In a country with thousands of beautiful châteaux, it’s easy to imagine that any could simply be lost to history. War, weather, revolutions and natural disasters have all taken their toll on the built landscape. But lost royal châteaux? Today we can still visit many of the many palaces and châteaux which have harboured the French kings and queens over the past thousand years. Others have been razed to the ground, and only in our imagination can we glimpse the pomp and glamour of royal life.
In the grounds of the Petit Trianon, the beloved neoclassical villa of Marie Antoinette, sits one of her follies – le Temple de l’Amour, or Temple of Love. Each morning, as she rose from her luxurious bed and glanced out the window, the sight of its elegant Greek-style cupola filled her heart with joy. Marie Antoinette may have loved jewels and fabulous new dresses, and knew how to party, but she also craved the peace and solitude which was completely lacking in the ornate and formal world of the Palace of Versailles. This, she found in the gardens of her Petit Trianon, in her Temple dedicated to Love.
The supposed heroes of the French Revolution are names embedded in history – the evil Robespierre, the brave Lafayette, the tragic Jean-Paul Marat. But what of the women of France? They were not idly sitting at home with their embroidery waiting for an end to the chaos: they picked up their pikes and stormed the […]
Should you go looking for the prison cell in which Marie-Antoinette spent her last few months, it no longer exists. Imprisoned in the former medieval fortress of the Conciergerie on the Quai d’Horloge in the centre of Paris before her ‘trial’ and death, the dank and dark cell in which she rested, alone, unable even to kiss her children goodbye, was later turned into a memorial. The death of Marie-Antoinette by the sharp blade of the guillotine may have been quick, but her death sentence began well before.
Classical and elegant, yet bold and brilliant, the city of Bordeaux has something for everyone. If you love wine, it’s among the best in the world. If you love food, there is foie gras and canelés. If you love history, Bordeaux is a potent mix of the medieval, the Renaissance and the modern. In fact, walk around the city and you’ll find almost half of it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. For those of you like me who adore their history, here are the best things to do and see in Bordeaux.
Take yourself back to the markets of Les Halles, Paris, exactly 231 years ago, and join the women who will march on Versailles. These women were wives and mothers and tired of endlessly waiting in line for bread for their families. They took whatever weapon they could get their hands on, found a spare cannon […]
The evil and wicked Catherine de Medici was a Queen consort, a Queen regent, and the mother to three French kings. Her reputation through the ages is one of a diabolical woman who strove for power, sacrificing her children, her country and her principles. History tells us she
There are some places you visit as a tourist which fill you with sadness and despair at the atrocities committed by men. Oradour-sur-Glane is one of these places. Once a peaceful village in the countryside, in 1944 it was changed forever after one of the most barbarous acts by German soldiers in France in World War II – a massacre in which 642 men, women and children were shot or burnt to death in the local church.
I met my lovely French husband whilst on a backpacking holiday. It was a coup de foudre, a bolt of lightning; we fell in love in 3 days. When I returned home after my trip, this is how I broke the news to my friends: “I’ve met someone”. “Ooh”. “He’s French”. “Ooh la la!” French […]
Sophie Blanchard was destined to become an aéronaute. As a little one safely ensconced in her mother’s womb, a stranger passed through her tiny village in 1778 and happened to enter into conversation with her mother. He told her that if her baby was a girl, he would return sometime to marry her. Obviously one […]
The Reign of Terror was exactly as it sounds – terrifying. Whilst the French Revolution in 1789 was generally fairly violent, the part of it which was the Reign of Terror was horrifyingly so. If you were of the aristocracy, if you were of the pre-Revolution parliament, a collector of taxes, or basically anyone who […]