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

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

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

Polite Robber of the 18th Century: Louis Mandrin

Polite Robber of the 18th Century: Louis Mandrin
Louis Mandrin at Age 36, Author’s Collection

Louis Mandrin was a well-known French smuggler and highwayman during Louis XV’s reign. He was also extremely popular during his lifetime and considered the Robin Hood of France. He became legendary for his exploits, and, supposedly, at least once, Mandrin presented himself as a polite robber of the eighteenth century. With such a reputation, one nineteenth century English newspaper published an article about the event, which is provided below verbatim:

“In the year 1754 Mandrin made his appearance at the gates of Montbrison, and, being numerously escorted no one ever thought of offering the least resistance. He then took up quarters in the town, levied no contributions on the inhabitants, and maintained the strictest discipline among his troops; even ordering one of his companions to be shot for having stolen an object of trifling value. Continue reading

Madame Elisabeth’s Château Montreuil

Portrait of Madame Élisabeth, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Portrait of Madame Élisabeth. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Madame Élisabeth was the younger sister of King Louis XVI and sister-in-law to Marie Antoinette. In her youth, Madame Élisabeth spent many wonderful days at an estate called Montreuil. In 1783, the estate belonged to the Princess de Guémenée who served as governess to the King’s and Queen’s children between 1775 and 1782. But the Princess de Guémenée resigned and was forced to sell Montreuil because of her husband’s financial issues and bankruptcy.  Without Madame Élisabeth’s knowledge, the King then bought the estate for her as a birthday present when she turned 19.

Marie Antoinette wanted to surprise Madame Élisabeth and suggested they drive out to see the estate one last time as news had leaked that it had been sold. Once there, Marie Antoinette surprised Madame Élisabeth by remarking, “Sister, you are in your own house. This is to be your Trianon.”[1] However, the birthday gift came with one caveat: The King would not allow Madame Élisabeth to sleep over night at the estate until she turned 25, and, so, each day she traveled faithfully from Versailles to her little piece of heaven called Montreuil. Continue reading

Anecdotes of the Princesse de Lamballe’s Travels

Princesse de Lamballe. Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

The Princesse de Lamballe enjoyed traveling and went numerous places in and around France. Sometimes she traveled with the King and Queen’s court, her sister-in-law (Louise Marie Adelaide), or her adopted daughter (Madame de Lâge]. Sometimes these trips were for relaxation and sometimes they were targeted to help the princess’s health as she suffered from convulsive vapors and was said to faint at the slightest thing. For instance, numerous observers reported that she fainted from the smell of violets, at the sight of a lobster (even in a painting), or after hearing the famous castratro, Gaspare Pacchierotti.

The first anecdote is about a trip to the Fontainebleau Palace, which is located southeast of Paris some 43 miles away. It was a spot that King Louis XVI and his court traveled to annually, and during one of these annual trips in 1775, the Queen and the Princesse de Lamballe decided to relax by sailing on what the Queen called her Gondolas on a lake near the palace.

“[A] gondola window fell and hit the Queen, bruising her arm. The event so frightened the princess that she fainted, and when she awoke, she found the Queen solicitous for her welfare while everyone else tended to the Queen.”[1] Continue reading

11 Facts About Marie Antoinette You May Not Know

facts about Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette at the age of thirteen; by Joseph Ducreux, 1769. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Marie Antoinette is often considered one of the most fascinating and interesting women of 18th century France. If you are familiar with her at all, you probably know that she was born on 2 November 1755 and was the fifteenth and second youngest child of Empress Maria Theresa and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. She married Louis-Auguste (later Louis XVI) by proxy at age fourteen on 19 April 1770 and met him for the first time about a month later at the edge of the Forest of Compiègne.

When Louis XV died about four years later, Louis-Auguste assumed the throne as Louis XVI. Marie Antoinette then became Queen of the French. She and Louis XVI had four children — Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, Louis-Joseph, Louis-Charles (Louis XVII), and Sophie — and only Marie-Thérèse Charlotte grew to adulthood. However, there are many other interesting things about her, and, so, here are 11 facts about Marie Antoinette you may not know. Continue reading

Louis XVI’s Sibling: Count of Artois or Charles X

The Dauphin Louis and the Dauphine Marie Josèphe, Public Domain
The Dauphin Louis and the Dauphine Marie Josèphe. Public Domain.

Charles Philippe of France was born 9 October 1757 at the Palace of Versailles. He was the youngest son of the Dauphin Louis and the Dauphine Marie Josèphe and was known throughout most of his life as the Count of Artois (Comte d’Artois). His father died in 1765 and his mother died two years later from tuberculosis. This left Charles and his siblings — Louis Auguste (the future Louis XVI), Louis Stanislas, Count of Provence (the future Louis XVIII), Clotilde (“Madame Clotilde”), and Élisabeth (“Madame Élisabeth”) — orphans. Because the Count of Artois was the youngest, it seemed unlikely he would ever become king. Continue reading