The Momentous Flight to Varennes


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Louis XVI and his family, dressed as bourgeois, arrested in Varennes. Picture by Thomas Falcon Marshall (1854)

Flight to Varennes

During the night of 20–21 June 1791, French King Louis XVI (1754 – 1793), his wife, Marie-Antoinette (1755 – 1793), their children, Louis-Charles (1785 – 1795), the dauphin, or heir apparent, and his sister Marie-Thérèse (1778 – 1851), the King’s sister Élisabeth of France (1764 – 1794) attempted to escape France. The Marquise de Tourzelle, the children’s governess, from 1789 until 1792, accompanied the royal family. As for the king’s brothers, Louis XVIII (17 November 1755 – 16 September 1824) and Charles X, they had fled. Despite their bourgeois clothing, the Royal family was recognized one stop before Varennes and arrested at Varennes. By 25 June 1789, they had returned to Paris. (See Flight to Varennes, Wikipedia.)

We know that Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette would be guillotined during the Reign of Terror, 1793 – 1794), as well as Élisabeth de France, the king’s younger sister. Moreover, Louis-Philippe II, Duc d’Orléans (13 April 1747 – 6 November 1793), of the House of Orleans, a cadet branch of the House of Bourbon, would also be guillotined, on 6 November 1793. Consequently, hindsight invites approval of the Royal family’s attempt to flee what seemed imminent danger.

Hindsight is also forgiving. We can understand why Louis-Philippe II, Duc d’Orléans  changed his name to Philippe Égalité. He was afraid. But did he have to vote in favour of his cousin’s execution?

But weighing against Louis XVI – Marie-Antoinette, mainly, was “collusion with the invaders,” a view supported by the flight to Varennes. (See The Trial of Louis XVI, Wikipedia.)


The return of the royal family to Paris on 25 June 1791: colored copperplate after a drawing of Jean-Louis Prieur (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

La Fayette and the National Guard

After the Tennis Court Oath, the National Assembly itself feared disorder. By and large, the French trusted Jacques Necker (30 September 1732 – 9 April 1804), but he had been replaced by the Marquis de Breteuil, on 11 July 1789. King Louis XVI’s faux pas led to immediate unrest.

Although 98% of the people of France were excluded from political power, which is the main cause of the French Revolution, the French Revolution has other causes. France was near brankrupcy and people lacked food. Why had the Assembly of Notables, summoned in 1787, refused to pay a land-value tax? However, a few paragraphs below, this post revisits the Assembly of Notables.

Unrest had followed the replacement of Jacques Necker, on 11 July 1789. The people trusted Jacques Necker. On 13 July 1789, fearing disorder, the National Assembly created a Bourgeois militia and, on 15 July 1789, Lafayette (6 September 1757 – 20 May 1834) had been elected to the post of commander of the Bourgeois militia, which would become the National Guard.

Gendarmes were required. Mobs stormed the Bastille (see The Storming of the Bastille, Wikipedia). Necker was reinstated on 16 July and would not leave France until 3 September 1790.

On 6 October 1789, were it not for the intervention of the National Guard, commanded by Lafayette, a mob may have killed members of the Royal family when Louis XVI’s family was forcibly removed from Versailles. (See The Women’s March on Versailles, Wikipedia.)

Emigration & the Day of the Daggers

The Royal family had been taken to the Tuileries Palace, in Paris, a royal residence. But Louis’ aunts, Madame Adélaïde and Madame Victoire, had fled to Rome, as though Royalists could not protect them and as though the Royals needed protection. On The Day of the Daggers, 28 February 1791, Royalists, carrying concealed daggers, tried to enter the Tuileries to save the Louis XVI and his family. Louis himself asked them to leave and those who would not leave were forcibly removed. The Royalists were dismayed.

The Champ de Mars Massacre

On 17 June 1791, a crowd of 50,000 gathered at the Champ de Mars to sign a petition asking for the king’s removal. The National Guard under Lafayette, opened fire. The crowd returned later in the day, led by Danton and Camille Desmoulins. The National Guard fired again, killing a many as 15.

On 20 June, the Royal family attempted to flee France, but were arrested at Varennes and taken back to the Tuileries Palace.

However, on 15 July 1791, the National Assembly or Legislative Assembly declared the King inviolable until the ratification of a new Constitution.

The Assembly of Notables, revisited

A Constitutional Monarchy might have saved the French monarchy, had Louis been better informed. The delegates to the Assembly of Notables were prepared to institute changes. If accurate, I believe it is, the following quotation is very revealing:

Yet what was truly astonishing about the debates of the Assembly is that they were marked by a conspicuous acceptance of principles like fiscal equality that even a few years before would have been unthinkable….Where disagreement occurred, it was not because Calonne had shocked the Notables with his announcement of a new fiscal and political world; it was either because he had not gone far enough or because they disliked the operational methods built into the program.[1]

(See Assembly of Notables, Wikipedia.)

The Notables knew that France was nearly bankrupt and that insolvency would bring not only the downfall of France but also their own downfall. It was to their advantage to pay taxes. Louis XIV’s Conseil d’en haut, the King’s Council, was very small, but it consisted of bourgeois. Moreover, they met en haut, i.e. upstairs, next to the King’s chamber, at Versailles. The King did not fear them. Louis XIV feared no one except the princes du sang, the Princes of the Blood.

The Storming of the Tuileries: the End (10 August 1792)

After the flight to Varennes, Marie-Antoinette‘s idea, Louis XVI was closely guarded in the Tuileries, home to the National Assembly and, later, the National Constituent Assembly. The National Legislative Assembly was the legislature of France from 1 October 1791 to 20 September 1792. He had “betrayed the French.” The Storming of the Tuileries, on 10 August 1792, would undo the King. Britannica uses the word “irresolution.”[2] The National Guard had turned against the Royalty and they were joined by sans-culottes and the fédérés, marseillais (from Marseilles), militants mostly, who had come to Paris for the Fête de la Fédération, 14 July 1791. Lafayette, their commander, fled France.


