Napoleon’s Rooms at Longwood House

Napoleon's rooms at Longwood
Longwood House. Author’s collection.

After Napoleon’s loss at Waterloo, he was exiled to St. Helena where he resided at Longwood House. Longwood had originally been a farm that belonged to the East India company and then converted into the country residence of the Deputy-Governor. It became the residence of Napoleon from 10 December 1815 until his death on 5 May 1821.

Although inadequate, a new house was not begun until Napoleon had lived on St. Helena for about three years. Building of the new house began in October 1818, but Napoleon would never occupy it. A French atlas maker and author named Comte Las Cases wrote about Napoleon’s accommodations at Longwood House in late 1815. He provided this description: Continue reading

The Tricorne or “Cocked Hat”

French Tricorne
French Tricorne of 18th Century, Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art

The tricorne hat, which was initially called a “cocked hat,” became popular in the 1700s but was falling out of fashion by the 1800s and eventually evolved into the bicorne. The tricorne was actually an evolution of a broad-brim round hat worn by Spanish soldiers in Flanders in the 1600s. When its brim was pledged (bound), it formed a triangular shape. The triangular shape was the shape favored by Spanish soldiers. Thus, when war broke out in 1667 between France and Spain in the Spanish Netherlands, the triangular hat found its way to France. Continue reading

Parisian Gaming Houses in the Early 1800s

French Roulette Wheel in 1800. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Gaming houses were first licensed in Paris in 1775 with the idea that the profits would be applied to aid Parisian hospitals. Soon there were twelve gaming houses, with a couple of illegal ones tolerated. Although gaming houses were primarily a man’s place for fun and relaxation, women were permitted to enjoy themselves as such establishments two days a week.

Three years after gaming houses were licensed, gaming was banned, but gaming still occurred in these houses and in the hotels of ambassadors, where police did not have jurisdiction. When punishment was meted out for gaming, it was always trivial. For that reason, gaming houses continued to exist during the French Revolution, but they were frequently “prosecuted and licenses withheld.”[1]

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11 Interesting Tidbits about the Wax Sculptor Madame Tussaud

Madame Tussaud at age 42. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Madame Tussauds (without an apostrophe) is a popular attraction with sites throughout the world that include not only the United States and Great Britain but also India, Japan, Pakistan, China, and the United Arab Emirates. The originator of this world-wide legacy, was a vivacious, talkative, and determined woman named Marie Tussaud. Besides being feisty, creative, and motivated into her eighties, there are eleven other tidbits about the wax sculptor Madame Tussaud that you may not know:

Tidbit #1. Madame Tussaud was born Anne-Marie Grosholtz (sometimes spelled Gresholtz) in Strasbourg, France, on 1 December, and her baptismal record is dated 7 December 1761. She learned her wax modelling skills from Philippe Mathé Curtius. Curtius was a doctor who began to create miniature anatomically correct flesh-tinted models from wax for anatomical study. Marie’s mother worked as a housekeeper for him and Marie called him uncle (although he may have been her father). He mentored her in the art of wax modelling, and when he died, he left his estate to her. Continue reading

An 18th Century Bullfight and a Woman of Arles, France

Vincent Van Gogh, Self Portrait in 1887, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Vincent Van Gogh, self-portrait in 1887. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

A gentleman by the name of Wilson Moore undertook a trip to Holland, France, and Italy in the late 1700s. During his trip he wrote letters, and, later, while at the table of Duke Humphrey, he decided to send “his work into the world,” by publishing a book that described his “rambles” and was based on the letters he wrote between 1791 and 1793. Among the interesting events that happened to Moore was a visit to the French city of Arles, a city situated on the Rhône River and famed for inspiring the paintings of the Dutch post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh.

Arles was also the spot where a bullfight was scheduled and where thousands of spectators arrived to watch Spaniard’s on horseback compete against wild bulls. Besides bulls, there were also plenty of beautiful women in Arles.

