Wednesday, December 26, 2012


I seem to have stumped you a little bit with the most recent trivia question, although most probably it is just that everyone is too busy with holiday plans. I asked:-

"What manner of public conveyance in France could be used to travel for free, or very cheaply, so long as you were not in a hurry to get directly to a particular destination, and didn't mind traveling with some light, but bulky cargo?"

The answer: By mail coach.

I first came across this, not as an 18th century, but a 17th century occurance. In fact, the Mancini sisters famously used it to escape from their husbands, which is an intriguing story all by itself. Passengers sometimes found the conditions of travel by mail coach to be cleaner and more comfortable than travel by Diligence (public carriage). The cost was less than that of hiring a coach, but since it couldn't be determined just how many places the coach would need to stop your travel time could be slower than desired. Happily, if there were few letters to be delivered and the stops along the way had little mail to add, your trip could also be surprisingly short. There tended to be fewer people traveling by mail carriage, and (as they frequently included a guard) were less likely to be robbed.

I'm going to be pretty busy with plans of my own through the holidays, so no new trivia for now; but I want to wish everyone a very happy, safe, and fulfilling New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2012


Last week's question was:- "What french word came to describe all of the ex-aristocrats who fled France after the Revolution of 1789?"

A Traveller in Time correctly responded "Emigres."

Settling in places like Switzerland, Rome, England, and even America, these displaced aristrocrats were frequently despised by their host nations for their unwillingness to accept that life had changed. They were known for carrying on within their own communities very much as they had at home... until constraints of money forced them to do otherwise.

This week's question is:- What manner of public conveyance in France could be used to travel for free, or very cheaply, so long as you were not in a hurry to get directly to a particular destination, and didn't mind traveling with some light, but bulky cargo?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Happy Birthday, Olympe!

On December 18th, 1782 Olympe turned 32 years old. It was an interesting birthday, but we'll save that story for later...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

December 2nd, 1782

Well, the worst seems to be over, and that on many fronts. Cousin Godefroy has resumed his post as Grand Chamberlain, with hardly any fuss from the Rohans; who I expect are busy licking their wounds as well. My lawyer friend, Jean Baptiste Gerbier, is in the process of having Franconville demolished so that it may be rebuilt in a  newer style in the Spring, and evidently F- has left town for the time being. 

The war is at last over as well, at least the British and the American Colonists (I suppose, just Americans now) have signed a treaty to that effect. We are still negotiating our treaty with England, but I expect it won't be long now. Perhaps then Thierry's case can be examined and he will be able to come home. 

A package arrived from him yesterday containing an early birthday present of a pair of blue silk stockings and wrapped inside of them some paste buckles. I do not know how I shall spend my birthday this year, and may mark the occasion quietly at home. I am no longer of an age that I wish to boast about.

My young friend, Clementine de Rodez, on the other hand, has much about which to be happy. Her mother has consented to the Marquis de Menars suit, with a little gentle pressure from myself, and Clementine is consequently beaming like the sun. The marriage will take place in the spring, and owes it's occurrence rather more to the absence of a formerly-interested suitor, than it does to the insistence of any other party. Really I am not much surprised, Dukes will marry up if they can, and Clementine's dowry is not such a great temptation.

Tonight my friend Elizabeth is holding a costume ball, but I had not the will find a new costume for it, and will instead merely put on a domino over something pretty. She at least promises that some interesting characters will be in attendance, and I look forward to finding out who she means. 

Olympe, Comtesse

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Last time I asked:- This color became popular in the late eighteenth century, despite being named for a pest.

Lauren R managed to beat everyone else to the punch and correctly stated that it was "Puce" which we all know means "flea". There were actually several variations on the color, but traditionally it is held to be a sort of brownish-purple.

This week my query is:-

What french word came to describe all of the ex-aristocrats who fled France after the Revolution of 1789?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tavistock Button Boots

The newest member of the American Duchess historical footwear collection is here! Tavistock is an actual button boot. No more making do with lace-up boots with clunky heels, or accepting the "hidden" zipper of other so-called Victorian boots.

Perfect as a Christmas gift for someone...maybe you?

For more information you can visit Lauren's site.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Our Story Thus Far

It's hard to believe but this blog as been going for three years, and many of those posts have involved diary entries detailing the life and adventures of my fictional counterpart. I recently received a request to recap the story thus far, and am more than happy to do so.