As I wrote above, weighing against Louis XVI, or Marie-Antoinette, was “collusion with the invaders.” (See The Trial of Louis XVI, Wikipedia.) The Monarchy was abolished on 21 September 1792. (See Proclamation of the abolition of the monarchy, Wikipedia), a day after the Battle of Valmy, when the French defeated the Duke of Brunswick (20 September 1792) and the day before the First Republic was declared, on 22 September 1792.

On 13 August 1792, the Royal family was imprisoned in the Temple, a fortress built by the Knights Templar in the 12th century. Louis XVI was executed on the grounds that he was a traitor. The King had tried to flee France, but could he tell that leaving France could be construed as treason, the worst of crimes. Yes, French revolutionaries feared intervention from Royal families outside France and the flight to Varennes led to The Declaration of Pillnitz (27 August 1791). Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor (5 May 1747 – 1 March 1792), its main author, was Marie-Antoinette’s brother who may have wished to rescue his sister who had attempted to leave France. But he died on 1st March 1792. Yet, the flight to Varennes did seal the Royal family’s fate. King Louis XVI had attempted to flee France and the Duke of Brunswick, the author of the Brunswick Manifesto (25 July 1791) did attack the French, but he was defeated.

One can understand the King’s fears, but can one understand the Reign of Terror?


I apologize. This post is too long. I have now shortened it, but it is still long.

Love to everyone 

Tour_du_Temple_circa_1795_Ecole_Francaise_18th_century (1)

The Temple, a view of the Grosse Tour-circa 1795, École Française 18th century. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Abbey Sieyès’ The Third Estate (6 August 2018)
Cleric, Knight and Workman (31 July 2018)
The Tennis Court Oath (8 February 2014)
The Church of France & French Revolution (cont’d) (6 May 2014)
The Church of France during the French Revolution (2 May 2014)

Sources and Resources

Britannica, various entries
Wikipedia Timeline of the French Revolution & other entries
Chronology of the French Revolution (online)
Proclamation of the Duke of Brunswick or Brunswick Manifesto (online)
Major Events in the French Revolution (
Hilaire Belloc’s French Revolution (Internet Archive)
Thomas Carlisle’s The French Revolution is Gutenberg’s [EBook #1301]
M. Mignet’s History of the French Revolution from 1789 – 1814 is Gutenberg’s [EBook #9602]
… .


Below are the names of members of the Royal family who were executed and the date on which each one died.

House of Bourbon
Louis XVI: 21 January 1793, aged 38
Marie-Antoinette: 16 Otober 1793, aged 37
Elisabeth de France: 10 May 1794, aged 30

House of Orleans
Louis-Philippe II, duc d’Orléans: 6 November 1793, aged 46

[1] See Note 7 in Assembly of Notables, Wikipedia
[2] “Louis XVI,” Albert Goodwin and Jeremy David Popkin, Encyclopædia Britannica

Gabriel Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine (words & translation)

Tour_du_Temple_circa_1795_Ecole_Francaise_18th_century (1)

Le Temple, Paris

© Micheline Walker
16 August 2018


The Last Few Days: Details


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Les Ursulines, Jean-Paul Lemieux, Wikiart

It’s Sunday, which remains a sacred day for me. Other days serve different purposes and have an origin. Saturday is Saturn as in Saturnalia, a Roman festival taking place on the day of the longest night: Christmas. Humanity has always cherished symbols, but these change from culture to culture. They attach a story to things otherwise “ordinary.”

Jean-Paul Lemieux

To decorate my post, I chose Jean-Paul Lemieux (18 November 1904 – 7 December 1990) who lived in Berkeley, California for several years. His family may have wished to escape cold winters. He and Leclerc were born the same year and were good persons. Lemieux returned to Québec, despite the cold, the snow, various ice storms and numerous heat waves.

Félix Leclerc

Félix Leclerc (2 August 1914 – 8 August 1988), was born in La Tuque, Quebec and studied at the University of Ottawa until the Great Depression. There was no money. He then found work in radio stations, as speaker or writer. In 1939, he was employed by Ici Radio-Canada, the French counterpart of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the CBC. He may have written radio dramas, which my father did, at approximately the same time in the history of Quebec.

After the war, Félix Leclerc, and his guitar, went to France where he took courses. He met kindred spirits, such as Boris Vian. In 1950, at the age of 36, he was discovered by French impresario Jacques Canetti. His daughter says that he divided his life between l’île d’Orléans, where he owned a house, and Paris.

In Le Tour de l’île, Leclerc also mentions a blue-eyed grandfather standing guard, which reminds me of Octave Crémazie‘s poem, entitled « Le Vieux Soldat canadien » . The first French ship to sail down the Saint Lawrence after the “Conquest” was La Capricieuse, in 1855.[1]

Other Quebec Singer-Songwriters

Félix Leclerc was the first of a group of Quebec singer-songwriters. These include Raymond Lévesque who wrote “Quand les hommes vivront d’amour,” Claude Léveillée  who wrote songs for Édith Piaf, and also wrote Frédéric (1961), is also a major singer-songwriter. So are Jean-Pierre Ferland, the composer of Fais du feu dans la cheminée, Robert Charlebois, the author of Ordinaire, and Diane Dufresne. The best performers were Monique Leyrac and Pauline Julien. (Please click on the title of songs I have chosen to hear it.)

However, the most celebrated Québecois singer-songwriter is Gilles Vigneault. Vigneault wrote: “Mon Pays.”


You will have noticed that Leclerc mentions independence. As paradoxical as this may seem, I believe Québécois have their own country, albeit informally. But, their country is in Canada, where it is probably a safer and more stable place than outside Canada. Québec has yet to sign the Patriated Constitution (1982).

Lemieux’ Ursulines

Les Ursulines are a teaching order founded by Marie de l’Incarnation (née Marie Guyart), in 1639. The Ursulines’ main monastery, built in Quebec City, is the oldest institution of learning for women in North America. As a religious order, the Ursulines were founded in Italy.


I have worked on the Battle of Quebec and grouped the lines differently. Folklore has its rules, but the “Battle of Quebec” is a challenge. Lines vary in length.  The French lines would be called “octaves.” The words “La Danaé” would be at the end of each octave.The English lines (4 stanzas containing 4 lines) seem a response.

