Monday, September 5, 2016

3 Sites to see in #Paris if you love #Georgian and #Regency #romance!

We authors of historical romances love to do our research in those locations that bring the period and the people to life. Most often for Regency or Georgian Romance authors and readers, we travel around England, Scotland or Ireland.

But Paris has much to offer too for someone who wants to soak up the atmosphere of the period when Prince of Wales was Regent and Britain was at war with Napoleon. What could those places be?

Entrance to Malmaison
Part of Josephine's toilette.
First, I offer up the delights of Josephine's home south of Paris in the current suburbs. Malmaison (available by the Metro) is a term that really derives from the terms meaning "bad house' from the period when the Vikings raided through here and destroyed all in their path. The house, built a few decades before the Bonapartes purchased it, is a jewel of perfection of this period. Surrounded by
The back of Josephine's salon.
Josephine's rose gardens and the rest of her beautifully landscaped lawns, the house is lovingingly maintained today by the State. Most of the decor and the furnishings are original to the period if not the house per se and the audio tour (which you must take!) describes the uses Josephine put to the house. The card room, for example, is a small—very small—room, almost a closet. But the empress loved it for its intimacy and warmth. The salon which still holds her harp and her pianoforte contains much of her private art collection as well as furniture. You can almost see the dignitaries conversing, drinking tea or wine, remarking on the politics of the day. Her bedroom where she died is quite stunning in its rich canopy. Most alluring is her toilette, small, the walls swathed in cotton and linens to increase the warmth. Often when she bathed and dressed, Josephine took three hours!
Napoleon's private bedchamber.

A visit to the Cathedral of Saint Denis on the northern tip of Paris (and available by the Metro) is a trip to acquaint you with the horrors of the French Revolution and the Terror, the counter influence on the British mindset during the wars of that period.  Saint Denis is the church in which most of the kings and queens of France and their children are buried.  I say most of them because many are indeed buried elsewhere. However, once you've entered and admired this church, the first gothic cathedral in France and its architecture, and once you've admired the enormous number of sarcophagi of various French monarchs and their families, a visit to the crypt is what you're really after. Here you will find the plaque on the wall which is all that remains of that noted monarch, Louis XIV. It is ironic to find his burial place in such a barren place. But walk further into the center of the crypt and here you see only a huge flat black granite stone covering a very deep pit. This is the marker for the burial plot of those aristocrats of the ancien regime who died by the guillotine during the Revolution and most numerously the Terror. Their bones were collected from various churchyards and from the Conciergerie (on the Isle de France) where they were interred after execution. This tragedy of their deaths by violent means is the very horror that outraged the British, many of whom were their relatives. This slaughter of the nobility is what the British sought to avoid for themselves. While they spent significant national treasure attempting to defeat the various regimes that succeeded the Bourbons, including the emperor Napoleon, they were attempting to ensure not only their own survival, the continuance of their economic system, but also their naval power around the world.
The dining room in Malmaison

Chantilly lies north of Compiegne, and to get here you must buy a train ticket for roughly $11.00 at Gare du Nord to travel beyond the Metro line. But you will adore the easy walk from the train station (1.5 miles) and the ambiance of the forest and the town. The first owners of the chateau were the Montmorency family of soldiers and diplomats. Rising to prominence during the reign of Francis I, Anne du Montmorency ( a man) made his name serving the king. Later, cousins to the Bourbon monarchs, the Princes Conde became owners of the chateau. With landscape designed by the famous gardener Andre Le Notre, the grounds are sumptuous in the Baroque manner. Even the stables are lavish in their appointments. What is notable here are the decor and furnishings much of which dates from the Bourbon Restoration of 1815 when the nephew of the newly restored Louis XVIII and his brother Charles X was granted the property. There his descendants remained until the 1880s when they could not longer pay the taxes and turned the building over to the government.
Louis XIV plaque in crypt of Saint Denis
Life size gisants of praying Louis XVI and his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette in chapel of Saint Denis

Chateau Chantilly: View of the stable block and riding academy.

Walter view of Chantilly

Salon with murals commemorating the Fronde led by the Grand Conde.

A portion of the music room with harp.
+N.B. All the photographs are mine.

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