Marie Antoinette’s Last Letter

Widow Capet 1793 by Sophie Prieur, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Widow Capet 1793 by Sophie Prieur, Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Widow Capet, as Marie Antoinette was called after her husband’s death, was tried by the the Revolutionary Tribunal on October 14, 1793, and condemned to death. One of her last acts was to write a letter to her dear sister-in-law, the youngest sibling of Louis XVI, Madame Élisabeth. It was dated October 16 and written at half past four in the morning

In her letter to Madame Élisabeth, Marie Antoinette shows no animosity or wrath. Rather one person stated she was “subdued, but not exhausted by her adversities, she retains the memory of her blood and station, only to add a higher gracefulness to the calm and uncomplaining meekness with which she mediates upon her wrongs.”

Her letter follows almost verbatim: Continue reading

Reine Audu Heroine of the French Revolution

Reine Audu Heroine of the French Revolution: The Women's March on Versailles, Courtesy of Wikipedia
The Women’s March on Versailles, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Reine Audu, a heroine of the French Revolution, was born Louise-Renée Leduc. She became a French fruit seller in Paris and first gained recognition in October of 1789, when she and others led the Women’s March on Versailles. The marchers were upset about the constant threat of famine and the high prices and scarcity of bread.

What started as a demand for bread soon took on a much more ambitious goal. Marchers decided they wanted several things: First, they wanted an assurance that bread would once again be plentiful and cheap; and, second, they wanted to replace the King’s guards with National Guardsmen, a group loyal to middle-class interests and under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette. Additionally, the marchers wanted Louis XVI and his court to reside in Paris so that the King would be nearer to the people. Continue reading

The French Actress Mademoiselle La Clairon

The French Actress Mademoiselle La Clairon: Mademoiselle Clairon, Author's Collection
Mademoiselle Clairon, Author’s Collection

The French actress Mademoiselle Clairon, better known as La Clairon, was the stage name of a woman whose real name was Clair Josèphe Hippolyte Leris (sometimes spelled Lerys). La Clairon was born about a month a half early on 25 January 1723 to François Joseph Desiré Leris and Marie Claire Scanapiecq. Her father was a sergeant in the Régiment de Mailly and her mother an ordinary working woman.

When La Clairon was twelve, she and her mother left Condé-sur-l’Escaut, Hainaut, where La Clarion was born. They settled in Paris. One person described La Clairon’s life with her mother in Paris, stating:

“The future queen of tragedy was at this time … a delicate sensitive child, with a confirmed dislike to needlework, in consequence of which she spent the greater part of her days ‘trembling beneath the blow and threats of her mother,’ whom she describes, rather undutifully, as ‘a violent, ignorant, and superstitious woman.'”

Continue reading

First French Celebrity Chef Marie Antoine (Antonin) Carême

First French Celebrity Chef Marie Antoine (Antonin) Carême
Marie Antoine (Antonin) Carême, Courtesy of Wikipedia

The first French celebrity chef Marie Antoine (Antonin) Carême was born on 8 June 1784. It is rather surprising Carême achieved such wonderful success as his initial beginnings did not seem to indicate such an illustrious future. He was one of fifteen children, and, in 1794, at the height of the French Revolution, his father left him on the streets of Paris and told him to go and seek his fortune. 

Hungry and in despair, Carême begged for shelter. The following day he was admitted into the service of a man who owned a cheap eating house or chop-house, and, at that point, he began working as a kitchen boy. Four years later, in 1798, he was apprenticed to Sylvain Bailly, a famous pâtissier with a shop near the Palais-Royal. Bailly immediately noticed Carême’s talents, and Carême quickly gained fame for the works that he created and displayed in Bailly’s shop window.

Continue reading

The Executioner’s Account of Louis XVI’s Execution

Executioner's Account of Louis XVI's Execution: Charles-Henri Sanson, Corrtesy of Wikipedia
Charles-Henri Sanson, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Louis XVI was executed on 21 January 1793. Three weeks after his execution, a revolutionary journal called Thermomètre du jour published an inaccurate account claiming the King was led to the scaffold with a pistol to his temple, the guillotine struck his neck instead of his head, and the King died without courage. Because the newspaper story was so inaccurate, the executioner’s account of Louis XVI’s execution was published.