La Récréation (playtime)

Before the Révolution tranquille, teachers were nuns and school girls wore a navy blue pinafore dress over a white blouse.

Related image

Jean-Paul Lemieux, 1957 (Galerie d’Art Michel Bigué)












Le peintre Jean-Paul Lemieux. Le musicien Philippe Lauters.


Sources and Resources


[1] Jacques Portes, “Visite de la Capricieuse en 1855: point tournant des relations France-Canada,” l’Encyclopédie du Patrimoine culturel de l’Amérique française





Félix Leclerc chante “Le Tour de l’île”


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Québec, vue de l’île d’Orléans, Jean-Paul Lemieux, 1963 (Wikiart)

La Récréation, Jean-Paul Lemieux, 1961 (Wikiart)

Paroles de la chanson « Le Tour de l’île »

Félix Leclerc (1914-1988)

Pour supporter     To bear
Le difficile     The difficult
Et l’inutile      And the useless
Y a l’tour de l’île     There’s the island to go round
Quarante-deux milles     Forty-two miles (67 km)
De choses tranquilles     Of things quiet
Pour oublier     To forget
Grande blessure     Gaping wounds
Dessous l’armure     ‘neath the shield
Eté, hiver     Summer, winter
Y a l’tour de l’île     There’s the island to go round
L’Ile d’Orléans      L’île d’Orléans

L’Île c’est comme Chartres     The island’s like Chartres
C’est haut et propre     It’s high and clean
Avec des nefs      With naves
Avec des arcs     With arches
Des corridors     Corridors
Et des falaises     And cliffs

En février     In February
La neige est rose     The snow is pink
Comme chair de femme     Like a woman’s flesh
Et en juillet     And in July
Le fleuve est tiède     The river’s tepid
Sur les battures     On the sandbars
Au mois de mai     In the month of May
A marée basse     At low tide
Voilà les oies     Here come the geese
Depuis des siècles     For centuries
Au mois de juin     In the month of June
Parties les oies     The geese have gone
Mais nous les gens     But we the people
Les descendants     Descendants of people
De La Rochelle     From La Rochelle
Présents tout l’temps     We’re here all the time
Surtout l’hiver     In winter mostly
Comme les arbres      Like trees

Mais c’est pas vrai      But it’s not true
Ben oui c’est vrai      Well, yes it’s true
Écoute encore     Listen again

Maisons de bois     Wooden houses
Maisons de pierre     Stone houses
Clochers pointus     Pointed bell towers
Et dans les fonds     And in the back
Des pâturages     Grazing fields
De silence     Of silence
Des enfants blonds     Blond children
Nourris d’azur     Fed by the sky
Comme les anges     Like angels
Jouent à la guerre     Play war
Imaginaire     War imaginary  

Imaginons     Let’s imagine
L’Ile d’Orléans    L’île d’Orléans
Un dépotoir     A dump
Un cimetière     A cemetery
Parcs à vidanges     Parks of sewage
Boîte à déchets    A box of waste
U. S. parkings     U. S. parking
On veut la mettre     They want to put her
En mini-jupe     In a mini-skirt
And speak English     And speak English
Faire ça à elle     Do that to her
L’Ile d’Orléans     L’île d’Orléans
Notre fleur de lys     Our fleur de lys

Mais c’est pas vrai     But it’s not true
Ben oui c’est vrai     Well, yes it’s true
Raconte encore     Tell me again

Sous un nuage     Under a cloud
Près d’un cours d’eau     Near a stream
C’est un berceau     It’s a cradle
Et un grand-père     And a blue-eyed
Au regard bleu     Grandfather
Qui monte la garde     Stands guard
Il sait pas trop     He doesn’t quite know
Ce qu’on dit dans     What they say
Les capitales     In large cities (capitals)
L’œil vers le golfe     Looking towards the gulf
Ou Montréal     Or Montréal
Guette le signal     He watches for the signal

Pour célébrer    To celebrate
L’indépendance     Independence
Quand on y pense     When one thinks about it
C’est-y en France     Is it in France
C’est comme en France     It’s like France
Le tour de l’île    Round the island
Quarante-deux milles     Forty-two miles
Comme des vagues    Like waves
Les montagnes     Mountains
Les fruits sont mûrs    The fruit is ripe
Dans les vergers     In the orchards
De mon pays     Of my land

Ça signifie     It means
L’heure est venue     The hour has come
Si t’as compris     If you understood

Related image

Jeune Fille, Jean-Paul Lemieux, 1957 (Galerie d’Art Michel Bigué)

© Micheline Walker
11 August 2018

The Battle of Quebec


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Le Combat de la Danaé (The Battle of Quebec) (arr. S. Bergeron)
interprète: Meredith Hall
album: La Traverse miraculeuse / Le Combat de Québec [1]

La Nef [The Nave]: Sylvain Bergeron, Lisa Ornstein, David Greenberg, Patrick Graham, Amanda Keesmat, Pierre-Yves Martel, Seàn Dagher

Old French Songs (cont’d)


Come, all you old men all, let this delight you; (a)
Come, all you young men all, let affright you;
Nor let your courage fail when comes the trial.
Nor do not be afraid at the first denial.

C’est le 27 de mars, sans attendre plus tard / qu’est le départ
Bart, ce grand guerrier, / nous a tous commandé.
Nous sommes partis de la France, / confiants dans la Providence,
priant Dieu de nous secourir / dans le danger de périr.
Le premier jour partant / nous aperçûmes sous vent / un bâtiment
Trois autres au vent de nous / qui poussaient droit sur nous.
Nous leur avons fait reconnaître / que nous en serions les maîtres,
nous tenant tous les deux d’accord, / nous avons viré de bord.
La Danaé!

Brave Wolfe drew up his men in a line so pretty. (b)
On the Plains of Abraham,[1] before the city.
The French came marching down, arrayed to meet them.
In double numbers round, resolved to beat them.

