Monday, December 20, 2010


The Waldegrave Sisters
(Someday when I commission a wig I'm going to use this portrait with its multiple views as the inspiration)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 19th, 1780

Yesterday was my birthday, but I did not feel much like celebrating. I hosted no party this year, as I, in fact would like to draw as little attention to my age as possible. Somehow it feels as if there is an enormous difference between being twenty-nine and being thirty. Many of the girls that I went to school with have daughters almost of a marriagable age, and I myself am yet to be married. True, my marriage is planned for next year, but I wonder more and more if that was a wise decision; the Marquis de Franconville aux Bois I know now, is not the same as the F- who has been my friend all these years.

I received a note last week from T- which instructed me to dress nicely and be ready at 7 o'clock on the eighteenth and that he would bring a carriage for me. Duly I dressed last night and just before seven a hired carriage arrived with T- inside, who then took me to a private room at l'Hotel Le Meurice where a most sumptuous dinner awaited. I worried throughout the meal as to how much it had cost Thierry, but he forebade me from considering it.

From thence we took the carriage to the Palais-Royal for a special performance of Le Seigneur Beinfaisant. I find myself much more a follower of Gluck, but it was a fine french opera. I was surprised that Thierry was able to acquire tickets, but he said that one of his clients had offered an invitation, and knowing my fondness for opera he was happy to indulge.

After the opera we retired to his rooms and I returned alone to Sully shortly before dawn. A present from F- proved to be a pair of diamond and sapphire earrings, with a kind note saying that they would match my eyes, but it left me far colder than my evening with T-.
Olympe, Comtesse

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 6th, 1780

As I sit at home with a most aggravating head cold the only matter I have to recount is the news of Empress Maria Theresa's death. If tiding of this have not reached Christine in Sweden already then my letter, which I was in the midst of when the news came to me, will tell her so. Christine will be saddened for she has always admired the Empress greatly. I sometimes wish that I were as clever and independent of spirit as she, but we must not expect to share in all of those talents which make our friends of such interest to ourselves. One could be too self-sufficient.

An unexpected letter from Andre in Ferney informs me that he wishes to marry Miss Delacor and will ask for her hand imminently, and that he relies upon me to temper Maman's displeasure. I have already returned an answer of congratulations and agreed, but in my heart I am also against the match. Still, he has been living with her for over a year and so to not marry her would be a stain upon both of their characters. I am resigned to having her for a sister-in-law, but I doubt we shall ever be close and cordial. If he fears Maman's reaction he should perhaps be concerned for that of his father even more so, but that is not within my realm of interest.

I feel a little that my own wedding plans will be a little overshadowed by this favorite son, but then I cannot begrudge him his happiness.
Olympe, Comtesse

Monday, November 29, 2010

And I Quote- Thomas Jefferson

"I do not wish you to be gayly clothed at this time of life, but that your wear should be fine of its kind. But above all things and at all times let your clothes be neat, whole, and properly put on. Do not fancy you must wear them till the dirt is visible to the eye. . .. Some ladies think they may. . . be loose and negligent of their dress in the morning. But be you, from the moment you rise till you go to bed, as cleanly and properly dressed as at the hours of dinner or tea."-A letter from Thomas Jefferson to his daughter, Patsy 1783

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

November 15, 1780

Last night I hosted a small party of supper and cards, the Comte and Comtesse de R- were there, Mme M-, Msr P-, and of course F- and T- as well as a few others. At first the conversation, and the wine, flowed freely and merrily, but after a time I came to notice an unpleasant pattern.

There were two tables set up at which the guests were playing, and I myself moved between them. F and T were at one with four others, and every time T- laid a card down or made a move F- would speculate on his hand, inviting the other guests at the table to do the same. To his credit T- remained visibly unconcerned by this attack, but I was puzzled by it and suggested some alternate amusement. At this T- suggested forfeits be added to the game, which the others enthusiastically seconded.

