Sunday 31 January 2016

Musée du Barreau cont. - Documents from the trial of Marie-Antoinette

Pierre Bouillon, The trial of Marie-Antoinette, 1793, Musée Carnavalet
Chauveau-Lagarde can be recognised seated at the table behind the Queen

Among the most important documents on show in the Musée du Barreau are notes for the speech made by Claude-François Chauveau-Lagarde (1756-1841)  the counsel for Marie-Antoinette at her trial. The eight-page manuscript, acquired by the Order in 1989, is of particular interest since no transcript of Chauveau-Lagarde's oration was made at the time.  The archivist of the Order of Barristers Yves Ozanam has published brief details on the website  La Grande Bibliothèque du Droit (see references) 

Thursday 28 January 2016

The Barristers of Paris and their museum

The Musée du Barreau de Paris is a museum dedicated to the Paris bar and its lawyers. It features historical exhibits from the library of the Ordre des avocats which is based in the Palais de Justice. In 1979 the museum moved to separate premises at 25 rue du Jour, a small side road near the church of Saint-Eustache in the first arrondissement. The collections occupy the basement of the renovated Hôtel de la Porte, a fine 17th-century house with a carved facade, impressive vestibule and Renaissance-style staircase.

It is estimated that the Order owns some 500 manuscripts relating to legal history from the 17th century to the present, though unfortunately there is no catalogue available on the internet. The collection centres on barristers' notes from famous trials - that of Marie-Antoinette, Dreyfus, Madame Caillaux, the assassin of Jurès, Marshal Pétain. There  are also many related works of art, books, prints and ephemera. Emmanuel Pierrat, the Museum's curator since 2013, has pursued an active acquisitions policy and worked to make the collections more widely available.  The Museum was formerly restricted to invited groups, but is now open to the public on Sunday afternoons. An exhibition of famous 19th century trials, based on M. Pierrat's publication Les grands procès de l'histoire, is scheduled to run until May 2016. 

Some exhibits from the 18th-century

The barristers of Paris in their library - engraving by Gabriel Saint-Aubin (1776).

 The barristers' library was founded in 1709 by a bequest from Étienne Gabriau de Riparfons de Riparfont, a magistrate in the Parlement of Paris. In the 18th century it was situated in a gallery of the Archbishop's palace close to Notre-Dame. The Order held regular professional meetings or "conferences" there.  In Saint-Aubin's picture an orator reads a discourse to the assembled gathering. Above, an allegorical group features Justice, Truth and Eloquence. Truth holds out a mirror to Eloquence and indicates an open book, which can be identified as Montesquieu's L’Esprit des lois.

Allegories of Justice

In the earlier of these two paintings, which dates from the 17th century, Justice is depicted in the company of Piety. She is blindfolded, holds the fasces of office in one hand  and the scales of justice in the other.  In the second, later picture, which features the coat-of-arms of an unidentified lawyer, Justice is dressed in a  blue cloak and holds a sword in her right hand.

The barrister and his "bag"

During the Ancien Régime, barristers used cloth and leather bags to transport their dossiers;  The French expression "l'affaire est dans le sac" derives from the Judge's pronouncement at the end of a trial, that the case was "in the bag". The engraving shows a Procureur whose costume is entirely composed of bags,  from a  series of "Costumes grotesques" created by Nicolas Larmessin II in 1695. The Museum's display also features a mid 19th-century "sac".

The Magistrates of the Parlement of Paris

Many members of the Order of Barristers worked in the Parlement of Paris, and aspired to become magistrates. Several portraits of magistrates in the museum date from the 18th century.  In this engraving of 1787  by Pierre Duflos  the 16th-century president Achille de Harlay is depicted in his ermine-trimmed red robes signifying that he derives  his authority from the monarch.  At the time of the Revolution black robes were introduced for magistrates, similar to the costume of the Third Estate.

On the Museum's Facebook site, we learn that it has recently acquired a copy of an engraving by Poilly which depicts the famous lit de justice of 12 September 1715 (purchased in 2015) :


Malesherbes -
portrait of 1883

One of the functions of the Order's library is to act as a depository for barristers' preparatory notes for orations. The historical collection has developed over time, expanded by donations, for example from the family of Gambetta, the heirs of Berryer and  the widow of Raymond Poincaré.  It has also been added to by purchases. In 2011 the Order published a book by its archivist Yves Ozanam documenting seventeen historic grandes plaidoiries .The first three chapters  were devoted to the Calas case, to François-Denis Tronchet, who was one of Louis XVI's defence lawyers, and to Chauveau-Lagarde who represented Marie-Antoinette at her trial.  Unfortunately without access to the book, there are few further details. The display case below shows various exhibits relating to the trial of Louis XVI including engraved portraits of Tronchet and Raymond de Sèze.  A handsome 19th-century oil painting of Lamoignon de Malesherbes was acquired in 2015.