L’Anglais tout d’un courroux [wrath]/ arrive au bord de nous
et tout d’un coup tire un coup de canon / sur notre pavillon;
C’est son petit mât de misaine [small mast] / qui est tombé à la traîne [dragging]
et son grand mât d’artimon [large mast] / qui est tombé sur le pont.
Bart, voyant cela / au milieu du combat / et du fracas
en rejoignant les mains / prit le Ciel à témoin.
Bart dit à son équipage: / « allons mes enfants courage,
faisons voir à ces Anglais / la valeur de nous, Français. »
La Danaé!

The drums did loudly beat, with colors flying (c)
The purple gore did stream and men lay dying
Then shot from off his horse fell that brave hero
We’ll long lament his loss that day in sorrow

Le feu de tous côtés / par trois vaisseaux armés / sans relâcher [relentlessly]
a mis hors de combat [taken out of combat] / ce valeureux soldat.
Ce fut su’l’gaillard d’arrière [at the back of the ship] / qu’il tomba par en arrière
et par un boulet [bullet] de canon, / il tomba mort sur le pont.
Grand Dieu quelle misère / de voir la Dan / tout démantée, [dismantled]
ses voiles [sails] et ses haubans [ropes]/ ne battre plus au vent!
Hélas grand Dieu quelle misère / de voir devant à l’arrière
cent cinquante hommes étendus / et les autres n’en pouvant plus
La Danaé!

He raised up his head where the guns did rattle, (d)
And to his aide he said, “How goes the battle?”
“Quebec is all our own, they can’t prevent it”
He said without a groan, “I die contented.”

Vous autres Français, Flamands / qui voyez nos tourments / qui sont si grands,
apprenez la misère / que nous avons souffert
pour sauver l’honneur de la France; / vous Anglais pleins d’impudence,
à moins de nous laisser aller, / nous vous aurons prisonniers!
La Danaé!


A translation

Come, all you old men all, let this delight you; (a)
Come, all you young men all, let affright you;
Nor let your courage fail when comes the trial.
Nor do not be afraid at the first denial.

We left on 27th March, without further delay.
Bart, that great warrior, was in command.
We left France trusting Providence and praying to God
to rescue us, should our lives be endangered.
On the first day, we saw beneath the wind a bâtiment (?)
and three other ships, headed in our direction.
Both of us agreeing, we decided to turn around.
La Danaé!

Brave Wolfe drew up his men in a line so pretty. (b)
On the Plains of Abraham, before the city.
The French came marching down, arrayed to meet them.
In double numbers round, resolved to beat them.

The angry English sailed up to the side of our ship.
All of a sudden they shot at us.
Our ship’s mizzen mast fell dangling
and its larger mast tumbled down to the deck.
Bart seeing this, still fighting as everything was crashing down,
joined his hands, taking God as his witness
and told his crew: Let’s go boys,
let us show the English a Frenchman’s worth.
La Danaé!

The drums did loudly beat, with colors flying (c)
The purple gore did stream and men lay dying
Then shot from off his horse fell that brave hero
We’ll long lament his loss that day in sorrow.

Shots were fired everywhere and relentlessly,
taking out of combat this valiant soldier.
He fell backwards at the back of the ship,
hit by a bullet. He fell dead on the deck.
It was awful to see the remains of our ship,
its sails and ropes [haubans] blowing in the wind,
and, at the back, a hundred and fifty men lying down.
The others were exhausted.
La Danaé!

He raised up his head where the guns did rattle, (d)
And to his aide he said, “How goes the battle?”
“Quebec is all our own, they can’t prevent it”
He said without a groan, “I die contented.”

You, the French and the Flemish, who see our torment, that are so great,
Learn the hardship we have suffered
to save France’s honour. And you impudent Englishmen
unless you let us go, you will be prisoners.
La Danaé!


Nous vous aurons prisonniers means: we will have you as prisoners. The context would suggest that the French would be the prisoners of the English. This sentence is ambiguous.

In both French and English we find rhymes. Some verses are shortened by singing rapidly. This is a difficult folksong. The length of the lines varies and it could be that French stanzas consist of eight lines. This would give us a total of four long (eight lines) stanzas in French ending with the word Danaé, and four short (4 lines) English

In this folksong, one can hear the braggart soldier. Such language may have stimulated sailors. On the one hand, it is as though we were hearing boys playing, but we are not hearing boys, but frightened sailors who may die. It’s not a game.

Ironically, if we listened to the English, we would hear them call the sailors of New France  “impudent.” We find fault with the enemy we kill.


Nouvelle-France’s Last and Lost Battle: The Battle of the Plains of Abraham
The Battle of Fort William Henry & Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans

Louis-Joseph de Montcalm-Gozon, Marquis de Saint-Veran


See The Battle of Quebec, History
Poet’s Collective Multi Site Network
Borduas and Leduc

[1] The final defeat (13 September 1759). Both generals died.

Love to everyone 


Paul-Émile BorduasÉglise de Saint-Hilaire, c. 1933,
huile sur contreplaqué.  Collection Renée Borduas.
Photo MBAM, Brian Merrett.
© Succession Paul-Émile Borduas / SODRAC (2013)

© Micheline Walker
8 August 2018
(updated 10 August 2018)


Old French Songs: Le Navire de Bayonne


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Les Charbonniers de l’enfer

Charbonniers make or sell charcoal. Enfer means hell.

I hope I am not violating copyright legislation. This group, Les Charbonniers de l’enfer, was formed many years ago, and they have recorded very fine old French songs. On YouTube, one can, at times, access the words to the songs and an English translation. The lyrics have traces of old French.

