Thursday, 31 July 2014

Daniel Defoe and a Sweet-Scented Pillory

On this day in 1703, a most celebrated author stood in the pillory, awaiting punishment for seditious libel. It may be a tall tale that I am about to tell or it may be true but it is such a wonderful moment in the history of the British legal system that I feel bound to recall the day that Daniel Defoe was pilloried and lived to tell of his sweetly-scented fate.

In 1702, Defoe wrote The Shortest Way with the Dissenters, an anonymous pamphlet. He wrote the work from the viewpoint of a religious zealot and argued that the quickest way to deal with dissenters was banishment and death. Not recognising the pamphlet as satire, some high-ranking Anglican churchmen went on to lend their voice to the argument, agreeing with the arguments put forth by the author.

Daniel Defoe

Once Defoe was identified as the man behind the text, he quite understandably fled, trying to put right the damage with A Brief Explanation of a Late Pamphlet. However, the damage was done and Defoe was detained and taken to Newgate, where he remained until his bail was settled.

The trial for seditious libel was short and the outcome inevitable. Despite his repeated claims that the pamphlet was meant to be taken as a joke, he was sentenced to stand three times in the pillory and pay a massive fine. A stint in the pillory was the stuff of nightmares; a very public humiliation, crowds were invited to pelt the wrongdoers with whatever they wished and there were cases of people being blinded, maimed and killed whilst in the pillory.

for Defoe, however, the reality was to be very different. As his friends sold copies of his pamphlets, the crowds certainly did gather to pelt the convict, though not with rocks and rotten eggs, but with flowers. For three days Defoe endured this far from painful punishment as the people of London sent the government and judiciary a very clear message about their take on The Shortest Way with the Dissenters and the man who had written it.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Witch of Palermo: Giovanna Bonanno and her Mysterious Vinegar

Giovanna Bonanno (Palermo, Italy, 1713 - Palermo, Italy, 30th July 1789)

Giovanna Bonanno
Giovanna Bonanno

Today our salon is graced by a most questionable sort. Witch, poisoner and executed criminal, Giovanna Bonanno became known as la Vecchia Dell'aceto (Old Vinegar) in fearful recognition of the deadly potions she brewed.

Bonanno's early life is shrouded in mystery and she first appears in records in 1744 when a woman named Anna Pantò married Vincenzo Bonanno. Her existence appears to be one of hardship, scratching a living from begging on the streets of Palermo and selling concoction and potions to those who believed her to be a witch. However, she was to delve into much darker schemes for moneymaking and in the mid-1780s, fate played a deadly hand.

In 1786, a young mother brought her baby to Bonanno for a healing potion, explaining that the child had accidentally taken a drink of a potion intended for the external treatment of lice. The child fell deathly ill and the so-called witch looked on with interest, thinking that this could be a most useful means by which an unhappy woman might rid herself of an unwanted spouse. After all, one less mouth to feed could make a world of difference to women like her, who were forced to scrimp and beg from day to day.

Bonanno's vinegar, a mixture of lice poison and arsenic, proved deadly and impossible to detect in small, repeated doses. Soon men were keeling over all over town and the authorities found themselves utterly helpless to solve this strange string of deaths, all of which were characterised by stomach disorders. For her clients, the system was perfect. Since they believed they were buying an innocent vinegar that had been bewitched, they convinced themselves that they were somehow blameless and that Bonanno was the only guilty party, as she was the woman placing the charms on the liquid.

Bonanno's run of luck could not go unchallenged though eventually Maria Pitarra, a woman who made the deliveries of vinegar, realised that one of the bottles of potion was destined to be used on Giovanna Lombardo, the son of a friend. She warned Lombardo who falsely left word that he would like to buy a draft himself. When Bonanno arrived to make the sale, Lombardo and his witnesses detained her and she was taken  put on trial for witchcraft.

At her trial the suppliers of her ingredients and even some of her clients lined up to point the finger, accusing Bonnarno of bewitching them into making the purchases. and under interrogation, she confessed. Bonnarno was fond guilty and sentenced to hang; she went to the gallows on 30th July 1789 and within six weeks, cautionary plays were being performed telling the story of the notorious witch of Palermo.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Defenestration of Jean-Andoche Junot

Jean-Andoche Junot, 1st Duke of Abrantès (Bussy-le-Grand, France, 24th September 1771 – Montbard, France, 29th July 1813) 

Jean Andoche Junot by Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux
Jean Andoche Junot by Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux

We have met a few Napoleonic generals here at the salon and learnt of both defeats and victories, even the famed exile of the emperor himself. Today we mark the death of a celebrated member of Napoleon's forces, and a man who died at his own hand whilst grappling with a deep and consuming depression.

Jean-Andoche Junot, 1st Duke of Abrantès had known great successes in the service of Napoleon. However, his victories were to end in a bitter defeat when he fell into Wellington's hands and even after his return to France, a high profile defeat in Smolensk in 1812 saw his reputation decline even further. Still keen to keep Junot in his service, Napoleon sent him to take up the position of Governor of the Illyrian Provinces but the Duke's behaviour became so bizarre that his father travelled to bring his son home to Montbard.

Here Junot did not improve and in the summer of 1813 he left a formal ball and, still dressed in his military uniform, leaped from a window in an attempt to commit suicide. However, the unfortunate Duke survived with a broken leg, which he determined should be amputated. Taking up a kitchen knife he attempted to carry out the operation himself, with as little success as his suicide attempt. Gangrene set into the wound and the Duke of Abrantès never recovered his wits nor his health, dying as a result of the infection on 29th July 1813.

