Freemasonry and the “Masonry of Adoption” in 18th Century France

Freemasonry Masonic Square and Compass
Masonic Square and Compass, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Freemasonry membership in France included French nobles and many military men, but the largest portion of membership was the bourgeoisie who liked the idea of being members because they appreciated Freemasonry’s motto of equality. Those excluded from joining included Jews, actors, employees, workers, and servants, as well as women. 

Fortunately for women, sometime in the 1730s or 1740s, the idea developed to create a mixed-sex form of Freemasonry known as Maçonnerie d’Adoption or “Masonry of Adoption” or “Rite of Adoption.” One person later wrote that the reason men allowed females to join was because the practice of Freemasonry was “a practical means of giving to their wives and daughters some share of the pleasures which they themselves enjoyed in their mystical assemblies.” Moreover, the Freemasonry assemblages included “commendable fidelity and diligence … [and were] distinguished by numerous acts of charity.” Continue reading

Duel Between the Count of Artois and Duke of Bourbon

Comte d'Artois in 1798, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Count of Artois in 1798, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Duels were a popular way to settle insults in the eighteen century. One famous duel involved Louis XVI’s younger brother, the Count of Artois, and his cousin, the Louis Henri of Bourbon-Condé (known as the Duke of Bourbon). The incident began with an insult during a masked ball on Shrove Tuesday in 1778.

Madame Carrillac had been mistress to the Duke of Bourbon, but she left the Duke for the Count of Artois. In addition, the Duke’s wife, the Duchess of Bourbon had feelings for the Count of Artois. One night at a masked ball the Count offered his arm to Madame Carrillac, and the Duchess of Bourbon, who was upset about Madame Carrillac, recognized the Count and Madame Carrillac. She then began following the pair spewing sarcastic remarks at Madame Carrillac. Continue reading

Hanging Out at La Morgue in 19th Century Paris

Morgue, Author's Collection
Visitors to the Morgue, Author’s Collection

Seeing dead bodies for free became an entertaining fad in Paris in the nineteenth century, but before it was a fad, one grammarian of the seventeenth century, defined morgue as an old French word that meant “face.” With that in mind, it was claimed that prisons formerly had small rooms near the entrance where “prisoners were first locked up in order that the goalers might take a good look at their morgues or faces, and recognize them in case of escape.”  In addition, supposedly the word morgue came from the French word morguer, which meant to stare, have a fixed gaze, or look at solemnly, and, thus, the word morgue came to have its more modern meaning as a place to store corpses and as a place where the living identified the dead. Continue reading

A French Subscription Ball in 1801

French Subscription Ball: La Walse, Le Bon Genre, Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
“La Walse, Le Bon Genre,” Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Balls were a popular diversion in Paris in 1801, and an English traveler to Paris attended a public subscription ball held by a society known as le salon des étrangers in December 1801. The ball was held in a popular hotel in the Rue de la Grange Bateliere, which is today in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. The Englishman noted attendees included not only Frenchmen but also “most of the foreign ambassadors, envoys, &c … and many of the most distinguished persons of both sexes in Paris.” Frenchmen were admitted by ballot, and foreigners were introduced by a member and paid the annual subscription rate of five louis to attend. Continue reading

Parisian Fortune-Tellers in the Eighteenth Century

Parisian Fortune-Tellers, Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France
Fortune-Tellers, Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France

Parisian fortune-tellers were plentiful in eighteenth century France, and many fortune seekers visited them during the French Revolution hoping to learn if they would keep their head or not. One man wrote that when he visited the Pont Neuf, fortune-tellers regular used a deck of cards to predict a person’s future. However, a deck of card was not the only way a person discovered his or her future. Some fortune-tellers used a long pipe and placed one end in the ear of the fortune seeker and the other end near the fortune-teller’s mouth. The fortune-teller then explained in a quiet voice the fortune seeker’s “futurity … [and promised] lavish wealth and prosperity at the moderate price of deux sous.” Fortunes could also be obtained by the fortune-teller reading the dregs of a person’s coffee cup.

