Saturday, October 29, 2011

October 22nd, 1781

At first I was concerned because there were people shouting in the streets and the ringing of the bells can mean so many things, but presently as I was standing leaning out of the window the Comte de R- arrived in his carriage and leaping from it shouted up to me "A Dauphin is born! A Dauphin at last!" He then dashed inside where I met him to receive an invitation to an impromptu party given by he and Elizabeth in honor of the birth.

They are hardly the only ones to celebrate as if it were their own good fortune; many are the festivities this night, and they say that people of all ranks and professions go to Versailles to offer their felicitations to the King and Queen. It makes me think of the magi and shepherds traveling to Bethlehem to see the Christ child. Naturally, I sent a letter off at once to T- in Venice that he should know what will certainly be much talked of even there.

My friends the Comte and Comtesse have every reason to be happy with their sons already bestowed, but I have a trace of jealousy, I find. Would that I had a son, or even a daughter, of my own; but first I must bring Thierry home and make our marriage acceptable to those who would seek to challenge it and disinherit any offspring.

Tonight is for joy though. I will wear my new blue gown and be of good cheer in the company of my friends. It is a luxury to forget one's cares even for a few hours. I fervently wish that this small baby may grow up to be a just and loving King to us all.

Olympe, Comtesse

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Birth of the Dauphin

Anonymous painter of the French school, 1781
Pictured from left to right in the above painting are the Duke of Berry, the Duke of Angouleme, the Duke of Chartres, the Countess of Artois, the Count of Provence, Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette with the Dauphin and Marie-Therese, the Countess of Provence, the Count of Artois and Madame Elisabeth (the King's sister).

On October 22nd, 1781, Marie-Antoinette finally gave birth to the long-awaited Dauphin, Louis Joseph Xavier Francois. The Queen went into labour in the morning, and was delivered at a quarter past one. In the words of the King himself he said to his wife "Madame, you have fulfilled our wishes and those of France, you are the mother of a Dauphin."

To say that they were the wishes of the entire country may seem like an exaggeration, but if so it wasn't much of one, because the announcement of the Dauphin's arrival was greeted with tremendous joy and enthusiasm from palace to city and Duke to commoner (with perhaps the exception of the Comte de Provence who suddenly found himself ousted from his position as heir presumptive). People greeted each other in the street with exultation, and every guild in Paris prepared to send delegations to Versailles to offer their congratulations the proud parents.

Sadly though, the Dauphin would die on June 4th of 1789, just a few short months before the Revolution began. It has, in fact, been suggested that the death of the seven year old heir, though succeeded by his younger brother, was one of the last catalysts for the events that would tear France apart. If his birth was met with such hope, it is perhaps not surprising that his demise would help plunge the country into desperate anger.

For a time though, there was only celebration. As the child was borne away from the royal apartments in the arms of the Royal Governess, the Princess de Guemene, they were followed by a crowd of laughing, clapping courtiers, and great acclamation. Two months later, when the Marquis de LaFayette returned from America, the festivities were still in full swing.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

October 15th, 1781

Some things go well while others go ill. Having sufficiently plyed my cousin Godefroy with all manner of food, drink, and flattery it was not hard to convince him that I am not interested in pushing my claim on the Duchy of Bouillon after he and his son die (that is assuming I outlive Jacque, who is only four years older than myself, though his health has long been poor). I don't know who he has in mind to inherit instead, but I do hope it won't involve the Rohan clan into which his sister, Marie-Louise married.

Having so convinced him, the request for him to present "the sister of a dear friend, who passed away quite young" was as nothing. I told him that she is quite pretty and has been convent-educated with hardly any movement in society. In short, that she's a delicate flower of purity and innocence in need of our protection and advancement. To my delight, he agreed. Now it only remains to get the mother to assent, but I can hardly see how she could refuse; the Duc de Bouillon is not only one of the highest personages titularly (for he may rightly call himself Prince of Sedan, should he choose), but also was for many years Grand Chamberlain.

If only my meeting with Lenoir, the Chief of Police, had gone so well. I found him quite unwilling to give me his full attention as he shuffled through papers on his desk, took communique's from anyone who desired to knock upon his door, and I had barely begun speaking when he decided it was necessary to explain to me that "justice must be permitted to run its full course". In short, I was dismissed with the distinct impression that he had not listened anymore to me than he might a fishmonger, or a child.

