The story of Marie Antoinette’s Breguet pocket watch begins when Abraham-Louis Breguet, arrived from his native Switzerland in Paris. Breguet’s father had died and his mother remarried a watchmaker named Joseph Tattet. Tattet had a showroom in Paris and tried to get Breguet to take up watchmaking, but he resisted.
Eventually, however, Breguet decided to try watchmaking, and when he did, he astonished Tattet. Breguet’s watchmaking abilities also captured the attention of his mathematics teacher, Abbot Joseph-François Marie, who was also a tutor to the Count of Artois’ sons, the Dukes of Angoulême and Duke of Berry. In fact, it was through Abbot Marie that Breguet was introduced to King Louis XVI and eventually became a leading horologist and watchmaker of his time. Continue reading →
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 a fete.
The second Fête de la Fédération happened in 1791 and was nothing like the first as it was said to have passed without hardly a notice. That was because that year, a few weeks prior to the celebration, the King and the royal family made their ill-fated escape attempt. Unfortunately for them, they were captured at Varennes and brought back to Paris. Continue reading →
In the late 1700 and early 1800s, there were a number of firsts related to ballooning, and all of these first caused the public to embrace what was called “balloonmania.” Clothing was printed with balloon images and fashions were styled au ballon that included rounded skirts and huge puffed-sleeved dresses. Hair was also coiffed à la montgolfier, au demi-ballon, or à la Blanchard. In addition, women began wearing what was called the “balloon hat,” described by one person as “worn low down on one side, and high on the other.” Dresses, hair, and hats were not the only items that sported a balloon theme. People could buy almost anything decorated with images of balloons. For instance, numerous engravings were printed to commemorate balloon flights, chairs were designed with balloon backs, and silver and pewter plates were engraved with balloons, as were all sorts of snuff boxes. There were also the following items: Continue reading →
Charles Claude Théveneau, better known as the Chevalier de Morande, was a Frenchman who wound up in London working as a pamphleteer and journalist. In that capacity, he found himself in trouble for comments he said in the press and once even found himself challenged to a duel. It occurred in 1778 after Morande made some unkind remarks about a man and his wife in the press. The man, Henry Bate (who in 1784 became Henry Bate-Dudley), was a reverend and an editor for the Morning Post. Bate was also nicknamed “The Fighting Parson” or “The Reverend Bruiser” for having fought some young men in Vauxhall Gardens.
The duel between Morande and Bate was scheduled for a Friday morning, 28 August 1778, at 5 o’clock at the Ring in Hyde Park. Bate’s was accompanied by Captain Bailie and a surgeon and Morande’s second was a Mr. Austin. After the pistols were loaded, Bate got out of his post-chaise and took his ground. Morande followed immediately.
The Pichegru Conspiracy, also known the Cadoudal Affair, was a conspiracy to overthrow Napoleon Bonaparte’s military regime. The conspiracy involved royalists Jean-Charles Pichegru and Georges Cadoudal. Pichegru had served briefly in the American Revolution and as a distinguished general in the French Revolutionary Wars, and Cadoudal was a Breton politician and leader of the Chouannerie during the French Revolution.
Although preceded by other women in the air, Sophie Blanchard was the first female to fly a balloon solo. She got into ballooning because of her husband, pioneer balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard. The story goes that Jean-Pierre was passing through the village of Trois-Cantons, near Rochelle, saw a pregnant woman working in the field, and told her that if her child proved to be a girl, he would marry the girl when she turned 16.
Jean-Pierre was already married when he made the promise to Sophie’s mother, and likely had already abandoned his first wife, Victoire Lebrun, and his four children. On 25 March 1778, Marie Madeleine Sophie Armand was born. Jean-Pierre kept his marriage promise, but exactly when Jean-Pierre and Sophie married is unclear. The earliest is 1794, but the most frequent date given coincides with Sophie’s 1804 ascent. Continue reading →
On a slightly misty day on 16 October 1793 the Queen Marie Antoinette was guillotined. However, before it reached that point, there were a variety of plots to save the Queen. One plot to save Marie Antoinette is legendary and may or may not be true. It involves a home built in Maine in 1774 located on Jeremy Squam Island (now called Westport Island) but relocated one winter to the shores of Edgecomb. The plot also supposedly took effect in 1792 while Marie Antoinette was imprisoned at the Temple.
The plot is alleged to involve a number of colorful characters. One character was James Swan. Swan was a financier, a Scotsman, and a member of the Sons of Liberty. Moreover, he had participated in the Boston Tea. He emigrated from Fife, Scotland, to Massachusetts in 1765 and, in the late 1780s, moved to France. While living in France, he developed a successful trade business. The business involved exporting shipping masts and spars to France and importing French goods that were then sold in Boston. Continue reading →
Scottish born John Moore continued to record his observations about the 10 August storming of the Tuileries Palace in 1792. He made the following notations in his journal on 11 August, which are provided below almost verbatim:
When the King and Queen entered the hall of the National Assembly, they were accompanied by the Dauphin, their daughter, and the Princess Elizabeth, and attended by the ministers and some members of the municipality of Paris. Continue reading →
Scottish born John Moore obtained his medical degree in Glasgow, served with the army in Flanders during the Seven Years’ War, and eventually settled in France, where he was attached to the household of the British ambassador. In 1792, he accompanied James Maitland, 8th Earl of Lauderdale, to Paris and witnessed the revolution. Among the events he witnessed was the storming of the Tuileries Palace by insurgents on 10 August 1792, which became known as “10 August.” His observations on 10 August were published in the Chester Chronicle and said to be an extract taken from his book, Journal During a Residence in France. His account for August 10th is provided below and is almost verbatim: Continue reading →
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 →