Among other recent acquisitions are two relating to Marat; a copy of the indictment against him, dated 2nd November 1792 and signed by Gersonné and Barère, and this painting depicting the arrest of Charlotte Corday:


Le Musée du Barreau de Paris:
Official website:
Facebook page:

Yves Ozanam, Les grandes plaidoiries: Archives et documents pour l'histoire, de l'affaire Calas au procès de Pétain (2011)

Background: "Le Tricentenaire de la Bibliothèque du barreau de Paris" pages archived from Avocat/ Barreau Paris:

Michael P. Fitzsimmons, The Parisian Order of Barristers and the French Revolution
(Harvard University Press, 1987)

Saturday 23 January 2016

Diderot's nun: the story of Marguerite Delamarre

Illustration from La Religieuse (1804)  
The "Préface-Annexe" to La Religieuse famously explains how Diderot's work was inspired by an elaborate hoax played on one of his friends, the marquis de Croismare. The kindly marquis had previously interested himself in a court case in which a nun had petitioned to be released from her vows;  a second, fictitious nun was now invented in order to entice him back to Paris from retirement in his château near Caen. The ploy was unsuccessful and the details of the conspiracy and its relation to Diderot's fiction are contested; but the original nun was undoubtedly real.  

The case was heard between 1752 and 1758 before both the ecclesiastical and civil courts and involved a  nun from Longchamp called Marguerite Delamarre.  The Diderot scholar George May has unravelled the details.

Marguerite Delamarre was born on 9th January 1717, the eldest child of Claude Delamarre, a Parisian goldsmith and jeweler, and his wife, whose name was also Marguerite. The family was of somewhat lower social status than that of Diderot's Suzanne Simonin, whose father was a lawyer; but it was on the ascendant. In 1722 Claude Delamarre bought an estate near Brie-Comte-Robert for 100,000 livres and in 1729 a town house in Paris.  Finally, in 1732 he was able to purchase an ennobling office as a secretary to the Parlement of Bordeaux.  Unsurprisingly, issues of money and inheritance featured large in Marguerite's story.

Soon after her birth the child was farmed out to a wet nurse in Auteuil, then passed her girlhood in a succession of convents. On 23 May 1720, when still only three, she became a pensionnaire at Longchamp.  She stayed only nine months before being sent to the convent of  the Ursulines at Chartres where her maternal aunt had retired. In 1724, following her aunt's death, the seven-year old was brought back to Paris and became a pensionnaire with the Visitandine nuns of the rue du Bac.  This is the same "couvent de Sainte-Marie" that Diderot specifies as the first convent of Suzanne Simonin, which she enters "in high spirits" since her home life has been so miserable.  It was a flourishing establishment with eighty nuns, servants and pensionnaires, and had a reputation for providing good education for young girls, with  masters of music, geography and drawing in its employ.  Although it is easy to assume Marguerite suffered emotional neglect, the child was therefore adequately provided for - the pension at rue du Bac was 500 livres per year - and her situation was not so unusual for the time.  As  Madame Delamarre explained later, with some plausibility, she had no time for her daughter since she  was fully occupied with the burden of looking after her husband's business. Nothing so far suggested that Marguerite was intended ultimately for the  religious life.

Events now took on a more sinister turn.  In 1732, at age fifteen, Marguerite Delamarre was duly taken out of the convent and a marriage arranged for her to one sieur de Gennes. According to Madame Delamarre the dowry (of 60,000 livres) and other financial arrangements were in place and the marriage was impeded only by her daughter's "irresistible vocation".  Marguerite, however, claimed that her mother wanted to safeguard her claim to her husband's business and had never intended the marriage to take place; she spread rumours that the couple had indulged in an illicit liaison, that the girl might even be pregnant and, having subjected her to a humiliating examination, incarcerated her at home. Faced with the choice of the cloister or confinement in a maison de force or the Hôpital-Général, Marguerite opted to enter her fourth convent on 16 June 1732.  Suspiciously it was at this very time that her father, having saved on her dowry, laid out 35,000 livres for his post of secretary to the Parlement of Bordeaux.

The convent of Val-de-Grâce from a contemporary print
Marguerite now found herself  among the Benedictine nuns of the abbey of Val-de-Grâce in Paris, this time no longer as a pensionnaire but as a postulant.  After two years, the request was made for her to be transferred to a less austere order. According to Marguerite, the initiative came from the convent itself.  She had previously been refused by two other establishments who had recognised that she was acting under duress. After the trial, in 1758, she succeeded in acquiring a certificate from the nuns of Val-de-Grâce confirming that they had refused her entry to the profession "because they had always recognised that she had no vocation and that she had entered only through constraint".  Due to the time which had lapsed, however, this testimonial was never admitted in evidence.

On 20th July 1734 Marguerite Delamarre was moved to the abbey of Longchamp. She was still only seventeen.  She explained that she had resigned herself to her fate and duly took the habit and made her profession.  She was to stay at Longchamp for fifty-five years, until the Revolution.  Everyone agreed that the rule at Longchamp was not rigorous but one can only imagine - as Diderot did - the reluctant nun's state of mind.  According to the nuns interrogated in 1756  Sister Delamarre took to fantasising an illegitimate birth and claimed to be the long lost daughter of the duchesse de Berry, substituted as a baby by her wet-nurse.  She herself claimed that she had been prevented from seeing her three younger brothers; spied on by other sisters and restricted in her choice of confessor.

