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.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Trivia Monday

With one whole day to spare Susanne N correctly answered last week's trivia question:- Queen Marie, wife of Louis XV, was the daughter of what deposed king? The answer was King Stanislaw Leszczynska of Poland. After the king was deposed it was feared that his daughter, Maria, would never make a good marriage; but a bride without any political ties that could upset the balance of European power was just what was wanted for the young King of France, Louis XV. He ditched his under-aged betrothed, the Spanish Infanta, and married Marie instead.

Now for this week's question, and this time we will leave France for England, and it's a double question.

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?

Have a great week!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pompadours On Sale Now!

Just a friendly reminder that these gorgeous, historically-accurate, well-made, brocade, dyeable works of art are on pre-sale right now at If they do not reach a minimum number of orders these shoes will not be produced, and we will all be very disappointed. Sadly, I cannot order the 50 pairs I wish I could.

You know you want them, and at $115 on sale you don't want to wait for the non-pre-sale price of $135 to get a pair. If I could only buy one of the many American Duchess historical styles it would be this one. Don't miss out!

Friday, May 18, 2012

May 3rd, 1782

We attended the King's hunt yesterday, and true to his word the Marquis de F- partnered Clementine, for whom this was her first hunt ever. I had said to her in advance that I heard a rumor that the Marquis was very much in debt, and wanted, as a friend, to help him if it were true. Afterwards we returned to Sully for dinner before a night at the opera and a late supper and cards with friends afterwards. Clementine said that he did not mention anything about money, but she overheard another gentleman saying that F- had been trying to acquire a charge at court, only he was not willing to pay for it. I had heard this first part, but not that he was unwilling to pay. If it were so easy to be granted a charge then I would have had one for Thierry years ago, but typically one must pay a handsome sum. Money begets money.

Clementine also said that she spoke with the Marquis about her brother's death, remembering that I had said he was present at the event itself. He told her it was a malignant fever, but she was much-confused because her mother told her he had smallpox, and that is why they have not returned to Rodez from Paris, except to inter him within the grounds. She looked to me for an answer, but I simply said that as I was not present I could not verify either account.

This does, however, give me the very excuse I have been searching for to broach the subject of R-'s death with their mother. I need to find out from her what she believes happened, and if F- was alone with him for a while beforehand, and how long he was out of the room before they re-entered and found R- with his wrists cut. One detail of F-'s account has long bothered me, but until recently I dismissed it. He claimed that R- threw off any attempt by others to bandage him once they discovered him bleeding, but even I am aware that a significant loss of blood leads to weakness rather than the strength required to repel three people at once. My suspicions grow ever more sinister.

Olympe, Comtesse

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

April 29th, 1782

My last letter to Thierry was returned to me by the land lady in Venice, with news that he had left more than two weeks before she received it. He had not told me that he was changing his location, so it has me a bit worried.

I have fallen into a routine of late. I rise at ten in the morning, have a cup of chocolate and maybe a bite of breakfast. I choose my clothing for the day and read my letters, then I begin my Lever, receive any visitors, agree on payments with merchants, and review accounts and invitations. After that I write my letters, read, and by two I can expect to hear Clementine's carriage in the courtyard. She has indeed blossomed, but as suitors vie for her affection she flees more and more from her mother's house, who at last has consented to release her to my company accompanied by only a footman.

Poor Clementine hangs on the hope that she may yet marry the Marquis de Menars, but she fears that a richer or higher ranking man will offer for her hand, and is sure that her mother would never wait for her daughter's approval. I take her with me to every party, picnic, and entertainment I can, because it is good for her to move in society before she is married, but I have a double purpose. As often as possible I seek out events where I know that is F- is likely to be in attendance. He and Clementine have met, but I have yet to kindle a flame between them; still, she has sought him out in order that they may speak of her brother at length, and he has offered to be her guide at a hunt in the future.

It must be nearly two, for there's her carriage now. I have heard a rumor that F- is very deep in debt, so I shall try to find out through Clementine if there is any truth to it.

Olympe, Comtesse

Monday, May 14, 2012

Trivia Monday

Oh my goodness, where did the day go?! Late, but not forgotten, here is the trivia for the week. Last time I asked:- The eldest son of a Duke often held a title as heir to the duchy; for instance, the son of the Duke de Bouillon was known as "_ de Bouillon", what was the title?

