A Curious Love in 1804

Love is often consider inexplicable, and one story of curious love involved two people who fell in love in 1804. However, this story is not your typical love story. The story begins in Toulouse, France, when a tribunal was held on 18 November, and the following was printed by one newspaper about a month later:

A young peasant, of the name of LA FAY, of the department of Arriege, fell in love with MARIA ARIGNI, in the parish of Cassaigne. She was a young girl of property, and LA FAY possessed nothing: he dared, therefore, not pay his addresses to her or demand her in the usual manner. Love, however, inspired him with a fraud to make her his wife, both without her own and her relations consent. Continue reading

Napoleon’s Military Carriage at Madame Tussaud’s

The capture of Napoleon’s carriage by Major von Keller. Courtesy of National Library of Ireland.

Among the many relics at Madame Tussaud’s was Napoleon’s military carriage used by him on many of his campaigns and while he was exiled on Elba. The carriage had been captured at Genappe during the Waterloo campaign. The French overturned cannons and carriages and from behind these barricades, they fired muskets attempting to stop the Prussians. However, it was the Prussian horse-artillery that dispersed the French, and “the town was taken, along with Napoleon’s traveling carriage, private papers, hat and sword.”[1] Continue reading

Napoleon Bonaparte’s Mother: Letizia Ramolino

Napoleon Bonaparte's mother
Napoleon’s Mother, Letizia Ramolino. Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s mother, Letizia Ramolino was a sensible, pragmatic, domineering, and no-nonsense mother, and even after Napoleon became Emperor, she still acted like his mother. To demonstrate, once when Napoleon presented his hand for her to kiss, she flung it at him and presented her own hand instead. Although Napoleon and his mother had their differences with one another, Napoleon still respected her and once said of her, “She has always been an excellent woman, a mother without an equal; she deserved all reverence.”[1]

Perhaps, Napoleon felt that way based partly on what his mother Letizia once wrote about her early life, marriage, and children: Continue reading

Interesting French Headlines From the Early 1800s

French Newspapers and Headlines. Public Domain.

There was always something interesting happening in France in the early 1800s. Among the headlines was information about Louis Braille, who was blinded as a child and who first presented his writing system for the blind, known as Braille, in 1824 to his peers. Another invention publicized was achieved by physician René Laennec in 1816. He invented the stethoscope at a hospital in Paris after rolling up a quire of paper into a cylinder and apply one end to the person’s heart and the other end to his ear. There was also the idea of canning that was invented by Nicolas Appert in 1809. But there were many other interesting things besides inventions that were grabbing French headlines. Headline grabbers included a vicious hail storm, custom problems, a murder in Albi, a suicide and murder in Lyons, a New Year’s poisoning attempt, Charles X’s hunting activities, and a crazed wolf. Continue reading

Madame Tussaud’s Napoleon Relics

Napoleon Bonaparte. Author’s Collection.

Madame Tussaud’s Napoleon relics were displayed in her exhibition hall in one of two rooms that first opened in 1843. The rooms were dedicated to the Emperor and those associated with him. They contained all sorts of interesting items, and, according to Madame Tussaud, the rooms were “fitted up exactly in the style of the period, with splendid ceilings, and picture-frames made expressly to show the peculiar fashion of Napoleon’s time, without regard to expense.”[1] Visitors to these rooms paid an extra 6d. and were also allowed admittance into the Chamber of Horrors.

Among the many relics perhaps the most popular was Napoleon’s military carriage that he had used on many of his military campaigns and while he was exiled on Elba. It ended up in England, after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. A Major von Keller confiscated it as “his own booty,” and the carriage was either bought by the British government or given to the Prince Regent. A William Bullock then purchased it from the Prince Regent. He displayed the carriage at the London Museum and took it on tour throughout England, Ireland, and Scotland. It was then sold at an auction to a gentleman who planned to tour with it in America, but when that fell through, the carriage was used to satisfy a debt and became the property of a coach maker, who in turn sold it in 1842 to Madame Tussaud. Continue reading

French New Year’s Etiquette Visits in the Late 1800s

French New Year's etiquette visits
Courtesy of Clipartix.

The French loved etiquette and etiquette was applied to such things as courtship, marriage, and death. The French also had etiquette rules when it came to the New Year. It was observed with calls and visits that were made to relatives and certain officials. In fact, according to one twentieth-century etiquette expert, “Not to receive a New Year’s call, or, if distance prevents, a visiting card, is the indisputable, the recognized indication that sender and addresses are henceforth to be strangers.”[1]

In general, visits occurred over the month of January. People called on their grandparents and superiors on New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Day, they visited their parents and immediate family members. The first week of the New Year was devoted to visiting other family members, the second week to visiting intimate friends, and the remainder of the month was used to call on acquaintances. Continue reading

Stories of the Christmas Tree in France

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Christmas tree in France did not gain popularity until the late 1800s. It probably wouldn’t have been popular at all if it had not been for royalty. It is claimed that in the late 1830s the Duchess Helene of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (wife to the eldest son of Louis Philippe I, Ferdinand Philippe of Orléans who after her marriage became a French Crown Princess) was the first in France to celebrate with a Christmas tree. She did so at the Palace of Tuileries, and despite the Duchess introducing the Christmas tree in Paris, thirty years later it was still difficult to find one. 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]

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]

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