The Danaé (1807)

C’était par un bon vendredi, nous avons parti de Lisbonne
C’est pour en France revenir, dans le grand navire de Bayonne
Nous n’eûmes pas dédoublé les pointes, qu’un vent de nord s’est élevé
A fallu carguer la grand voile, pour y courir au quart noroué.
Il a venté d’un si gros vent, grand Dieu, quel horrible tourmente!
La moitié de nos gens pleuraient, les autres chantaient des louanges;
Les autres chantaient des louanges; louanges, louanges à haute voix!
Que Dieu ait pitié de nos âmes, puisque la mort il faut avoir!
J’avons reçu un coup de mer sur le fond de notre navire
Les dalots ne pouvait plus fournir.
Coupez le grand mât, je vous prie!
Coupez le grand mât, je vous prie!
Et jetez les chaloupes dehors!
Garder les restes de nos voiles pour retrouver tous à bon port.
Le capitaine s’est avancé, étant le maître du navire.
Honneur dit-il, à qui vivra!
Le grand mât, c’est ma compagnie.
Courage, mes enfants courage, un vaillant homme nous gouverne!
Eh là! Tenez- vous bien de garde que le navire vienne en travers.
Ils se sont jetés à genoux priant la divine Marie.
Priant le Sauveur tout puissant qui leur ont préservé la vie.
Une grande messe nous ferons dire à notre bon rassemblement.
Dans la chapelle de Notre-Dame nous prierons Dieu dévotement.
Qu’en a composé la chanson c’est le pilote du navire.
Il l’a composé tout au long ah! c’est en traversant ces îles.
C’est à vous autres gens de France, qui naviguez dessur la mer.
Naviguez-y avec prudence, surtout dans le temps de l’hiver.

On a Friday we left Lisbon for France in the ship from Bayonne. We had not yet cleared land when the wind rose, and we had to furl sails and run before a nor’wester. /A great gale blew. Dear God, what horrifying torment. Half of our crew were crying, while the others were bellowing hymns. God take pity on our souls, we’re doomed. /A giant wave rolled over us, and the scuppers couldn’t clear the water. “Cut the main mast, l beg you! Jettison the boats! Keep the remaining scraps of sail, so we can make it to port.” /Then the ship’s master stepped forward. “We’re going to live!”he said. “I’m keeping the main mast. Courage, boys, courage. There’s a brave man in command. Keep watch well, and the ship will come through.” /We fell on our knees, praying to Mary and the all powerful Savior. “We’ll have a grand mass said, we’ll pray devoutly to God in the chapel of Notre-Dame.” /The maker of this song was the ship’s pilot, and he composed it while sailing through these isles. You, fellow sailors from France, sail prudently, especially in winter.

La Navire de Bayonne (arr. S. Bergeron)
interprète: Michel Bordeleau
album: Turlette et Reel
rédacteur: Yasutaja Nakata…

La Nef [The Nave]: Sylvain Bergeron, Lisa Ornstein, David Greenberg, Patrick Graham, Amanda Keesmat, Pierre-Yves Martel, Seàn Dagher


Ozias Leduc‘s Boy with Bread, 1892-99, National Gallery of Canada

© Micheline Walker
7 August 2018


Abbé Sieyès’ “The Third Estate”


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On 16 June 2014, I wrote a post, entitled The Bourgeois, members of France’s very large Third Estate. I did not, however, include a discussion of l’abbé Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès (3 May 1748 – 20 June 1836). L’abbé Sieyès is the author of Qu’est-ce que le tiers-état, or What is the Third Estate, a pamphlet that reflects the ideology of the philosophes of the Age of Enlightenment in France, such as the writings of Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

The Estates-General

  • Jacques Necker
  • Pamphlet

As the Estates-General were being convened, Genevan banker Jacques Necker, Madame de Staël‘s father, who had been Louis XVI’s finance minister during the period 1777-1781, invited a written definition of France’s Third Estate. Jacques Necker had been recalled and was in office from 16 July 1789 until 3 September 1790, when he was dismissed. Jacques Necker’s invitation yielded l’abbé Sieyès’ Qu’est-ce que le tiers-état? (What is the Third Estate?, a pamphlet, published in January 1789, that could be looked upon as the manifesto of the French Revolution,[1] had the Revolution not spiralled out of control. How could one anticipate the Reign of Terror?

What is the Third Estate?

L’abbé Sieyès presented a portrait of the Third Estate that described its ampleur or magnitude, especially the bourgeoisie’s. L’abbé Sieyès’ pamphlet was not a call to arms, but it stated that the Third Estate, 98% of the population, should be “something.” It was “everything,” but it had been “nothing” “in the political order.”

  • What is the Third Estate? Everything.
  • What has it been until now in the political order? Nothing.
  • What does it want to be? Something.

By becoming a priest, l’abbé Sieyès had elevated himself to the noblesse de robe, nobles of the robe. It comprised persons “whose rank came from holding certain judicial or administrative posts.” (See Nobles of the robe.) As members of the clergy, priests could sit among delegates of the First Estate, the clergy. However, l’abbé (abbott) Sieyès was not an aristocrat who had chosen the priesthood, but a bourgeois who had become a priest. He knew, in other words, that the old aristocracy resented the new aristocracy. (See the History of Nobility, acquired nobility.)

In Qu’est que le Tiers-État? (pdf) Sieyès writes that :

L’ancienne noblesse ne peut pas souffrir les nouveaux nobles; elle ne leur permet de siéger avec elle que lorsqu’ils peuvent prouver, comme l’on dit, quatre générations et cent ans. Ainsi, elle les repousse dans l’ordre du Tiers état, auquel évidemment ils n’appartiennent plus. (p. 10)


The old aristocracy detests new nobles; it allows nobles to sit as such only when they can prove, as the phrase goes, “four generations and a hundred years.” Thus it relegates the other nobles to the order of the Third Estate to which, obviously, they no longer belong. (p. 3)

(See What is the Third Estate? [pdf])

The Bourgeois

Born a bourgeois, l’abbé Sieyès chose to represent the Tiers-État, the Third Estate. It was everything. And it was growing. The sale of offices could lead the buyer, a peasant, to the bourgeoisie, which had ranks: petite, moyenne [middle] et grande)Blaise Pascal‘s (19 June 1623 – 19 August 1662) father was supervisor of taxes in Rouen, an office one could buy and transformed its owner into a bourgeois. Molière‘s father, Jean Poquelin, had purchased his post, “valet de chambre ordinaire et tapissier du Roi” (“valet of the King’s chamber and keeper of carpets and upholstery”), under Louis XIII.

Some bourgeois were very rich and very powerful. Jean-Baptiste Colbert (29 August 1619 – 6 September 1683), served as minister of finance to Louis XIV, from 1665 until 1683. Finally, Louis XIV could not trust aristocrats. He remembered La Fronde (1648-1652), when aristocrats opposed absolutism. They had lost their role. Louis XIV’s advisors were bourgeois who constituted the Conseil du Roi, called the Conseil d’en haut, because they met “en haut,” upstairs. Peasants had not escaped feudalism altogether, but feudalism was waning.