It was not to be until almost twenty years later that Sister Delamarre was finally able to take action.  On 2 September 1752 her petition for release from her vows was deposed before the Officialité de Paris, the presiding ecclesiastical court for the diocese of Paris, and six years of judicial proceedings were set into motion.

A memoir by Briquet de Mercy, the advocate for Madame Delamarre. printed in 1755, named the person who had initiated the move - and it is an interesting one. Her benefactor was none other than the inventor Jacques Vaucanson, the royal inspector of silk manufactures, who had visited the convent at Longchamp, in order to install equipment for the production of silk.  He had been chaperoned for the occasion  by one Mlle Biche, said to be his niece, and it was through this intermediary that Marguerite Delamarre had managed to communicate with him.  Vaucanson had entered into a series of negotiations with the abbess and the widow Delamarre, without result.  According to one source he had even entertained a mechanical device to facilitate the nun's escape.  In the middle of 1752 he appealed to M. Courlesvaux, the procureur of the Châtelet and proceedings were duly instigated, presided over by the Vicar-General of the diocese of Paris,  Nicholas Regnault.  After preliminary depositions, on 28 March 1753 Marguerite herself was interrogated; there were further deposition (five in total);  Madame Delamarre and the nuns were interrogated and on 28 the final verdict reached;  Marguerite's petition was turned down.

In January 1758 a new memoir was drawn up and the case appealed.  From this point onwards the affair was no longer the concern of the ecclesiastical courts but came under jurisdiction of Parlement of Paris. It is probably at this point that it was first talked about in Paris and the marquis de Croismare got to hear of it.  According to the  "Preface-Annexe" he intervened personally, approaching  "all the counsellors of the Grand' Chambre".  No mention is to be found in any printed journal or paper for the time, but it was no doubt a topic of conversation in circles known to  the Encyclopédistes.  Vaucanson frequented the Farmer-General Le Riche de La Popelinière, as did Marmontel and d'Alembert;  Grimm too would have known about events. According to the "Préface-Annexe" it  would appear that the marquis de Croismare intervened without knowing any of the details.  Diderot at least knew Marguerite's name and two of her convents.   

Marguerite Delamarre again lost her case.  A plea entered by Briquet de Mercy on behalf of his client suggests that the verdict was motivated not so much by the evidence as by fear of setting an awkward precedent.  If the case were approved, writes Briquet de Mercy,  there would be "trouble and disorder" in families and "revolt and confusion" in the Cloisters:  monastic vows were a sacred promise made to God, and religious duty should not be compromised by the "seductive language of the Century" (May,  p.285).

There is only one further glimpse of Sister Delamarre in the historical record.  On 7 June 1790, following the the Revolutionary dissolution of monastic establishments, the mayor of Bologne carried out an inventory of Longchamp.  This document gives the names of eighteen nuns present in the abbey, but Marguerite's is not among them.  However another list from July 1790 has details of nine nuns who had been evacuated to dependent houses elsewhere and among them is "Marguerite de Lamarre, 73 ans, à  Notre-Dame de Meaux-en-Brie".  Her subsequent fate and final resting place remain unknown. 


Georges May, "Le modèle inconnu de "La Religieuse" de Diderot: Marguerite Delamarre"
Revue d'Histoire littéraire de la France 51(3), 1951 p.273-87
Available on JStor:

ILLUSTRATIONS:  Utpictura18:  Recherche par source textuelle de l'image:  Diderot, La Religieuse,%20La%20Religieuse%20(1760,%201780-3)&serie=0

Friday 22 January 2016

The nuns of Longchamp - a police report

The abbey at Longchamp, the setting for Diderot's La Religieuse, had a reputation for laxity. The convent was at the same time a cloistered order of nuns, a place of retirement and a pensionnat for young ladiesWith its proximity to Versailles and the number of well-to-do pensionnaires who found their way to it, a certain relaxation of the rules was perhaps inevitable.  The royal authorities had no direct jurisdiction over the convent, but they kept a close eye on the comings and goings.  A police report from 1768 lists the pensionnaires and some of the nuns who merited surveillance.  It is a typical document of its kind, mixing pseudo-official comment with plain hearsay, and, in this case,  a decidedly masculine appreciation of the convent inmates. The report only exists as a pamphlet from 1870 but the historian of Longchamp Gaston Duchesne confirms its authenticity. All these nuns and pensionnaires really lived in the abbey. One of the Bertault sisters mentioned (Anne-Charlotte Bertheau - the report's spelling is creative) was abbess between 1780 and 1786.

Anon, Portait of a nun painting,

According to the report, the convent was divided into seven or eight coteries which occupied themselves "exclusively with pleasure". The most salacious anecdote involves two young men who conned their way into the convent disguised, somewhat improbably, as a performing bear and its owner. The elder of the Bedelles sisters, who were both nuns, led the "bear" to her room where she fed him sweets.  The police report claims that the both men became successively her lovers.  Another story involves an artist called "Descan" who was admitted by one of the pensionnaires, and had a high old time painting portraits of the prettier denizens of the convent.  This man is identifiable - he is Jean-Baptiste-Marc-Antoine Descamps, "Descamps fils" (1742-1836); there are a few surviving paintings and a Wikipedia article.