Congratulations to Emmeline Cartwright who correctly answered that it's "Prince". It seems counter-intuitive if you are familiar with the English order of precedence, but the heir to a Duchy was often simply know as the Prince of that Duchy. Of course, there were so many different kinds of princes and peerages in France that it was even more confusing than that, but that was the subject of another post.

This week's question is:-  Queen Marie, wife of Louis XV, was the daughter of what deposed king?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Book Review- Dancing to the Precipice

I'm tempted to write as my review simply "This book is extraordinary, you should read it" and leave it at that, but I'm sure you want to know why in particular this might appeal to you.

Certainly the book is well-researched and the writing is fluid, conversational, and lacks condescension; but while that would help to make a mediocre story appealing, the life of Luice de la Tour du Pin requires no such support because it was, devoid of all ornamentation, extraordinary.

I've worried in the past that writing a character like Olympe who, while an 18th century french aristocrat, is devoted solely to one man might be a little unusual, it's not, apparently without precedent. Nor is her insistence on choosing her own husband. Lucie did both; she chose her husband against her strong-willed family's initial desires, and enjoyed a harmonious, exclusive, long relationship with him. It was even remarked upon by others at the time that she treated her husband like a lover, and had such genuine affection.

Even had Lucie herself been more typical of her peers, the circumstances of her life, living through the French Revolution, the Terror, the Directoire, Napoleon, the Restoration of the Monarchy and it's fall would make this a narrative worth exploring. If you want adventure and heartbreak and the highs and lows of hope, ambition, and strength it has them all in abundance. It's not merely Lucie's story though, it's the story of those who came in contact with her and influenced the course of events; the prescient politician Tallyrand, the beautiful Theresia Tallien who helped people escape the guillotine, the daring Duchess du Berri who dressed like a man and carried pistols, and figures everyone knows like Marie-Antoinette, Napoleon, and Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire.

In Holland, America, France, Rome, England, or starving on a vessel in the middle of the ocean Lucie was always formidable, whatever her circumstances she was a survivor, and her story, like the woman herself, is hard to put down.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Favourite- Marie Antoinette

I just love this sketch of Marie Antoinette by Count Fersen!

Get to Know- Thierry Duverney

Readers of the diary know that Olympe's faithful love (and secret husband) is Thierry Cretien Louis Duverney. They met in 1775 when Olympe, having burned-out on the heady world of Versaille and Paris, was in Riom at her estate, Portaberaud.

Thierry was the son of a merchant and city councilman, Robert Louis Augustin Duverney. Msr. Duverney had four children from his first marriage, including one older son, and when his first wife died in childbirth he remarried the daughter of a local financier, Blanche Marguerite d'Ambert. Thierry was the first of their two living children, born in 1755.

Educated in Riom, taught to be inquisitive and bookish by his mother, and frequently the source of diplomacy amongst his siblings, he later attended the Lycee Louis-le-Grand in Paris. Though highly intelligent he was not as ambitious or studious as many of his fellow students. Graduating without significant honors and dismayed after a brief attempt at studying law he returned to Riom to work for his father.

In 1775 he attended a local literary society hosted by a Mme Carrier, and it was there that he met Olympe. Polite exchanges became impassioned discussions of history, theology, literature, politics, and art. Soon it was clear that they preferred each others company to that of any other, and Thierry received many invitations to dine at Portaberaud. Due to her station it was necessarily Olympe who first declared her love for the somewhat shy and self-effacing Thierry, and after that it was noted that he was her constant companion whether in Saint-Saturnin, Paris, or Riom.

Olympe encouraged him to pursue further advancement, knowing that without earning or purchasing a title of nobility they would never be able to marry without her surrendering her title and holdings. After many years and many attempts he finally secured a position with the Ferme Generale, the powerful tax farmers of France, and began to rise through their ranks, being sent frequently to cities like Brussels, Lille, and Calais.

When Olympe's life became endangered by a former suitor a mutual friend, the Marquis de Franconville-aux-Bois, offered to marry her in order to provide the protection of his rank and family connections in addition to hers. This plan was entertained with the idea that it, like many 18th century aristocratic marriages, would allow Olympe a cover by which to carry on her affair with Thierry; but in the end the Marquis' true intentions made them both uneasy, and she and Thierry were forced to flee Paris.

