45th regiment. He was also garrisoned at Paris. While there, he was initiated into the society of the Carbonari, a group of secret revolutionary societies originally founded in Italy that influenced secret societies in France.

The society in France was an association of conspirators involving Liberals and Bonapartists who were against the Bourbon monarchy. Members were primarily recruited from military ranks, and Bories appealed to his comrades to join. Thus, he successfully initiated several other soldiers into the society’s ranks.

In January of 1822, the 45th regiment moved from Paris to La Rochelle, and while in the regiment was in La Rochelle, the secret society was discovered. The discovery resulted in twenty-five men being arrested and accused of being part of a conspiracy to overthrow the restored Bourbon monarchy of Louis XVIII. Among those arrested and brought to trial were Bories, along with three other men — Jean-Joseph Pommier, Charles Goubin, and Marius-Claude Raoulx.

Continue reading

Journalist, Blackmailer, and Spy: Charles Claude Théveneau, Chevalier de Morande

Chevalier de Morande
Charles Claude Théveneau, Chevalier de Morande, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Charles Claude Théveneau was the self-created Chevalier de Morande and a gutter journalist, blackmailer, and French spy. He was born in 1748 and was the son of a well-respected lawyer. He was educated at Dijon but spent much of his youth misbehaving and being uncontrollable. His father decided Morande needed to join the Dragoons, and at the age of eighteen, Morande headed off to war and served six years in the French army.

The Chevalier de Morande was described as “five foot three inches … with chestnut hair, blue eyes and a large nose … physically large, powerfully built.” After he served his time in the military, he drifted to Paris where he wasted away his time drinking, committing petty crimes, and attracting the attention of police. A lettre de cachet was the result, and he was imprisoned for fifteen months in the Bastille. Continue reading

Louis XVI’s Sibling: Louis XVIII

Future Louis XVIII
Young Count of Provence, Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Count of Provence (comte de Provence), later Louis XVIII, was born 17 November 1755 at the Palace of Versailles to Louis, Dauphin of France and his wife Maria Josepha of Saxony. In accordance with Bourbon tradition, he spent the first six months of his life nameless before he was baptized Louis Stanislas Xavier. Louis Stanislas was a favorite among his siblings and considered an intelligent boy. He was also said to be studious and a prodigious reader. 

In April 1771, when the Count’s education formally ended, he received several other titles but was still usually called the Count of Provence. His own independent household was also established and by 1773 was so extravagant with its 300 servants his contemporaries were astounded. A month after he finished his education, on 14 May 1771, he also married. His bride was the Princess Maria Giuseppina of Savoy (known in France as Marie Joséphine). The Princess’s sister, Maria Teresa, was the Countess of Artois and married to the Count of Provence’s younger brother, and the Princess’s brother, Charles Emmanuel IV, was married to the Count of Provence’s younger sister, Clotilde. Continue reading

Five Unfortunate Accidents of 1843

Carriage Accident in the Victorian Era, Public Domain
Carriage Accident in the Victorian Era, Public Domain

Accidents were common events in 1843. Besides carriage accidents, drownings, and frequent fires, people experienced other types of Victorian accidents that ranged from property damage to death. Among the unfortunate accidents that occurred in 1843 are the following: First, a story about a snake; second, a thunder and lightning storm; third, the unfortunate collapse of an embankment; fourth, a railway accident; and, fifth, the sad tale of two inquisitive children and a distillery. Continue reading

Interesting Animal Tales of France in the 19th Century

The Learned Pig, Animal Tales of France
The Learned Pig, Public Domain

Animals were an integral part of people’s lives in the 1800s and Frenchman had plenty of stories to share about them. For instance, while Englishmen were busy being amazed by the “Learned Pig” called Toby, people in Montpellier, France, were being entertained by a learned dog. One gentleman traveler saw the dog firsthand and wrote that the dog’s intellectual skills were “baffling.” One demonstration of the dog’s skill involved cards. The dog would bring back to his master any card thrown on the floor that anyone in the room called by name after “his master showed him the fellow to it, which he held in his hand.” Another demonstration with cards involved cards painted various colors. These too were thrown on the floor and then the dog’s master “directed the dog’s attention to the gown of some lady present, and the animal immediately sought out, and brought the card of the same color.” But the demonstration that had everyone speechless was the dog’s “arithmetical performance.” Anyone present could write any mathematical problem — addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division — on a slate. “Each time going up to the slate, for a minute to study his lesson, he successively brought up the figure which made the difference.” Continue reading

Louis-Joseph Xavier, Duke of Burgundy

Duke of Burgundy
Louis-Joseph Xavier, Duke of Burgundy, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Louis-Joseph Xavier, Duke of Burgundy (duc de Bourgogne), was born on 13 September 1751 at the Palace of Versailles. His grandfather was Louis XV and his parents were the Dauphin Louis and Maria Josepha of Saxony. The Duke was also the older brother to three future kings: Louis XVI, Louis XVIII, and Charles X and was therefore the oldest in line to inherit the throne, which was probably why he was the favorite of his parents.

A fateful event happened in 1759 when the Duke or “Burgundy” as he was called, injured his leg. There are at least two stories as to how the injury happened. One story is that he was of fiery and impetuous temperament when it came to riding his wooden horse, a horse that traveled under the power of his attendants. One day when Burgundy was urging excessive speed by his “horse,” he was thrown pell-mell from the horse and flew against an open door that damaged his hip-joint. Another story is that he was pushed off his wooden horse by a playmate, and because Burgundy was a kind boy, he did not tell anyone he was hurt. Continue reading