Monday, 28 July 2014

"One does not make revolutions by halves": The Execution of Saint-Just

Louis Antoine de Saint-Just (Louis Antoine Léon de Saint-Just; Decize, France, 25th August 1767 – Paris, France, 28th July 1794)

Louis Antoine de Saint-Just by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, 1793
Louis Antoine de Saint-Just by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, 1793

In the past we have met many famed figures of the French Revolution and witnessed many iconic victims of the National Razor, Today we return to that heady time and the death of a man whose name has become synonymous with the Terror, Louis Antoine de Saint-Just.

Saint-Just's rise to power was stratospheric and unstoppable. Fiercely intelligent, dedicated and focused on his cause, he drafted the French Constitution of 1793 and was among Robespierre's most trusted friends. Like Robespierre, when the end came for Saint-Just it was swift and merciless and he was executed alongside his friend on 28th July.

Immediately before his arrest, Saint-Just attempted to make an eloquent speech in defence of Robespierre before members of the Convention but found himself unable to finish. Disgruntled deputies countered and heckled until, eventually, Jean-Lambert Tallien interrupted and silenced him, pushing him away from the lectern. Despite this, Saint-Just would not be provoked and instead attempted to continue speaking and make his point. Calm and dignified, he refused to surrender the platform and remained in place until his arrest and removal.

Detained in the Hôtel de Ville with the other arrested men, Saint-Just remained as calm as ever as around him, his former colleagues fell into a panic. Whilst others committed suicide or attempted to do so, Saint-Just calmly accepted his fate and walked unflinchingly to the scaffold alongside Robespierre and twenty others. With no trace of fear he went to the guillotine, convinced of his righteousness to the last.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

François-Hippolyte Barthélémon: A London Success Story

François-Hippolyte Barthélémon (Bordeaux, France, 27th July 1741 – Christ Church, Sussex, England, 20th July 1808) 

François-Hippolyte Barthélémon

When I was but a lass, I became determined that I would follow a musical path. Starting with that old standby, the recorder, I moved onto the cello and, with no success, the guitar, but alas, I was not a natural musician. Although I did not possess the prowess to excel as an instrumentalist, I derive so much pleasure from listening to music and am always on the look out for new pieces and composers, which is how I came by our guest for today, François-Hippolyte Barthélémon.

Unlike my good self, Barthélémon showed an impressive talent from a very early age but initially he decided that a career in the military was to be his aim. A comment by a commander regarding his skills as a violinist led him to reevaluate his life and the young man went to Paris. 

Here he mastered the violin and worked on his own compositions, as well as finding work playing with the orchestra of the famed Comédie-Italienne. Eventually his ambition brought him to London where he performed to acclaim at Marylebone Gardens. His star very much in the ascendancy, Barthélémon performed his first opera, Pelopida, which premiered at the King’s Theatre in 1766. It was heard by the legendary David Garrick, who immediately commissioned  Barthélémon to write music for works to be performed at Drury Lane.

Whilst in England, Barthélémon enjoyed great success for a series of operas he wrote and he found himself in high demand as a composer and tutor, his professional successes complemented by a happy marriage to singer and musician, Polly Young. Eventually the composer decided that he would remain in England and settled most happily here, successful and celebrated to the last.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Sir Richard Arkwright: An Entrepreneurial Life

Throughout history much has been said of the self-made man, that fabled sort who dragged himself up by his bootstraps to make his mark on the world and usually make a fortune at the same time. Sir Richard Arkwright is truly the model of this Georgian dream; from humble beginnings he triumphed through a combination of his own ambition, shrewd business dealings and, some might say, other people's innovation to get to the top of the business world. Today his name is still known throughout England, forever linked to stories of the Industrial Revolution and the rich industrial heritage of the nation

Portrait of Richard Arkwright by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1790
By Joseph Wright of Derby, 1790

Arkwright was one of 13 children born to Sarah and Thomas, a tailor in Preston, Lancashire. With so many siblings there was no opportunity for the boy to undertake formal education but Arkwright was fortunate enough to have a cousin who could read and write, and she passed on these vital skills to him. The man who would make a fortune in the mills began his career as a barber and wigmaker, apprenticed first to Mr Nicholson and then the proud proprietor of his own establishment at Churchgate in Bolton, opened when he was just 20 years of age.

Arkwright's clients were the gentlemen who made Bolton into a town of industrial might and they demanded the best of everything, so to have the Lancashire drizzle wash the expensive dye from their periwigs was hardly a recipe for customer satisfaction. Whilst re-dying his client's wigs Arkwright realised that there was an opportunity for innovation at hand and he laboured to produce a dye that was waterproof, turning his shop into the go-to place for the latest in wig innovation. Sensing an opportunity for speculation he took to the roads of England, collecting discarded human hair and turning it into fashionable, waterproof wigs using his secret dying method. However, the fashion for wigs was not going to last forever, and when it began to fade the would-be entrepreneur already had his next venture in mind.

Growing up in Bolton in a tailor's household, Arkwright had spent his childhood surrounded by textile mills and workers, and he knew of the arduous task of running the machinery that transformed raw cotton into thread, a laborious and strung-out process. With his thirst for invention unquenched and well aware that the passionate millworkers of his hometown would not take kindly to innovations that would help the owners but possibly cost them their jobs, the young wigmaker followed the textile trail to its centre in Nottingham. Here he worked alongside clockmaker John Kay to develop and patent the spinning frame (later the water frame), a machine that could produce yarn at a fraction of the cost and a much faster speed than human workers.

Arkwright's name and reputation began to spread through the textile producers of England and the factory he opened with new partner John Smalley added yet another machine to its line, the groundbreaking carding engine. In need of expansion capital, Arkwright went into partnership with Jedediah Strutt and Samuel Need, who financed his innovations until a dispute over Arkwright's speedy expansion brought the partnership to an abrupt end. At a cost of more than £10,000 he completed the carding engine, perfecting and fully mechanising the process, yet as with so many tales of success, others were quick to follow his lead. The engine was patented in 1775 and his contemporaries rushed to copy Arkwright's innovations, eventually causing him to take legal measures to enforce his patent rights.

