People

The French Executioner Charles-Henri Sanson

The French executioner Charles-Henri Sanson was born on 15 February 1739 and served as the royal execution during the reign of King Louis XVI and High Executioner during the First French Republic. He administered capital punishment in the city of Paris for over forty years and executed nearly 3,000 people, including King Louis XVI. He…

Read More

The Literary Madman Gérard de Nerval

The literary madman Gérard de Nerval was the nom-de-plume of the French writer, poet, essayist, and translator Gérard Labrunie. He was a major figure of French romanticism and is best known for his poems and novellas. He was interested in literature from a young age and at 16 wrote a poem about Napoleon’s defeat called…

Read More

When Napoleon Courted Désirée Clary

When Napoleon courted Désirée Clary (born Eugénie Bernardine Désirée Clary), he was about twenty-five. He met her while stationed in Marseille after his strategy proved successful at the Siege of Toulon in 1793. Désirée was the daughter a wealthy Marseille silk manufacturer and merchant named François Clary, who had four children by his first wife,…

Read More

One Visitor’s Tale of Madame Tussaud’s 1883 Exhibition

Heavy rain showers induced one Londoner who had been reading William Black’s Macleod of Dare to ponder about a better way to spend his time. When he looked out his window and saw wet streets and large splashing raindrops, instead of staying inside or following Black’s advice to enjoy an art pilgrimage to the National…

Read More

The Famous French Actor François Joseph Talma

In 1904, a marble statue was erected in Poix-du-Nord by the sculptor Fagel to one of the greatest actors of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The actor’s name was François Joseph Talma. Another statue had been sculpted by Pierre Jean David and erected to Talma in 1837 in the vestibule of the Theatre…

Read More

Napoleon’s 13-year-old Friend Betsy Balcombe on St. Helena

Napoleon’s voyage into exile ended on 15 October 1815 at half past ten when the Northumberland anchored at St. Helena. That night he slept aboard the ship and on the morning of the 17th, he traveled to Longwood House, the residence of the lieutenant-governor that was designated as Napoleon’s future residence. He seemed satisfied with…

Read More

The Sex of Chevalier d’Eon

The sex of Chevalier d’Eon (or if you want his actual name Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont) was of great interest to people in the eighteenth century. D’Eon claimed that he was born female but had been raised as a boy so that his father could inherit from his in-laws. When he was older, he joined…

Read More

One of the First Feminists Olympe de Gouges

One of the first feminists, Olympe de Gouges, began her life in 1748 when she born Marie Gouze in Montauban, Quercy in southwest France. Her mother was Olympe Mouisset and her legal father, Pierre Gouze, was a butcher, but she claimed to be the illegitimate daughter of Jean-Jacques Lefranc, Marquis de Pompignan. She was forced…

Read More

Francis Tussaud: Madame Tussaud’s Son

Francis (François in French) Tussaud was Madame Tussaud‘s son. He was born to her and her husband François on a Saturday, 2 August 1800. Two years later, Madame Tussaud decided to promote her waxworks in England, and she left her son Francis behind in the care of her husband, mother, and aunt, and took her…

Read More