From aristocrats to radicals, women were described as sluts, tramps and unnatural viragos. Moore keeps an eye on the whores in her history, because they provide a depressingly handy simile for a woman entering public life. Independent thought was often dismissed as easy virtue. Working-class activists, led by chocolate-maker Pauline Leon, swaggered through Paris as 'the new bullies of the streets', but when they denounced Robespierre, he stamped on them. Women's political clubs were banned and their members derided as 'impudent women who want to become men'.
Leon appears to have slipped into obscurity. More privileged women could also be silenced.
Germaine de Stael, as an aristocratic intellectual with something of a mouth and a pen on her, shuttled in and out of favour, and, thus, in and out of exile. Initially enthralled by Napoleon - she even tried to push into his bathroom, crying: 'Genius has no sex! Moore is particularly good on fashion. Frocks were weather vanes of ideology; a particular shade of red was even named 'Foulon's blood' after one of Louis XVI's murdered ministers.
Loose white muslin, inspired by Rousseau, suggests the rejection of old formality Moore reports an old corsetiere muttering darkly: 'As soon as they began to introduce bodices instead of whalebone stays, I immediately prophesied the revolution' , while at the height of popular feeling, devotion to dress seemed suspiciously unpatriotic - coarse cloth and hedgerow hair were preferred.
After Robespierre's death, survivors of his terror held extravagantly macabre costume balls; women brandished thin red ribbons around their necks, the guillotine's intended mark.
Liberty - Lucy Moore - Paperback
The most startling dresser here is Theroigne de Mericourt. Having briefly been a kept woman, dripping diamonds, she reinvented herself as an androgynous activist, wearing a masculine riding habit and pistols.
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Theroigne later lost her dreams and wits to the revolution, and she died in an asylum, in filth and fetters. At their best, Moore's criss-crossing narratives coalesce into superbly tense life, especially with Manon Roland.
Married to a politician who lacked her drive and charisma, Roland fostered enemies through her haughty integrity, most catastrophically, Robespierre. She served guests sugar water rather than wine. She became one of the most prominent women targeted by the Terror, oddly proud to be recognised as a political threat.
Having often ghost-written her husband's speeches, in prison, she wrote in her own right, scribbling torrents on pale-green paper. Reformers who idolized him saw his expulsion as a manifestation of outmoded arbitrary power and an unwelcome confirmation of the king's distaste for reform. They rallied to the cause of their champion. A large crowd had gathered in the Palais Royal, as it did every Sunday, to eat ices, buy caricatures, ribbons or lottery tickets, ogle scantily dressed femmes publiques and magic lantern shows, and listen to orators declaiming against the government. By the mids, protected from police regulation by its royal owner and encouraged by that owner's well known antipathy to the court party at Versailles, it had become a city within a city, a place where anything could be seen, said or procured, and the centre of popular opposition to royal abuses.
Liberty: The Lives and Times of Six Women in Revolutionary France
The king was not unprepared for this type of rising; indeed, one of the underlying causes for the popular uproar that greeted Necker's dismissal was distrust of the troops—about a third of whom were Swiss or German soldiers rather than French—with which Louis had been quietly surrounding Paris during late June and early July as preparation for a show of force that would silence his critics for good. But the democratic germs of patriotism and reform that had infected the French people had penetrated as far as the lower ranks of the army, for so long a bastion of aristocratic privilege and tradition, and their leaders' response to the crisis was hesitant.
After a day of chaos and plunder, on the 14th the people's army reached the Bastille, and the revolution received its baptism in blood. The storming of the Bastille was by no means the first act of the revolution. Since , extraordinary developments had been witnessed in government.
France was a nation trembling on the brink of change. Its causes were many and varied: ideological, fiscal, constitutional, personal, economic, historical, social, cultural.
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Nor was Necker's dismissal the sole cause of the Bastille's fall. It was no accident that green, the colour Camille Desmoulins chose as the emblem of hope in the Palais Royal, was the colour of Necker's livery—and typical of the confusion inherent in the revolution itself that it should be replaced soon after with the tricolour because it was also the livery colour of the king's unpopular brother, the comte d'Artois. Like everything during this period, these colours were laden with symbolism: white for the revolutionaries' purity, blue for the heavenly ideals they were pursuing, red for the blood which was already seen as the necessary price of France's liberation.