For a while the game continued pleasantly, with the other table soon joining our group to see what the amusement was that had us laughing so heartily. Mme M- lost an earring to Comte R-, and Comtesse R- was forced to show us her impersonation of Choiseul. At last I was pressed to play a hand myself against T-, which I lost, and in forfeit of which he requested a kiss. An innocent kiss upon the cheek or hand would have been enough, but he knew that it would anger F-, which it did, and he promptly invoked his right as my betrothed to deny such a request. A song was agreed upon instead, and the rest of the guests made their excuses soon after, the awkwardness being palpable.

So now there is enmity between my lover and my husband-to-be, where once there was intended to be friendship and cooperation. I do not like this feeling of being owned, and wonder if it was not a terrible mistake to consent to this lie. Would this have been any different had R- not died?

For now wedding plans must continue. Maman arrives Monday to aid in the preparations. I must seem cheerful, and T- must remain out of sight. The King's answer to the reacquisition is still that it must wait on the surveyors to be determined, and that the Duchy du Bouillon will be granted to me and my heirs only upon the death of my cousin, who is like to live forever with such encouragement before him. I feel most ungrateful since it was he that took me in when I was ill, but he will not understand that it was the King's will and not mine that made offer of the duchy. I long for a simpler time, everything is so muddled, and my steward writes that the money is running out, but it always is. There is nothing to be done, but to go forward with our plans, all else is unchangeable.
Olympe, Comtesse

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Teaser- Stays

The ever-talented American Duchess, Lauren, is in the process of making a new pair of stays for me. I find stays to be one of those things that it's just better to have someone else do, in part because they are so time-consuming and also because it helps to have an outside perspective on something so close to one's own body. Photos do help though. These are the test stays, so there will be some alterations. The final version is in a soft yellow jacquard with a brighter yellow stomacher over which the center is laced in blue ribbon. Can't wait to see them!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Triumph of Love

Adapted from the play of the same name written by Marivaux in 1732, this film, released in 2001, is one of those lesser-known gems that publicity forgot. Starring Mira Sorvino, Sir Ben Kingsley, and Fiona Shaw; it is a fast-paced romp through concealed identities, cross-dressing, lost heirs, and the always-interesting enlightened mind versus an open heart.

Mira Sorvino plays an unnamed princess who discovers that although her parents usurped the throne from the rightful King and Queen, there was a little prince, now hidden away by a philosopher and his sister (Kingsley and Shaw), who is the true heir. Determined to make things right by marrying the now-grown prince, Aegis, she goes to the philosopher's home disguised as a man, only to find that the prince hates her and despises all women and love. Hilarity ensuses as the princess uses seduction, bribery, and wit to win over all three of her foes independently of one another.

But can a foundation of lies ever lead to true happiness? In this version, somehow, everyone gets what they need, even if it is not what they want. Ben Kingsley is as amazing as ever in his role as the single-minded philosopher Hermocrates, who although he becomes ever more ridiculous is always full of pathos. Fiona Shaw delivers a performance inspired not merely a little by the enlightenment scientist Emilie du Chatelet, and well-embodies the trials of a serious woman in a man's world. Sorvino likewise acquits herself well, bouncing from petulant to joyful, uncertain to determined in a heartbeat.

The only two things to mar an otherwise stellar film is the odd breaking of the fourth wall at times, with views of an audience, plainly seen by the viewer as well as the actors, but that can be chalked up to an attempt to remind us of the origins of the piece in Marivaux's play; and the one-note performance of Jay Rodan as Aegis. He is shown taking little action on his own behalf until the last moments of the film, and whether angry or confused reacts in much the same way. One is left wondering if the kingdom wouldn't be better without his participation in its governance.

Still, it is a fun period movie filmed in the lush landscape of Tuscany, with an authentic 18th century feel to the story and language. Nothing too weighty here, this is a perfect film for rainy afternoons, background noise while sewing, or anything at all.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Back in the office

Back in the office after attending to a show that has had me working feverishly for the last few weeks. Regular posts will recommence shortly. See you soon!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

October 25, 1780

The deed is done, there is no turning back now. The King has been answered and our engagement announced. Well-wishers visit day and night and I am asked constantly about when the celebrations will commence. Every day F- comes to my Lever and we are seen out walking and at the theatre, and always trailing behind comes Thierry.

