Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 30th, 1781

Ensconced in Portaberaud once more, near to the bustle of Riom. Today I meet with Maman, who will hopefully forgive me when she hears of my plan to share the proceeds from the potential sale of Lespinasse with Andre. It is curious that he and Mlle Delacoeur have been engaged for nearly a year and yet no plans for their wedding have been made. Do they ever intend to actually marry? Maman thinks it may not happen, and some letters from Andre give cause for doubt as well.

I have been very productive with letters gone in haste to my cousin Godefroy Duc de Bouillon about the presentation of R's sister, and several to my land agent about the sale of Lespinasse and Opme, as well as one to Andre regarding the same. Now I wait for replies, but am not idle in the meantime for Msr. Poisson at court has been in communication with me, and proposes to come to Sully as soon as I return to Paris.

I have been much absent from court in recent years, but I intend to return with style so to promote Thierry's return. I have sent word also to my marchande des modes that I will need new clothing, including a new court gown. I intend to be present with F- when my cousin makes the presentation; it will stop wagging tongues from continuing to push for enemity between us, and allow me to better facilitate a match, as well as reminding those who will have forgotten that I am closely related to the Duke and in line to inherit the Duchy since it is known that his son cannot produce an heir.

Even if it takes all of the resources I can command, we will win.

Olympe, Comtesse

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pop Quiz- French Monarchs

My husband introduced me to online quizzes recently, which I enjoy, especially if they provide something of a challenge. My attempt at naming all of the Roman Emperors was not very successful, I'm not even going to tell just how abysmally I did; but on French Monarchs I earned a respectable 45/52 and I really should have remembered at least two more.

Test yourself and let me know how you do!

French Monarchs Quiz

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Countess' New Clothes- Stomachers

Proof that some sort of progress is being made, I am kicking off my whole new 18th century wardrobe by finishing some old projects. The oldest of all is a stomacher that has been languishing in my sewing pile for twelve years. Yes, twelve years is a long time for a project that was so close to completion even then, but at the time I had nothing to put it on and ended up changing the color scheme of the dress I had intended it for.

In order to be finished all I really need to do is finish adding the pearl beads (as seen in the closeup), bind the bottom edge with a white or coloured bias ribbon, and add tabs on the sides so that it can eventually be pinned onto a robe a la francaise.

There were as many different ways to decorate a stomacher as imagination allowed, so I thought I would include some beautiful examples.
English embroidered stomacher

Mid-18th c. crewelwork
Ribbon rose decoration
These are all floral designs, as is mine, but lace, undulating pinked fabric swirls, beading, crossed fabric, and especially echelles "ladders" of bows were all popular.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August 24th, 1781

Returning to Auvergne by way of Marseille and the road to Lyon as I had to go post. The money is low and I am sick to death of worrying about it. I have it in mind to sell all but three of my residences, which leaves me with a difficult decision. I am by far most fond of Saint Saturnin, but the seclusion that makes it my favorite also makes it one of the least useful of my holdings. Portaberaud in Riom must stay as I need a city residence, and I must clearly continue to lease Sully in Paris. That leaves Opme where I was born, and Lespinasse which is the only ancestral holding and legacy of my mother's family. Maman is already angry enough with me, selling Lespinasse would only add fuel to the fire.

I am of a disposition to be quick and decisive. Yes, Portaberaud must stay and Saint Saturnin is my home, I will not dispose of them. Perhaps I can come to an arrangement with Andre. Gift him Lespinasse as Maman wishes, but on the condition that he sell the castle and divide the proceeds with me. It is still a generous gift. That leaves Opme, where I rarely go and which is so in need of repair that selling it would lift a great burden from my purse while adding to the largesse. I could likewise combine my household staff if the new owners had no need of them, and save on the care of so many in diverse places.

So doing will give me ample funds with which to bring Thierry home from Venice, for I will need new friends, and that takes coin. I have already written to Msr. Poisson, who was ever our friend, and I have it in mind to try and renew the friendship we had with F-, and I believe I have an idea how best to accomplish this.

A rumor reached me when I was last in Lyon that R-'s sister is leaving the convent school there where she has been for many years. I think a visit to their widowed mother and an offer to have my cousin assist her presentation at court would put them quite in my debt. From there it will be easy to arrange a meeting between she and F-. If I know him, he will have forgotten all about her very existance, and it won't take much to convince him that R- would wish him to marry his sister. He may, in fact, be grateful for the introduction. That makes at least a small group of supporters for my cause.