It began in 1779, with Olympe spending the summer at the home of a friend in Briancon, all the while making plans for a legal case over some land adjoining Auvergne. This case would eventually take her to Paris at the close of the summer for a sojourn at the l'hotel de Sully, but not before taking part in a minor theatrical production, avoiding the advances of undesirable suitors, and ferreting out the secrets of some of the other guests. Having already met her paramour, Thierry Duverney, in 1775 she also tried to utilize her connections to find him employment that might lead to significant honors, but success in this venture would be a long time coming.

As women holding titles and land in their own right was something of a rarity in 18th century France, Olympe was frequently the object of fortune-hunters at every level of society; and even the King strongly suggested when she presented her suit at Versailles, that she should within the year marry a man of appropriate rank. An offer was made to confirm Olympe's heirs in securing the Duchy of Bouillon, a family title of great wealth and significance currently held by a childless cousin, if she should meet this condition.

This left Thierry out of the picture and in the process of seeking an appropriate mate she caught the attention of the Marquis de Menars. Olympe, overhearing his plans for her money, decided to publicly ridicule him, and with the help of her friends; the Marquis de Franconville-aux-bois and the Comte de Rodez, she succeeded in doing so. A duel followed in which Menars was seriously wounded, and in return for which he would supposedly attempt to poison our Comtesse. In this the villain was aided by one of Olympe's own footmen, whom she had forced into marriage with one of her maids for the sake of their child.

The poisoning was discovered, but Menars involvement could not be proven. The footman was left to survive the wrath of his clandestine employer, and Olympe with her two champions fled home to Auvergne where she was joined by Thierry once more. While there the Marquis de F- made a surprising offer. Despite his long attachment to the Comte de R- he suggested that he and Olympe should marry and that his family alliances would serve to protect her from further menace. As many 18th century marriages were so frequently attended by infidelities on both sides that true fidelity was considered extraordinary, Olympe eventually agreed.

Unfortunately, this sent the Comte de Rodez into a self-destructive phase, and he died in August of 1780 at his home outside of Paris. At the time Olympe was still in Auvergne and the news of his death reached her by way of F-, who proceeded to use it to press her for a speedier marriage. The more he pressured her, the more reluctant she became. Thierry, having managed at last to secure a position with the Ferme Generale, had begun to travel extensively inside and outside of France, and Olympe wavered between acquiescence and flight.

In the end Thierry returned to Paris a mere few days before the wedding was to take place, and Olympe delivered an ultimatum to F-, who was forced to call off the ceremony. Taking the precaution of leaving Paris for Lille, they planned to marry there in secret, but were instead roused to flight once more by the arrival of a warning from one of Thierry's friends. A letter had been given to the police denouncing Thierry as a spy for the English, and a Lettre de Cachet was issued against him. Further intrigue saw our protagonists meet up once more in Marseille for the long-awaited marriage, before parting in Venice.

Olympe returned to Auvergne, sold one of her estates to the recently-returned Marquis de Lafayette, and rented another, giving her the money to pursue her own interests and the case for Thierry's innocence. At the same time she began to suspect that not all was as it had seemed. Having reason to suspect that R- did not die the way he was reported by F- to have gone, and that Menars was not behind her poisoning after all, Olympe set about to wreak vengeance upon the Marquis de Franconville-aux-bois, whom she held responsible for all that had occurred.

Utilizing her new wealth and his own debts, she ruined F- financially and even went so far as to have his former home demolished. Not long after, two of her own relatives were ruined in a very public way, and she feared reprisal by F-s family connections, but relied upon her cousin, the Duke de Bouillon to save them.

At the time of my writing this is all that has occurred of significance. Additional characters about whom you may read more are her two half-brothers; Andre and Matthieu, with whom she has very different relationships.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


This color became popular in the late eighteenth century, despite being named for a pest.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

November 5th, 1782

Perhaps I have crowed over my laurels too much. Franconville has not yet begun to be demolished, and a scandal has shocked Versailles to it's core that I cannot help but feel is in some way related to me.

The Prince and Princess de Guemene are bankrupted. He, despite being Grand Chamberlain, and she, Governess to the Royal Children. Could any two people be less likely to fall victim to their creditors? Their properties are to be sold, although surely the King and Queen will help them in that they will receive a good price; but they must abdicate all charges, and it is to be wondered who will step into them.

All of this I have from cousin Godefroy, who is uncle to the Prince, and who goes to Versailles to see if he may resume his previous charge as Grand Chamberlain. It is to be hoped that Their Majesties affection for my cousins will outweigh their disgrace.

