Dreadful Murder in France in 1818 by a Peddler

Dreadful Murder in France in 1818 by a Peddler: French Rabbit Pelt Peddler
French Rabbit Pelt Peddler, 1737. Courtesy of Met Museum.

A dreadful murder in France in 1818 by a peddler had everyone talking. It also had newspapers everywhere reporting on the horrid event that occurred in Brie. It all began when a peddler and his wife presented themselves at a farmer’s door named Monsieur Pinard around nightfall in June of 1818. They asked if they could spend the night at Pinard’s house. Monsieur Pinard agreed and a small room was given to the couple.

The next day was Sunday. Monsieur Pinard, the peddler, and his servants went to Mass in a neighboring village. Because Madame Pinard had just had a baby, she was still confined to her bed and recovering. For this reason, she had her 6-year-old son stay home to help take care of her. The peddler’s wife was also ill, so she stayed behind too.

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Voltaire’s Death and Burial

Voltaire, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Voltaire. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Voltaire was a controversial man who possessed immense talent and whose versatile and prolific writings criticized religious dogma and intolerance. In fact, it was many of his ideas that lit the way for the Age of Enlightenment. However, Voltaire’s light that had shone so bright for so many years began to dim soon after he returned to Paris in February 1778, having been absent from Paris for 25 years.

It began around the end of April when Voltaire complained he was suffering from severe pain in his lower abdomen. To gain relief, he took wine and quinine. A few weeks later, Voltaire was tired and knew he would not be able to attend a meeting he had scheduled for Monday. However, to make sure his voice was heard, he stayed up and worked most the night on Saturday, 9 May, aided by excessive amounts of coffee to prevent himself from falling asleep. Continue reading

The French Robin Hood or the Prince of Smugglers: Louis Mandrin

Louis Mandrin at Age 36. Author’s Collection.

Louis Mandrin has been called the French Robin Hood or the Prince of Smugglers. He became famous for rebelling against the tax collectors of France during the time of Louis XV. The tax collectors, known as fermiers, were (tax) farmers who collected taxes for the King. However, besides the pre-agreed tax amount, the tax collectors often tried to collect something for themselves. Many of them were greedy, and, therefore, they were extremely hated and highly unpopular with the French people.

The first time that Mandrin experienced a problem was in 1748. Mandrin’s father had died and he taken over his business. At the time, Mandrin had a contract with the French government to supply mules to the French army in Italy. To do so, his 97 mules had to travel to Italy and in so doing they had to cross the Swiss Alps. This was an extremely difficult task because of cold weather and a variety of other factors. Unfortunately, along the way, most of the mules died so that when Mandrin reached his destination, only 17 mules survived. The survivors were in such a sorry state, the fermiers refused to pay him for the animals. Continue reading

Mineral Springs and Watering-Places of Georgian Times

Mineral Springs and Watering-Places of Georgian Times
Unidentified Mineral Springs from the 1600s. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

From early times, mineral waters were used to remove or alleviate disease. Waters at watering-places were often ascribed to the occult and sometimes said to be miraculous in their abilities to cure disease, both chronic and acute. Some people had such belief in the mysterious agency of mineral waters they entertained exaggerated notions of their capabilities and power and used mineral waters whenever they were ill. However, other patients found that mineral waters did not alter or alleviate their sufferings, and these people tended to claim that such waters cured people because of a “mere change of air, scene, and mode of life.” Continue reading

Heroine of the Seas, Grace Horsley Darling

Heroine of the Seas, Grace Darling
Grace Darling. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The heroine of the seas, Grace Horsley Darling, was the daughter of a lighthouse keeper. Grace was born in the month of November on the 24th in 1815, and she was twenty-four when fate came knocking at her door. It happened at daybreak on 7 September 1838. At the time, Grace was sleeping but a noise awoke her. She then looked out her bedroom window from the Longstone lighthouse, and in the distance, she noticed the wreckage of the Forfarshire.

The Forfarshire was a 300-ton steamer that left Hull heading to Dundee with 62 people aboard. However, before it left, Mrs. Dawson, a passenger in steerage, realized something was not right. She thought about leaving the ship but did not. In the end, her concerns were justified because once at sea the steamer struggled. The boiler was not working properly, and when the storm began, the ship was left to mercy of the tempestuous sea. Continue reading

Horace Walpole on Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Queen Charlotte
Queen Charlotte in 1761, Courtesy of Wikipedia

When King George III succeeded to the throne he decided it to take a wife. The wife he chose was 17-year-old Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. That was because he, his mother, and his advisors liked her because she had no experience with politics or party intrigues. In fact, when Princess Charlotte arrived in England, George III instructed her to avoid meddling in such things. Although Princess Charlotte spoke little English, she was happy to comply.