The tricolour was immediately invested with an almost mystical aura. It became a sacrosanct emblem of the new France that the revolution was creating, materially revered in bits of ribbon representing the fatherland. Germaine had been dining with her parents in Versailles when Necker received Louis's notice on 11 July.
Saying nothing, but squeezing his daughter's hand beneath the table, Necker got into his carriage with his wife as if for their regular evening drive; instead of idling round the park in Versailles, they headed straight for the border with the Low Countries. Germaine returned to Paris that night fourteen kilometres, a carriage journey of about two hours and found there a letter from her father informing her of his departure and advising her to go to his country house at Saint-Ouen.
Ignoring, despite herself, the crowds already gathered in the rue du Bac to hear news of Necker, she rushed to Saint-Ouen with her husband, only to find there another letter summoning them to Brussels, where they arrived on the 13th. There she found her parents, still wearing the same clothes in which they had sat down to dinner two days earlier. After a week Necker received a courier from the king recalling him to Versailles.
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He deliberated for three days and then began the journey back to Paris with his wife, daughter and son-in-law. Fifteen years later, Germaine remembered how intoxicated she was by the accolades showered on her father, the bliss of basking in his popularity. Women working in the fields fell to their knees as the Neckers' coach passed by; as they entered each town, their carriage was unhitched from the horses and drawn through the streets by the inhabitants. The salon may have brought women extraordinary behind-the-scenes influence; but this influence came at a price.
On the surface, salons might seem nothing more than parties attended by bored, frivolous socialites whose daily lives were governed by their toilettes—aristocratic women changed their clothes several times a day, often while receiving favoured visitors—but the details of these lives in fact reveal the social developments of the times. In an age of rigorous formality, for example, in which behaviour itself seemed bound up in whalebone stays, the ritual of the toilette provided a release, allowing people to see each other in relaxed circumstances.
In an age that had almost institutionalized extramarital affairs, it also gave women the chance to display themselves to current or potential lovers beyond the citadel of their petticoats, hoops and corsets: in it was fashionable to receive friends from the luxury of one's milk-bath. She talked and wrote all day long, he reported, her green leather portable writing-desk permanently open on her knees, whether she was in bed or at dinner.
Even when she gave birth there were fifteen people in her bedroom and within three days she was talking as much as ever. Before the revolution, every different outfit served a different purpose, and each one minutely indicated the wearer's status. Wearing unsuitable clothes was an implicit rejection of the hierarchy that controlled society. Inelegant Germaine, who always showed too much flesh—even her travelling dresses had plunging necklines—was by these criteria deeply suspect. Riding-habits were worn to ride or drive in the Bois de Boulogne or go out hunting with the court; day dresses were worn to receive guests at home, to go shopping in the Palais Royal or to attend lectures in the thrilling new sciences of electricity and botany; in the evening, to attend the theatre or a court ball, three-inch heels, heavy makeup and elaborate, pomaded headdresses, snowy-white with powder and sprinkled with jewels, flowers and feathers were de rigueur.
Their hair arrangements were often so tall that women had to travel crouching on the floor of their carriages. Fluttering a fan in a certain way or placing a patch near the eye as opposed to on the cheek revealed a person's character without them having to speak. Contemporaries were fully aware of this dichotomy between word and action.
But by the mids contemporary medical and philosophical views were transforming women's fashions and habits. In one doctor described corsets as barbarous, impeding women's breathing and deforming their chests, and especially dangerous during pregnancy; he was also concerned about the moral effects they produced by displaying the bosom so prominently.
For the first time, women's clothes allowed them to breathe and eat freely: the new fashions quite literally liberated their bodies from an armour of stays, panniers and hoops at the same time as the ideological implications of the change in fashion began to liberate their behaviour. Shedding these restrictions would empower them.
By this definition Germaine, who rose above her plainness Gouverneur Morris thought she looked like a chambermaid and paid scant attention to her dress, was already halfway to emancipation. This seemingly innocent act raised eyebrows for a number of reasons. Furthermore, for the queen herself to reject the formality of court custom—she was traditionally portrayed in carapace-like court dress—carried seditious undertones of disrespect to the traditions she represented.
Finally, the chemise de la reine as it came to be called was a style anyone could afford. Dress, which had once distinguished between people, was becoming dangerously democratic.