The question then remaining is whether or not F-, or his relatives, the de Lauragais, have had anything to do with bringing this about. Is it to be believed that following on my persecution of F- through his debts, my own family should fall victim to the same, and yet the two incidents are not related? My small quest for vengeance may have taken on far larger consequences than I had ever intended. I considered telling cousin Godefroy everything, but have held my tongue. I trust him, above all men, to smooth over these difficulties, and if he can do so without me needing to reveal my part in them, then it will be so much the better.

Suddenly I do miss the advice and comfort of Thierry so very much. True happiness is so short-lived.
Olympe, Comtesse

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


I'm awed by this gorgeous equipage, called the Lichtenstein Carriage. For more information on it's history you can visit this very fine blog.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

October 21st, 1782

The sale of Franconville is complete, and my party has triumphed. As happy as the young man is, he cannot be but half as joyful as I am myself. A letter from Thierry only adds to a sense of perfection, when normally it is my whole cause for happiness. I had word that F- was in attendance at the sale in person, and looked wholly miserable, but I think that he can be made to suffer still more. 

Tomorrow when I hold my Lever I shall address a "bon mot" to my visitors, late in the process when most of them will be present. I shall say to them something like "Le pauvre marquis de Franconville-aux-Bois n'a ni bois, ni les villes ni Francs. Que ferons-nous l'appeler maintenant? Marquis de Rien! A partir de maintenant, quand il remercie de nous, nous lui dirai "Il n'y a rien." Alors, comment nous allons rire de nous." 

"The poor Marquis de Franconville-aux-bois has neither woods nor towns nor Francs. What shall we call him now? Marquis of Nothing! From now on when he thanks us we shall say to him 'It's nothing.' Then how we shall laugh to ourselves."

If this little witticism does not make it's way around the city within the week I shall be very much surprised. 
-Olympe, Comtesse

October 13th, 1782

I have generally liked autumn, but I find it this year to be very much to my liking. My plans have succeeded beyond my grandest imaginings. The Marquis has been forced to sell even his estate in Saint-Martin-du-Tertre, the one which bears his family's name; Franconville. Not content to watch his home go to the auction block, I have met with a newly-made official, who would very much like to purchase it for his young bride, as she comes of an old family. I would be willing to finance part of the purchase price, if he were to commit to tearing down the old building, entirely, and building anew on the site. Not merely lost, but destroyed. That is how I would like F- to face his former home.

-Olympe, Comtesse

Sunday, October 21, 2012

September 29th, 1782

Despite my assertion of patience in my last entry I found that I could not wait any longer to put my plans into action. Menars has not yet located the doctor who was with R-, but I could at least send for F-s creditors. Using the influence of having bought his debts, in thanks to the purchase of Lespinasse by Lafayette, I insisted that the merchants then call in the debts of the Marquis de Franconville-aux-Bois. Simultaneously those from whom he was used to purchase goods were to close their doors to him, for which they were handsomely paid.

I also slipped a word into the ear of our friends with whom he was want to gamble, and as expected I very shortly heard that he was not received by all. Furthermore, his debts soon led to him requesting aid from his relative, the Duc de Lauragais, which as was hoped, was denied. The Chevalier Fanton has made it known that if the debt of honor is not paid then the gauntlet will be thrown down, and it is to be believed that his will not be the only challenge. F- is either fled to his estate outside of Paris, or gone to ground in the city to avoid the calls for his money or blood.

At last I may retire to observe the effect of all my plans. I smile to think on it.

Olympe, Comtesse

Saturday, September 15, 2012

September 15th, 1782

We are returned once more to Paris and I have wasted no time in setting plans in motion. Menars has nearly melted the icy heart of Madame de Rodez in pursuit of her daughter; and Clementine herself is quite giddy at the prospect that she may marry the gentleman she would prefer.

I have visited personally the shopkeepers whom I understood to be owed outstanding debts by the Marquis de Franconville-aux-bois, and have purchased those debts on the condition that they refuse to give him credit in the future. I have also invited our mutual acquaintances to dinner and cards this week, and will encourage those to whom he owes gambling debts to consider calling them in. He will in short order be forced to go once more to his uncle, the Duc de Lauragais, for a sum so vast that the man, already past temper with his nephew for his constant borrowing, will have to decide whether or not to make good on his threat to cut F- off for good. I may only hope that he does.

Few enough words from Thierry of late, but where once this would have caused me great consternation I have now the patience of Penelope, and busy myself with other things while I wait for some communication.

Olympe, Comtesse

Monday, August 20, 2012


Last week's question was:- This opera, though composed in the 20th century, is set in the 18th century and based on a series of Hogarth prints.