High jinks apart, the report gives a nuanced picture.  The pensionnaires, on which the abbey depended heavily for income, varied from middle aged widows and spinsters in retirement, to young women and even small children. Some are long-term inhabitants, some clearly girls of marriageable age awaiting spouses.  None seem to be from the wealthiest families. Some are quite sad cases.  There is a mother and daughter-in-law who have sought refuge from the violence of their son/husband.  There is a young epileptic whose mother is desperately seeking a husband for her. The writer Mlle de Basincourt and her book, can be found in  Histoire littéraire des femmes françoises, vol. 5 (1769)


Notes secrètes sur l'abbaïe de Longchamp en 1768  ed Désiré Lacroix (Paris 1870)

Gaston Duchesne, Histoire de l'abbaye royale de Longchamp /  (Paris 1905)

Secret notes on the abbey of Longchamp 1768

Lady pensionnaires 

Mlle TALBOT,  Irish, fifty-five years old, a relative of M. Dillon, Archbishop of Narbonne.  Mlle de Tirconel, her niece, married M. the marquis de Ventimille.  This lady has a charming character and lively disposition.  Her company is most agreeable, and her conversation is lightly witty and knowledgeable.  She has an attractive appearance and has always lived in high society.  She now lives in retirement whilst her affairs, which she has mismanaged, are put in order.

Mlle VIOU, a well-born lady from Lower Normandy, eighty years old,  has been a pensionnaire for thirty five years.  She is a lady who has always enjoyed pleasure and distraction.  Although she is so old, all the young women of the abbey, whether nuns or not, form a congregation  round her. She has such a jolly character that she inspires them with gaity and good humour.  She is known as the "life and soul" of Longchamp

Mme DAUBERQUE, a well-born woman from the Nirvernois, sixty years old.  Was for a long time the mistress of M. de Rocheguard, an officer of the guards.  She is a sad woman, but very charitable.

Mme  DE BUSSI-ANRION ("Henrion de Bussy") , the mother, fifty-five years old, from Bourgogne;  her late husband was governor of the Pages of the Royal Stables; she was educated at Longchamp.  She a charming and sociable  woman who lived for a long time at Court.  After the death of her husband, she retired to her estates in Bourgogne in order to bring up her only son, whom she supposed would be a consolation to her in old age.  Four years ago she married him to Mlle Dauberque;  but the character of the son has become so brutal and wild  that both mother and daughter-in-law were obliged to leave the chateau and seek refuge at Longchamp.

Mme de Bussi-Anrion, the daughter-in-law, maiden name Dauberque , thirty-six; not a very pretty woman.

Mlle DE KUVILLE, Englishwoman and convert, sixty years old;  she says she is noble; without fortune. M. Rousseau and Mme the Abbess of Panthemont pay her pension and keep.

Mlle DE LA CROPTE DE BOURSAC, twenty-four, niece of the late Bishop of Noron. Madame her mother searches everywhere for a husband for her, without success.  She is neither rich nor pretty;  she also suffers from fits which are probably a form of epilepsy. Since the death of M. de Noron, it would appear that Mme de Boursac has lived purely on charity from the Court.  It seems she keeps her daughter's whereabouts a secret, for no-one comes to visit her.  She has a maid in the convent called Chenneval, who is twenty-two and one of the prettiest creatures you could find; she has blond hair.

Mlle DE GRANGENEUVE, thirty-four years old, from Saint-Étienne-en-Forest, the daughter of a munitions clerk, poor.  She has not been able to pay her pension for a long time;  she owes the abbey 2,000 livres;  she is only able to remain thanks to the generosity of Mme de Bussy-Anrion.  She is a woman of good character, pretty, tall and well-built; brown hair.

Mlle LE CHAT DE LA CHEVALERIE, eighteen years old, a creole, very rich.  The estates of La Chevalerie are situated above Le Mans.  This young lady is of small build, but shapely; she carries herself well, with a noble air, full of grace and has a good skin.  Her face is so pretty that she could be a model for a miniaturist.  She dances and sings very well, and plays the violin like Baptiste.   She had an elder sister at the convent who recently got married.  The latter made trouble for her with Monsieur her father, who has given orders for her to be kept a close eye on.  It appears that her sister revealed an intrigue that she had with M. le vicomte de Rochechouart, who had been courting her for more than a year;  she had much more liberty then than now.  He father keeps her closely confined and refuses her all comforts.

 However her relative M. Desland, a musketeer, and an abbé friend of theirs, help her as much as possible;  dresses, fashionable costumes, poultry and game of all sorts.  It seems nonetheless that she lacks money since Audoir, the innkeeper at the Longchamp gate, gives her loans with interest.

Since these troubles, the young lady has been afflicted with attacks of the vapours.  To lessen them, she takes milk baths and sleeps at night with Mlle Aber,  who takes care to wake her if she has bad dreams.

Mlle ABER, twenty-two, daughter of a procureur of the Parlement.  She is a small person, ugly, with little wit but much determination;  she is bored to death at the convent.  She has two sisters, one married to a procureur, the other an Ursuline nun.  Their mother, who is a woman of pleasure, has disposed of her daughters to pursue her enjoyments without their prying eyes.