Juggling court cases on one hand and business on the other, Arkwright opened a horse-driven mill in Preston and later became the first to use steam to power the waterwheel that fed the machinery. His Cromford Mill was a state of the art building, with Arkwright bringing in whole families to staff it and live in the newly-built cottages on site. Providing his millworkers with homes, holidays and social gathering places, he also pioneered the use of shift workers and was considered a fair and decent employer.

All of this innovation came at a price and as the 1770s progressed, Arkwright found himself embroiled in ever more bitter legal disputes. His patents of 1775 were subject to a decade-long series of challenges from inventors who claimed that Arkwright had based his own inventions on their work. As he faced these ruinously expensive cases Arkwright's factories were the subjects of industrial espionage as well as the ire of workers, terrified that the mills of the future would be staffed not by men, but by machines. However, Arkwright continued to innovate, and it was under his patronage that Birkacre Mill in Chorley was fully refitted, though it was destroyed by anti-machinery protesters in 1779.

By 1785 the entrepreneur's patents had been overturned and many in the industry looked forward to what they hoped would be the downfall of an apparently egotistical, arrogant man. However, despite his fury that his professional integrity was in dispute, Arkwright was delighted to accept a knighthood in 1786 and the following year became High Sheriff of Derbyshire. Arkwright was a born entrepreneur; he made partnerships only when he had no other choice and as soon as the finances were in place, bought out his partners at the best rate possible. With an unshakable belief in his own abilities and talent, he had a canny business acumen that led him to amass a fortune. He employed tens of thousands of workers and licensed intellectual property rights to elements of his designs at keen rates, ensuring that even the smallest innovation was monetised at every opportunity.

When Arkwright died in 1792 his son took over the business and inherited a fortune that some said was made on the backs of others. The self-made entrepreneur is memorialised across Britain to this day, his name synonymous with the very fabric of industrial England.

This post was originally published at

Friday, 25 July 2014

The Alexander Column

By special request for a friend with an interest in Russian history, today I am pleased to share the dramatic figure of the Alexander Column. The work of French architect, Auguste de Montferrand, the Alexander Column is a monumental structure intended to honour Emporer Alexander I

The Alexander Column and the Winter Palace
The Alexander Column and the Winter Palace

The Alexander Column stands at the centre of Palace Square in St Petersburg, Russia, a permanent monument to Russia's victory over Napoleon. Montferrand designed the Column before passing on responsibility for the building in 1830 to Swiss Antonio Adamini. The column stands at 155 ft 8 in and is topped with a statue of an angel holding a cross designed by Russian sculptor Boris Orlovsky, with the angel bearing the face of Emperor Alexander I, for whom the column is named and it was unveiled on 30th August 1834.

The Alexander Column in scaffolds by Grigory Gagarin, 1832
The Alexander Column in Scaffolds by Grigory Gagarin, 1832

The column is formed from one single piece of granite that was sourced in Finland and transported by sea to Saint Petersburg, where 3,000 men erected it. The enormous pedestal on which the column stands depicts winged figures holding up a plaque bearing the words "To Alexander I from a grateful Russia" and shows iconic items of armour from the history of the country, a reminder of the rich heritage of Russia. On other sides are depictions of virtuous acts and courageous tales, designed by Giovanni Battista Scotti. The casting of the bronze was done at Charles Baird's works in Saint Petersburg and was, as you might imagine, a monumental undertaking.

Over the decades that have passed since the Column was finished Russia has sent its share of upheaval and change. Through it all the Alexander Column has stood solidly by, a reminder of the country's past victories and rich history.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

A Salon Guest... Caroline Bonaparte Murat, Napoleon’s Treasonous Sister

Today it is my pleasure to welcome the estimable Shannon Selin with the twisting tale of Napoleon’s treasonous sister.
Caroline Bonaparte Murat, Napoleon’s Treasonous Sister

Caroline Bonaparte Murat before the Bay of Naples by François Gérard
Caroline Bonaparte Murat before the Bay of Naples by François Gérard
One tries to find redeeming features in Napoleon’s sister Caroline Bonaparte Murat, but they are hard to spot. Biographers have been quite unkind: “Caroline, with a baseness that makes her resemble some monstrous queen of antiquity, betrayed husband, brother, and country alike to slake the thirst of her unprincipled ambitions.” [1] French Foreign Minister Talleyrand was more generous: 
Madame Murat had the head of Cromwell upon the body of a well-shaped woman. Born with much grandeur of character, strong mind, and sublime ideas; possessing a subtle and delicate wit, together with amiability and grace, seductive beyond expression; she was deficient in nothing but in the art of concealing her desire to rule; and when she failed in attaining her end, it was because she sought to reach it too quickly. [2]
Fresh as a Rose
Maria Annunziata Buonaparte was born on 25 March 1782 in Ajaccio, Corsica. She was the seventh of Charles and Letizia Bonaparte’s eight surviving children, and thirteen years younger than her brother Napoleon, who was away at military school in France. Known as Annunziata as a child, as a teenager she adopted the name Caroline, in an attempt to appear less Corsican (her siblings also “Frenchified” their names).
Caroline’s father died a month before she turned three. When Caroline was eleven, Napoleon fell out with the Corsican nationalists and the family had to flee to France. Caroline had a brief taste of poverty in Marseilles, but Napoleon’s rapid rise in the French army soon put an end to that. Napoleon paid for Caroline to attend an expensive girls’ school at St. Germain-en-Laye, operated by Madame Campan, a former lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette. Hortense de Beauharnais, the daughter of Napoleon’s wife Josephine (whom the Bonapartes could not stand), was also at the school. Napoleon’s valet relates the following anecdote from a family dinner some ten years later: 
[Napoleon] had just received a letter from a prefect who told him that a man named Geoffrin had saved several workmen in a coal mine which had caved in. The letter was given to [Caroline], who could hardly decipher it. The Emperor, seeing his sister’s embarrassment, said, ‘Give it to Hortense; she will read it.’ In fact, [Hortense], holding the letter, read it quite fluently. [3]
Suffice to say that Caroline Bonaparte was known more for her cunning than her book-learning. In 1797 she met a similarly unintellectual character in the form of General Joachim Murat, a theological student turned cavalry officer who was on Napoleon’s staff with the Army of Italy. Murat was dashing, charismatic and good-natured, with a huge mane of curly dark hair, which makes him easy to recognize in paintings. Caroline was charming and pretty – “fresh as a rose: not to be compared, for the regular beauty of her features, to [Pauline Bonaparte], though more pleasing perhaps by the expression of her countenance and the brilliancy of her complexion.” [4] 

