How the Prussians Captured Napoleon’s Military Carriage During the Waterloo Campaign

Wellington and Blücher. Public Domain.

One prized possession of Napoleon’s was his military carriage (sometimes called his traveling carriage). He loved it so much that he used it on many of his military campaigns and while exiled on Elba. In fact, when he escaped Elba the one thing he ordered his troops to take was his military carriage, which was carefully packed and shipped to Cannes.

When Napoleon faced down the British-led Allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington and the Prussian army under the command of Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Prince of Wahlstatt at Waterloo, the military carriage was with him. It was also during the Waterloo campaign that Napoleon’s carriage was captured. Continue reading

British Hairdressers’ Academy First Hairdressing Contest and Ball of 1866

Various hairstyles from the “La Mode Illustrée” of 1864. Public domain.

The British Hairdressers’ Academy first hairdressing contest and ball of 1866 was scheduled after the academy was established on 2 November 1865 at 71 Davies Street. That is when British hairdressers unanimously passed a resolution to extend membership to any coiffeur (now more commonly called a hairdresser or hairstylist) of any nation. Employers were admitted as honorary members with a payment of one guinea annually and journeymen were charged an entrance fee of a half-a-crown, plus a subscription of one shilling per month. At the time of this resolution, the following was also mentioned:

“The committee appointed now appeal to the employers to forward their names and subscriptions for enrolment, and to their fellow workmen to aid them by their immediate subscriptions, … The cheering result of their first soirée encourages the committee to hope for the general support not only of the trade, but of perfumers, florists, brush and comb makers, &c., who are so intimately connected with the trade, to whom, also will be extended the privileges of membership. … The committee venture to hope that they will receive sufficient funds to warrant them in taking chambers in a respectable locality.”[1]

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Napoleon’s Pleasure-loving Sister Pauline Bonaparte

Pauline Bonaparte by Robert Lefèvre, 1803. Courtesy of Athenaeum.

Napoleon’s pleasure-loving sister Pauline Bonaparte had always been considered somewhat shallow. Perhaps, it was because she had been spoiled as a child and received no formal education. Nothing intellectual ever interested her. In fact, her interests were frivolous and mainly involved her appearance, which generated much excitement with the public each time she appeared:

“Whenever she went to the theatre, every opera-glass was turned towards her. Her entrance into a ball-room was greeted by a long murmur of admiration. Her attire was always carefully studied, and very beautiful … She inspired the wildest enthusiasm.”[1]

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Three Popular Palais-Royal Restaurants of the 1800s

Dining out in Paris. Public Domain.

Between 1770 and 1789 hundreds of restaurants opened in Paris, and, by 1825, it was claimed there were some nine hundred of them in the city. The word restaurant was for many years specific to Paris. However, by the late 1700s, the word had come to represent any eatery and could include an inn, cookshop, or eating house. Despite this blurred and uncertain meaning, some of the best restaurants of the 1800s could be found in the heart of Paris at the Palais-Royal, once owned by Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans. Among these restaurants were three that were said to be excellent. They were the Trois Frères Provençaux, Véry’s, and Véfour’s. Continue reading

Notorious Captain James Lowry

Captain James Lowry, Author's Collection
Captain James Lowry, Author’s Collection

In 1750, a Scottish Captain named James Lowry was commanding a merchant shipped named the “Molly” from London to Jamaica and back again. Although he possessed agreeable features, he was a cruel captain, and it did not take long for his crew of 14 to despise him because of his cruelty. It happened during the return trip, when one of the tars named Keninth Hossack tripped while on the quarterdeck and claimed he was sick. This infuriated the 5 foot 7-inch Lowry, and he “came like a fury” at Hossack and ordered that he be tied up so he could be flogged. Lowry had one of Hossack’s arms secured to the halyards and the other to the main shrouds, and then Lowry “took a rope in his hand, and beat him in a most unmerciful manner, telling him that he was an idle fellow, not willing to perform his duty; for although he pretended to be afflicted with sickness, yet the captain would not believe him.”[1] Continue reading

Voltaire and Émilie du Châtelet: Their Relationship

Madame du Châtelet. Author’s collection.