Mlle LIEGE, nineteen, daughter of the late Liege, apothecary near Saint-Roch, has two brothers;  the elder succeeded his father; the younger, who has a thousand ecus income, is a man about town. This young lady is tall, attractive, well-built, with a fine skin, white like snow, black hair and beautiful eyes, a cherry pie; her rounded face has a lively complexion, her teeth are perfect;  her dowry is 90,000 livres.  She likes to spend money and have her whims satisfied.

For eighteen months her lover was a pupil at the Academy of Painting called Descan, the son of a drawing master from the Academy of Rouen.  Mlle Liege is a close friend of Mlle de La Chevalerie; she introduced  her younger brother and  Descan, her lover,  to M. Deslandes the musketeer and their mutual friend the abbé.  This jolly troop took advantage of all the opportunities for pleasure that Longchamp has to offer.

1. The painter presented himself and offered to paint portraits; for eighteen months he was regularly allowed inside the convent to paint pretty  faces  and he didn't leave until ten o'clock at night.   He had a workshop in Mlle Liege's room.  He didn't lack sitters because he worked for nothing.   The most youthful and pretty,  nuns and pensionnaires alike, exercised his talents.

2. To vary the pleasures on offer, these gentlemen assembled in the grand parlour to perform comedies, to the great enjoyment of the nuns and pensionnaires.  I do not know how Mlle Liege found out that Descan was unfaithful to her; she sent him away and told him to mix his colours elsewhere.

Mlle CHEVALIER, fourteen, Parisian, pretty, tall and well-built, a bright blond with a pretty mouth, good voice and a lively mind.  She is the daughter of a clerk in the war office. Her father is the friend of M. de Chennevière.  She is at the convent to take her first communion.

Mlle DE BEAULIEU, not her real name, seventeen;  she is believed to be the natural daughter of M. Dangers, the farmer-general, and they say that her mother is a nun from the provinces.  She is small, but well-formed, with elegant features, beautiful brown hair, fiery eyes; good teeth and skin.  She has an impish wit.  If she has any fault, it is that she has big feet.

The sieur Maugis, a collector at the Saint-Jacques customs barrier, pays her pension and upkeep.  They say she is his goddaughter.  This young lady is not an intriguer, but she is very bored with the convent.   They want her to become a nun, but she is not having any of it.

Mlles GIRARD, three sisters, daughters of a Paris wood merchant, five, seven and nine years old.

Mlle DAUGON, five years old, niece of Printems.

Mlle LANGLOIS, a woman of rank, sixty years old, has lived at Longchamp for twenty years.

Mlle JULAT, forty years old, formerly a governess to well-born children.  She is woman of great merit and sense.  She is the niece of M. Bertin, a royal official.  This monsieur intends her to be a companion to Mme Bertin when she goes to the country.

Mlle FILLEUL, thirty, the convent organist, is as ugly as she is stupid.  She has three sisters who are all organists, one at Sainte-Périne de Chaillot, the other at Bon-Secours and the third at the convent of Montargis.

Mlle DE BASINCOURT, forty, a well-born woman from the Forest-de-Lions, near Gournay.  A woman of intelligence, a philosopher, who spends her time  writing.  She has just dedicated to the Queen a book entitled Education des jeunes demoiselles.

The Court has awarded her a pension of 150 livres.  She has asked for a position with Madame, the daughter of the Dauphin.  She is a close friend of  M. de Chennevière.  This lady is a very pretty brunette.

Nuns and pensionnaires from other houses

Mme DES ESSARTS, from Caen, seventy years old, a professed nun from the convent of Touci.  She has with her a lay sister, sister Saint-Maur, aged forty-two. 

Mme DE SAVARI, fify years old, sister of the Director of Water and Forestry in Rouen, Ursuline nun from the town of Rouen.  Mme the comtresse of Imbeck visits her often.

M(?me) de PALUO, sixty years old, from the Petites-Cordelières of the rue de Grenelle.  Lives with her niece the comtesse d'Érigny, aged fifty, affiliated for six years to Longchamp.

Mme LETELLIER, seventy-two, Cordelière from the  rue de Grenelle; has been at Longchamp for twenty-six years.

Sister CHARLOTTE, Bernadine, came from Panthemont three years ago, old and infirm.

Mme DE MONTBEL, thirty-three, Bernadine, niece of M. the Bishop of Soissons.  Has only been at Longchamp for three months.

Mme CHAUMONT, thirty-two, Bernadine from the abbey of Saint-Antoine;  very cute and pretty.  She has been at Longchamp for twelve days.  Her family are very rich cloth merchants.

Nuns of Longchamp who have intrigues

Mmes DE BEDELLES, two sisters, forty and twenty five, the daughters of sieur Bedelles, formerly a dyer at the Gobelin tapestry works.  They are much sought after by young men.

They tell a jolly story about the older sister.  She had a lover called Julien who was a mason from Suresnes.  His immediately predecessor was sieur Signi, the clerk of M. de Boulogne, receveur-général des finances.  This Signi was a friend of Julien; he wanted ardently to get into the convent;  to do so they devised the following stratagem.