Joachim Murat by François Gérard, 1808
Joachim Murat by François Gérard, 1808
The two fell in love. They were married on 20 January 1800, after Napoleon gave his reluctant permission (he preferred instrumental marriages to love matches). Caroline was seventeen. Murat was thirty-two. The age difference did not prevent Caroline from trying to dominate her husband.
She was soon pregnant with their first child. A month before the birth, a bomb (the “infernal machine”) intended for Napoleon exploded in front of the carriage in which she was riding. Unlike Josephine and Hortense, who were also in the carriage, Caroline kept her cool. Her son Achille was born on 21 January 1801, followed by Letizia (26 April 1802), Lucien (16 May 1803) and Louise (21 March 1805). 

Caroline Bonaparte Murat and her Children by François Gérard, 1808
Caroline Bonaparte Murat and her Children by François Gérard, 1808

The Quest for a Crown
In 1803 Murat became the military governor of Paris. He bought the Elysée Palace and moved his family in. This did not satisfy Caroline’s ambition. When, in 1804, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of the French and proclaimed his brothers Joseph and Louis princes of the Empire, Caroline was livid that her sisters-in-law – including Hortense, who was married to Louis – would have a higher status than she would. The evening of the coronation:
Madame Murat was excessively angry, and during the dinner had so little control over herself, that on hearing the Emperor address Madame Louis several times as ‘Princess,’ she could not restrain her tears…. Everyone was embarrassed, and [Napoleon] smiled maliciously…. 
On the following day, after a family dinner, a violent quarrel took place…. Madame Murat burst into complaints, tears, and reproaches; she asked why she and her sisters were to be condemned to obscurity and contempt, while strangers were to be loaded with honours and dignity? Bonaparte answered her angrily, asserting several times that he was master, and would distribute honours as he pleased…. The discussion ended by Madame Murat’s falling on the floor in a dead faint, overcome by her excessive anger, and by the acrimony of her brother’s reproaches. [5] 
Though Napoleon gave in and granted his sisters the courtesy titles of “Imperial Highness,” Caroline continued to try to wheedle a proper crown out of her brother. The Murats threw lavish parties for Napoleon and his entourage. They also procured mistresses for him. In 1805, they introduced him to Éléonore Denuelle de la Plagne, a beautiful eighteen-year old in their employ, whom Murat was bedding. In December 1806 Éléonore gave birth to Napoleon’s first child, Charles Léon Denuelle. Caroline was elated. The birth demonstrated to Napoleon that he was not responsible for Josephine’s infertility, and thus sealed the case for divorcing her, which Napoleon did in January 1810. When – two months later – Napoleon married Princess Marie Louise of Austria, he sent Caroline to the Austrian frontier to escort her back to Paris.

In the meantime, Caroline’s toadyism bore fruit. In 1806 Napoleon made the Murats the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Berg and Cleves, having carved a principality for them out of territory taken from Prussia and Bavaria. Conveniently, Caroline did not have to reside there.
The Grand Duchess of Berg…lived in great splendour at the Elysée-Bourbon Palace. Her beauty was set off by the most exquisite dress; her pretensions were great; her manners affable when she thought it prudent, and more than affable to men whom she wished to fascinate…. [S]he endeavored to make friends among the influential members of the Government who might be useful to her…. She wanted to secure her present position, and especially to elevate her husband in spite of himself. [6]

Her lovers included General Junot, who had replaced Murat as governor of Paris, and Clemens von Metternich, the Austrian ambassador to France.
In 1808, when Napoleon moved Joseph Bonaparte from the throne of Naples to that of Spain, he made the Murats King and Queen of Naples. Caroline emptied the Elysée Palace of its French state treasures and had them brought to Naples (to be fair, Joseph had liberated Naples of its best art, and later stole the royal treasures of Spain).
Though Murat wanted to preserve his royal prerogative, Caroline insisted on being consulted on all matters of importance. They often quarreled. When, in 1812, Napoleon entrusted Murat with command of the Grand Armée’s cavalry for the Russian campaign, Caroline governed in her husband’s absence. It was her finest hour. She impressed her ministers and officials with her sound judgement. During the march back from Moscow, Napoleon hurried to Paris, leaving Murat in charge of the army’s retreat. Murat abandoned his post and fled to Naples. Napoleon was furious. He wrote to Caroline: “The King of Naples has left the army. Your husband is very brave on the field of battle, but he is weaker than a woman or a monk when he is not in the presence of the enemy. He has no moral courage.” [7] 

