The Famous French Actor François Joseph Talma

Talma. Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

In 1904, a marble statue was erected in Poix-du-Nord by the sculptor Fagel to one of the greatest actors of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The actor’s name was François Joseph Talma. Another statue had been sculpted by Pierre Jean David and erected to Talma in 1837 in the vestibule of the Theatre Français opposite the great Enlightenment writer Voltaire.

Talma was born on 15 January 1763 in Paris. His father was a dentist, and, for a time, Talma practiced dentistry, but the stage was too big of a draw for him. It might have begun when he was young, as he had his first theatrical performance when he was eight years old. He played a part in the story of Tamerlane and was to close the play by announcing to Tamerlane the death of his son. Continue reading

Napoleon’s 13-year-old Friend Betsy Balcombe on St. Helena

Napoleon looking out to sea on St. Helena. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Napoleon’s voyage into exile ended on 15 October 1815 at half past ten when the Northumberland anchored at St. Helena. That night he slept aboard the ship and on the morning of the 17th, he traveled to Longwood House, the residence of the lieutenant-governor that was designated as Napoleon’s future residence. He seemed satisfied with Longwood but because it needed to be repaired, refurbished, and enlarged, he needed to stay somewhere else temporarily.

It was decided he would stay at the Briar’s homestead with William Balcombe, an English merchant and superintendent of Public Sales for the East India Company. William was married to Jane Cranston and they had two daughters and two sons: Jane (1779), Lucia Elizabeth “Betsy”(1803), Thomas Tyrwhitte (1810), and Alexander Beatson (1811). Jane and Betsy had been educated in England and taught the French language. Continue reading

Van Hare the Ultimate Showman of the 1800s

G. Van Hare. Public domain.

G. Van Hare was the ultimate showman of the 1800s and traveled to nearly every European country during his fifty-year career. In his travels he experienced an endless string of odd adventures and unusual experiences that included interesting incidences with not only people but also dogs, lions, and a gorilla.

One interesting story about Van Hare is after he purchased a nearly 1-year-old Newfoundland pup in 1857 It became known as Napoleon the Wizard Dog and eventually ended up in his show. Napoleon was said to be as smart as he was handsome, and the Illustrated Sporting Times and Theatrical and Music-Hall Review wrote an article about him on 20 September 1862 stating: Continue reading

The Early Days of Frenchman Emmanuel Barthelemy and the Last Fatal Duel in England

Friend of Emmanuel Barthelemy
Louis Auguste Blanqui. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Emmanuel Barthélemy was born in 1823 and came from Sceaux Hauts-de-Seine, on the outskirts of Paris. He had a magnetic personality and revolution in his blood practically from birth. He became a member of a society that existed during the reign of Louis Phillipe I known as the Blanquist, which was based on a theory by Louis Auguste Blanqui that socialist revolution should be carried out by a relatively small group of highly organized and secretive conspirators.

While involved with Blanqui, the hot-tempered teenager was arrested in 1839 for his involvement in a coup led by Blanqui and Armand Barbès with the Société des saisons (Society of Seasons). Barthélemy shot sergent de ville (a new national guard) in an attempt to kill him but didn’t succeed. He was arrested, found guilty, and sentenced to forced labor as a galley convict. Some eight years later, in 1847, he was released from prison during a general amnesty. Continue reading

The Sex of Chevalier d’Eon

Chevalier d'Eon
Chevalier d’Eon dressed as a woman. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The sex of Chevalier d’Eon (or if you want his actual name Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont) was of great interest to people in the eighteenth century. D’Eon claimed that he was born female but had been raised as a boy so that his father could inherit from his in-laws. When he was older, he joined the dragoons and habitually wore a dragoon’s uniform, even though rumors constantly circulated that he was a woman. There were also rumors that he had assumed the role of a woman while operating as a spy in Russia.

“Some faint rumours had spread at various preceding periods, that M. D’Eon was a woman, and, in addition to certain feminine appearances in his voice and person, still stronger surmise was indulged, especially at Petersburg, on account of the total indifference, and even aversion as to all affairs of gallantry constantly exhibited by D’Eon towards the females of that voluptuous court, where amorous intrigue is well known to have mixed itself on most occasion with political events.”[1] Continue reading

The Tragic 1897 Charity Bazaar Fire or the Bazar de la Charité in Paris

Front elevation of the Bazaar and layout inside. Courtesy of semanticscholar.org.