He wrote to F-, as he said he would, and his answer was an unexpected silence. "We will remember him together." That seems to be all F- will say. He is cheerful enough with others, but at night after the dinner and the cards and the guests have departed, he stares at the candles in mournful quiet. Something has darkened in him, something has darkened in all of us.

Olympe, Comtesse

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Portrait bracelets-Part 1

Portrait bracelets were, like the ruff collar or the simple strand of beads, a common accessory in the 18th century world. They served as a lovely place to display the image of a loved one, a lock of hair from the deceased, or the symbol of one's status. In the portrait above Mme de Pompadour prominently displays a large cameo of Louis XV, her lover, King, and keeper.

Attached to strands of pearls most commonly, or sometimes wide ribbon, these bracelets show up in many paintings of the period, and were exclusively worn by women. To the left Boucher paints Mme Bergeret. Note her wide, flat hat known as a "Bergere" Coincidence? Play on her name?

Another example of the prominent display of a portrait miniature within a portrait is this Lady in Blue by Gainsborough (late 1770s). The actual image is a little blurry, but there's no mistaking what it is.  
In this portrait of Maria Carolina, sister of Marie Antoinette, it looks as if we may have double portrait bracelets, if only we could see the front of the one on her right hand. If indeed they are both portrait bracelets, then the unbroken strands of pearls must mean that the clasp is somewhere close to the portrait itself.

Painted in 1755, this portrait of Mary Barnardiston shows a small portrait bracelet on her left wrist, upon which she leans wistfully. Who is she pining after? Unlike the last three, this one is attached to a ribbon or wide band of some kind, as opposed to pearls.

These are by no means the only paintings featuring portrait bracelets, there are many, many more. Most commonly they seem to be found on multiple pearl strands, from as few as two to as many as six, with three being common. They are worn in pairs or singularly, on either the left or the right wrist. So why is this part 1? In part two we'll look at how to make one.

Monday, October 11, 2010

And I Quote..Francois la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt

"The young are generally full of revolt, and are often pretty revolting about it.”- Francois la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Vendor Review- Smoke and Fire

Smoke and Fire is a re-enactor supply merchant that sells everything from fans to glassware, full costumes, patterns, hats, jewelry, musical instruments, games, books, and just about anything else you can imagine needing for reenactment life. Except wigs, which are always hard to find in good quality at an affordable price. Items at Smoke and Fire are very fairly-priced with shoe buckles starting around $25 per pair, fichus for $15, and full polonaise gowns for $165. They are my preferred vendor for silk stockings which come clocked in either cream or gray for just $20. Shipping is fast, and I've found them reliable and communicative whether for personal or theatrical use.

You can either shop the online store or request a paper catalogue. Check them out!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

October 2, 1780

I last reported that dear Thierry was returning to Paris and I expected him that very night, and so accordingly I sat up late into the night waiting. Fearing that at so late an hour he would be stopped at the gate, as there have been some changes to the household staff, I had Marianne take word that he was to be admitted no matter the time. I read some pamphlets, played with Reinette, attempted to embroider some (though my eyes are not as strong as they were, I fear), and paced before the windows. At midnight I allowed myself to be undressed, but tarried still more before retiring at one in the morning.

I slept fitfully and was awakened early by Marianne who said that people were already arriving for my first Lever. One look in the mirror told me that my sleepless night was much in evidence, but there was no delaying so as soon as I was properly laced into my stays I admitted my first visitors; the Comte and Comtesse de Rochechouart, the latter of whom was very happy to see Reinette whom she had given me just last winter. Soon the room began to fill with people, all happy to see me, all eager for the story of my "illness" and convalesence in Auvergne, all curious about rumors of an impending marriage. I avoided answering with all of the coquettry I could manage, and as it approached noon my morning chocolate wore away and I found myself desiring more substantial food.

Invited by Comtesse R- to a party of cards that evening I knew that I had little enough time to attend to other matters. In the midst of letters to Maman, my steward, and F- a visitor was announced. I looked up to find Thierry, dashing in a blue velvet coat and new wig. He approached and kissed my hand, my servant withdrew, and I blushed like a rose to see my handsome galante. "I have something for you." He said, and drew out from his pocket a box inside of which was a beautiful brooch made of four heart-shaped pearls set into gold with their points touching so that they looked like a clover. I made some exclamation of delight, and he smiled to see me so.