“Consequently, the Third Estate represented the great majority of the people, and its deputies’ transformation of themselves into a National Assembly in June 1789 marked the beginning of the French Revolution.”

(See The Third Estate,[2] the Editors of the Encyclopædia Britannica )

Therefore, it was in Sieyès and the Third Estate’s best interest to ask that “votes be taken by heads and not by orders.” An “ordre” was an Estate.

L’ abbé Sieyès stated that the people wanted genuine representatives in the Estates-General, equal representation to the other two orders taken together, and votes taken by heads and not by orders. These ideas came to have an immense influence on the course of the French Revolution.

(See The Third Estate, Wikipedia)

Among the many causes of the French Revolution, the editors of the Encyclopædia Britannica write that “the bourgeoisie resented its exclusion from political power and positions of honour,” which would be the first cause of the French Revolution and which encapsulates Sieyès’ What is the Third Estate. The Third Estate was “everything,” yet “nothing.” I believe many scholars would also consider the bourgeoisie’s “exclusion from political power” a cause of the French Revolution.


Initially, the French Revolution was a meeting of the Estates-General. In Qu’est-ce que le Tiers-État?, l’abbé Sieyès stated that the vote of delegates to the Third Estate be counted by “heads,” not privilege. This request was not incendiary, nor was, in itself, the Tennis Court Oath (20 June 1789), had delegates not started calling themselves a National Assembly. They swore “ not to separate, and to reassemble wherever circumstances require, until the constitution of the kingdom is established.” (See Tennis Court Oath, Wikipedia & Tennis Court Oath, Britannica.)

Meanwhile, Thomas Jefferson was helping Lafayette draft the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. He left France on 10 July 1789, four days before the storming of the Bastille. As for the military, in general, it no doubt remembered the Treaty of Paris, 1763, which ended the Seven Years War and had its North-American theater. France lost the battle of the Plains of Abraham, Nouvelle-France’s final battle. Pierre de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil-Cavagnial and Montcalm had disagreements, but forces in New France were inadequately supported by Louis XV.

When Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont visited Lower Canada, Tocqueville blamed Louis XV for the loss of New France.

In a letter dated November 26th, 1831, he [Tocqueville] criticizes France’s dealings with its North American colony during the 18th century, referring to the ‘abandonment’ of loyal subjects of the French Empire. Then he adds that it was ‘one of the greatest ignominies of Louis XV’s shameful reign.’[3]

But we remember.

Love to everyone


Sources and Resources

L’Abbé Sieyès


Voltaire & Rousseau

Voltaire’s Letters on England is Gutenberg’s [EBook #2445]
Les Lettres philosophiques de Voltaire is a Wikisource publication FR

Rousseau’s Discours sur l’inégalité is Gutenberg’s [EBook #11136]
Le Discours sur l’inégalité de Rousseau is a Wikisource publication FR

[1] “The French Revolution,” Encyclopædia Britannica

[2] “The Third Estate,” Encyclopædia Britannica

[3] Claude Corbo, in the Encyclopedia of French Cultural Heritage in North America.


Drawing by Jacques-Louis David of the Tennis Court Oath. David later became a deputy in the National Convention in 1793

© Micheline Walker
06 August 2018

Cleric, Knight and Workman


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A 13th-century French representation of the tripartite social order of the middle ages – Oratores: “those who pray”, Bellatores: “those who fight”, and Laboratores: “those who work”. (Caption and photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Cleric, Knight and Workman representing the three classes, a French School illustration from Li Livres dou Santé (late 13th century, vellum), MS Sloane 2435, folio 85, British Library/Bridgeman Art Library.

This lovely historiated initial, shows France’s three classes. Not only did the third estate, le Tiers État, work, but it also paid the taxes that supported the clergy, the first estate, and the nobility, the second estate. During the last quarter of the 18th-century, France was near bankrupcy, mostly because of its recent financial contribution to North-American colonists seeking independence from Britain.

France could have helped the North-American colonists, but absolutism and Louis XV’s profligacy had strained and humiliated France. In 1763, it lost New France.

In 1787, Charles-Alexandre de Calonne, the controller-general of finances, asked Louis XVI to summon an Assembly of Notables, members of which Calonne hand-picked. Charles-Alexandre de Calonne did not think that his plan, the taxation of the property of nobles and clergy, would be approved by the Parlement of Paris. His predecessors had failed in this regard. The Assembly of Notables refused Calonne’s proposal and Louis XVI dismissed his controller-general of finances. Calonne had to flee to England.

Charles-Alexandre de Calonne had also suggested that Louis XVI convene the Estates-General. Louis XVI did not do so until 1789. They first met on 5 May 1789.

One morning, Louis XVI had the doors to the room where he met delegates locked. Delegates repaired to an indoor tennis court where they swore

not to separate, and to reassemble wherever circumstances require, until the constitution of the kingdom is established and affirmed on solid foundations. Such was the ‘spirit’ of the Revolution.

(See The Tennis Court Oath)

The French Revolution had begun. Feudalism, in France, was abolished on 4 August 1789.


Feudalism (Micheline’s images)


Love to everyone. 

Le Serment du Jeu de paume, Jacques-Louis David

© Micheline Walker
30 July 2018
(updated 31 July 2018)



France: the Restoration of the Monarchy


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Louis XVII, portrait aged 7 by Alexander Kucharsky, 1792 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just republished a post written in March 2014. It is far too long, but under Monarchy, it includes France’s return to a Monarchy. Moreover, it spans the entire 19th century in France and could be useful to students of all ages. It expresses France’s tentativeness after the abolition of the Monarchy. Louis XVI was guillotined on 21 January 1793. The Reign of Terror had begun and it went too far.

After Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo (18 June 1815), the War of the Seventh Coalition, the Monarchy was restored.

The first monarchs were members of the House of Bourbon Louis XVIII and Charles X. They were replaced by a monarch belonging to the House of Orleans, Louis Philippe I. Louis Philippe reigned until the Second French Revolution, in 1848. Both houses were Bourbon houses, the House of Orleans was a cadet branch of the House of Bourbon.