An annual charity event known as the Bazar de la Charité was organized by the French Catholic aristocracy in Paris from 1885 onward. However, the best known or infamous of these charitable events was the tragic charity bazaar fire that occurred in May of 1897. It had been organized by Henry Blount, the son of Sir Edward Blount and opened on Monday, 3 May 1897. It was scheduled to last four days and was held in the 8th arrondissement at Rue Jean-Goujon 17 that lead from the Avenue d’Antin to the Place de l’Alma in the Champs Elysées quarter. Continue reading

Benjamin Franklin’s Popularity with French Women

Benjamin Franklin. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Benjamin Franklin’s popularity with French women happened long before he was appointed Ambassador of France. When he landed on French soil in December of 1776, having set sail on 26 October as agent of a diplomatic commission, women (and probably men too) wanted to catch a glimpse of the experimenter with lightning and the defender of the American cause. When they did, they were not disappointed.

Women in particular thought the 71-year-old Franklin was electrifying as they had never met anyone quite like him. He had a rustic appeal when he appeared wearing his marten fur cap, the same one that he had worn to protect himself as he crossed the freezing waters of the Atlantic. In the fashion capital of the world, Franklin stood out. He stood out even more so, when he appeared in his cap at the court of Versailles that was known for its strict court protocol. Continue reading

George Cruikshank the Caricature Artist and Humorist

George Cruickshank. Courtesy of Royal Academy.

George Cruikshank, the caricature artist and humorist, was born in London on a Thursday on 27 September. His mother was Mary Macnaughten and his father, Isaac Cruikshank, a leading caricaturist of the late 1790s. Mary and Isaac had five children: two died in infancy and then there was artist Isaac Robert born in 1789, George born in 1792, and Margaret Eliza, a promising artist born in 1808 who died of tuberculosis at the age of eighteen.

George had a limited education with his most valuable education being taught to him by his father when he served as his apprentice. When George was twelve, he received his first paid job and produced an etching of a child’s lottery picture. He also drew Horatio Nelson’s funeral car after the inspirational hero was shot and killed during his final victory at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. George’s earliest signed work was dated about two years later when he created the “demagogue Cobbet on his way to St. James’s.”[1] Continue reading

The French Republican Calendar: How Time was Different

French Republican Calendar for the month Vendemiaire. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The French Republican Calendar, also sometimes called the French Revolutionary Calendar, was a calendar created and implemented by the French Republic during the French Revolution from late 1793 to 1805 (and for 18 days by the Paris Commune in 1871). The French Republican calendar came about because the government wanted to distance itself from anything associated with the Ancien régime and religion. Thus, the government decreed on 24 November 1793 that the common era would be abolished.

The new Republic also instituted changes resulting in a new social and legal system, a new system for weights and measures, and a new calendar. The new calendar was influenced by Enlightenment ideas and created using the fundamental blocks of natural constants, multiples of ten, and Latin and ancient Greek derivations. They also decided that new French era would commence on 22 September 1792 (one day after the Convention abolished the monarchy) and they used the Roman Numeral I to indicate the first year of the republic. Continue reading

Marie-Thérèse Charlotte of France: Her Life at the Temple and Her Release

Marie-Thérèse Charlotte of France. Courtesy of EstimArt.

Marie-Thérèse Charlotte of France was the oldest child of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. During Louis XVI’s reign she was known as Madame Royale, a style customarily used for the eldest living unmarried daughter of a reigning French monarch. Marie-Thérèse was also the only child of the King and Queen’s to reach adulthood as her siblings died while young.  

Like her father, mother, aunt, and brother, Marie-Thérèse was imprisoned in August of 1792 at the Temple, which had been built by the Knights Templar in the twelfth century and started out as fort. New headquarters emerged in the thirteenth century in the form of a fortress called enclos du Temple. The Temple originally contained buildings necessary for the order to function and included two towers: a massive one known as the Gross Tour (great tower) and a small one called Tour de Tour de César (Caesar’s Tower). Continue reading