We talked for hours about his work in Lyon and all of the news from Saint-Saturnin, Pauline's little son; Guy, who is called "Hercule" for he is very strong and will grip one's finger most tenaciously. He then asked after the Marquis de F- and our wedding plans. At that a cloud came over our conversation and I related that the plan was to go forward and that I had requested an audience with the King to tell him of my decision. Thierry rose from his seat, paced a moment, and enjoined me to delay a little. I told him that I could not. We could not stage another incident like the one before to avoid meeting with the King, nor could I retract my request. I must attend and I must answer, but this is not what Thierry wishes to hear.

At last he said that he would speak with F-, and I said that I had to prepare for the Comtesse' party that evening, and so we parted with a kiss, much more troubled than we had met. Though he has come to Sully several times since we have not spoken more on the subject and I wonder what he and F- will say to one another.

Olympe, Comtesse

Monday, September 27, 2010

Changes to Amphorae

Hi everyone,

Just a quick announcement, over on my other blog, Amphorae, I've made some changes and will now be covering all other timeperiods not including the 18th century, on a rotating schedule. Sundays are for Regency and Victorian-related information, so today's post was on all nine of Queen Victoria's children. Up next, Classical Antiquity; I'm thinking maybe a Greek recipe. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

And I Quote...Marquise de Sevigne

"There is nobody who is not a danger to someone."- Marquise de Sevigne

Friday, September 24, 2010

September 24th, 1780

At home in l'Hotel de Sully again, after a long week at the Chateau of Franconville-aux-bois in Saint Martin du Tertre with F-. I was most apprehensive about seeing him again, but upon my arrival he greeted me in the hall with arms outstretched. Clasping me close he whispered "We two will remember him together."

Needless to mention, the wedding is still to go forward, and I have requested an audience with the King to inform him of my decision and to see that my claim to the Duchy du Bouillon is honored, as well as perhaps the reacquisition of that land in Limousin which I took so much trouble over last year. Maman writes nearly every day to advise me on wedding preparations, and I am sure that she will undertake to come to Paris herself soon. I have delayed in making any invitation to that effect.

Thierry is at present away on business in Lyon, but expects to return tonight. If it is not too late I hope that he will come visit here. I long to see him, and to talk with him about all that has happened. I hold my first Lever tomorrow since returning, and expect to see many old acquaintances. I have not ordered new clothes this time, so I hope that I shall not be out of fashion on the first day.

Olympe, Comtesse

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Poll- I Digress

Okay, I know this is a primarily eighteenth-century blog, but I have a real dilemma and I need your help. My fiance and I are having a Casablanca (like the movie)-themed wedding next July and today we went to look at what we thought was one vintage Rolls Royce. It turns out there are 3, count them, 3 options! Which one do we choose?

The 1936 silver Rolls Royce is stylish and has so many amazing features, like signals that pop out of the side of the vehicle to indicate turns, plus it has all those big windows so we can see everyone and they can see us! The downside? There's no air conditioning and as I said, the wedding is in July.
As Casablanca is set in 1942 this 1953 Rolls Royce is the closest thing to the right era. The only trouble is that our wedding colors are ivory, black, and sky blue and I'm afraid that the blue will really clash with that red. This car does have AC.
Last, but not least, the 1962 "Grey Ghost" Rolls Royce. The streamlined physique of this car is very 1960s, but its sleek steel blue paint would go well with the wedding, and it has the AC. Small windows on this one too.

No matter which car we go with the driver will come attired in a vintage chauffer's tux complete with hat, and they roll out the red carpet, literally. Which would you choose?

Friday, September 17, 2010

And I Quote...Alexandre Dumas, pere

"Oh! the good times when we were so unhappy. (Oh le bon temps ou etions si malheureux!)"
- Alexandre Dumas, pere

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Truth vs, Fiction

Olympe is headed back to Paris again, bringing our story more or less full circle from a year ago, but since that time there have been new characters, some whom have fallen out of sight at present and some of whom have died; but how much of this is fiction and how much of it is real?