Caroline Bonaparte Murat with her daughter Letizia by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1807
Caroline Bonaparte Murat with her daughter Letizia by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1807
Though Murat rejoined Napoleon for the 1813 campaign in Germany, Caroline considered her brother’s defeat inevitable. She and Murat hoped to save their throne by allying with Napoleon’s enemies. On 11 January 1814, Murat signed a treaty with Austria. This guaranteed to him and his heirs the sovereignty of the territory he possessed in Italy. In return, he was bound to cooperate in the war against Napoleon. 
When Napoleon learned of this treachery, he said, “I was well aware that Murat was a fool, but I thought he loved me. It is his wife who is the cause of his desertion. To think that Caroline, my own sister, should betray me!” [8] 
On 26 February, Napoleon wrote to Joseph: 
It seems that the allies have not yet ratified the treaty with the King of Naples. Despatch by a courier, with the utmost haste, a letter to the King, in which you will frankly point out to him the iniquity of his conduct, offering to mediate for him if he will return to his duties. Tell him that this is his only hope; that if he takes any other course he must be destroyed either by France or by the allies…. Write also to the Queen on her ingratitude, which revolts even the allies. [9] 

It was no use. Napoleon lost and was exiled to Elba. The Murats remained in power in Naples. Murat, however, felt sorry about what he had done, He secretly entered into communication with Napoleon. When the latter escaped from Elba and returned to France in March 1815, he told his brother-in-law to maintain the Neapolitan forces in a defensive position. Napoleon hoped to keep the Austrians neutral. For this to happen, Italy (partly under Austrian control) had to stay neutral. Murat disregarded this advice. Thinking he could help Napoleon by starting a diversion, he foolishly led his forces into Italy. He was defeated in the Battle of Tolentino in early May. Murat retreated to Naples and said goodbye to Caroline. She was so angry with him (she still supported the allies) that he said, “If you see me alive, madam, pray believe it is that I have sought death in vain!” [10] She never saw him again.
Murat went to France, but Napoleon refused to see him. “Twice Murat betrayed and ruined me,” he later said. [11] Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo and was banished to the remote South Atlantic island of St. Helena.
Caroline surrendered to the commander of the English squadron that was cruising around Naples. He transported her to Trieste and handed her over to the Austrians, who kept her at the castle of Hainburg, near Vienna. Meanwhile, Murat made his way to Corsica, from where he tried to reconquer his kingdom. On 8 October 1815, Murat and a small band of followers landed at the Calabrian port of Pizzo. The locals proved hostile and Murat was arrested. On 13 October he was tried by a military tribunal, condemned to death and shot by a firing squad.

Miniature of Caroline Bonaparte Murat by Jean-Baptiste Isabey
Miniature of Caroline Bonaparte Murat by Jean-Baptiste Isabey
Life after Napoleon 
Caroline took the name of the Countess of Lipona (an anagram of Napoli, or Naples). Her former lover, the Austrian Chancellor Metternich, tried unsuccessfully to obtain permission for her to settle in Rome near her mother and siblings. Instead, she was allowed to live in the castle of Frohsdorf, south of Vienna (Marie Antoinette’s daughter, Marie Thérèse, the Duchess of Angoulême, was a later resident there). Letizia Bonaparte, in any case, had no desire to see her daughter. When Caroline protested that Murat’s 1814 betrayal had not been her fault, Letizia replied, “If you were unable to influence him, you should nevertheless have opposed him. But what opposition did you make? Has any blood been shed? It is only across your dead body that your husband should have smitten your brother, your benefactor, your master!” [12]
Caroline’s companion in exile was General Francesco Macdonald, who, despite his name, was of Italian origin. He had been an aide-de-camp to Murat and was the former Minister of War of Naples. They may have married as early as 1817, though 1830 has also been suggested. Visiting them in Trieste in 1825, Madame Récamier noted:
The queen, whose skin was as fair as a lily, was still singularly pretty, almost retaining the brilliancy of her youth. She had grown stout; and, as she was not tall, her figure had not gained in elegance. She was animated in conversation; and, from her caressing manners, it was easy to see that, when she wished to please, she could exercise great powers of fascination.
Her intercourse with her daughter [Louise] was full of the most confiding tenderness. Her bearing to General Macdonald was affectionate, with a shade of authority. To her guests … she manifested a warmth and gratitude that proved, alas! how few disinterested marks of sympathy she had received since her misfortunes. [13] 
Caroline’s sons moved to the United States, from where they pestered her for money. Her daughters married Italian noblemen. The American actor René Auberjonois, who played Father Mulcahy in the film version of M*A*S*H, is Caroline Bonaparte Murat’s great-great-great-grandson.
In 1831, Caroline was allowed to move to Florence. When Letizia Bonaparte died in 1836, Caroline fought with her brothers over her mother’s estate. To keep the dispute out of the newspapers, Joseph turned his share over to Caroline. General Macdonald died the next year.
Caroline spent a good part of her later years trying to recover the money she claimed was owed to her by France. Although the French authorities found the claims bogus, King Louis Philippe – who, in his struggle against the legitimists, wished to flatter the enemies of the Bourbons – allowed Caroline to visit Paris to pursue her case. The American scholar George Ticknor encountered her there in January 1838. 
I spent the early part of the evening at the Countess Lipona’s, the name under which Madame Murat passes here. She is a very good-looking, stout person, nearly sixty years old, I suppose, and with ladylike and rather benevolent manners. She lives in good style, but without splendour; and, like the rest of her family, allows those about her to call her Reine. Prince Musignano [Caroline’s nephew] was there, and perhaps in the course of an hour twenty people came in, for it was her reception evening; but the whole, I suppose, was Bonapartists, for I happen to know that those who wish to stand well with Louis Philippe avoid her doors; a weakness on his part as great as that which, on hers, permits her to be called Queen. [14] 