A Traveller in Time correctly guessed The Rake's Progress, and so it was. I just finished working on this truly delightful piece at Wolf Trap Opera, and from the sets to the singers it was a delight.  You can find a review of the production here.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


It's been a while since we've had some trivia. Let's rectify that with a little light opera lore:-

This opera, though composed in the 20th century, is set in the 18th century and based on a series of Hogarth prints.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

July 30th, 1782

Even in Auvergne it is far too hot this summer. The money from the sale of Lespinasse has arrived, and I have divided it with Andre, who has managed somehow to assuage our mother's ire over the matter. He plans to purchase a commission in the army with the money, and I think it will be a very good thing for him if he does. After the war in the Americas they will be in need of some new officers, and there may be much room for advancement.

The Marquis de Menars accepted my invitation, and arrived at Portaberaud last week. The Dowager Countess is none too pleased that we have added another member to our party, but has been as gracious as she can manage. Clementine is, of course, delighted, and thanks me often by drowning my ears in effusive raptures about his mind, features, and manners. Surely no Adonis ever had a more doting Venus.

I took a moment just after Menars arrival to make an arrangement regarding our common purposes. I explained that I would be willing to champion his engagement to Miss Rodez, if he would endeavor to find out the name of the doctor who attended to R- on his deathbed. I said that I understood now that he had been the victim of a scheme to make it seem as if he were responsible for poisoning me, and that it was likely that the same culprit had either a hand in R-'s death, or had used it to try and manipulate events. All of this he agreed to, and will undertake my cause.

Meanwhile I am guarding my portion of the sale money in order to make use of it when we arrive back in Paris. I have not forgotten my own plans for vengeance.

A single letter from Thierry has made its way to me for the last several weeks, and in it he says very little but that he misses me greatly and hopes to be able to return soon. I hope that will prove true, but have little reason to think it will. I know not how to proceed towards proving his innocence. I have engaged a lawyer for the case, and M. Poisson is ever our champion at court, but little enough action is taken in the summer.

Olympe, Comtesse

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pictures As Promised- Don Giovanni

A while ago I mentioned that my latest professional project involved some 18th century-inspired elements; namely corsets, panniers, and a headdress with a boat on it (a la belle poule). Below you can find some photos courtesy of our designer and singers.
This is from the party scene at the end of Act 1, you can just see one of the panniers in the left of the photo and of course the hat with the ship on it on the lady in the Redingote.
We had panniers in every shade of the rainbow, and corsets to match.
Don Giovanni and Leporello, his servant.
The orange pannier in progress.
Set in the modern era, but with an 18th century theme to the pivotal party, this gave us an opportunity to work on elements, such as panniers, that we all too seldom get to do. Happily our next opera is The Rake's Progress, which is based on the Hogarth paintings of the same name and have a similar flavor. We've been making modified sacque-backed gowns for weeks.

I love my job.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The 18th Century Pitches a Hit

The Onion, that most deliciously facetious of satirical publications, has posted an open letter to HBO from none other than The Eighteenth Century. I've long agreed with everything it says, I can only hope HBO takes note.

More here.

Monday, July 2, 2012

July 2nd, 1782

I have invited the Marquis de Menars to visit us at Portaberaud for a few weeks this summer, a thing most unthinkable last year. I have not told Clementine of the invitation as she will be greatly disappointed if he declines to come. Perhaps if Mme de Rodez sees the ease and happiness of his manner with her daughter then she will consent to a match before we even return to Paris.

I broached the subject of R's death with Mme, but she only told me that it was smallpox as she had said to Clementine, and did not know what business F- had to claim otherwise. Now I am very confused as to which story is true, for the truth of it will make all the difference in my understanding of the characters of many people. There is one more witness to whom I may put my questions, but I am not even certain of the name of the doctor who was in attendance on that fatal day.

The sale of Lespinasse is complete, and when my estate agent arrives with the funds I will divide it with Andre, who is still living with Maman here in Riom, as I said that I would.