A letter accusing Thierry of spying for the British was given to the police and a Lettre de Cachet was issued for his arrest. As the Lettres de Cachet could result in the accused being tossed in jail for indefinite periods of time without trial, Thierry, with the help of Olympe, fled to Venice, but not before they were secretly married in Marseille.

And that is where we are in the story.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Trivia Monday!

Alright, I told you this last one was hard. The question was "One of the Great Officers of the Crown of France died in 1782, leaving a vacancy for his position that was never filled. What was the office called? Extra credit for you if you can also name the decedent."

Despite some valiant efforts no one correctly guessed the answer, which was The Grand Panetier of France. Basically he was in charge of the Bread Department ("Panetier" is where we get the English word "Pantry"), but though this may sound like a lowly position it was not. Like many such royal charges, it was only given to noblemen, included the taxation and appropriation of all bread, and while it may have started out with overseeing the King's table, became largely ceremonial. In the 16th century the position of Panetier, as with many others at court, became hereditary, and was passed down within the Cosse de Brissac family. Though we know that the last incumbent died in 1782, there was at least one more member of the family alive (one who had, in fact, been Panetier at some point) so it is unclear why he did not take up the position again. 

Time for something a little easier:- The eldest son of a Duke often held a title as heir to the duchy; for instance, the son of the Duke de Bouillon was known as "_ de Bouillon", what was the title?

Friday, May 4, 2012

April 21st, 1782- The Presentation at Court

Exhausted as I am by the events of the day I feel compelled to recount them before retiring to bed. Despite her brother's death being nearly two years ago now (how fast the time does fly!), the Dowager Countess insisted that Clementine should at least wear a white gown for her presentation, which was very becoming on her with it's silver and gold embroidery. I told her I would loan her some pearls, but I ended by giving them to her as a present for the occasion. We had, of course, also procured for her use a set of diamonds on loan for her hair and her throat, this by the courtesy and influence of cousin Godfrey.

By further use of the Duke de Bouillon, a change was made in the presentation arrangements five days prior to the event, and Clementine's mother was convinced that it would be better to allow my cousin, the Princess de Guemene, to take her place as Patroness. This meant that no one actually related in any way to Clementine presented her, but so it is for many ladies. It is better to have a personage of the highest standing possible, provided that the lady being presented will not falter. The Dowager Countess was still in attendance.

Clementine did not falter. We introduced her into the room where she made her obeisance to the King. He performed his part by granting her the single kiss on her cheek which is proper for a lady of her station, and she passed on to the Queen. Bowing in the same manner to her, she deftly removed her glove, moved to kiss the hem of the Queen's robe, and was raised up by the Queen instead as is customary. Clementine managed her train with good grace as she stepped backwards, curtsying at the appropriate intervals, and with relief evident on her youthful features was then subject to the scrutiny of those assembled.

I must mention that the Queen did speak to me, an occurrence which I was not prepared for, and she commented that I had not been seen at court in a long time. I replied that I hoped to be in attendance more in the future. She said that she hoped that I would. That was all that passed between us. In truth, like most courtiers, I vastly prefer Paris to Versailles, and unlike some I even more greatly prefer the countryside of Auvergne to Paris. The Queen also exchanged words with the Princess de Guemene, but as she is Governess to the Royal Children it was all to do with them.

We have only just returned, though it is very late, from the "jeu" (gaming) at Versailles, and tomorrow will be another big day for Clementine, as Godfrey is to hold a ball in her honor. There we shall really see how much of an advantage her presentation has wrought. After mine I could have had my pick of Dukes and even a few Princes, but I did not want to run straight from the convent of St. Cyr into a marriage. I wonder what it is that Clementine really wants.
Olympe, Comtesse

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Happy Birthday, Catherine the Great!

Catherine c. 1745 by Grooth
A big happy birthday to Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, born on this day in 1729. She was one of the other two eighteenth century rulers considered to be the enlightenment ideal besides Joseph II, mentioned in a previous post. Who was the third, you ask? Frederick II of Prussia.