Yet, perhaps, what was more interesting than fortune-tellers using cards, pipes, or coffee dregs to predict the future, was how the fortune-tellers were able to accomplish it. Their abilities and success caused more than one curious person to investigate the field of fortune-telling closely. It also resulted in three stories about Parisian fortune-tellers in the eighteenth century. Continue reading

Marie Antoinette and a Boar Hunt

Marie Antoinette hunting
1783 Equestrian Portrait of Marie Antoinette in Hunting Attire by Louis-Auguste Brun, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Hunting was a popular sport in the 1700s, and there is at least one record of Marie Antoinette attending a hunt. It occurred in the Forest of St. Germain in Laye, an area that lies about 20 kilometers West of Paris and is located in a meander (bend) in the River Seine. Several Englishmen were invited to attend the boar hunt. One of the English hunters recorded his observations. He summed up the entire event as a “bore” noting that “there was a great deal of hard riding, but no sportsman-like feats performed.”

The Englishman also reported that it was the first time that he laid eyes on France’s Queen, Marie Antoinette. He described her as “an Imperial model of female beauty: rich and royal were her charms.” Besides wearing the uniform of the hunt, Marie Antoinette also sported an excess of gold lace and an abundance of white ostrich feathers that stuck out of her hat and looked so regal, he claimed she was “entitled to the epithet of the Queen of Women, and une belle parmi les belles.” Continue reading

A French Balloon Duel

A Duel In The Bois De Boulogne, Near Paris, Courtesy of Wikipedia
A Duel In The Bois De Boulogne, Near Paris, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Frenchmen were well-known for defending their honor by dueling. In fact, according to one historian, during an eighteen-year period within Henry IV’s reign, more than 4,000 French aristocrats were killed because of dueling. During a twenty-year period in Louis XIII’s reign, 8,000 pardons were granted for “murders associated with duels.” So, with all the duels, perhaps, the most bizarre duel that ever occurred between French happened in 1808 when Napoleon Bonaparte was Emperor.

The duel was not an ordinary one as it was to take place midair with each man firing from his own balloon. However, the reason for the balloon duel was ordinary. It originated over a celebrated opera dancer at the Paris Opera named Mademoiselle Tirevit. She was being kept by Monsieur de Grandpré but became involved with Monsieur le Pique. Both men laid claim to Tirevit’s heart, and it was decided the only way the men could resolve the situation was with a balloon duel.  Continue reading

French Dueling Codes for Swords, Pistols, and Sabers

French dueling codes
A Duel in the Bois de Boulogne in France, Courtesy of Wikipedia

French dueling codes were different from the Irish Code Duello. For the French there were three types of offenses:

  • A simple offense.
  • An offense of an insulting nature.
  • An offense with personal acts of violence.

If any of the above offenses were committed, the following rules applied. Here they are in their entirety:

  • Rule 1. If, in the course of a discussion, an offence is offered, the person who has been offended is the injured party. If this injury is followed by a blow, unquestionably the party that has been struck is the injured one. To return one blow by another of a more serious nature—severely wounding, for instance, after a slap in the face—does not constitute the person who received the second blow, however severe it may have been, the party originally insulted. In this case, satisfaction may be demanded by the party that was first struck. Such a case must be referred to the chances of a meeting.

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André-Jacques Garnerin and His Parachute

André-Jacques Garnerin
Parachute Descent in 1797 by Garnerin, Public Domain

The word parachute is derived from the Greek word para and the French word chute, which together means preventing a fall. The idea of parachuting originated sometime in the 1600s in the Renaissance period  and was soon put into action because by the late 1600s, there were reports of a man entertaining the Siam court with “prodigious leaps … [using] two parachutes or umbrellas fastened to his girdle.” A hundred years later, a Monsieur le Normand demonstrated parachute jumps from a house at Lyons, believing parachutes were a feasible means of escape burning houses. However, the first person who thought of the parachute as something to be used for high altitude jumps was a man named André-Jacques Garnerin. Continue reading