I will now endeavour to divide my very long post into shorter periods. The following subject matters are mentioned but not discussed sufficiently:


My health is deteriorating, but I love my WordPress community. Leaving you would hurt me. The solution is writing shorter posts.
You will find a new page at the top of my posts: the French Revolution and Napoleon. It is incomplete, but I will look for related posts.

Love to everyone 

Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, 2nd movement


Drawing by Jacques-Louis David of the Tennis Court Oath. David later became a deputy in the National Convention in 1793 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
28 July 2018



The Nineteenth Century in France


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Louis Stanilas Xavier de France, Comte de Provence, Maurice Quentin de la Tour, 1762

Louis-Stanislas-Xavier de France, Louis XVIII, Comte de Provence, Maurice Quentin de la Tour, 1762 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The French Revolution

I would like to provide you with an overview of the history of 19th-century France. It has several insurrections and coups d’état. The first coup d’état took place on 19 Brumaire Year VIII, or 9 November 1799. It therefore precedes the nineteenth century by about six weeks. On 19 Brumaire, Napoleon I became First Consul and his government was the French Consulate. However, in April 1804, the French Sénat named him Emperor of the French, and he was crowned Napoleon I, on 2 December 1804. Joséphine was crowned impératrice (Empress), by the new Emperor, her husband. 

Events Preceding the First Republic

At the beginning of the 19th century, France was an unofficial Empire. As First Consul, Napoleon was the de facto ruler of France. He started rising to power during the National Convention (1792 – 1795) and continued empowering himself throughout the French Directory (1795 – 1799) as General Napoleon Bonaparte. The French Directory is identified as the third stage of the French Revolution.

Everything started with the meeting of the Estates General of 1789. Significant events are the Tennis Court Oath of 14 June 1789, the storming of the Bastille, on 14 July 1789. The Revolution was radicalized (i.e. the King became an enemy) by the Flight to Varennes (June 1791) and the Declaration of Pillnitz (August 1791). The levée en masse (conscription of 23 August 1793) gave Napoleon and France a huge army.  

The French Revolution can be divided in stages. 

  1. The First Republic was founded on 22 September 1792, by the newly-established National Convention.
  2. The National Convention: 21 September 1792 to 26 October 1795 (4 Brumaire Year IV). The Thermidorian Reaction (27 July 1794) put an end to the Reign of Terror.
  3. The Directory: 2 November 1795 to 10 November 1799. There were five Directors and the Directory doubled up as a style (neoclassicism). Neoclassicism became a style. On 4 September 1797, Coup of 18 Fructidor Year V, suppressed Royalists and nonjuring members of the clergy.  Eighteenth (18) Fructidor was a genuine coup d’état, involving the military.
  4. The Consulate (18 Brumaire [9 November 1799] – 1804). As First Consul, Napoleon I ruled unopposed.

The First Empire

Although the French Sénat named Napoleon Emperor of the French, on 18 May 1804, Napoleon was a mostly self-proclaimed Emperor. He was crowned on 2 December 1804 and, as noted above, he then crowned his Créole wife Joséphine impératrice. She kept that title when Napoleon married Marie-Louise of Austria.

Napoleon suffered severe losses during the French invasion of Russia (1812) and at the Battle of Leipzig, faught in October 1813. France was invaded and the First Empire, dissolved. In fact, the First Empire ended twice. It ended first on 4 April 1814,[i] when Napoleon I abdicated and was exiled to the Mediterranean island of Elba, off the coast of Tuscany. Napoleon escaped and he returned to power. This period of the Napoleonic Wars (1803 – 1815) is called the Hundred Days (111 to be precise).

The First Empire ended a second time, when Napoleon I was defeated at Waterloo, on 18 June 1815. After Waterloo, Napoleon was exiled to a distant island, Saint Helena, where he died of stomach cancer in 1821.

The Congress of Vienna (1815)

The First Empire was followed by the Congress of Vienna, the foremost social and political event of the nineteenth century, conducted before and after Napoleon I’s Hundred Days.

The main players were:

The decisions made in Vienna laid the groundwork for various insurrections and, ultimately, World War I. However, the Congress of Vienna was the first meeting of a united Europe or European nations seeking peaceful coexistence. (See Concert of Europe, Wikipedia.)

The Two Monarchies and Three Monarchs

Napoleon’s Hundred Days, his return from Elba, complicated the installation of Louis XVIII, portrayed above. What a lovely child!

Our Monarchs are:

Comments on Charles X

Charles X undermined his reputation and popularity because of the Anti-Sacrilege Act (1825 – 1830) and because he proposed financial indemnities for properties confiscated during the 1789 Revolution (the French Revolution). His actions led to the July Revolution of 1830, when Louis-Philippe (House of Orleans) was elected King of the French.

Louis XVII  Louis-Charles de France

Louis XVII, Titular, Alexandre Kucharski
Louis-Charles de France (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


  • Louis XVII became titular (having the title of) King of France on 21 January 1893, the day his father was executed. He died of a form of tuberculosis in on 8 June 1895. He never reigned.
  • Louis-Philippe II, Duc d’Orléans or Philippe Égalité (13 April 1747 – 6 November 1793; by guillotine). Louis-Philippe II did not reign.

The 1848 Revolutions

King Louis-Philippe III was deposed during the 1848 Revolution. In 1848, there were revolutions in many European countries, including France. In France, certain matters had to be settled: suffrage (who votes?); the right to employment, etc.

The Second Republic & Second Empire

In 1848, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte was the elected President of France, now a Republic. However, on 2 December 1851, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte staged a coup d’état that transformed him into Napoleon III. He was the nephew of Emperor Napoleon I. Napoleon III and l’impératrice Eugénie, his wife, fled France after a Prussian victory at the Battle of Sedan, fought on 1 September 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War (19 July 1870 – 10 May 1871).

Famed French author Victor Hugo fled to Guernsey when Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte transformed himself into an Emperor. (See Sources, below.) Karl Marx wrote an analysis of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte’s 18 Brumaire. It can be read online. (See Sources, below.)