To Auvergne, to Paris, to arms! I am full of vigor and feel that I could gallop all the way to Paris in a day. This time I won't let anything stop me.

Olympe, Comtesse

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Research for hats

As I begin to work on all of those sewing and construction projects I promised to blog about when I returned from my honeymoon, I find that I am in the mood for some millinery. I love hats, modern and historical styles, and I fortunately received some training in graduate school on how to make them. So I've been researching some of my favorite 18th-century styles to decide which one to make first.

I have one hat blank from a costume sale I organized that would be great to cover or decorate to create something like this...

Or I could shape a felt one on a hat block for a look like this...

(This is my favorite)

I also have a whole roll of buckram if I decide to make one of these styles... 
How about a few more, just for inspiration?

(Pictures courtesy of "Eighteenth-century French Fashion Plates" edited by Stella Blum; and "The Complete Costume History" by Auguste Racinet)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 17th, 1781

Today I sailed from Venice for Marseille again, leaving behind the husband it took me so long to attain. No word from France means that I must return to try and find out why he has not yet been exonerated. Very likely it is only that little official business is being transacted while the court is it at Fountainbleau, but Thierry must have work to have wages. Some of his colleagues at the Ferme have been generous in sending help, for Thierry is well-liked wherever he goes, but it is not enough to keep him in any sort of style so we have had to move him to more humble lodgings.

I loathe the idea of returning to Paris where my failed marriage plans with the Marquis only a few months ago are likely to follow me in whispers. I fled in such a hurry the last time I was there that there are certain to be some people who feel rather slighted. I shall play the injured party (after all, it was technically the Marquis who called off the wedding), and pretend that it was in embarassment that I left.

The Mediterranean is calm and blue and it soothes my cares considerably, even as my heart aches for my husband with whom I have had so little time. He promises to write to me often, and will address his letters to "Mme Duverger". I am tired of travel already, and still there is so far to go. Venice to Marseille, Marseille to Saint Saturnin, Saint Saturnin to Riom (for I must make peace with Maman), and finally Riom to Paris. I envy the peasants who may marry and settle into a life of quiet industry. So little to concern them.

Olympe, Comtesse

Sunday, August 14, 2011

August 10th, 1781

Finally I am able to breathe and to write at last. Such a tremendous number of things have happened since my last entry that it will take me many hours to recount them.

I was to meet my brother, Andre, and his fiancee Miss Delacoeur, at my chateau Lespinasse, but first I would stop in Lyon to pick up Thierry who was in flight from the Paris authorities who had been given a letter denouncing him as a spy and a traitor. I arrived in Lyon to find that he had not arrived. This turned out to be because he was nearly apprehended just outside of Lille where we last left each other, and only escaped by riding the mail coach out of town early one morning before the soldiers were inclined to check thoroughly every passing equipage.

Not knowing where he was or if he had been arrested I was distraught, but I determined to go on to Lespinasse where he would know to join me if he were able. Accordingly, I arrived at Lespinasse, let the small staff there know that we would be having guests, and prepared myself for their arrival by choosing meals and rooms and seeing that the parts of the chateau that are not in the best condition were sealed off.

A few days later they arrived with Marianne, and still no Thierry. Four days went by, we walked in the countryside, I showed them the fortress (for so it truly is, dating from a 12th century crusader), had a picnic in the shadow of the walls, and tried our best to entertain ourselves, but Lespinasse is very remote and there is little enough to do in its environs, except to worry about an absent love.

On the evening of the fifth day a message arrived which put my fears temporarily to rest. Thierry wrote that he was in the nearby village of Saint-Beauzire staying under the name of Roland Boucher. I told my guests that I had business there the next morning and went to bed. When I arose the next morning Marianne informed me that a visitor had arrived in the night, and that it was, in fact, the Marquis de Franconville aux Bois. He was breakfasting in the dining hall with Andre and Miss Delacoeur when I went down, and greeted me very cheerfully saying that he had heard in Lyon that I was here and could not resist seeing me. Knowing that he would watch my every move and probably could track every message I sent, I didn't dare send anything to Thierry much less go in person to Saint-Beauzire.