I did gain a glimpse of the papers upon his desk, however, and quite a few of them seemed to concern the kind of crass libel that we are daily treated to should we venture out of doors. The things they say, especially about the Queen and King, are no less than treasonous, and I have yet to see one that was not also viciously perverse. I'm not sure there is any way to use this knowledge to my advantage, but I will record it for the present in case it should become so.

I have not yet discovered a way to meet naturally with Msr. Lavoisier or his wife. I do have a visit with the dowager Countess of Rodez to look forward to tomorrow, and hopefully my note to her daughter, the young Clementine, will have some effect.

Olympe, Comtesse

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Historical Influence in Fashion

What an interesting shade of pink this anglaise has, don't you think? Well, that would be because it's an historically-inspired evening gown from the House of Worth in 1893. Charles Frederick Worth liked to go to galleries and museums and was very inspired by previous fashions to create striking designs for his own collections. This one, complete with fichu, is a very striking example.

October 12th, 1780

Msr. Poisson has been earning his due allowance. This morning he came to my Lever very early to inform me that I have an interview with Msr. Lenoir, head of the police in Paris and receiver of all of the slanderous gossip there is to be had. I doubt that I shall be able to convince him of Thierry's innocence, but I will be able to find out what sort of man he is and what may move him to action on Thierry's behalf.

Msr. Poisson also suggested that I find a way to meet with Msr. Lavoisier, the scientist, because he is a leading member of the Ferme, and has a great many contacts amongst those who have the running of things. Surely he will be sympathetic to one of the Ferme's dedicated employees. I have not yet come up with a plan for how to effect this, but I suspect the way may be through his wife.

Whispers have reached me that Mlle de Rodez is in town with her mother, and also that she is very beautiful and very strictly guarded from the public. She sounds like someone who could use a friend. I am due to meet with the mother very soon, but I wonder if a note could not be gotten to the young woman in advance so that I might meet her when I am there.

First, however, there is dinner with my cousin Godefroy this evening. I hope very much that I can persuade him to introduce Mlle de Rodez to court, because many of my plans hinge on this. Now I must see to dinner preparations.

Olympe, Comtesse

Monday, October 10, 2011

An Article of Interest

Here's something that may interest some of you, especially in America. An 18th century church is getting a major restoration after hosting the likes of George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King Jr. It's been through a lot, and has the bulletholes to prove it...

Church Shot During Revolution Gets Overhaul

Friday, October 7, 2011

On Seizing the Day

“Though the fool waits, the day does not.”- French Proverb

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Film Review- To the Ends of the Earth

I am a huge fan of the BBC series Sherlock, which is an updated version of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, of which I have also been a fan since early childhood. So when I saw that the 2005 miniseries, "To the Ends of the Earth", likewise starred Benedict Cumberbatch ("Amazing Grace", "Atonement", "The Other Boleyn Girl") I had a feeling I was going to like it.

Almost the entire movie is set in 1812 onboard an old navy ship that has been recomissioned as a passenger vessel voyaging between England and Austrailia. Not only has the vessel been recomissioned, but much of the crew is also taken from the British Navy, and they and the passengers have at times very tense relationships. The miniseries is based on a trilogy of books by William Golding, who also helped to write the screenplay, and was directed by David Attwood, who seems to have a fondness for English stories (Hound of the Baskervilles, Moll Flanders, Tales of Sherwood Forest).

Cumberbatch stars as our protagonist, Edmund Talbot, a very young aristocrat whose godfather has sent him to Australia to take up an administrative post there which should guarantee him a life of comfort and advancement. The journey serves as a conduit for the growth of Talbot into manhood, in more ways than one.

"Benedict was remarkable. He carried the Golding novels with him on set and constantly referred to them. We needed him every single day and he just didn't stop, nor complain. He simply became Edmund Talbot. And that commitment spread to every cast member. The process of making this film echoed the journey the characters went on in the story—we really got to know each other during our four months on location and we became very close." Commented the show's producer, Lynn Horsford.