In 1780 Louis XVI really did declare an end to torture as a means of extracting information from suspects. That year he would also order wounded enemies to be treated with the same care as his own subjects, free serfs from being tied to the land and unable to leave without the will of their lords, and took an interest in the cleanliness of the prisons in his kingdom.

What about Olympe's invitation to the Chateau Saint-Martin-du-Tertre? It's also known as the Chateau de Franconville, and is a real place. The last of the Marquis' to inhabit it and hold the title of Franconville was, however, not Olympe's friend F-, but Adelaide Genevieve Felicite O, who being a woman could not pass the title on after her death 1824. She did, however have a son named Louis Leon Felicite Brancas (whose first wife died at the guillotine in 1794), and if we stretch the truth a little that son born in 1733 had a son named Louis in 1759 who (had he actually lived past infancy) could conceivably have been the F- of our story.

Lastly, that oboe concerto by Handel? Maybe it was this one composed in 1740, making it forty years out of date at the time of Thierry's supper party; but then that is the point.

Friday, September 3, 2010

September 2, 1780

After a miserable few weeks I am bound for Paris again soon. The court is at Versailles and the King has proclaimed an end to torture, which is a kindess to the enemy that they little deserve. Still, if a man is tortured I suppose he may confess to anything, be it true or no.

My reply to F- was met with an invitation to his Chateau in Saint-Martin-du-Tertre to further discuss our intended marriage. Being so near to Paris I will stop at l'Hotel de Sully, unpack some things, and travel on to Franconville-aux-Bois the next day. It being Saturday now we depart Monday early and hope to arrive Tuesday if the roads are good; but it looks as if it will rain today and so I expect we will arrive Wednesday instead.

A letter from Thierry tells me that he has heard of R's death, and he mourns with F- and I, and wonders what change this may bring to our plans. He cautions me not to act in haste. He also says that he recently held a small supper party at which he hired musicians to play an oboe concerto by Handel. This was met by less enthusiasm than he had expected, which I suspect is because it is an old work and people are more fond of being entertained by new music. He also writes that the "sound of an oboe is like unto a duck that has been taught to sing", which I doubt is meant as a compliment to the instrument. It did come as a surprise to hear of him entertaining in this manner, as it is something he could ill have afforded at this time a year past.

Reinette begs my attention, perhaps she and I will take a turn in the gardens before the rain begins and enjoy once more the peace of Saint Saturnin before the frenzy of Paris.

-Olympe, Comtesse

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Spaniel, Part Deux

Back in February I posted about the spaniel in the 18th century, and since then I have noticed a huge number of portraits that feature them. My attentiveness is probably due to the mind-control exerted by my Queen, Mistress, Owner, puppy; Reinette, "Little Queen". For anyone who hasn't already heard this, "reinette" was the nickname of Madame de Pompadour after a fortune-telller predicted that she would rise to become the mistress of a King.

Some of my favorite portraits:-

Chocolate DrinkersLady at her desk by Boilly

Mme de Pompadour en deshabille by Boucher
Queen Charlotte 1781

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Stationery Search

I promised I would tell you more about my search for 18th century stationery, so here it is.
Stationery, meaning specialized paper products, has been around since the Middle Ages at least and was once the domain of stationers who had permanent shops mainly near Universities and government centers where paper usage was at its highest. They were responsible not only for paper supply, but also for publishing and copyright privileges. While beautiful and customized stationery would not become truly de rigeur until the Victorian era, nice handwriting and good quality papers and seals were still a recognized status symbol in the 18th century.

"You write with ease, to show your breeding."- Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Here are a few modern options for those fine writing supplies you'll need in all of your correspondance.

Sullivan Press has a set of paper, ribbon, quill and ink available in the style of the Revolutionary War era. Includes instructions on creating envelopes and examples of calligraphy. Retails for $7.50.

Want something a little more whimsical? Check out these Marie-Antoinette-inspired cards from Paper Nosh. They are part of an entire series of 18th-century themed stationery; cards, paper, invitations, and postage. They even come custom-wrapped in beatiful boxes with bows for no additional charge.