Caroline Bonaparte Murat by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1814
Caroline Bonaparte Murat by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1814
At last Caroline was granted a pension of 100,000 francs. She had little time to enjoy it. On 18 May 1839 she died of stomach cancer in Florence at the age of 57. She was buried in the Chiesa di Ognissanti in Florence. There is a cenotaph to her and Murat in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
The final word regarding Caroline must go to Napoleon. On St. Helena, he reflected on her thus: 
The Queen of Naples had chiefly formed herself amidst great events. She had solid sense, strength of character, and boundless ambition…. She must naturally suffer severely from her reverses, more particularly as she may said to have been born a Queen. She had not, like the rest of us, moved in the sphere of private life. Caroline, Pauline and Jerome were still in their childhood when I had attained supreme rank in France; thus they never knew any other state than that which they enjoyed during the period of my power. [15] 
And Napoleon had the decency, in his will (he died in 1821), to thank Caroline, along with the rest of his family, “for the interest they continue to feel for me.” [16] 
  1. “Prefatory Note” by W.R.H. Trowbridge in Joseph Turquan, The Sisters of Napoleon, translated and edited by W.R.H. Trowbridge (London, 1908), p. ix.
  2. Catherine Hyde Govion Broglio Solari, Private Anecdotes of Foreign Courts, Vol. 1 (London, 1827), p. 456.
  3. Louis Étienne Saint-Denis, Napoleon from the Tuileries to St. Helena, translated by Frank Hunter Potter (New York and London, 1922), p. 11.
  4. Laure Junot, Memoirs of the Duchess D’Abrantès, Vol. I (New York, 1832), p. 256.
  5. Paul de Rémusat, ed., Memoirs of Madame de Rémusat, 1802-1808, translated by Cashel Hoey and John Lillie, Vol. 1 (London, 1880), pp. 254-56. Madame de Rémusat’s account is undoubtedly coloured by her attachment to Josephine, who related part of this anecdote to her and who “could not but enjoy the vexation of a person who so thoroughly disliked her.” 
  6. Memoirs of Madame de Rémusat, p. 488.
  7. Memoirs of the Duchess D’Abrantès, Vol. VII (London, 1835) p. 391.
  8. The Sisters of Napoleon, p. 291.
  9. The Confidential Correspondence of Napoleon Bonaparte with His Brother Joseph, Vol. II (London, 1855), p. 327.
  10. Caroline Murat, My Memoirs (London, 1910), p. 21. These are the memoirs of Caroline Bonaparte Murat’s granddaughter.
  11. Barry O’Meara, Napoleon in Exile, Vol. 1 (Philadelphia, 1822), p. 134.
  12. The Sisters of Napoleon, p. 293.
  13. Isaphene M. Luyster, ed. and trans., Memoirs and Correspondence of Madame Récamier (Boston, 1867), pp. 240-241.
  14. George Stillman Hillard, Life, Letters and Journals of George Ticknor, Vol. II (London, 1876), p. 127.
  15. Emmanuel-Auguste-Dieudonné Las Cases, Memorial de Sainte Hélène, Vol. II, Part III (Boston, 1823), p. 157.
  16. Letters and Despatches of the First Napoleon, Vol. III, p. 427.
About the Author
Shannon Selin is the author of Napoleon in America, which imagines what might have happened if Napoleon had escaped from St. Helena and wound up in the United States in 1821. She blogs about Napoleonic and 19th century history at

Written content of this post copyright © Shannon Selin, 2014

You can find out more about Napoleon's remarkable family in Life in the Georgian Court, now available to order worldwide!

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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Death of George I

George I (George Louis, Osnabrück, Holy Roman Empire, 28th May 1660 - Osnabrück, Germany, 11th June 1727)

George I by Godfrey Kneller, 1714
George I by Godfrey Kneller, 1714

We're not feeling too cheery in the salon today because I have been reflecting on the death of the man whose reign began the glorious Georgian era. Far from a romantic hero, George I did not endear himself to his family, ministers or many of his subjects and on 11th June 1727, the first Hanovarian king of England died during a visit to his beloved native lands.

Since his coronation in 1714, the country of George's birth was never far from his mind though his home was predominantly in England, he had made several trips back to Hanover in the intervening years. The journey of 1727 was to be his last and he was accompanied on the trip by Melusine von der Schulenburg, Duchess of Kendal. Immensely powerful at court, the Duchess was George's mistress of many years standing and, some whispered, his secret wife.

On 9th June, as the group travelled between Delden and Nordhorn, George was afflicted by a major stroke. Barely clinging to life he was rushed to the comfort of Schloss Osnabrück, home of his brother, Ernest Augustus, Duke of York and Albany. Here the king lingered on the verge of death for two days before he died in the early hours of 11th June.

George I was laid to rest in the chapel of the Leineschloss and here he remained for over two centuries. When the palace was destroyed by bombing raids during World War II, George was removed and reburied at Herrenhausen, where he remains to this day.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Murder of Joseph Foullon de Doué

Joseph-François Foullon de Doué (Saumur, France, 25th June 1715 – Paris, France, 22nd July 1789) 

Joseph Foullon de Doué

Today marks the anniversary of a gruesome episode in French political history, though it is one of many that occurred during the heady, deadly Revolutionary days. It is the tale of a murdered politician and official, a man who had many enemies among the people.

Foullon was appointed Controller-General of Finances in 1789, replacing Jacques Necker, who enjoyed great popularity with the citizens of France. Foullon, however, was less well-loved and seen as a sop to the conservative traditionalists, interested only in preserving the power of the ruling classes. He was a strict disciplinarian and rumours spread that not only had he grown rich from the suffering of the poor and manipulated the food supply for financial gain, but that he had once said of the starving peasants, "If they have no bread, then let them eat hay". 