Signi dressed up as a bear and wore a muzzle.  Julien disguised himself as the handler and, leading the bear by an iron chain, presented himself at the gate of the Abbey. He offered to show the ladies of the convent the bear, which he said was remarkable for its gentleness and the tricks it performed.  Their curiosity was excited. They allowed the bear and its master into the convent. They were taken to the Refectory.  Here the bear demonstrated his abilities and tricks.

The community were charmed.  Julien boasted of the animal's gentleness.
Mme Bedelles, the elder, immediately carressed it, seized it by the chain and began walking it round the house and the dormitories, finally allowing it into her room where she gave it bonbons.....

Mme Bedelles, the younger, is said to have as a lover one of the clerks in M. the duc de Choiseul's office.  She got to know him when she lived at M .de Chennevière's house at Versailles.

Mmes BERTAULT, two sisters, nuns, also pass for being galantes.

The whole  convent is divided into seven or eight coteries that are interested only in enjoying themselves and making merry.

The house is deeply in debt and is beginning to have trouble finding further credit.

The tower of Longchamp in the mid-19th century
 - all that now rests of the convent

Monday 18 January 2016

Bronze urns from Bagatelle

Lanhydrock -  urn in situ
These splendid - and well-travelled -  Baroque bronze garden urns, which now adorn the National Trust gardens at Lanhydrock in Cornwall, are modelled from the 17th century originals cast by Claude Ballin II (1661-1754) for Versailles.  The ten urns hail originally from the Château de Bagatelle.  The Marquess of Hertford, who owned Bagatelle in the mid 19th-century, bequeathed them to his son Sir Richard Wallace (of "Wallace Collection" fame) and he in turn left them to his secretary Sir John Murray Scott.  At one point they resided at Nether Swell Manor in Gloucestershire, but they were bought in the 1930s by Lord Clifden, the owner of Lanhydrock.  There is some question that they may date back to the time of the comte d'Artois in the late 18th century;  but sadly no.  The well-informed Cornwell Gardens Trust website confirms that Lord Hertford had them cast from the surviving originals by permission of Napoleon III, and that they bear the mark of the prolific 19th-century maître de forges Antoine Durenne (1822-95).

Friday 15 January 2016

The promenade de Longchamp

"Longchamp sous Louis XIV" .From L'Illustration, Journal Universel, 30 April 1859

The "Promenade of Longchamp" was an important annual event in the social calendar of pre-Revolutionary Paris.  In the 1760s it had become fashionable to drive out through the Bois-de-Bologne during Holy Week to hear the office of Tenebrae sung by the nuns of the abbey of Longchamp - especially so, when the nuns misguidedly fortified  their choir with singers from the Paris opera.  So great was the crowd that many Parisians drove their carriages to the abbey and back to the capital without being able to attend a service.  Archbishop de Beaumont tried to stop the indecent behaviour of the congregation by allowing only nuns to sing, but it was too late; by that time the "promenade de Longchamp" had become firmly established as part of the social season - the more attractive since, with the theatres in Paris closed, high society had little better to do. Participants competed unashamedly for the greatest  magnificence in carriages and livery.  As Professor McManners pointed out, despite gulf between rich and poor, the spectacle encouraged a certain social solidarity: "the irreligious ostentation of the great provided a celebration of revolt for everyone" (McManners, Church & Society in Eighteenth-century France, vol.1, p.87).  While the rich vied in their splendour, spectators lined the way; the police turned out in force,  the city watch lining the streets out to the Porte Maillot and the maréchaussée patrolling the woods beyond.

The most brazen contestants of all were the filles entretenues of court nobles and financiers, who flouted social convention with their provocative displays of ill-gotten wealth.  Mlle Guimard the dancer, "la belle Damnée", stole the show in 1768 with an invented coat-of-arms painted on the doors of her carriage -  the figures that supported it were said to have been painted by Boucher himself.  In 1774 two dancers vied with each other in splendid six-horse carriages. The following year one of them, Mlle Duthé, adorned her horses with a blue morocco leather and polished steel, only to find herself set upon by a hostile crowd.  In 1780 the daughter of the duchesse de Mazarin was upstaged by a common dancer, both of them in sumptuous porcelain carriages;  the next year the dancer had the duc de Chartres riding alongside in attendance. According to Bachaumont,  in 1787, on the eve of Revolution, Mlle Rozalie of the Comédie-Italienne behaved so badly that she found herself temporarily holding court in the prison of Fort l'Évêque (Bachaumont, Mémoires secrets, vol.18,  30th April 1787).  The Archbishop tried in vain to close the route into the Bois de Bologne.  The promenade did not, of course, long survive the Revolution and, although revived in the 19th century, never again recovered its pre-Revolutionary splendour.


 Louis-Sébastien Mercier, Tableau de Paris,1782. chpt 122
On the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of Holy Week, everyone leaves town on the excuse of hearing the office of Tenebrae at Longchamp, a little village four miles from Paris.  The real reason is to compete with one another for the most magnificent carriage, the most dashing horses, the most beautiful livery.