Got wax? These chess-piece shaped seals are reproductions of 18th century chess pieces and come custom-cut with your very own design. $150.00 each from Wax Works.
Need advice on how to use your new sealing wax and stamper? Jas Townsend and Son have a video tutorial just for you!
My best friend and I still send letters back and forth and it is traditional for us to give each other special stationery for Christmas. Maybe this year I'll add some sealing wax and stamps to the bundle!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dinnerware with a historic flair

While searching for reproduction stationery (more on that later) I came across a merchant site called The 18th Century Merchant which sounds just perfect. It sells some reproductions, but mostly nice accoutrements for discerning tastes. One item of interest is their signature dinnerware.  The First Ladies series was inspired by the wives and daughters of some of the Presidents of the United States, and part of the proceeds benefit the National First Ladies Library. The second collection, the White House dinnerware collection, features 16 different patterns based on or entirely recreated from the historical services used by the presidents while entertaining at the official residence. Prices vary.

My favorite is the John Quincy Adams service pictured above. The delicate pink and gold with its neoclassical motifs would look beautiful next to some lace-trimmed serviettes and rose-topped petit-fours.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Shopping the Museums

It is a miserable gray day here, I must have some color! How about a bright shopping spree through the 18th century sections of the world's museums? I'll start with this sweet pink polonaise, after all one must have the skirt up off the ground if we venture out today.

If we do go out we'll need a pair of pockets to put the shopping money in, like this pair from c.1725.
It is still summer though, so how about a fan? This one in gouache (paint) from abut 1760 ought to do the trick!
Then, of course, we can't forget about shoes, after all the polonaise skirt will ensure that they are seen. 
These purple ones with the pattens will help to keep our feet nice and dry.
A hat perhaps to keep the rain off our faces? Something like this should do the trick. Fabulous! Now we are ready to go out and face the day, however gray it may be.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

August 11th, 1780- The Comte de Rodez

A black day. A letter this morning from F- confirms my greatest fears; Henri-Phillipe "Le Plus Juste", Comte de Rodez, is dead. Le plus juste, the most just, the most fair. He took his own life.

His mother arrived, R- recalls, and the doctor was with him, bleeding him. The doctor stepped out of the room to speak to R's mother and left his tools next to the patient's bed. When they re-entered the room, only moments later, he had cut himself deeply in several parts of the arm. They attempted to staunch the bleeding, but he threw off the doctor twice before F- restrained him. "Do not touch me!" he spat, and turn his face away. They could not stop the bleeding, and he quickly died.

How could F- write the words?! He makes no accusations, but I do not even know if our marriage is still intended, how will he even look at me now? I read the letter and got to my feet so quickly I upset my dressing table. In shock and unable to speak I stumbled out into the hall, crossing to the gallery; the portraits of my ancestors stared disapprovingly down at me. I paced, hands at my head, my heart, my mouth, my eyes. Still no tears have come, they are locked inside, a grief too great to be expelled.

It is my fault, say what comforting words he may, F- must know that. Had not I avoided marriage there would have been no cause for the Marquis' comments, but even then I need not have involved my friends in his humiliation, and had he not been humiliated R- need not have dueled him, and had he not lost the duel the Marquis would not have tried to poison me, and had I not nearly succumbed to the poison F- would not have thought it necessary to undertake to protect me with his plan for marriage, and even so I need not have accepted it! I let others protect me, fight for me, and after first risking his life in the duel for me R- has now died for me! I am to blame, it is me.

I ask God for forgiveness but receive no answer, the saints of Auvergne have forsaken me and heaven is quiet and cold and empty. My selfishness has left me quite alone and I am right to feel it. Yet still my evil nature prevails in thinking that I have lost a champion, as if he were mine and I some lady to command men with a white hand and flowery words. If I write to T- it will only be to bring him here that I may be comforted, and that I do not deserve.

Olympe, Comtesse

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

July 29, 1780

A letter from F- in Rodez says that he is with R-, who has fallen ill. He says not to come, and that seeing me might only upset the Comte more. R- is raving, threatening to marry as well, alternately weeping, cursing, and sleeping. He does not eat and F- will not give him drink. The doctor has been with them, and the Comte's mother is due to arrive from Lyon within a few days.

