1700s

Bastille Day or Fête de la Fédération in 1792

Bastille Day or Fête de la Fédération was first celebrated in 1790. It was a day set aside to commemorate the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille that occurred on 14 July 1789. That event ushered in the French Revolution and each year thereafter people celebrated their patriotism for their new republic with…

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Voltaire and Émilie du Châtelet: Their Relationship

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…

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Conjurors and Conjuring in the 1700s

  Conjurors and conjuring existed long before the 1700s, and in its simplest form, conjuring was a performance of tricks that appeared to be magical and usually involved some sort of sleight of hand. Well before conjuring became popular in the 1700s, conjuring performances were given in antiquity and in the middle ages. However, there…

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The Asylum Pitié-Salpêtrière in the Georgian Era

On the eve of the French Revolution, what had originally been a gunpowder factory and arsenal became the largest hospital and asylum in Europe. It was called Pitié-Salpêtrière. Professor of History Mark Micale noted that “this remarkable hybrid institution housed for over two centuries every imaginable form of social and medical ‘misfit’ from the lowliest…

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When Napoleon Met and Married Josephine de Beauharnais

Napoleon would marry twice, but his first marriage was to Josephine de Beauharnais. Josephine was born Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie in Les Trois-Îlets, Martinique, to a wealthy white Creole family that owned a sugarcane plantation. She met Napoleon in late 1795 and within weeks she was his mistress.

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Pierre-Paul Sirven, the Sirven Affair, and Voltaire

Protestants were unpopular in France. Because of their unpopularity, they were frequently persecuted by Catholics for their beliefs, and French authorities often ignored the basic principles of law to prosecute them unfairly. One case of a Protestant being persecuted and prosecuted unfairly involves a merchant named Jean Calas. He was tried for torturing and murdering…

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Nine Firsts Accomplished in France in the 1700s

The 1700s included such events as Louis XIV dying of gangrene and his 5-year-old grandson succeeding him on the throne as Louis XV. There was also the Treaty of the Hague signed by France and its allies that ended the War of the Quadruple Alliance. When Louis XV died on 10 May 1774, Louis XVI…

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Marie Sallé: First Female Choreographer of the Ballet

Marie Sallé was the first female choreographer of the ballet, having started her life as a ballerina. In fact, Sallé became one of the two most popular female dancers of the 18th century. The other popular ballerina was Mademoiselle Marie Camargo. Because of their dancing abilities Voltaire immortalized the pair in the following couplets: “Ah!…

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The Tricorne or “Cocked Hat”

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…

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