The shrewd Foullon was no fool and, once the Bastille fell, he fled Paris to take refuge in Viry-Châtillon. Here he began to put word about that he was dead, including staging a fake funeral. However, news of his location eventually leaked out and the once powerful man was seized by local people. Stripped of his shoes, a garland of thistles about his neck and bales of hay tied to his back, Foullon was dragged to the Hôtel de Ville. When he complained of thirst, Foullon was given vinegar and the sweat of his brow was wiped with stinging nettles in the harsh summer heat.

Despite the best efforts of officials, the furious citizens would not be stilled and Foullon was dragged to the Place de Grève to be hanged. On three occasions he was strung up and on three occasions the rope broke. Finally the man who had known such influence was beheaded, his severed head paraded through the streets with his mouth stuffed full of hay in answer to his reported comments on the starving people of France.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Paul Möhring: From Kings to Birds to Botany

Paul Heinrich Gerhard Möhring (aka Paul Mohr; Jever, Germany, 21st July 1710 -  Jever, Germany, 28th October 1792)

Paul Heinrich Gerhard Möhring, 1782

Today we take a trip to Germany to meet a man who enjoyed a successful career across a wide range of scientific interests. From medicine to natural science, he was driven by an inherent curiosity for the world in which he lived and enjoyed great success in a range of fields.

Möhring was born to a pastor, Gottfried Victor Möhring, and his wife, Sophia Catherine Töpken. He was a fiercely intelligent young man and excelled as a student of medicine in Wittenberg, where he impressed his academic tutors with his skill and approach to his studies. He graduated in 1733 and returned to his hometown, where he took up a successful career as a doctor whilst indulging his passion for natural science, building up an extensive body of correspondence with other botanists and scientists of the era.

A decade after his graduation, Möhring was awarded the role of physician to Prince Johann Ludwig II of Anhalt-Zerbst and built on this professional success with a domestic one, marrying his sweetheart, Juliane Damm, who would be mother to his four children, one of whom followed his father as court physician.

Throughout his long life, Möhring worked tirelessly as a writer of scientific works. His most influential and famous book was the 1752 publication, Avium Genera, which was his attempt to classify birds into four classes. He continued publishing and corresponding with fellow naturalists until his death, immortalised to this day in the plant name, Moehringia.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Angelica Kauffman: A Self Portrait

Angelica Kauffman, RA (Maria Anna Angelika/Angelica Katharina Kauffman; Chur, Switzerland, 30th October 1741 – Rome, Italy, 5th November 1807) 

The greatest reward I have received since throwing open the salon doors last year has been meeting the wonderful readers, writers, bloggers and historians who have visited the site and got in touch with me to chat about their love of history, art and all manner of things! 

A regular reader and wonderful fellow lover of all things 18th century recently mentioned that Angelica Kauffman might well be a likely candidate for the Guide and I was shocked at myself for the oversight so, I hope, this will make up for her absence!

A Self Portrait by Angelica Kauffman, 1770-1775

Angelica Kauffman enjoyed a long and lucrative career as an artist, specialising in history paintings and enjoying the support and patronage of many illustrious names including Joshua Reynolds, who championed Kauffman's work in England. She worked on several self portraits including one that is rich in symbolism, and was painted between 1770 - 75.

In the portrait, Kauffman very shrewdly depicts herself as free from the trapping of fashion and society. She has no interest in being painted as a figure of glamour but is, instead, clearly and unarguably an artist. Looking at this work one is left in no doubt that Angelica Kauffman means artistic business!

Kauffman would, of corse, of on to enjoy no small success and painted many self portraits, depicting herself in a variety of settings and styles. However, it is this work, without any trace of pomp and ceremony, that captivates me, showing a woman dedicated to her art, thoughtful and inspired.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Short Musical Life of Marianna Auenbrugger

Marianna Auenbrugger (Vienna, Austria, 19th July 1759 – Vienna, Austria, 25th August 1782)

Today's guest is a most musical lady. Daughter to a renowned physician, her life and career were all too short and her music is little-heard today. Despite my best efforts I have been unable to find a portrait or drawing of the lady in question but if you can help, I would be delighted to hear from you!

Keyboard Sonata in E-flat by Marianna Auenbrugger

Marianna was born to physician Leopold Auenbrugger and his wife, Anna. and her childhood was far from easy. Frail and in poor health, the young girl nevertheless threw herself into her studies as her father, himself a lover of music, decided that his daughters should enjoy a rich education. Leopold counted Haydn and Leopold Mozart among his friends and held regular musical soirees at his home with Antonio Salieri a regular attendee and family friend. In fact, Auenbrugger would later serve as best man to the composer whilst Haydn dedicated a series of sonatas to Marianna and her sister.

Marianna and her sister regularly performed as a pianist at these events and Salieri took her into his tutelage, deeply impressed by her talent as a composer and musician. Sadly her early promise did not have chance to flourish and she died aged just 23, a victim of consumption. Following her death Salieri paid to have her Keyboard Sonata in E-flat published alongside his own funeral ode, dedicated to her memory.

Friday, 18 July 2014

The Festival of Love

Jean-Antoine Watteau (Valenciennes, France, 10th October 1684 - Nogent-sur-Marne, France, 18th July 1721)

On this day in 1721, Jean-Antoine Watteau died. Watteau's life and career were short and he was little known or celebrated during his lifetime but since his death at the age of 26, his reputation has flourished. His influence was felt far and wide as the years grew on and he even loaned his name to Watteau pleats, one of the defining characteristics of the sack-back gowns that appeared so frequently in his work.