I feel that this is all my doing, and now one of my dearest friends will not see me,

Olympe, Comtesse

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Jane Austen's Fight Club

Someone had a lot of fun with this!

July 23, 1780

Despite the fact that Saint Saturnin is a far cooler than busy Paris I am still loathe to venture out from these stone walls. I have been ill inclined to do anything these past few weeks, in truth. I did venture to Paris and see Thierry and dear Christine, who is now gone to her Aunt and Uncle in Sweden (whom she fears may be arranging a marriage for her next now that her sister is wed). The court is away from Versailles and Paris until the weather cools, and I have given Msr. Poisson some incentive to seek both of us a charge in the Royal Service.

Thierry has received greater acclamation and further duties from the Ferme, and even Philippe Guillaume Tavernier Boullongne of Préminville, the Fermier General, has taken notice of him. I should not be surprised if soon he were to be far richer than I. We shall see what transpires.

Soon, when the court returns, F- and I will have to announce our engagement. Already I am receiving daily letters from Maman on preparations, not to be undertaken without her involvement. I do believe she has been looking forward to this for years. For my part, I would as soon not have anything to do with it, and I sit in the quiet of Saint Saturnin with Reinette, reading, painting, and playing my harp very ill. I am determined more than ever that I have little need of some of my other properties, and it is very likely that I will spend most of my time in Paris in the future, and so F- and I will only need, say, three homes in Auvergne to which we may travel. I will retain Opme, Saint Saturnin and my home in Riom, I think, and sell the rest.

Right now it is too hot to think.

Olympe, Comtesse

Thursday, July 22, 2010

French Song- A la Cour du Palais (At the Court of the Palace)

1) A la cour du palais
Lundi, Mardi tra la la

A la cour du palais

Y'avait une servante
Y'avait une servante, Lundi, Mardi danse
2) Elle a tant d'amoureux

Qu'elle ne sait lequel prendre
(3) Elle a le fils du roi

Et son valet de chambre)

4) C'est un p'tit cordonnier

Qu'a eu la préférence
5) Lui a fait des souliers

En maroquin de Nantes
6) Et c'est en la chaussant

Qu'il lui fit sa demande
7) La belle si tu voulais

Nous coucherions ensemble
8) Dans un grand lit carré

Couvert de toiles blanches
9) Aux quatre coins du lit

Quatre pommes d'oranges

or (un bouquet de pervenches)
10) Et là nous dormirions

Jusquà la fin du monde
10) Dans le mitan du lit

La rivière est courante

11) Tous les chevaux du roi

Viennent y boire en bande
12) Le noir s'est noyé

Le plus beau de la bande
13) Si le roi le savait

Il nous ferait tous pendre

And now in English...

At the court of the palace

Monday, Tuesday tra la la

At the court of the palace

There was a servant, Monday, Tuesday dance

She has so much love

She doesn’t know which one to take

She had the son of a king

And his servant

It is a little shoemaker

That is the preference

He has made some shoes

In Nantes Moroccan leather

And it is in the shoes

That he has made his request

Beautiful, if you would like

We would sleep together

In a big square bed

Covered in white sheets

At the four corners of the bed

Four apples of oranges

Or a bouquet of periwinkle

And there we would sleep

Until the end of the world

In the middle of the bed

The river is coursing

All the horses of the king

Come there to drink together

The black is drowned

The most handsome of the group

If the king knew it

He would take us all

The translation is my own, I take full responsibility for any mistakes. For the melody see the video below...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Let's Talk About Titles!

I've been putting this one off for a while because it can get complicated. Not only were there noble titles in the 18th century, this everyone knows, but confusion arrives when (a) those titles are translated into French, (b) one person holds multiple titles, (c) the same title is applied to people of differing ranks, or (d) a title is held by someone nominally but without legal recognition, or (e) lots of people suddenly die (a la guillotine) or are forced to flee and the succession lines get very confusing.