Olympe, Comtesse

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Whys of Hiatus

My thanks to everyone for hanging with me while posting has become more sporadic. Ironically, while I have been busy with two shows and planning my classes for the fall, my show work has still had a distinctly 18th-century flair. Photos of corsets,  panniers, wigs and more to come.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 20th, 1782

I was able to convince Mme de Rodez to allow Clementine to accompany me to Portaberaud, but it was dearly purchased as the mother herself is also amongst the party. An entire summer spent in her company might soon cause me to regret the sentiment which moved me to bring them hither. As the court is at Fountainbleu, Clementine's Duke has followed it, and her mother was easily convinced that chasing after him would do more harm than good. A few months separation might make her daughter more precious in his estimation. Now we only have to hope that the opposite is true.
 The one boon which this might provide is to give me every opportunity to speak with Mme de Rodez about her son's unfortunate death and the manner of his passing. The Marquis de F- has retired to his estate at Saint-Martin-du-Tertre, I suspect as much to avoid the expense of following the court as to escape the heat of Paris. He did not, it seems, pay his creditors before he left, as I did mine. This will make it easier to call those debts to account when we return, and in the meantime I shall focus on finding out to whom he owes gambling debts as well. 
Portaberaud always reminds me of pleasant days with Thierry. I hope that he is well, wherever he is. 
Olympe, Comtesse

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Event Photos

In the mood for some gratuitous costume beauty? Check out the latest post at Temps D'Elegance!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

June 5th, 1782

A brief letter has arrived from Thierry to say that though he was obliged to move, he is alright, and will explain more as soon as he is able. He indicates no address to which I may reply or send money, so I hope that he is provided for.

It is, indeed, a great relief.

Olympe, Comtesse

Thursday, June 7, 2012


The Morning Toilette
I love what paintings like this can tell us. I don't have a date or artist for this one, but from her hair and clothing worn by those around her it's likely to be the 1750s or earlier. I'm also bound to love any painting with frolicking spaniels in it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Trivia Monday!

What do you mean it's Tuesday already? I wish I could say that time was flying due to fun, but actually work looks to have me swamped for most of the summer. Last week I asked:- "This famous stylist was responsible for giving Marie-Antoinette her much-copied hairdos."

A Traveller in time and A Baronets Daughter both responded correctly that it was Leonard. Of course it was Leonard Autie, and I'm sure you all remember the fun and fabulous portrayal of him in Sofia Coppola's movie, Marie Antoinette. I, like the Duchess de Polignac, loved his hair.

This week I'm asking:- What was the name of the last naval battle that the French lost to the English during the American War of Independence?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

May 30th, 1782

I have been busy, and events have conspired to allow me to put my plans into effect. Lafayette's agent approved the repairs to Lespinasse and to my surprise he purchased the property for a price I little believed he would accept. Having continued to hear rumors that F- is in a considerable amount of debt, and his relatives tired of paying them, I sent a footman to all of my creditors with word that they should be at my Lever this morning, when I would be paying my debts in preparation for leaving Paris for the summer.

I am aware that many of the merchants from whom I purchase goods also serve the Marquis de F-. By paying them in full with the money I have on hand, knowing that my coffers will shortly be refilled from the sale of Lespinasse, I buy their loyalty in some measure, and perhaps when I suggest to them that they should call in the debts of a certain Marquis they will be inclined to do so.

In the meantime I have another problem with which to attend. The Duc de Saint-Aignan, Paul Marie de Beauvilliers, has begun visiting Clementine at her mother's house and my young friend is terrified that he will offer for her hand any day. She escapes here to Sully as often as she can and begs my help in likewise escaping an unwanted marriage, for she still dreams of being united with the Marquis de Menars, who also attends her when the Dowager Comtesse will allow it.

I think that I will suggest that Clementine travel to Auvergne with me this summer, so that her absence may whet the appetite of those who have not yet offered for her. If I act quickly I may succeed in enlisting Menars in more than one of my plots, for he would stand to gain if the Duc can be put off thereby.

I have not yet succeeded in broaching the subject of the Comte de Rodez's death; nor have a heard from Thierry, which continues to worry me somewhat. If I keep busy perhaps a letter will come to allay my fears.

Olympe, Comtesse

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I just love it when the trivia question of the week taps into people's personal  passions. Last week I asked:- Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, had fifteen children with her husband and was the longest serving consort in Britain. How long did she serve as Queen, and how many of her children survived to adulthood?

A Traveller in Time responded with not only the answers, but even more information:- Charlotte was Queen Consort from 8 September 1761 – 17 November 1818 (so 57years, 2 months and 10 days or so.)
13 of her 15 children survived to maturity - many into their 60s and older - quite a feat in those times.
And she was her husband the King's legal guardian during his illness believed to be porphyria from 1811 until her death in 1818.

For this week I'll give you an easier question since you have so much less time to consider your answers:- This famous stylist was responsible for giving Marie-Antoinette her much-copied hairdos.