Women bedecked in precious jewels  come to be seen; for the whole existence of a Parisian woman revolves around being noticed.  All sorts and conditions of society can be seen in the line of carriage driving back and forth along the dusty or muddy alleys of the Bois de Boulogne.

The courtesan can be easily recognised by the luxury of her equipage;  one even had her horses' harnesses set with diamonds.  Princes show off the latest inventions of the saddler's art, and even sometimes take the reins themselves.  Men on horseback and on foot, jostled around in the crowd, eye up the women. Ordinary people drink and get drunk; the church is deserted, the cabarets full; and this is how we lament the passion of Christ.

In former times people went to Longchamp because of the music.  The Archbishop imagined that, by forbidding it, he was going to put a stop to the promenade; he was mistaken.  The faithful promeneurs still crossed the Bois de Bologne to the doors of the church, but didn't enter.  When Spring comes, when the West wind blows, the sky is blue and the leaves are green, it is the time to greet Nature in her own temple and to thank her for remembering us  once more.

Women are not the chief attraction; the carriages and horses are the most important spectacles.  Dilapidated fiacres serve to set off new and elegant conveyances.  Modern carriages are better designed and more beautiful than the heavily decorated coaches of old.  They are lighter in every way and go much faster.

The working man comes out on these days, puts on his Sunday best, and mingles with the crowd, watching the pretty women; but he can be recognised by his dirty and calloused hands.

Whilst some people walk around, breathing the clean fresh Spring, others go to Church  to hear the jeremiads which break the monotony of the long sad service.  It all ends with a kind of wild uproar.  It is a time schoolboys look forward to.

Baron de Frénilly, Souvenirs ed. A. Chuquet (Paris, 1909) p.28-9.
I have seen Longchamp in its greatest brilliance.  Two rows of carriages departed from the front of the Place Louis XV, two more returned likewise from the extremity of the Bois de Bologne....A fiacre was not to be seen; a hired coach would have been whistled at, and there was some disdain for a coach and four, which revealed the lower ranks of the law or finance, by the vanity of baving more than two horses and the impossibility of having six.  At Longchamp, the height of bon ton, in effect,
was to have two horses or six, and only on the Wednesday and the Friday, for the importance of being either first or last is one of those caprices of fashion that can be well explained by vanity....

Account translated from L'Illustration, journal universel vol.1 (1843)
It was at the beginning of the reign of Louis XV that excursions to the abbey became a regular event.  A celebrated singer, mademoiselle Le Maure, left the theatre in 1737, to the great sorrow of the public, which always bitterly regrets those who decide to abandon it.  But singing was her life; she could not bring herself to give it up completely; tired of intoning the loves of Armide or Alceste, she filled the vaults of Longchamp with her soaring notes.  The nuns took lessons from the actress; their lugubrious psalmody became an angelic chorus and all Paris rushed to hear them sing Tenebrae during Holy Week.  The Abbess, astonished by this success, set out in quest of good voices, and invited the choruses of the Opera to take part. The dryads of the Triomphe de l'Amour, the infernal divinities of Persée, intoned, with the virgins of the Lord, quare fremuerunt gentes, or miserere mei, Deus.  Parisians thought they were at the theatre.  They beseiged the doors, they piled into the nave, clambered into the galeries, stood on chairs, on tombs, on the altars in the chapels.  For several years, there was a terrible commotion, an avalanche of noisy visitors; the little church was invaded by city society. Finally, curiosity-seekers who arrived on the Wednesday of Holy Week found that the gates of Longchamp had been closed by order of M. de Beaumont, the Archbishop of Paris.  The annual pilgrimage continued nevertheless.  This was the start of the promenades, a public festival of Spring,  in honour of the sun and la toilette, of new leaves and new fashions, of the return of beautiful days and pretty women.  Obliged to forgo the canticles of Longchamp,  it now paid hommage to the Reviver of Nature after the winter.

...Between 1750 and 1760 Longchamp reached its apogee.  It became a great ceremonial occasion: grand seigneurs, diplomats, public officials and Farmer-Generals vied with each other in luxury and elegance.  In Naples or Madrid, for the sake of piety, the king himself would not have dared to show himself in a carriage during Holy Week; in Paris, however, the aristocracy prepared for weeks in advance their most sumptuous equipages.  Modest bourgeois, who would normally travel on foot, abandoned their custom for three days.  Calashes, fiacres, cabriolets, coaches, horses,  sedan chairs, vinaigrettes, any vehicle that was available was requisitioned.  From the Wednesday of Holy Week a chaotic crowd encumbered the roads around the  Champs-Elysée and the Bois de Boulogne.  Actresses came to claim the applause that they had been derived by the Easter closure of the theatres.  Women of ill-repute showed themselves resplendent in diamonds which adorned them without eclipsing their splendour.  Journalists, pamphleteers, social commentators, never failed to turn up, and the numerous documents allow us to trace the saga of Longchamp almost year by year.

