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

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

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

Château de Bagatelle

Château de Bagatelle. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Château de Bagatelle, located in the Bois de Boulogne, initially existed as a small hunting lodge for the Maréchal d’Estrées and was designed for brief stays while hunting. Later, the daughter of  Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Condé owned it. Her name was Louise Anne de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Charolais, and she occupied it for twenty years. When she died on 6 April 1758, she left it to her nephew, Louis-François-Joseph de Bourbon-Conti, who was the last Prince of Conti, and, in 1770, the Prince de Chimay became the owner. Continue reading

Petit Ranelagh or the French Ranelagh

Petit Ranelagh or the French Ranelagh
Ranelagh Gardens Rotunda in London. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Petit Ranelagh or the French Ranelagh, sometimes called Garden of the Ranelagh, has an interesting history. It began in 1773, with a barrier guard and a lodge keeper named Morison (also sometimes spelled Morisan). Morison had an inn in the Bois de Boulogne. He obtained permission from the Prince de Soubise, who was the governor of the Château de la Muette, to erect a building in imitation of the one built by the first Earl of Ranelagh. The Earl of Ranelagh’s had been built on the banks of the Thames between 1688–89 and was called Ranelagh Gardens. Continue reading

Le Chat Noir or The Black Cat Cabaret of Victorian Times

Louis Rodolphe Salis, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Le Chat Noir or The Black Cat was the first cabaret in the modern sense and was established by an unsuccessful painter named Louis Rodolphe Salis. Salis’s father was a wine merchant in Chatellerault and wanted his son to be a tradesman. As Salis was unsuccessful in his chosen career, he began thinking about the maxims of his father and decided he needed to combine art and alcoholic beverages, thereby creating the idea of the modern cabaret. Salis’s idea was for patrons to sit at tables amid clouds of tobacco smoke, drink mugs of Bavarian beer, and enjoy a variety of stage acts, introduced by a master of ceremonies who interacted with the audience.

Le Chat Noir supposedly acquired its name in one of two ways. One claim was that its name came from the discovery of a dead rat under a divan. The second claim is that it was named after a picture which appeared in one of the exhibitions in Paris, which was bought or presented to the inn by the artist and described in the following way: “A black cat is represented standing on the shoulder of a woman, whose white skin and corsage are liberally displayed.”[1] Continue reading

Parc-aux-Cerfs and Tales of Louis XV’s Harem

Parc-aux-Cerfs and Tales of Louis XV's Harem: Madame de Pompadour
Madame de Pompadour, by François Boucher, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Fifteen-year-old King Louis XV married a pious woman by the name of Marie Leszczyńska in September 1725. She was the daughter of the deposed King of Poland and 21 at the time. After their marriage, similar to most French kings, Louis XV took several mistresses. Among the most famous of all his mistresses, was his maîtresse-en-titre (chief mistress) named Madame de Pompadour. She was a beautiful, educated, and intelligent woman whom he met at a masked ball in February 1745.

Some years later, the name Parc-aux-Cerfs, which literally means stag park, began to be whispered at Louis XV’s court. Parc-aux-Cerfs, also known as the King’s Birdcage, was alleged to be where the King’s “harem” lived. Parc-aux-Cerfs was in a quarter of Versailles called Parc-aux-Cerfs, and it also happened to be the same neighborhood where Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV’s favorite, settled after her physical relationship with him ended in 1752. Continue reading

Places Mentioned in “Marie Antoinette’s Confidante” (Part 2)

Sights in Paris: Sites I Visited in Paris
Sites I Visited in Paris, Author’s Collection

As mentioned in my previous post, the relationship between Marie Antoinette and the Princesse de Lamballe was a fascinating one. To understand the environment that these women lived in I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the places that were an important part of their lives and places that I talked about in “Marie Antoinette’s Confidante.” Part two looks at places within Paris and includes the Palace of Tuileries, the Duke of Orléans’s Palais-Royal, the Hôtel de Toulouse, and the remnants of the infamous Bastille and La Force prison.

To give you an idea of how close these sites are to one another, I have included a map. Please note that the Palace of Tuileries is about 2.3 kilometers or 1.5 miles from the Bastille. Continue reading

Places Mentioned in “Marie Antoinette’s Confidante” (Part 1)

Map of Locations in "Marie Antoinette's Confidante," Author's Collection
Map of Locations, Author’s Collection

The story and relationship between Marie Antoinette and the Princesse de Lamballe is a fascinating one. As both women were well-to-do, they traveled much more extensively than an ordinary person of the 1700s. To write Marie Antoinette’s Confidante, I wanted to see the places frequented by Marie Antoinette and the Princesse and this took me to France. Among some of the interesting places that I traveled to are Passy, Versailles, Rambouillet, Fontainebleau, and Château de la Muette. To help you gain a better understanding of these sites mentioned, I have written a brief paragraph describing each. To give you an idea of the distance between the various locations, please note that from Rambouillet to Fontainebleau is approximately 80 kilometers or 50 miles. Continue reading

History of Princesse de Lamballe’s Passy Home

Benjamin Franklin, Author's Collection
Benjamin Franklin, Author’s Collection

In the mid 1770s, Passy was about three miles outside Paris. It drew wealthy people, because of its bucolic setting. Located on the hillside of the Seine’s right bank, Passy also had a renowned mineral spring owned by Passy’s first mayor, Louis-Guillaume Le Veillard. The spring purportedly had healing waters described as “copious blue.” Moreover, its location made Passy the perfect distance between Versailles and Paris. That was part of the reason that the United States’ first Ambassador to France, Benjamin Franklin, called it home for the nine years—1776-1785, and why the Princesse de Lamballe purchased a home in Passy in February of 1783. Continue reading