Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Last days of Roland

Portrait by Bonneville. Musée des beaux-arts, Lyon
File:Roland de la Platière.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Yet another sorry end from the annals of the Revolution......

At the end of January 1793, three days after the execution of Louis XVI, Jean-Marie Roland de la Platière resigned his post as Minister of the Interior.  For four months he managed to lived quietly with his wife in the rue de la Harpe.  On 31st May 1793, his arrest was ordered.  He immediately slipped out of the house and took refuge with his friend the naturalist Louis-Augustin Bosc in the rue des Prouvaires.  Manon Roland, having petitioned energetically on his behalf,  was arrested at one o'clock the following morning. 

In the forêt de Montmorency

Roland remained hidden with Bosc throughout 1st June.  On the 2nd the whole of Paris was in arms, the bells sounded their alarm, patrols were out in the streets.  With all eyes  focused on the Convention,  Roland and Bosc left Paris unchallenged and reached the forêt de Montmorency where Bosc owned a country retreat, the former Priory of Sainte-Radegonde where he would go to botanise.

Saturday, 20 March 2021

The last days of Condorcet

Of all the many personal tragedies of the Revolutionary epoch, none seems more poignant than the death of Condorcet, the great exponent of human progress, alone in his prison cell.  The nature of his death remains uncertain;  did he attempt to take charge of his fate by an act of suicide or did he merely succumb, more mundanely but mercifully, to a medical condition - a heart attack or a stroke?  Here are a few notes on the lead up to Condorcet's arrest, and what is know of his final end.

In the rue Servandoni - With Mme de Vernet

On 8th July 1793 Condorcet's arrest was decreed by the Convention and his possessions seized.  A few days later, his name appeared with those of Brissot, Valazé,  Gensonné and Vergniaud, on the list of Girondin deputies condemned to death for conspiracy against the Republic. Condorcet now published an open letter, justifying his flight from "tyranny".  He immediately left his house at 505 rue de Lille and fled first to Auteuil, where he had a pied-à-terre at no.2 Grande-Rue.  The doctors Pinel and Boyer, friends of Cabanis and of Félix Vicq d'Azir managed to find  him refuge in Paris with a widow, Mme de Vernet, at 21 rue des Fossoyeurs, now 15 rue Servandoni.  

Although they were not previously acquainted, Mme de Vernet, with considerable generosity of spirit, sheltered and provided for him.  For the next eight months he lived quietly, dividing his days between working, reading and the society of the household.  His wife, who at this time made ends meet by portrait-painting, was able to visit him once or twice a week; she came on foot from Auteuil, disguised as a peasant and would mingle with the crowds from the guillotine so as not to be noticed. He was also able to receive  a few intimate friends - Cabanis, Diannyère, Cardot.  Mme de Vernet's lodger, Marcoz, who was deputy for Mont-Blanc, furnished him with books (he devoured "an enormous quantity of novels"), newspapers and news from the Convention. At the end of October, unsurprisingly, he was thrown into a state of considerable agitation by the execution of his fellow Girondists.

Sunday, 14 March 2021

The Brits and the War in the Vendée

 Radio 4 Things We Forgot to Remember - The French Revolution 

Here is a radio programme from the archives that still makes interesting listening.

In this series of half-hour  broadcasts, produced by the BBC in conjunction with the Open University,  Michael Portillo "revisits the great moments of history to discover that they often conceal other events of equal but forgotten importance". Portillo isn't quite the UK's answer to Franck Ferrand, but he is definitely more appealing as a presenter than he ever was as a politician.

The episode on the French Revolution, which dates from 2007,  did indeed venture onto new territory, at least for Anglo-Saxon listeners, in that it centred on the War in the Vendée.  It features the English academics, William Doyle and Alan Forrest, plus a notable contribution from Jean-Clément Martin who gets his points across admirably in heavily-accented English.

Friday, 12 March 2021

Jean-Clément Martin: The Terror as "fake news"

The following is a translation/summary of an interview with Jean-Clément Martin on the theme of "the Terror", which was published in the magazine Historiens et Géographes in May 2019.

The intention of the interviews in this series is to allow historians to present their ideas in a straightforward fashion for the benefit of school teachers who need to cover the material in their classes.  As such, it gives J.-C. M. a good opportunity to summarise his highly controversial views on the Terror in a relatively abridged form. 

Most references are to J.-C.M's book Les échos de la Terreur which was published in September 2018.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Philippe Charlier on Robespierre and Marat

Here are some notes from a TV documentary broadcast on 15th February on France 5 in which Philippe Charlier outline his latest researches into the "sick men of the Revolution", Robespierre and Marat.

This is one of those documentary with an irritatingly long preamble.  Philippe Charlier introduces his work as a  forensic pathologist and anthropologist.  Historians Serge Bianchi, Olivier Coquard and Patrice Gueniffey outline biographies of Robespierre and Marat, with the aid of some, admittedly well put-together, dramatic tableaux.

Saturday, 6 March 2021

Memoir of the Revolution (cont.)

We now come to 1793, the year of the Terror.  Morice mentions the assassination of Le Pelletier de Saint-Fargeau on the eve of the King's execution, in January 1793.  He personally had visited Le Pelletier in the place Vendôme on several occasions on legal business and recalled some disturbing ornaments in his reception room - a huge jewel on the chimney breast and, in lieu of a mantle clock, a glass dome housing a miniature guillotine with all its accessories.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

A Memoir of the Revolution

I came across the memoirs of J-G-P Morice when I was looking for material on the section of the  Bonnet-Rouge  -  reading more, I became totally engrossed.  This seemed to me a source worth sharing.  Extracts from the text were published in the Revue des questions historiques in 1892 but, as far as I can tell, it has never been produced in a modern edition.  There is certainly no English translation, so here is my version, translated (fairly loosely) from the 1892 article.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Gabriel's "clubbists"

Here is a set of fifteen sketches by Georges-François-Marie Gabriel, from the Carnavalet, said to represent "clubbists" from the Revolutionary era.  They were shown to the Friends of the Carnavalet as new acquisitions in 2010, but I can't find out any more details.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Gabriel: Revolutionary caricatures


The musée Carnavalet possesses a striking series of small portraits of famous Revolutionaries, the work of the miniaturist and illustrator Georges-François-Marie Gabriel (1775-1865).  There are thirteen in total, each measuring about 10 cm by 7 cm.
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