Paris


Marie Antoinette: An Intimate History

I’m so sorry about taking a month off from my blog but I hope you’ll all forgive me when I reveal that the reason for my absence was a brand new book about Marie Antoinette, based on decades of pretty obsessive research (both primary and secondary) and thoughts and questions from all of you. A couple of years ago I threatened my poor, unfortunate blog readers with a light hearted ‘pulp’ biography of Marie Antoinette, which at the time I intended to call ‘Teen Queen to Madame Guillotine’. However, other projects intervened and my plan was temporarily shelved as I […]


La Mode à la Cour de Marie Antoinette

How beautiful is this book? I was pleased as punch when I got La mode à la Cour de Marie-Antoinette from my brother in law as a Christmas present, and also rather astounded by how big it is as it is HUGE. Which can be a bit annoying when it comes to finding it a space on my many bookcases, but any inconvenience is well worth it because the size means that the illustrations, many of which take up an entire page or even a fabulous double page spread, can be viewed in unprecedented detail due to their larger than […]


Joséphine crowned, 2nd December 1804

Sunday, the second of December 1804 was the coldest day of the year, with snow overnight and freezing rain the next morning, which turned the streets of Paris to slush. Spirits in the French capital were still high though for it was the much anticipated day of Napoléon’s coronation at the hands of Pope Pius VII himself, who had been inveigled by Bonaparte to take part. Not even the Bourbon kings of France had been crowned by the Pope so this was quite a coup for Napoléon, who was keen to increase his prestige among the other crowned heads of […]


Josephine: Desire, Ambition, Napoleon

‘This is the incredible rise and unbelievable fall of a woman whose energy and ambition is often overshadowed by Napoleon’s military might. In this triumphant biography, Kate Williams tells Josephine’s searing story, of sexual obsession, politics and surviving as a woman in a man’s world. Abandoned in Paris by her aristocratic husband, Josephine’s future did not look promising. But while her friends and contemporaries were sent to the guillotine during the Terror that followed the Revolution, she survived prison and emerged as the doyenne of a wildly debauched party scene, surprising everybody when she encouraged the advances of a short, […]


How to Ruin a Queen

‘On 5 September 1785, a trial began in Paris that would divide the country, captivate Europe and send the French monarchy tumbling down the slope towards the Revolution. Cardinal Louis de Rohan, scion of one of the most ancient and distinguished families in France, stood accused of forging Marie Antoinette’s signature to fraudulently obtain the most expensive piece of jewellery in Europe – a 2,400-carat necklace worth 1.6 million francs. Where were the diamonds now? Was Rohan entirely innocent? Was, for that matter, the queen? What was the role of the charismatic magus, the Comte de Cagliostro, who was rumoured […]


Alexandrine Le Normant d’Étoilles

Alexandrine Le Normant d’Étoilles, Boucher, private collection. Although Versailles is better known as a very adult sort of playground, full of gilt and priceless treasures, I’ve always been fascinated by the children who lived there over the decades that it was inhabited by the French court, and to whom it must surely have been like living in the midst of some sort of crazy fairytale. I love their portraits too – dressed up like miniature adults in their finery, gazing solemnly out of the canvas and clearly barely stifling their impatience to be off and away somewhere else, the only […]