In 1733, love came knocking at Voltaire’s door in the form of Émilie du Châtelet, the intelligent daughter of Louis Nicolas le Tonnelier de Breteuil. Through an arranged marriage, she had become the wife of an army man named Marquis Florent-Claude du Châstellet-Lomont. The Marquis was frequently absent and considered dull, formal, and cold. In comparison to her husband’s dullness, formality, and coldness, Émilie was dramatically passionate, and the first time she fell head-over-heels in love it was not with her husband. Instead, she was smitten by a French Don Juan named the Count of Guébriant, who unfortunately thought of her as one more notch on his bedpost. Continue reading

Empress Josephine’s Last Days and Death

Empress Josephine's last days
Empress Josephine in 1804. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

On 10 January 1810 the Emperor Napoleon divorced the Empress Josephine. He still loved her and she loved him, but France needed an heir. When he told her he wanted a divorce, her cries and shrieks reverberated throughout the palace before she collapsed onto the floor and was carried to her apartments. After the divorce Josephine went to live at the Château de Malmaison, the house she had bought for herself and Napoleon while he was still a general. After a time she left Malmaison for her stately home of Navarre, where she was busy replanting and restoring the grounds. However, she returned to Malmaison around the time Napoleon abdicated the throne on 6 April 1814, which is also when the Russian Tsar, Alexander I, came to visit her. He was 35 years old at the time, and although “his golden hair had begun to recede from his forehead, his sky-blue eyes, rather short-sighted, were full of amiability, and a benevolent smile was habitual on his lips.”[1] The two forged a friendship partly because they shared a similar appreciation for art. In addition, “Alexander, who desired to know Josephine’s wishes in reference to herself and to her children [Eugène and Hortense], and who sincerely wished to become acquainted with her, … [was willing to] offer her his homage, and transfer to her the friendship he once cherished for Napoleon.”[2] Continue reading

French Funeral Etiquette and Mourning in the Late 1800s

French silk mourning dress, ca. 1880. Courtesy of Met Museum.

French funeral etiquette and mourning in the late 1800s involved numerous rules. For instance, the French operated under a law that a deceased person’s corpse could not be retained by the family for more than three days after death because ice was scarce. and the ice-box was unknown at the time. Thus, “three days [was] consequently the outside limit of time that the law of hygiene and the rules of common sense [could] allow [for] family affection.”[1]

One of the first things relatives did after a loved person’s death was notify authorities. This meant they needed to go to the mayorality in the arrondissement or quarter where the deceased person lived. Once authorities were notified, the mayor then sent an official physician to examine the corpse and determine the exact cause of death. Relatives were then expected to have a “so-called act of decease drawn-up.”[2] To create this official document, relatives had to provide important information such as “the age, domicile, married or unmarried condition of the dead person, &c.”[3] The mayor then fixed the day and hour for the funeral while also hopefully accommodating and coinciding with the wishes of the deceased person’s family.  Continue reading

19th Century Romance and Murder in France

romance and murder in France
Marseilles, Courtesy of Wikipedia.

A story of romance and murder in France begins with a 30-year-old man named Antoine Roure, who was described as tall, strong, with a long face and blue eyes. He also had a beard and dark-blond hair. He belonged to one of the richest families in Marseilles, possessed a considerable fortune, and owned a villa in Blancarde in a nearby suburb of Marseilles.

In 1874, Roure obtained lodgings at a house in Marseilles, and it was there that he met the daughter of the owner, Rose Delahaye. At the time, she was barely 17 years old, but Roure was immediately intrigued and she fell madly in love with him. It became all the more romantic for Delahaye after Roure promised to marry her, and, in fact, his promise of marriage caused Delahaye to begin an intimate relationship with him. Continue reading

France’s First Police Minister Joseph Fouché

Joseph Fouché. Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

On 20 July 1799, Joseph Fouché, 1st Duke of Otranto (1st Duc d’Otrante) became the first Minister of Police, but he had not started out to be the head of Napoleon’s security. He was born in a small village near Nantes known as Le Pellerin and was schooled at the college of the Oratorians, a Roman Catholic Society of apostolic life of Catholic priests that was founded in 1611. Eventually, he transferred to Arras and in 1789 began studying for the priesthood when he encountered Maximilien Robespierre, who would go on to become one of the best-known figures of the French Revolution, and their meeting resulted in Fouché becoming a Jacobin. Thus, when the college of the Oratorians dissolved in May of 1792, he gave up the church having never taken his vows. A few months later, soon after the Tuileries was stormed on 10 August, he was elected a deputy in the National Convention and was one of the deputies who voted for the immediate death of Louis XVI. Continue reading