Friday, May 30, 2014

Dirty Race Track Money

There's not a single Eighteenth Century horse race image among the 18,000 pictures on my computer nor could I find one online.  So, Le Marché aux Chevaux (The Horse Market by Rosa Bonheur) will have to represent the horse racing craze that overtook the French aristocracy during Marie Antoinette's, let's call it, "flighty," phase.  (That word choice would play better were I writing about the hot air balloon craze that took flight during the Louis XVI's reign. Oh, the possibilities...  I could use "rein" instead of "reign" to link back to the horse theme!)   The governments of France and England weren't particularly friendly, but the men and women of their respective courts didn't let politics stand in the way of a good time and mixed pretty freely. The French were quite caught up with adopting English trends, and past times including horse racing.  I'll let the Austrian Ambassador, Comte de Mercy-Argenteau, describe the race track scene.  He did not approve.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Louis XVI Coronation Coach

In July 1775, newly crowned King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette paused, en route from the coronation in Reims to their Chateau de Versailles, to accept praise, in verse, from an outstanding teenage student named Maximilien Robespeirre.  Robespierre, on bended in knee, in the rain, no less, was rewarded with what was reported to be less than positive feedback from the King and Queen.  It seems that the royal couple appeared to endure the moment rather than revel in it or show any appreciation for it.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Our stay at Society of the Cincinnati's Anderson House

In March, only days after my father's passing, family members attended a reception and book event for the recently released book, Defiant, by Alvin Townley, at the Capital.  It was a bittersweet to be there, honoring my father and the other ten Alcatraz prisoners, subjects of the book,  so close to the time that we lost him.  Ultimately, it was a gratifying experience, given the association and fellowship with the other POWs and their families as well as members of Congress and well-wishers.  

While in Washington, Micah and I were guests of my brother, Michael, at the Society of the Cincinatti's Anderson House.   Michael smooths the way, takes care of everything, to such an extent that I seriously congratulated myself for pitching in and helping when I reached my hand out to open the elevator door all by myself.

Bataille de Yorktown by Louis-Charles Auguste Couder

The original of this painting, depicting Rochambeau, pointing, and Washington, to his left, giving their final orders before the battle of Yorktown, hangs in Versailles.  The man over the shoulders of the two commanders is Lafayette and the one on horseback is believed to be the duc de Lauzun.  It was of these men, and their fellow officers, that the Society of the Cincinnati was born.  Lauzun, Lafayette and others carried the ideals of the American Revolution back to France and threw them into the brewing cauldron with others' less altruistic motives, and the many problems of Eighteenth Century France, and produced a far different Revolution than that of the Americans.

It is of their descendants that today's Society of the Cincinnati is composed.  

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Anderson House and Its Connection to Axel Fersen

I so love when American and French history intersect.

Michael is a member of the Society of the Cincinnati.  As such, he's cordially welcomed, as the inscription states, to stay overnight at the Society's headquarters, Anderson House, in Washington, D.C..  He was kind enough to invite Micah and me to stay there with him the night we attended the Defiant reception.

Mansion, Museum, Library - If only there were rumors of roaming spirits

After the inspiring Defiant reception, the tour of the House floor, the sharing of stories, laughter and a few tears at the Monocle afterwards, Micah, Michael and I  crept back in to Anderson House at about two in the morning.  We seemed to be completely alone in the mansion/museum although the next day we did catch a glimpse of another Society member and his family.  Somehow, in our search for ice (maybe we deliberately went the long way to the kitchen), we managed to set off the burglar alarm.  An automated voice blared, "Burglar!  Burglar!" over and over, inside and outside of the building, with alternating rounds of a whirling siren as we scurried back to our suite in bare feet and pajamas.  With hopes of someday returning to Anderson House, it's best to adopt "the less said the better" policy here.  Mercifully, the full story doesn't include an arrest.

Reminiscent of Jacques-Louis David's The Coronation of Napoleon

These were my two favorite paintings.  There's a glare on the center section of the one of the procession, but I wanted to show its placement and size.  I found the detailed view of that section on the internet.  Lovely, shimmery fabric on the gowns.

Of course he did

Never too far from my trusty phone, I was able to groggily hoist it up in time to snap a picture of Michael as he delivered my coffee to me in bed, before striding from the room to save the world.