The Favras Plot | Geri Walton

1274-full-Comted-Antraigues

Comte d’Antraigues

There were numerous plots afoot to save the royal family after the French Revolution began. One well-known plot involved Louis-Alexandre de Launay, Comte d’Antraigues, who was a French pamphleteer, spy, and political adventurer. D’Antraigues had been elected to the Estates-General in 1789 and initially supported the French Revolution. However, after Versailles was stormed and the royal family was taken to the Palais des Tuileries (essentially as prisoners), he switched sides and became a staunch defender of the monarchy.

As a counter revolutionary, d’Antraigues soon found himself aligned with the audacious Thomas de Mahy, marquis de Favras.  Favras came from an impoverished but aristocratic family. At seventeen he became captain of the dragoons and later served as a first lieutenant in the Swiss Guard for Louis XVI’s younger brother, Comte de Provence (future Louis XVIII). It was because of Favras’s relationship with the Comte de Provence that Favras became drawn into a plot to save the royal family, restore the…

Source: The Favras Plot | Geri Walton

Fascist Italy, Adowa and the Conquest of Abyssinia

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Most folks know of fascist Italy’s conquest of Ethiopia in the 1930’s. The conquering of Abyssinia was greeted in Rome with wild celebration culminating in Il Duce’s famous balcony speech from the Palazzo Venezia – “I have given you empire!”.

It was wildly celebrated because the war against Ethiopia was the second conflict between Italy and Abyssinia.

The First Italo-Abyssinia war occurred in 1895 – 1896 when Italy as we know it today was only 35 years old.  Italy, the least of the “great powers” was seeking her “place in the sun”.

The Italy of the late nineteenth century was barely a “nation”.  The northern cities of Turin and Milan cultivated the intellectual elite while south of Rome, Italy was a country of peasants and land owners. The intellectuals didn’t even speak the same language as the peasants. Millions of the destitute were illiterate. Malaria and cholera regularly…

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Marie Antoinette: An Intimate History | Madame Guillotine

Originally posted on Madame Guillotine

Marie Antoinette

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 worked on my historical fiction instead. I couldn’t stay away forever though as although my blog covers all sorts of different periods and people, Marie Antoinette is a subject that I often return to and one that I have always really enjoyed writing about as evidenced by the fact that my university dissertation was on the topic of different representations of her both before and after the revolution.

This book was originally intended as an extremely short biography (longer than a pamphlet but shorter than a novella) giving a basic précis of the doomed Queen’s life for readers who perhaps don’t know all that much about her (the better known biographies can be a bit impenetrable to beginners) and maybe answering some of the most commonly asked questions about her along the way. I envisioned it as a sort of ‘beach read biography’ – in other words, an entertaining and not at all weighty read that could be dipped in and out of at leisure and didn’t require a massive background knowledge of the period to be enjoyed. I wanted to convey something of Marie Antoinette’s life and times without getting too bogged down in the politics of the era, although naturally they can’t help but intrude, especially from 1789 onwards.

However, as the project developed…

via Marie Antoinette: An Intimate History | Madame Guillotine

Foreshades of Grey (11)

Pippa Rathborne's SCRATCH POST

 or, Behind the Rococo Clock Face

detaildetail of Boucher’s 1756 portrait of Madame de Pompadour

Among the learned books in Madame de Pompadour’s library, there was a unique volume about the rivers of France which had been written, and some of it printed, many years before by a diligent and inquisitive eight year old boy, based on his lessons in geography and typography.

Louis XV’s Cours des principaux fleuves et rivières de l’Europe (Courses of the Principal Rivers and Streams of Europe), written in 1718, which the adult man gave to his mistress as a token of the conscientious king that the playboy of Versailles had once wanted to be, survives in the Bibliothèque nationale.

The little print shop, which was built for Louis XV in the Tuileries nearly sixty-five years before Marie Antoinette’s fantasy-farm was installed at Le Petit Trianon, had a serious educative purpose to instill…

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Foreshades of Grey (6)

Pippa Rathborne's SCRATCH POST

or, The Royal Stag

The king’s promiscuity was an affair of state. It made government vulnerable to abuse from the wrong kind of woman pushed on him by a court faction, with domestic or foreign policy agendas, a scenario as familiar to modern republics as autocracies of any time. He was very lucky to find the rational, loyal and responsible Madame de Pompadour, or rather, that she introduced herself to him.

louis XV

Nattier, Portrait of Louis XV of France, 1745. Oil on canvas The Hermitage, St. Petersburg
He was known as the handsomest man at Versailles; he was also the most libidinous and depressed. Here, portrayed in the year he moved his new mistress Madame d’Étioles, into Versailles, he looks disconcertingly like a chubby Dan Stevens, but Ryan Gosling would be better casting to convey his enigmatic emotional isolation.

He needed but was not obsessed with sex; he spent far…

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Marie Antoinette and the Petit Trianon – Madame Guillotine

The Petit Trianon is a sumptuous jewellery box of a house, tucked away in the Versailles park. Designed in 1762 by Ange-Jacques Gabriel and paid for by Louis XV, it was intended as a present for Madame de Pompadour – its elegant lines a perfect setting for her own delicate, exquisite beauty. Sadly, however, Madame de Pompadour died before her romantic Versailles hideaway, her maison de plaisance in fact, was completed and instead it ended up in the hands of her successor, Madame du Barry, who despite the lurid tales attached to her background, had some seriously good taste in art and furnishings going on.

However, the Trianon’s most celebrated owner is of course Marie Antoinette and it is to her memory that the building is dedicated today, which is tough cheese for its other famous female inhabitants over the years, which range from Pauline Bonaparte to the Empress Eugènie, who was obsessed with Marie Antoinette and had the Petit Trianon restored to…

via Marie Antoinette and the Petit Trianon – Madame Guillotine.

ISIL and Sykes-Picot

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Fat Chance

Several months ago, ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, announced it’s intention to do away with the borders of the modern Middle-East. It already controls territory spanning the “border” between Iraq and Syria. “Levant”, a more accurate translation of the Arabic “Al Sham” also includes Lebanon, Jordan and the old “Trans Jordan”, now Israel and the Palestinian territory. ISIL considers these lands as Sunni patrimony.

The murderous tactics of ISIL are reprehensible but do they have a legitimate grievance against the colonial borders originally drawn by Britain and France with blatant disregard for the sectarian loyalties of the local populace?

The 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement is a flash-point for Arab resentment. It divided Ottoman Asia into British and French zones of influence. Britain was assigned the Baghdad and Basra districts — Iraq, Transjordan, and Palestine. Modern day Syria and Lebanon were given to France.

Britain wished…

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