Take for example the title "Prince". There are Princes of the Blood, i.e. those related to the Royal Family, like Prince Louis Phillipe d'Orleans. To gain this title one would have to be descended from the male line of the reigning royal family, although a Princess of the Blood could marry into the title. Everyone remember the part in "Marie-Antoinette" where the Comtesse de Noilles is whispering about the proper greeting order, and who is a Princess of the Blood or only a Princess of the Blood by marriage? This is what she means.

What if someone is not "of the blood"? You can still be a Prince or Princess! How about the Princess de Conde, Charlotte de Rohan? For her "Princess" was just a nominal title, something that the cadet branch of the Bourbon family was called, much as the distant descendants of royalty are still called today. They didn't rule a principality, were very far from being in line for the throne, and in her case was a Princess by marriage even. Interesting fact, if you look at her parentage Princess Charlotte's mother was Anne Marie Louise de la Tour d'Auvergne (familiar...) and the family's Turenne branch with it's Duchy of Bouillon were styled "princes of Turenne".

Not related in any way to the royal family? You can still be a Prince or Princess, Prince Louis de Rohan, aka Cardinal Rohan of "The Affair of the Necklace" infamy, was! In certain very theocratic political systems, like France in the 18th century, very prestigious religious titles were given the honorific 'Prince', such as Cardinals and the Pope.

Obviously those who rule a principality are known as Princes, but where were these sovereign states in the 18th century? The Principality of Orange (as in William of Orange) was one, and so was the Principality of Sedan which was a part of the Duchy of Bouillon, and therefore became property of the French Crown when the Duchy was confiscated. Everything is related.

The title of Prince doesn't fall into the category of titles difficult to recognie in a foreign language, but here are some that people do mix up:-

Comtesse/Comte= Countess/Count
Marquis/Marquise= Marquess (Earl), Marchioness
Duc/Duchesse= Duke/Duchess
Roi/Reine= King/Queen
Cavalier/(Ma)Dame= Knight/Lady

So where do all of the Princes line up? Rank being important and all, who goes in what order? After the King would come the heir, known as the Dauphin, then his brothers, the Princes of the Blood, then the Princes of the Blood by Marriage, the Princes of Principalities, Princes styled by patent of the King, Princes styled hereditarily, and finally everybody else.

Then Napoleon came along and started to hand out Princely titles to his victorious generals, so things only became more confusing...

Monday, July 5, 2010

"Contemplation often makes life miserable. We should act more, think less, and stop watching ourselves live.”- Nicolas Chamfort

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Re-enactment Frustrations

I am intensely jealous of those of you who live out west where there are costume societies and costumed picnics to attend, and even more so of those of you who live abroad in places like Sweden and England (where, as my fiance says, "The history comes from), because you can play out your reenactor lives in actual period buildings.

I live on the east coast of the U.S.A., near to Washington, DC, and there are a plethora of reenactment societies here; Civil War, Revolutionary War, etc, but I have yet to find a single 18th century non-American society. I don't really want to be a colonist; I mean, isn't part of the fun of a persona the ability to be someone that you're not? To take on, if only for a few hours, the mindset of someone that you'd rather have been?

I was in the Society for Creative Anachronism for many years, and is in fact how I met my fiance, but it's the 18th century that I love much more than the Middle Ages or the Renaissance, and frankly the politics of the oganization really bothered me. There was talk last year about starting a similar group for 18th century reenactors whether European or American, but it fizzled out very quickly.

So I suppose I'm just posting this to rant and with the fervent wish that someone out there in my area might feel the same way.

*Photo courtesy of duran textiles

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Blog-Anniversaire Giveaway Results

The results are in! The randomly generated results are

#1- Gentlewomanthief for the book
#2- Madame Berg for the surprise gift

Ladies, please e-mail me at so that I may get your party favors to you. Prizes will be redistributed if not claimed within one month.

Back to the celebrations!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chocolate in 18th Century France

The Chateau of Versailles homepage has a wonderful article on Chocolate, its admirers (including Marie Antoinette and Anne of Austria, and Mme Du Barry), makers, and availability in the 18th century. Suffice to say that unless you were of the nobility in France you did not get to enjoy this sweet delicacy. Sounds like a reason to revolt to me!