Throughout Time, It’s Never Been Too Late For Love

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Welcome, Time Travellers, to 1795

You have gone back in time from New Zealand of 1886 to Revolutionary France of 1795.

A stained glass window from a church in the Vendee marking the execution of rebellious civilians – men and women alike by the French army.

In January of this year, England records its coldest month since records began in 1659 and France exports revolution beyond its borders by invading the Netherlands.

War was also fought between Frenchmen as the people of the Vendée struggled to keep their liberty and their religious freedom.

It was a sad time for lovers as Prince Regent George was forced renounce his long-time lover Catholic divorcee Maria Fitzherbert to marry Caroline of Brunswick.

As soon as George and Caroline’s only child was born, he desperately tried to return to ‘the wife of my heart’, but it was too little too late but the legacy of their romance lives on in Brighton’s Royal Pavilion.

The Lives of Lovers
Across the pond in France, the church was forbidden to perform marriage ceremonies. Couple were required to have a civil marriage before they could have a religious service.

For those who had fallen foul of Revolutionaries there was a grotesque form of execution attributed to Jean-Baptiste Carrier.

An elderly man and woman depicted undergoing a ‘Republican Marriage’. Artist: Joseph Aubert

He would order his men to perform a ‘Republican Marriage’. This involved taking by taking one male and one female rebel, stripping them naked, binding them together back to back and either dumping them in the Nantes river to drown, or to run them both through with the sword.

Priests were tied with nuns, old men bound with old women, young men to girls.

What they ate
The Vendée is on the coast and therefore fishing is a very important industry in the region. The region has a number of specialties – especially sardines from St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, mussels from L’Aiguillon and oysters from the Bay of Bourgneuf. Shrimps, prawns, crabs and langoustines are also readily available and feature heavily in home cooking. Fish soup is a recognised speciality of the region.

Many Vendée food specialities are based around wholesome, traditional foods. These include cabbage, potatoes and white haricot beans (what the locals call ‘mogettes’ introduced to the Vendée by monks during the 16th century). A common recipe for these small white beans is to simmer them for several hours and serve them with local gammon. Some of the region’s best, sweet tasting potatoes are grown on the Ile de Re and Ile de Noirmoutier and mushrooms are also very popular with a broad range to choose from including ceps, horns of plenty and chanterelles.

Delicious brioche. You can try making it yourself. Here’s the recipe.

The most famous of desserts from the Vendée has to be the brioche – a fluffy bread which is believed to have sprung from a traditional Norman recipe

Where they lived
People have lived in the Vendée since prehistoric times; there are menhirs and dolmens scattered all around the region and these date from 2,500 BC. With the arrival of the Romans in 57 BC, the provinces of Aquitaine and Poitou were united under the “Pax Romana” this precipitated the building of many roads which are still visible today.

The role of women

The Revolution itself inspired great social change in France, leading women to call for increased social justice. One such woman was Olympe de Gouges, who published the “Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen” in 1791 as a counterpart to the famous revolutionary document that focused specifically on the rights of men. De Gouges is a symbol not only for France’s growing feminism, but also for the Revolutionary opposition to changing gender roles. The Jacobin Club, one of the most influential political groups during the Revolution, executed de Gouges in 1793 and outlawed female political clubs on the grounds that women belonged in the private sphere of family rather than in the world of politics.

Celeste Bulkeley leads men into battle to defend the Vendee

Not all women supported the Revolutionaries. One such woman was Celeste Bulkeley was a French soldier in the Catholic and Royal Army during the war in the Vendée. She was one of at least six women known as the amazons in the army of François de Charette. She is particularly known, being included as a heroine in many school books during the 19th century.

Barriers To Love
Night Of The Feast is set on the eve of one of the battles in the Vendée .

As much as I love the heroine Jacqueline Archambeau and the hero Michael St John, based on the fact that close to half of the the Vendeen population – men, women and children – were killed, we can only pray our lovers survived the aftermath and were able to be reunited.

But even so, they have much to overcome, Michael has been drifting since his wife’s death and now with war on England’s doorstep, Michael becomes a spy to give his life purpose. Jacqueline is the only woman who has interested him in all that time.

Jacqueline has been wounded by the disappearance of her lover Patric, presumed dead. She tries so hard to be brave for his daughter and to keep the garrisoned French soldiers under control in her tavern.

Farewell from 1795

Thank you for dropping in. Your next stop should be on Amy Quinton’s blog on 30th November. Or return to the time machine page on our Bluestocking Belle’s website and pick a year as they are posted over the next few weeks.

I wish you safe travels. Good luck. Try not to land in the midst of the Battle of Hastings or American Revolutionary War!

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Showing 22 comments
  • Jude Knight

    This was fascinating, Elizabeth. Thank you.

  • Ramona

    This era is fascinating to read about but I doubt if any of today’s women would want to go there. We are much too independent.

  • Marina Leonard

    Fantastic, it was a great story in a wonderful book.

  • Lori Dykes

    How interesting!! Thank you so much Elizabeth!!

  • Suzannah Clark

    Wow loved the article. I had never heard of Republican Marriages. What a horrific crime.

  • Marina Leonard

    Very interesting.

  • Marina Leonard

    I loved this story, I loved the book.

    • EE Carter

      Thank you so much Marina,
      I’m honoured to be writing with such incredible authors!

  • Catherine Maguire (cosmicread)

    Lovers faced great difficulties. I would hate to have fallen foul of the Revolutionaries.

    • EE Carter

      They sure did. I always like to think that love conquers all.

  • Suzanne Pierson

    So fascinating. Thank you for sharing!

  • Joye

    Interesting article, especially about the food they ate. Thanks for sharing the recipe-I am going to give it try.

    • EE Carter

      I hope you enjoy it! Brioche is lovely – half bread, half cake!

  • Carol Luciano

    How terrible were those Republican marriages. Thank you for this post. So informative.

    • EE Carter

      It was such a horrible era – such brutality!

  • charlene capodice

    thanks for the great info! loved the ;post

  • Alison Pridie

    I had no clue how horrible the brutality could be especially with what you said about the Republican marriages. Your whole article was very intresting and I enjoyed reading it

  • Monika Page

    Another history lesson I very much enjoyed. Thank you.

  • Cindi Knowles

    My goodness this was a harsh time!

  • stacy krout

    I love history, and your article was so interesting! Thank you!

  • Janet Barrett

    Loved the story. I’m amazed at how many Napoleonic Laws still exist in France. Thanks for all the info

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