The promenade of March 1768 was favoured by beautiful weather and warmth:  "Princes, the good and great of the Kingdom", say contemporary accounts, "appeared with the best-designed, most magnificent carriages"  The heroine of the fete was the dancer Guimard, whom Marmontel had nicknamed "la bellee damnée". She appeared in "a carriage of exquisite elegance", on the panels of which, to rival the great ladies, she had had painted a coat-of-arms. The shield featured a gold coin with a parasitic sprig of mistletoe  growing from it; it was supported by Graces and surmounted by Cherubs. The coat-of-arms proclaimed her shamefully acquired money; but in this reign licence was too common to cause affront; the impudence of her admission was forgotten and no-one thought of anything but the cleverness of the conceit.

Several years later, in April 1774, the singer Duthé succeeded Mademoiselle Guimard in the role of "fashionable beauty".  The golden and glazed carriage,  pulled by six no less superb fringed horses, did not belong, as one would suppose, to a princess of royal blood; it carried la Duthé. On the Wednesday and Thursday of Holy Week she excited admiration; she believed herself without rival; but on the third day another carriage, no less gilded, pulled by six no less superb horses, galloped alongside hers.  Who was it who challenged her carriage for carriage, who held up their striking features against the commonplace beauty of la Duthé?  It was an obscure pupil of Aubinot, a dancer's double from the Opera, the demoiselle Cléophile, who had acquired a sudden opulence thanks to the protection of the comte d'Aranda.

The following year, la Duthé suffered the full fickleness of the public. As soon as her carriage entered into line, threatening groups surrounded it; hoots, whistles, shouts of indignation, assailed her with such force that she was obliged to withdraw.  Vague rumours, perhaps unjust, had provoked this explosion of displeasure. The comte d'Artois, who had been married for two years to Maria-Theresa of Savoy, often travelled incognito from Versailles to Paris.  He was bored with the biscuit of Savoy  said M de Bievre, and came to Paris to take tea;  the Parisians, who normally had few scruples, took the side of the abandoned comtesse.

The crowds of actresses and women of easy virtue made Longchamp so scandalous a spectacle that the Archbishop of Paris, who had unsuccessfully hampered it in the beginning, now tried to stop its progress. In 1776 he attempted to have the Minister close the gates to the Bois de Bologne during Holy Week, out of respect for the Jubilee year.   But his demands failed and the promenade took place as usual.

The tragedienne Raucourt, the prima dona of the Longchamp of 1777, almost didn't make it. On the 29th  March, resplendant and proud as though she was playing Roxane, she got ready  to get into her carriage.  You are thinking of going to Longchamp, madame; you are eagar to make a good impression and shine; but you have counted without your creditors.  You haven't noticed them waiting in ambush around your town house; here they are, they surround you, they take hold of your person, they invite you politely to sleep at the Fort l'Evque.  Fortunately for you, a generous - though not disinterested- man sacrifies several thousand louis, so that you can collect the ovation that awaits you.

The Longchamp of 1780 was one of the most brilliant, despite the intensity of the cold.  The linke of carriages stretched without interruption from the Place Louis XV to the porte Maillot, between two lines of soldiers of the watch.  The carriages circulated more freely in the Bois de Bolognes which was guarded only by the marechaussee.  Outstanding among the marvels were two carriages made of porcelain.  The first, occupied by the duchesse de Valentinois, was pulled by four dapple-grey horses with crimson silk harnesses embroidered with silver.  The second belonged to an "impure", mademoiselle Beaupré.  It reappeared the next year with a Prince of the Blood, the duc de Chartres, as an outrider, which, said Bachaumont, "did not increase his standing in public esteem".

In spite of the presence of Monsieur, of the comte and comtesse of Artois, and the duc and the duchesse of Bourbon, the Longchamp of 1781 was a sad one.  For several years, there had been a progressive reduction in the number and extravagance of the carriages, although costumes had reached a degree of extravagance that would have added splendour to a display of fashion  anywhere in the world....Massive carriages had been replaced by cabriolets imported from England, wiskys or garricks, light vehicles, but of a prodigious height, so that people seeing them pass would say, "There go people who want to light the street lamps"...The remarkable beauties of 1786 were the demoiselles Adelaie and Deschamps, both from the Comédie Italienne.  The first had received from M. de Weymeranges, intendant of the post a present of a thousand louis for her Longchamp.

The Revolution suspended Longchamp.  How could it have been otherwise?  Horses were commandeered for service in fourteen armies and blood flowed on the former Place Louis XV......

An important modification introduced in the Longchamp of 1787 temporarily restored its original brilliance. They abandoned the uneven and sandy route from the abbey and adopted the road that went from La Muette to Madrid.  Bachaumont reported that people couldn't recall in a long time such a crowd of people, so many beautiful and bizarre carriages;  the wiskys stood out particularly. Many of the young bloods and women acquired  themselves a different vehicle  for each day  One particularly bizarre and galant wisky excited comment.  This wisky was surmounted by a figure of Folly with its sceptre; inside were four marionettes, two of each sex, waving to the right and to the left without cease; all this was drawn by an prettily harnessed donkey, with a jockey steering the animal.   On the side of the carriage could be read:  Where do I  come from?  Where am I going? Where am I?  They called it the parody of Longchamp, since it seemed to be offered as a criticism.  Whatever the case, these events pleased the marquis de Villette, who is said today to have been the creator.
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