Napoleon  II, Titular

Napoleon II, Titular (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Napoleon II (b. Tuileries, 1811 – d. Vienna, 1832) was named Emperor by his father Emperor Napoleon I, on 4 September 1814, the day his father abdicated. He is titular (has the title of) Emperor, but never ruled France. He died at the age of 21, of tuberculosis.

Napoleon II in Literature

Napoleon II (the Duke of Reichstadt) was born in Paris, in 1811, and died in Vienna, in 1832. His mother was Marie-Louise of Austria. French playwright Edmond Rostand wrote a 6-act play entitled L’Aiglon (the eaglet), a Project Gutenberg Publication [EBook #30012], based on Napoleon II’s life. The very famous Sarah Bernhardt was l’aiglon (produced on 30 March 1900) and the play was a success, but not as great a success as Cyrano de Bergerac (1897). The real Napoleon II was:

King of Rome (1811 – 1814)
Prince of Parma (1814 – 1817)
Duke of Reichstadt (1818 – 1832)

Comments on Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte:

Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte is the same person as Napoleon III. Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte organized the coup d’état of 2 December 1851, staged on the forty-eighth anniversary of his uncle’s, Napoleon I, coronation: 11 Frimaire XIII (2 December 1804).

Hubert Robert

Le Tapis vert (The Green Rug, detail), Hubert Robert (Photo credit: Google)

The Children of France

Louis XVI (23 August 1754 – 21 January 1793; by guillotine) and Marie Antoinette (2 November 1755 – 16 October 1793; by guillotine) were married in 1870. They had four children:

  1. Marie-Thérèse de France, Duchesse d’Angoulème (b. 1778 –  d. 1851);
  2. Louis-Joseph Dauphin de France (heir apparent (b. Versailles22 October 1781 – d. Paris, 4 June 1789);
  3. Louis-Charles, fils de France and, in 1789, Dauphin (Louis XVII) (b. Versailles, 27 March 1785 – d. Paris, 8 June 1795);
  4. Princesse Sophie (b. Versailles, 9 July 1786 – d. Versailles, 19 June 1787).

Louis XVII was titular King of France from 21 January 1793 to 8 June 1795. He never reigned.

The Third Republic (1871 – 1940)


The above adds up to:

two Monarchies (three monarchs):

two Empires:

  • Napoleon I: coup d’état of 9 November 1799 to 1815; defeat at Waterloo
  • Napoleon III: coup d’état of 2 December 1851 to 1870; Franco-Prussian War

Two Republics: Second & Third Republics

The Nineteenth century in France was an experiment in democracy. It was also a period of drastic changes. Feudalism survived until the French Revolution, so the 19th century was France’s Industrial Revolution. Previous forms of government were revisited, revealing tentativeness on the part of the French nation.

Some idealized the Monarchy (Gustave Flaubert‘s Madame Bovary  [EBook #2413]). However, in the 19th century, only Emperors resembled Absolute Monarchs; King Louis-Philippe III was elected King of the French. The Church of France had to rebuild. It’s wealth had been confiscated in the early days of the French Revolution, at the suggestion, on 10 October 1789, of Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord,[ii] an ordained priest and a bishop.


un fils de France: son of a reigning king (France)
Madame Royale: title sometimes given the eldest living unmarried daughter of a reigning monarch (France)
le Dauphin: the heir apparent (France)
Monsieur: the King’s brother
Madame: Monsieur’s wife 
un coup d’état: the overthrow of a government usually planned within a previous government (an “inside job,” close to treason)
The Congress of Vienna (Photo credit: David King)

The Congress of Vienna, (Photo credit: David King)

Napoleon I's Hundred Days (Photo credit: David King)

Napoleon I’s Hundred Days (Photo credit: David King) 

  1. Louis XVI: guillotined (21 January 1793)
  2. Napoleon I: (9 November 1799 – 1815) Emperor from the coup d’état of 19 Brumaire, Year III until 1815 (defeated at Waterloo)
  3. Louis Joseph, Dauphin de France (22 October 1781 – 4 June 1789) (born to Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI)
  4. Louis XVII (Versailles, 27 March 1785 – Paris, 8 June 1795; died in prison) (born to Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI)
  5. Louis XVIII: reigned from 1815 until 1824 (grandson of Louis XV)
  6. Charles X: reigned from 16 September 1824 until 2 August 1830 (grandson of Louis XV)
  7. Louis-Philippe d’Orléans, Duke of Chartres (Philippe Égalité): guillotined on 6 November 1793 as Louis-Philippe II
  8. Louis-Philippe (III): reigned as elected King of the French from 1830 to 1848 (son of Philippe Égalité or Louis-Philippe II)
  9. Napoleon II, titular, the Duke of Reichstag: (20 March 1811 – 22 July 1832) (born to Napoleon I and Marie-Louise of Austria)
  10. Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte: (20 April 1808 – 9 January 1873) in power as President of the Second Republic (1848 – 1851) (nephew and heir to Napoleon I)
  11. Napoleon III: (20 April 1808 – 9 January 1873) Emperor from the coup d’état of 2 December 1851 until – c. 1870 (Franco-Prussian War)
  12. The Third Republic (1871 – 1940) (not covered in this post)


Victor Hugo: Little Napoleon: Project Gutenberg [EBook #20580]EN
Victor Hugo: Napoleon Le Petit: Project Gutenberg[ EBook # 22045)FR
Karl Marx: The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (online)EN
Congress of Vienna (online account)EN[iii]
Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary is a Project Gutenberg publication [EBook #2413]EN
Edmond Rostand’s L’Aiglon is a Project Gutenberg Publication [EBook #30012]EN
David King‘s Vienna 1814 is an account of the Congress of Vienna
[i] See Treaty of Paris (1814), Wikipedia. 
[ii] André Castelot, Talleyrand ou le cynisme (Paris: Librairie académique Perrin, 1980), p. 64.
[iii] In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Karl Marx writes that the coup d’état occurred between December 1851 and March 1852.

Napoleon I: “La Marseillaise”


Louis-Charles de France,
Louise Élisabeth Vigée Lebrun
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
5 March 2014
updated 18 July 2018