The other characters are a motley crew of artists, philosophers, fallen women, families, and a clergyman. They suffer death, the prospect of having to fight the French, fire, illness, ice, and possible mutiny, and that's just some of the adventure. There's also love, sex, fighting, suicide and the kind of cabin fever that we are blissfully inexperienced in today.

On top of stellar preformances by the entire cast (and I mean everybody), the thing that I found truly wonderful about this series was how unpredictable it was. Everytime I thought I knew what was coming it turned out to be something else, which in retrospect was perfectly plausible. It also left nothing off-limits, and even the seediest, most disgusting details that the passengers experienced were documented by young Edmund in his journal.

The best part, for me, came at the end when a fellow passenger, realizing that to Edmund this has been the penultimate experience , says "It was just...a series of events." Just as after the wedding that closes many a Jane Austen novel there is still an entire marriage to be had, after the voyage there is a life.

October 5th, 1781

After Comtesse R-'s dinner party last night, from which I did not return until after 2am, I am exhausted despite having slept late. I could not sleep as late as I wished, however, because I was invited to go riding with a group and have only just returned in time to change for dinner at Marquise M-'s.

There was good news awaiting me, however. Three letters; one from my cousin Godefroy, one from my husband, and one from R-'s mother, the dowager Comtesse de Rodez. Thierry's letter was full of sweetness and remonstrations against worrying too greatly. He also says he received the money I sent, and advises that I not sell anymore of my patrimony after these two castles, which I have no intention of doing anyhow.

Godefroy has accepted my invitation to dinner next week, and I hope that he will be in a humor to acquiesce to my plan for introducing R-'s sister at court. The girl's mother writes in a somewhat less helpful tone that she does not know what interest I could have in helping her daughter, but is willing to hear me out. I must say that is not the kind of response I would give to such a generous offer, but I am willing to make allowances for her considerable grief at losing a beloved son.

Now to prepare for dinner. I suspect another long night awaits.

Olympe, Comtesse

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

October 3rd, 1781

Contrary to all of my fears there seems to be a morbid fascination for a jilted woman, so I have not lacked for company. My marchande-des-modes has delivered my new clothes, and I am enthralled by these new larger hats, worn at such an angle as to half-conceal the face. The endless parade of visitors with their hungry questions and false sympathies, nevertheless has given me a banquet of gossip from which to choose what is useful.

The Comte d'Estaing is still chafing from his disfavor, and obviously wishes to return to the war in the American colonies. My good friend Elizabeth, the Comtesse de Rochechouart, is pregnant and hoping for a daughter as she already has two sons, Victor and Phillipe. The Comte d'Antraigues is causing a stir in certain circle with his political views. Mme Elisabeth, the King's sister, may take a new secretary; and, of course, the Queen is due to deliver very soon and all hope for a Dauphin.

The war in the colonies is unending, but we have had some victories to sustain us. No good news from my estate agent about either Lespinasse or Opme; but I did receive an unexpected letter from Andre in Ferney. Apparently, happy though they appeared, he and Mlle Delacoer are not on pleasant terms and he fears their engagement may not result in a marriage after all. I worry that he is considering such a course because of my broken engagement, but I hesitate to ask him. He also said that he has not mentioned our agreement about Lespinasse with her, or she will stay with him for the money alone. I cannot pretend to be sad, for I would much prefer that he make an end of it, and choose a lady rather than an actress to marry.

Msr. Poisson is working to secure me an audience with the King. I need to find out if there is a new arrangement to be made about the Duchy of Bouillon, and I need to assert Thierry's innocence. Only the King can help me with the first, but in case he cannot immediately help me with the second, I have other plans to attend to.

Olympe, Comtesse

Monday, October 3, 2011

Know Your Clothes (and Accessories)- The Quizzing Glass

A Quizzing Glass:

"A monocle dangling from a neck-chain- a very fashionable accessory; in the 1820's dandies often had the glass fixed into the head of their canes." - The Dictionary of Fashion History

Used by men and women alike from about the 1790s , it often came attached to a small handle which terminated in a loop, thus allowing it to be strung on a chain or ribbon. It's exactly the kind of thing you can see Sir Percy Blakeney use, when he's not being The Scarlet Pimpernel!