Seven Things Napoleon Disliked (or Hated)

Napoleon Bonaparte. Author’s Collection.

Although Napoleon liked many things, such as giving people nicknames, there were several things and people he disliked (or hated). He hated anyone who was weak and he hated it when other European countries fought against him for power. There were also seven other things that he disliked or hated. They were Great Britain, Madame de Staël, bad books, cats, dogs, Kashmir shawls, and Toussaint L’Ouverture.

Napoleon hated Great Britain as much as the British feared him. Because of their fear, the British meddled in French affairs and that caused Napoleon to consider the British a constant thorn in his side. During the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), he battled a fluctuating array of European powers that formed into various coalitions, and were financed and usually led by Great Britain. Napoleon wanted to destroy the British and hoped to replace their empire with French influence. Even after he was forced to abdicate and the victors sent him to Elba, he still felt superior to the British. When he escaped Elba and before the Battle of Waterloo, he declared: Continue reading

Rosalie Duthé was the First Dumb Blonde

Rosalie Duthé was the first dumb blonde
A Young Duthé by Lié Louis Salbreux-Perin. Public Domain.

Despite Rosalie Duthé being considered the first dumb blonde, she attracted the attention of some of the most distinguished men in Europe and France, including monarchs and future monarchs. This attraction also resulted in her becoming one of the most celebrated courtesans of her time. A nineteenth century writer noted that Duthé’s fame “equalled the renown of the Laises or Phrynes of ancient Greece, or that of the Imperias and Marozias of the Rome of the Middle Ages,”[1] and although a twenty-first century writer agreed, she described Duthé as

“[A] famously vacuous creature who had taken the polite conventions of feminine modesty to an extreme. She had developed a habit of long pregnant silences. Perhaps she had nothing to say, but her mystery and her secretive allure, combined with a number of other more tangible attributes, meant that she gathered appreciative customers from the highest social and political ranks.”[2]

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Mathematician Extraordinaire Sophie Germain

Sophie Germain at Age 14. Public Domain.

Mathematician extraordinaire Sophie Germain was born on 1 April 1776 in Paris, France, to a wealthy silk merchant (or perhaps a goldsmith) named Ambroise-François Germain and a woman named Marie-Madeline Gruguelu. Thirteen years later, in 1789, the French Revolution broke out, and it was during this time that Sophie became interested in mathematics.

Her interest in mathematics began after her parents confined her to her home. That was because there were many revolts and a lot of danger when outside. Stuck indoors, Sophie began to explore her father’s library and one day found a book about the legend of Archimedes’s death. According to legend, when Roman soldiers invaded Archimedes’s city, he was “so engrossed in the study of a geometric figure in the sand that he failed to respond to the questioning of a Roman soldier. As a result he was speared to death.”[1]* Archimedes’s story so impressed Sophie, she decided mathematics must be a very interesting subject and immediately began devoting herself to its study. Continue reading

François-René, Viscount of Chateaubriand: His Childhood

François-René, Viscount of Chateaubriand
Young Chateaubriand portraited by Anne-Louis Girodet (ca. 1790). Courtesy of Wikipedia.

François-René, Viscount of Chateaubriand was born on 4 September 1768 in Saint-Malo, France. He was the youngest of ten children. His father was René de Chateaubriand, a sea captain, turned ship owner, and slave trader. René was an eccentric, taciturn, uncommunicative, despotic, and ill-tempered person. He inspired fear in his family and was as harsh to them as he was haughty to nobles.

Chateaubriand’s mother was Apolline-Jeanne-Suzanne de Bedée. She was dark complected with large features. She was also small and not someone anyone would describe as beautiful. Nevertheless, she was intelligent and imaginative. She loved to read, and her personality and disposition were in stark contrast to that of her husband: where he loved solitude, she loved society, and where he was cold, she was animated. Continue reading

The Sériziats and Jacques-Louis David

Marguerite Charlotte Pécoul, Painted by David in 1813. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Sériziats and Jacques-Louis David were related through marriage. David’s wife was Marguerite Charlotte Pécoul, whom he had married in 1782 and who at the time was about half his age. Marguerite’s sister was Emilie Pécoul. She became Madame Sériziat when she married Pierre Sériziat. Pierre was a rather dapper and elegant looking fellow who might be described as a dandy. He was also wealthy and owned a country home in Favières (Seine-et-Marne), near Tournane-en Brie, about twenty miles east of Paris.

David was a French painter of the Neoclassical style and considered to be the preeminent painter of the Georgian era. He was also a Jacobin, supporter of the French Revolution, and a friend of Maximilien Robespierre. In addition, he was a member of the National Convention and voted for King Louis XVI’s death, which so upset his wife she divorced him in 1793.