After arriving in Marseilles, Moore wrote a letter to Lady B., who was living on Harley-Street in London, detailing the bull fight and the beauty of Arles women. Part of that letter follows almost verbatim: Continue reading

Thirteen Well-known People Buried at Montparnasse Cemetery in the 1800s

Montparnasse Cemetery. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Because of health concerns, cemeteries were banned inside Paris beginning in 1786 when the Cimetière des Innocents closed. In the early nineteenth century, new cemeteries began to open and replace the closed ones. Among the new cemeteries were Montmarte Cemetery in the north, Père Lachaise Cemetery in the east, and  Montparnasse Cemetery in the south.

Montparnasse Cemetery opened on 25 July 1824. It was created from three farms that initially consisted of 30 acres and was originally known as Le Cimetière du Sud (Southern Cemetery). Continue reading

Turkey the French Way

turkey the French way
Turkey. Courtesy of Free Stock Image.

The French don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but they do eat turkey, and in the 1800s turkey was in season during the months of December, January, February, and March. When the French made turkey in the 1800s, there were plenty of tips about how to select the right turkey, how to truss it, roast it, and carve it. They also knew how to serve it, stating that “cranberry sauce [must always be served] … with turkey.”[1] Now to the tips:

“A young cock turkey has smooth back legs with a short spur, the eyes are bright and full; if stale, the eyes are sunk, the feet dry; which, when fresh, are soft and pliable. An old hen turkey’s legs are rough and red, the vent hard; if with egg, the vent will be soft and open.”[2]

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5 People Marie Antoinette Disliked (or Despised)

A View of Hameau de la Reine. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Marie Antoinette loved hot chocolate, towering hairdos, and flowers. She also loved the small château called Petit Trianon that Louis XVI gave after he became King. It was Marie Antoinette’s retreat where she could ramble through pathways dressed in muslin gowns and floppy hats and pretend she was a commoner. She could also visit the Hameau de la Reine (The Queen’s Hamlet) near Petit Trianon with its rustic gardens, dairy, and functional farm. Yet, despite all these things that Marie Antoinette loved, there were at least five people at court that she disliked (or despised). These five people included Anne d’Arpajon, Madame du Barry, Jacques Necker, Madame de Genlis, and the famous general of the American Revolution Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. Continue reading

The Deaths of Jean-Marie Roland and Madame Roland

Jean-Marie Roland de la Platière. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Jean-Marie Roland de la Platière and his wife, Madame Roland, were supporters of the French Revolution. In addition, Jean-Marie was also an influential member of a loose political faction called the Girondins. When the Girondins fell in 1793 during the Reign of Terror, Jean-Marie went into hiding in Rouen with two spinster sisters, the mademoiselles Malortie. The spinsters were sisters to his previous fiancée, who died unexpectedly.

While Jean-Marie was in hiding, Madame Roland was arrested, as were other Girondins and Girondin supporters. She was imprisoned at the Abbey of Saint Germain des Près that had inscribed over its door, “All hope abandon, ye who enter here!”[1] This was also the spot where a wave of killings, called the September Massacres, had taken place between the 2nd and 7th of September in 1792. Continue reading

Count d’Artois at the Scottish Palace of Holyrood

Engraving of Count d’Artois. Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

After the Bastille was stormed in July of 1789, Louis XVI’s youngest brother, the Count d’Artois, fled France with his family. They lived briefly in Italy and Germany before finally settling in Great Britain in 1792. There the Count became a leader of the French émigrés and was welcomed by King George III, who also gave him a generous allowance.

Although the Count d’Artois was welcomed in Great Britain, he wanted the Bourbon monarchy to rule in France. So, he outfitted an army on borrowed money around 1795 and became involved in a royalist uprising against revolutionaries in La Vendée. Things did not go as planned. He was beaten and returned to Great Britain defeated. However, before he landed in Great Britain, he was “advised that should he step ashore he would be liable to imprisonment for debt under British law if he did not meet the sum due.”[1] Continue reading