Louis XVI’s executioner was Charles-Henri Sanson. Sanson’s reply to the editor of the Thermomètre du jour provided what Sanson called an “accurate” description of what happened. Sanson dated his account 20 February 1793, and here is that account almost verbatim. Continue reading

Dogs During the French Revolution: What Became of Them

Portrait by J. B. Charpentier of the Duke of Penthièvre, his son Prince of Lamballe, the Princess de Lamballe, daughter (the future Duchesse d’Orleans), and Maria Theresa Felicitas d’Este with Their Pedigreed Dog

All sorts of events were associated with dogs during the French Revolution and many stories exist. The French Revolution was a chaotic time not just for people but also for the dogs. Sometimes dogs suffered danger and sometimes they were the danger. They also helped to maintain prisoner morale, functioned as messengers, and sometimes served as watchdogs or comforting companions. 

Of all the dogs that suffered during the Revolution, pedigreed dogs probably suffered the most. Pedigreed dogs were usually the pets of royalty or nobility, and when these people fled France, their pedigreed dogs, called lexicons, were abandoned. Some of these dogs became outcasts, some mourned the loss of their owners, and some were disguised to prevent them from being taken or destroyed. However, many lexicons were gathered up and burned at the Place de Greves, the spot said to be used for the “vilest malefactors.” Continue reading

I’m Guest Blogging

John Aitken Alias John the Painter

Today I am a lucky enough to be the guest of Mike Rendell at his blog the “Georgian Gentleman.” Mike has written several books, including “The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman,” “An Illustration Introduction to the Georgians,” and his latest book, “In Bed with the Georgians.” You can learn more about these books and read my blog post, “Death of an 18th Century Terrorist: John the Painter,” by clicking here.

The Salon Hostess Sophie de Condorcet

The Salon Hostess Sophie de Condorcet: Sophie Marie Louise de Grouchy or Madame de Condorcet, Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Sophie Marie Louise de Grouchy or Madame de Condorcet, Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The salon hostess Sophie de Condorcet was born Marie Louise de Grouchy but known more frequently as Madame de Condorcet. She was a prominent and charming Parisian who maintained her own identity and remained influential before, during, and after the French Revolution. She was also known for her beauty, kindness, and indifference to a person’s social status or origins. Perhaps, this indifference was because she was born in 1764 to a page who worked for Louis XV named Francoise Jacques Marquis de Grouchy, and her mother was an intellectual named Marie Gilberte Henriette Fréteau de Pény.

Madame de Condorcet had been lucky enough in 1786 to marry a famous mathematician and social philosopher. His name was Marie-Jean Antoine Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet. They were a striking couple but nearly opposite, as demonstrated in the following description: Continue reading

What Else Can Be Said on The Death of Marat?

Matthew Wicks is my guest today. He is based out of based Suffolk, England, and said he’s been keen on the history of the French Revolution ever since reading about Saint-Just when he was 16 years old. He is interested primarily in political history whether it be the ideologies of the 20th century or the republican movement of the 18th century. He holds a diploma in journalism and told me

“I decided to write on David’s The Death of Marat for a variety of reasons; these include an interest in the subject of the painting itself (the shoddy and agitated, yet enlightened, Jean-Paul Marat), the art reflecting a cultural shift in France at that point (ancien regime indulgences transforming into romanticism) and the fact that the revolution completely blew apart the preexisting world.’

Here is Matthew’s post:

Continue reading

Prominent Theatre Fires in the 1800s in Europe

Theatre fires in the 1800s: Example of a Theatre Fire
Example of a Theatre Fire in 1881, Public Domain

Theatre fires were a big problem in the 1800s. Some fires happened after hours when theatres were closed, but fires also occurred when people were in the building, on stage, or seated in the auditorium. Fires with people present were the most worrisome as lives were endangered and people were often injured or killed.

Among some of the most prominent theatre fires in the 1800s were seven that occurred in Europe. Below are the statistics on each of these fires, including where, when, and how the fire started, as well as how many people were killed or injured and the contributing factors that resulted in the injuries or deaths. Continue reading