Charlotte arrived on 8 September 1761 and within six hours of her arrival, she and the King were married. Everyone was curious about the new Queen, and the famous art historian, man of letters, antiquarian, and Whig politician, Horace Walpole, wrote a letter to General Thomas Conway to satisfy his curiosity. At the time, Conway was visiting in Ireland and wanted to know everything about her. In the letter to Conway, Walpole provided some interesting tidbits. Here is his letter almost verbatim: Continue reading

Dwelling Numbers in Paris in the 1700 and 1800s

Dwelling Numbers in ParisWhen the 1700s began, Paris was divided into twenty quarters and there were no dwelling numbers on any houses. Streets acquired their name from either the name of a noble’s mansion, a monastery or convent in the area, or from a special shop or industry. At the local level, a dwelling on a street was easy to find as dwellings often had a plaque attached, although sometimes there might be several dwellings with the same name.

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French Midwife and Doctor Named Marie Boivin

French Midwife and Doctor Named Marie Boivin
Madame Boivin. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Born Marie-Anne Victoire Gillain on 9 April 1773 at Versailles, Marie was educated by nursing nuns at a nunnery located about 29 miles from the center of Paris in a commune called Étampes. There she displayed medical skill, and, in fact, her skills were strong enough she attracted the attention of Louis XVI’s sister, Madame Élisabeth. Unfortunately, when the French Revolution broke out, the nunnery was destroyed.

After the nunnery was destroyed, Marie began studying anatomy and midwifery, but then, in 1797, Marie married Louis Boivin, stopped her medical studies, and had a daughter. Unfortunately, Madame Boivin’s husband died, and to support herself, she returned to her medical studies at the Parisian teaching hospital, Hôtel-Dieu, in the Hospice de la Maternité in 1796. Hôtel-Dieu was the largest public hospital in Paris at the time and considered one of the most well-respected obstetric hospitals, renowned for its school of midwifery. Continue reading

Grace Dalrymple Elliott and the French Revolution

Grace Dalymple Elliott and the French Revolution
Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Grace Dalrymple Elliott was considered a great beauty in her times, but a bad omen accompanied her birth in 1754. She had been educated in France at a convent, returned to Scotland, and met and married Sir John Elliot,* a respected physician. Yet, despite being married, she fell in love with a Lord Valentia, whom she ran away with in 1774. Elliot was bitter over the affair and divorced her. Soon after her divorce, Grace found herself back in France at the convent, but convent life was not for her, and after a short stay, she returned to England.

It was around this time that the Prince of Wales saw a miniature of Grace. The miniature so enamored the Prince that when Grace arrived in England, he met her. He found to his delight a warm-hearted, well-mannered, and fascinating young woman. His interest in her also resulted in them having an affair and a daughter, who was born on 30 March 1782 and baptized at St. Marylebone as Georgiana Augusta Frederica Seymour.

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Voltaire Anecdotes

Voltaire Anecdotes
Pastel of Voltaire by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, 1735. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Voltaire (born François-Marie Arouet) was a French Enlightenment writer, philosopher, and historian who became well-known for being outspoken and for his witty satirical writings. In his writings, he attacked the Catholic Church, advocated for civil liberties, and criticized French institutions. Voltaire also produced a variety of works that included everything from plays and poems to novels and historical works. To better understand Voltaire, it is helpful to know something about his personality. His personality can best be explained by his contemporaries and associates, who, over the years, shared many stories about his temperament and character. Here are some of the best Voltaire anecdotes.

The Duke of Orleans was the French regent to young Louis XV from 1715 to 1723. During this period, one satirical verse that Voltaire wrote accused the Duke of incest with his own daughter. The Duke became so angry with Voltaire, he ordered him imprisoned at the Bastille. However, after the Duke saw Voltaire’s tragedy Oedipus (Œdipe), he was so moved, he ordered Voltaire’s immediate release. Upon Voltaire’s release the Duke was waiting and said, “Be more prudent for the future, Voltaire … and I’ll watch over your fortune.” As Voltaire was quick-witted and quick-tongued, he could not resist and replied:

“I humbly thank your royal highness … but I shall consider myself greatly honoured by your generosity, provided you don’t furnish me with the same board and lodging again.” Continue reading