The Festival of Love by Jean-Antoine Watteau, 1717

My favourite painting by Watteau is his 1717 work, The Festival of Love, a wonderfully evocative scene of pastoral festivities and romance, watched over by a statue of Venus. The rich, rolling landscape extends as far as the eye can see and couples walk, chat or generally spend time together, with a child at the centre of the canvas.

Unlike the formal portraits in which a pose is held, grand and poised, to create a permanent and lasting impression, here Watteau has captured a moment, a second between friends or lovers. It is the stuff that rose-tinted memories are made of, days long-since passed with a gentle warm hue when anything seemed possible.

Viewing the work with the benefit of centuries, we are left with a picture perfect depiction of a world that fascinates and attracts, an idealised place long since gone if indeed it ever existed at all.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

A Salon Guest... Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

It is an honour to welcome Laura Purcell to the salon today. Laura, author of the marvellous Queen of Bedlam, is here to share the tale of Princess Sophie Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a lady on whom she is well qualified to talk.


Princess Sophie Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was born 19 May 1744, although with the introduction of the new style calendar in 1752, her birthday changed to 16 May. Her father was Charles Lewis of Mecklenburg Strelitz and her mother Elisabeth Albertina of Saxe-Hildburghhausen. The youngest of six surviving children, Charlotte had four brothers: Adolphus Frederick, Charles, Ernest and George. Of all these, she was to grow particularly close to Charles, corresponding frequently with him until his death in 1816. Charlotte’s only sister, Christiane, was the eldest child and nine years her senior. Poignantly, three baby sisters and a brother had been laid in the grave before Charlotte appeared.
Queen Charlotte by studio of Allan Ramsay, 1762
Queen Charlotte by studio of Allan Ramsay, 1762
At the time of Charlotte’s birth, her father Charles Lewis was nephew to the reigning duke and seemed unlikely to succeed to the dukedom. He and his wife lived at Mirow, not in the moated schloss but a small palace nearby. When Frederick the Great of Russia visited, he mistook Charlotte’s home for a parsonage. However, it must be said it was partly Frederick’s fault that the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz did not thrive: his armies were constantly marching through, pillaging.
Since part of the town had been burnt down in 1730, Mirow retained an air of sleepy, decayed grandeur. The castle had a ruined tower serving as a gatehouse, with “an old stocking-knitter disguised as a Grenadier” guarding the drawbridge. Charlotte and her sister were raised much in the manner of English gentlewomen, learning botany, music and needlework. Their religious education was particularly thorough. Both were raised as Lutherans and invested as Canonesses of the Hereford convent in Westphalia.
Charlotte’s father passed away when she was eight years old. His was one of a series of three deaths that left Charlotte’s brother Adolphus to succeed the dukedom in 1752, aged twenty-three. But this was not the only sudden elevation in store for the family. Eight years letter, George III of England began to consider Charlotte as a potential bride.
George’s choices were limited to German, Protestant princesses. Moreover, his mother didn’t want anyone too clever or too beautiful, lest they loosen her hold over her son. Many girls were dismissed over hearsay. Ironically, considering George’s future illness, the Princess of Hesse-Darmstadt was rejected because she was rumoured to be mentally unstable.
Queen of Bedlam

However, preliminary visits to Charlotte were favourable. “I think her a young princess endued with such noble qualities of mind, and such a happy disposition as will entirely gain the King’s affections,” scouts wrote. Her youth, they hoped, would make her impressionable and easy to mould to the preferences of George and his mother. Charlotte was no beauty, but they found her “delicate and fine…Her eyes between a pale blue and grey…Hair a pale brown…lips of a fine red…her face rather agreeable than otherwise…the bosom full enough for her age.” She also seemed dignified enough for England’s throne: “throughout her whole person possessed of that inexpressible something that is beyond a set of features…she has not a fine face, but a most agreeable countenance…with an air, notwithstanding her being a little woman, truly majestic.”
Charlotte’s future prospects were both daunting and exciting, but her wedding plans received a sudden check when her mother Elisabeth died on 29 June. The weather was so hot that her body had to be kept under sand. One can only imagine how distraught Charlotte was, especially as her mother’s last words were wishes for her happiness.
Charlotte’s journey to England got off to a rocky start: her ship was caught in a storm. While the gales, squalls, thunder and hale left her ladies out of order, Charlotte tried her best to appear cheerful and continued to play her harpsichord. There was no rest even once she landed on English soil. Hurriedly dressed in English fashions, she was forced to receive deputations at Harwich, Colchester and Witham. 
The air of hurry continued all the way to London. Meeting the Life Guards at Mile End, Charlotte was paraded through the streets to wave at her new subjects. She asked if they might slow the pace so that the people could get a good look at her, but she was told there could be no delay. Her wedding was due to take place at midnight that very evening. Upon hearing this, Charlotte passed out and had to be revived with lavender water. 
Soon after, the carriage arrived at the garden gate of St. James’s Palace. With her lower lip trembling, Charlotte was handed down the steps by George’s brother, the Duke of York. As she descended, the crowds got a good look at her dress: an elegant white and silver “negligee” trimmed with thin gold lace. No sooner did Charlotte see her future husband than she “threw herself at his feet”. The King “raised her up, embraced her and led her through the garden up the steps into the palace”.  

A long and eventful marriage lay before the royal pair, but I’m not going to tell you about it here. If you want to find out more, please read my book! 

Laura Purcell is a writer, history fan and guinea pig lover living in Colchester. She is writing a series of novels about the women who loved (and hated!) the Hanoverian monarchs. 

Visit Laura's website, connect with her on Facebook and gad over to say hello on Twitter. Better yet, do treat yourself to her marvellous novel, Queen of Bedlam!

Written content of this post copyright © Laura Purcell, 2014.

You can find out more about Charlotte's bittersweet life in Life in the Georgian Court, now available to order worldwide!

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