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Explorer, Naturalist, and Ornithologist Extraordinaire François Levaillant

Explorer, naturalist, and ornithologist extraordinaire named François Levaillant
François Levaillant. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Explorer, naturalist, and ornithologist extraordinaire François Levaillant was born on 6 August 1753 in Paramaribo, the capital of Dutch Guiana (Surinam). His father, originally from Metz, was a rich merchant and served as French Consul. His parents had a great interest in collecting objects related to natural history, and because of their interest, they frequently traveled to various parts of the colony taking him with them.

Initially, Levaillant began collecting insects and caterpillars. By the age of ten, he had a collection, which he arranged according to his own system in order to identify insects. Later when he focused on birds and used a similar system to identify them, giving only French names to species that he discovered and refusing to use the systematic nomenclature introduced by Carl Linnaeus. Thus, some of the names he used remain in use today as common names for birds. Continue reading

Battlefield Medicine and Triage Innovator Dominique Jean Larrey

battlefield medicine and triage innovator Dominique Jean Larrey
Portrait of Dominique Jean Larrey by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson, in 1804. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Battlefield medicine and triage innovator Dominique Jean Larrey was at one time forgotten as much as Napoleon was immortalized. Yet, Larrey’s contributions to military medicine and his care and compassion towards wounded soldiers on both sides while he served in Napoleon’s Grande Armée, enabled hundreds of soldiers to survive. It also resulted in him earning the envious title as “the first modern military surgeon.”

Larrey was born on 8 July 1766 in a small village named Beaudéan, in the Pyrenees. He was the son of a shoemaker, orphaned at 13, and raised by his Uncle Alexis Larrey, who was the chief surgeon in Toulouse. His uncle’s occupation set the stage for Larrey’s future as Larrey served a 6-year apprenticeship before going to Paris to study under the chief surgeon at the Hôtel-Dieu de Paris named Pierre-Joseph Desault. Continue reading

Lady Atkyns’s Plot to Save Marie Antoinette

Lady Atkyns's Plot to Save Marie Antoinette
Lady Charlotte Walpole Atkyns. Public Domain.

After Marie Antoinette was imprisoned, Royalists and friends were always on the lookout hoping to free the imprisoned Queen. Although there were many plots to save the Queen, some appear to be more legend than fact. One plot that seems to be more legend than fact is a plot by Lady Charlotte Walpole Atkyns, who is supposedly related to Britain’s famous Prime Minister, Robert Walpole.

The story goes that Atkyns had a short-lived career as an actress on the London stage at the Drury Lane Theatre. Her career lasted for two years, beginning in 1777 and ending in 1779, and it ended because Sir Edward Atkyns, of Ketteringham Hall, Norfolk fell in love with her and married her in June of 1779. Unfortunately, Atkyns was not accepted by Norfolk society and as her husband was suffering under heavy debts, the couple decided to move to France. Continue reading

Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Sex Life

Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s sex life began when he was young. His story begins when he was born on 28 June 1712 in Geneva to a watchmaker named Isaac Rousseau and a woman named Suzanne. Suzanne died of puerperal fever nine days after his birth, so Rousseau and his older brother, François, were brought up by their father and a paternal aunt, also named Suzanne.

Around the age of ten, Rousseau’s father experienced legal troubles and he left town, taking Suzanne with him. Rousseau and François saw their father little after that and were left in the care of their mother’s brother, a Calvinist preacher named Samuel Bernard. Bernard soon shipped them off to Bossey where a Calvinist minister named Monsieur Lambercier, lived with his son and a daughter named Mademoiselle Lambercier. Rousseau wrote of his time at Bossey, stating: Continue reading

Cécile-Aimée Renault and Attempted Assassination of Robespierre

Cécile-Aimée Renault, Public Domain
Cécile-Aimée Renault, Public Domain

Born in 1774 in Paris, Cécile-Aimée Renault arrived at the foot of the guillotine on 17 June 1794 in what is now the Place de la Nation. It all began one day when the 20-year-old seamstress presented herself at the home of the Duplay family, where Maximilien Robespierre was temporarily staying. She asked to speak to him, and as she was young and appeared harmless, she was ushered into his anti-chamber. She waited for a long time and was eventually told that he was unavailable and that she should leave. She replied:

“A public man … ought to receive at all times, those who have occasion to approach him.”

Because Renault would not leave and because she became insistent that she needed to see Robespierre, a guard was called. He conducted a search and supposedly discovered she was carrying two small knives. Although the knives were hardly large enough to kill anyone, it was decided she had intended to murder Robespierre and was taken before the Committee of Public Safety where she was asked to explain herself. Eventually, the committee learned her name and that she was the one of seven children and the daughter of a paper maker, who was a royalist supporter. Continue reading