Duly for two days more we entertained ourselves. My guests, being well-informed of the failed marriage plans between F- and I, were somewhat discomfitted by his presence, though he remained pleasant and extremely attentive. It did not, therefore, surprise me when they announced their intent to journey home, and were prepared to do so on the eighth day. I tried to cajole them into staying, but with little incentive to offer it was a useless effort. Hearing one of my attempts F- assiduously suggested that when they left we might travel to Saint-Beauzire to visit the little town, making me think that he suspected T- of being there. I wrote within the hour to everyone I could think of in Auvergne who might come to Lespinasse to give me a reason to stay and distract F- from his purpose.

A few responded before the next day, but all declined to come, many of them with houseguests of their own. The morning broke, and the carriage was loaded. I was in despair as Andre and his fiancee took their leave, but as the carriage made to depart a rider appeared with another message, this one a response from Adrienne, with whom I had spent an entire summer two year prior. She wrote that she and her family would have been only too happy to come visit had I been at Saint Saturnin, which is not so far from her home in Briancon. I clapped my hands with joy and, wishing my brother well, fled into the house to my desk. I grabbed a passing servant on the way and told him to inform the house that we were to depart for Saint Saturnin at once. A few scribbled lines and a message was dispatched to Adrienne telling her that I was to be at Saint Saturnin on the morrow, and that I wanted very much to see she and her children.

In the bustle of packing, in which F- looked most irritable, I was able to write another note to T- telling him of my departure, but gave instructions that it should not be delivered until after F- had departed because I did not yet know if he would attempt to accompany me, go back to Paris or Franconville-aux-Bois, or go himself in search of Thierry. In the end he grumbled that he had business in Paris, and would leave the next day.

After a light lunch we set out and never was I more relieved to see my beloved Saint Saturnin, especially when I found that a note was waiting for me. It read "Dare not linger in Saint-Beauzire. Gone to Marseille to take ship. Meet there by July 23rd if you can." It was by now June 23rd and I knew that the money couldn't last much longer than a month. Adrienne and her three children, all much grown, arrived three days later and proceeded to stay much longer than I had thought. Emiline is old enough to be married now at the age of 15, fully half my age and is quite a beauty. Her sister, Bethanie-Marie, was away at a convent school most of the year, but is home now for a while, she is very quiet and shy. The little boy, Charles, is only 4 and like all small children loves to run and talk incessantly. I began to worry by the 15th of July if they would ever leave, and had received no further communication from T- though I had sent word of my situation. No doubt he thought it foolish for me to have houseguests at a time like that, but they kept F- from following me.

Finally on the 20th they departed, and once more I had the carriage packed, I took all of the coin I could muster and ran the horses at a most frightful pace over the mountains of Auvergne for two days, finally arriving on the 22nd in Marseille. It was a difficult thing to track down Thierry, but once I found him it was a joyous reunion. We were able to locate a priest who would dispense with the bans and agreed to marry us. We wasted no time on new clothes or flowers, but only a simple gold ring which Thierry had waiting upon my arrival. At four o-clock in the afternoon we were married and never was anything more sweet than to gaze upon the face of my husband and see my love returned.

A few days of travel arrangements and we sailed for Italy where we remain in a beautiful Palazzo in Venice awaiting word of Thierry's exoneration. Soon we must decide whether I return to France or not, for the money is running very low. That is a concern for another day, however. Today is for lying in each other's arms, listening to the lapping of the canal.

Olympe, Comtesse

Saturday, August 13, 2011

And I Quote- Napoleon in Italy

Napoleonic-era naval uniform
Naval History Museum in Venice
When Napoleon was in Italy he is supposed to have remarked "All Italians are plunderers. [Gli Italiani tutti ladroni.]"
Whereupon an Italian lady, overhearing him, replied "Not all, but a good part. [Non tutti, ma buona parte.]"

Edit: You know, on closer reading I wonder if "buona parte" was intended as a pun on "Bonaparte" by the witty lady. Hmm...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Devonshire Shoes from American Duchess

I can tell you that as enjoyable as my honeymoon was it's good to be home. Of course, one of the first things I did when I arrived back was to order my pair of American Duchess "Devonshires" while they were still on pre-order. Remember back in March when I told you about the lovely satin Georgiana shoes?
Did you get a pair for yourself? Aren't they lovely?! Were you perhaps one of those people who wished that they were available in a material slightly more hard-wearing than satin for all of your outdoor events? The brand new Devonshires were meant for you! They are made of dyeable leather, so you can have them match your outfit and last more than one season.

There is a downside, however; the pre-sale only goes for two more days until AUGUST 10TH! After that they will be $120, instead of $100. Don't miss out!