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Adrienne de Noailles: Wife of Lafayette

Stew’s Introduction

I’m very excited to have Geri Walton as our guest blogger today. Geri is an accomplished history author specializing in an era that corresponds to the English Georgian Era (more on that later). Her blog title concerns a woman who led an extraordinary life and was witness to some of the world’s leading events. It is also about a woman whose passion for her husband likely resulted in her untimely demise. Her subject, the surrounding events, and Picpus Cemetery occupied several pages of my two-volume series on the French Revolution (Where Did They Put the Guillotine? A Walking Tour of Revolutionary Paris). Lafayette lived a long life and frankly, I’m amazed he never lost his head during the Revolution. Neither side (monarchy or revolutionaries) really liked him. Geri mentions Picpus Cemetery in her opening paragraph. It is my favorite Paris cemetery and only one of two privately owned cemeteries located in the city.

Meet Adrienne de Noailles and Her Family

Presumed portrait of the Marquise de Lafayette. Oil painting by anonymous (c. 1790). National Museum of Women in the Arts. PD-100+ Wikimedia Commons.
Presumed portrait of the Marquise de Lafayette. Oil painting by anonymous (c. 1790). National Museum of Women in the Arts. PD-100+ Wikimedia Commons.

One of the most interesting people buried at France’s Picpus Cemetery is Adrienne de Noailles (1759–1807), wife of the famous American Revolutionary War hero known simply as Lafayette (1757–1834). Adrienne was 14 years old when she married him. She was introduced to Lafayette through her father, a French nobleman named Jean de Noailles, Duke of Ayen.

Adrienne’s mother was Henriette Anne Louise d’Aguesseau. Henriette’s father sent her to a convent to be educated because her mother died shortly after she was born. At the convent, Henriette enjoyed reading and gardening and acquired superb mothering skills that resulted in her devoting her life to the betterment of Adrienne and her other children.

When Adrienne was not under the care of her loving mother, she and her older sister, Anne Jeanne Baptiste Louise (known as Louise), were instructed by a governess named Mademoiselle Marin. They studied geography, grammar, history and learned the “Catéchisme de Montpellier” by rote. Marin was “a little person, dry, thin, blond, pinched, susceptible, devoted to her duties and fulfilling them admirably” and doing so despite Louise and Adrienne’s constant teasing. Read More Adrienne de Noailles: Wife of Lafayette

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La Révolution Français – The Economics of Eating Cake

Stew’s Introduction

I’m very pleased to have Mark Vaughan as our guest blogger today. Mark’s blog is about the economics of the French Revolution and I hope you connect the tag line to Marie Antoinette and her misquoted, “Let them eat cake.” Mark is a Ph.D. economist and was recently asked to put together a seminar on the economics of the French Revolution. I thought an abbreviated discussion might be interesting as this topic is rarely (if ever) discussed in the history books. While we knew the crops failed and France was on the verge of bankruptcy at the time, little do we understand the country’s overall economy and the direct effect it had on the Revolutionaries. More on Mark and how we met a little later on.

Marie Antoinette in the prison Conciergerie. Oil painting by Alexander Kucharsky (1793). Palace of Versailles. PD-100+. Wikimedia Commons.
Marie Antoinette in the prison Conciergerie. Oil painting by Alexander Kucharsky (1793). Palace of Versailles. PD-100+. Wikimedia Commons.

The French Revolution fascinates because of the fascinating characters and headline events.  Thanks to Stew, anyone can stand in the exact spot where a shivering, prematurely gray widow, apologized to her executioner for stepping on his foot.  But what if something more pedestrian than Marie Antoinette and the guillotine drove events?

Around the Revolution’s bicentennial, economists began applying their craft to late 18th century France.  This research suggests basic economic principles explain much of the Revolution’s dynamics – principles like governments must pay their bills, politicians respond to interest groups, printing money causes inflation, and price controls produce shortages. Read More La Révolution Français – The Economics of Eating Cake