Saturday 30 August 2014

Dressed to Madame Guillotine.

Women: "age of undress"; dressing like statues coming to life;filet-Greek classical hairstyle; simple muslin chemise w. ribbon; sheer; empire silhouette; pastel fabrics; natural makeup; bare arms; blonde wigs; accessorized with (to demonstrate individuality): hats, turbans, gloves, jewelry, small handbags - reticules, shawls, handkerchiefs; parasols; fans; Maja: layered skirt
Men: trousers w. perfect tailoring; linen; coats cutaway in the front w. long tails; cloaks; hats; the Dandy; Majo: short jacket

In the French Revolution, the sans-culottes  ​("without culottes") were the radical left-wing partisans of the lower classes; typically urban labourers, which dominated France. Though ill-clad and ill-equipped, they made up the bulk of the Revolutionary army during the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars.The appellation refers to the fashionable culottes (silk knee-breeches) of the moderate bourgeois revolutionaries, as distinguished from the working class sans-culottes, who traditionally wore pantalons (trousers)

Cockades were widely worn by revolutionaries beginning in 1789. They now pinned the blue-and-red cockade of Paris onto the white cockade of the Ancien Régime - thus producing the original Tricolore cockade. Later, distinctive colours and styles of cockade would indicate the wearer's faction—although the meanings of the various styles were not entirely consistent, and varied somewhat by region and period.

In revolutionary France, the cap or bonnet rouge was first seen publicly in May 1790, at a festival in Troyes adorning a statue representing the nation, and at Lyon, on a lance carried by the goddess Libertas. To this day the national emblem of France, Marianne, is shown wearing a Phrygian cap. The caps were often knitted by women known as Tricoteuse who sat beside the guillotine during public executions in Paris in the French Revolution, supposedly continuing to knit in between executions.
Early depiction of the tricolour in the hands of a sans-culotte during the French Revolution.
The Liberty cap, also known as the Phrygian cap, or pileus, is a brimless, felt cap that is conical in shape with the tip pulled forward. The cap was originally worn by ancient Romans and Greeks. The cap implies ennobling effects, as seen in its association with Homer's Ulysses and the mythical twins, Castor and Pollux. The emblem's popularity during the French Revolution is due in part to its importance in ancient Rome: its use alludes to the Roman ritual of manumission of slaves, in which a freed slave receives the bonnet as a symbol of his newfound liberty. The Roman tribune Lucius Appuleius Saturninus incited the slaves to insurrection by displaying a pileus as if it were a standard.
The pileus cap is often red in color. This type of cap was worn by revolutionaries at the fall of the Bastille. According to the Revolutions de Paris, it became "the symbol of the liberation from all servitudes, the sign for unification of all the enemies of despotism."  The pileus competed with the Phrygian cap, a similar cap that covered the ears and the nape of the neck, for popularity. The Phrygian cap eventually supplanted the pileus and usurped its symbolism, becoming synonymous with republican liberty.

The Incroyables ("incredibles") and their female counterparts, the Merveilleuses ("marvelous women", roughly equivalent to "fabulous divas"), were members of a fashionable aristocratic subculture in Paris during the French Directory (1795–1799). Whether as catharsis or in a need to reconnect with other survivors of the Reign of Terror, they greeted the new regime with an outbreak of luxury, decadence, and even silliness. They held hundreds of balls and started fashion trends in clothing and mannerisms that today seem exaggerated, affected, or even effete (decadent, self-indulgent). Some devotees of the trend preferred to be called "incoyable" or "meveilleuse", thus avoiding the letter R, as in "révolution." When this period ended, society took a more sober and modest turn.

Many Incroyables were "nouveaux riches" who had gained their wealth from selling arms and money lending. Members of the ruling classes were also among the movement's leading figures, and the group heavily influenced the politics, clothing, and arts of the period. They emerged from the muscadins, a term for dandyish anti-Jacobin street gangs in Paris from 1793  who were important politically for some two years; the terms are often used interchangeably, though the muscadins were of a lower social background, being largely middle-class.

The Merveilleuses scandalized Paris with dresses and tunics modeled after the ancient Greeks and Romans, cut of light or even transparent linen and gauze. Sometimes so revealing they were termed "woven air", many gowns displayed cleavage and were too tight to allow pockets. To carry even a handkerchief, the ladies had to use small bags known as reticules.They were fond of wigs, often choosing blonde because the Paris Commune had banned blond wigs, but they also wore them in black, blue, and green. Enormous hats, short curls like those on Roman busts, and Greek-style sandals were the rage. The sandals were tied above the ankle with crossed ribbons or strings of pearls. Exotic and expensive scents fabricated by perfume houses like Parfums Lubin were worn as both for style and as indicators of social station. Thérésa Tallien, known as "Our Lady of Thermidor", wore expensive rings on the toes of her bare feet and gold circlets on her legs.

The Incroyables wore eccentric outfits: large earrings, green jackets, wide trousers, huge neckties, thick glasses, and hats topped by "dog ears", their hair falling on their ears. Their musk-based fragrances earned them too the derogatory nickname muscadins among the lower classes, already applied to a wide group of anti-jacobins (see above). They wore bicorne hats and carried bludgeons, which they referred to as their "executive power." Hair was often shoulder-length, sometimes pulled up in the back with a comb to imitate the hairstyles of the condemned. Some sported large monocles, and they frequently affected a lisp and sometimes a stooped hunchbacked posture.

In addition to Madame Tallien, famous Merveilleuses included Anne Françoise Elizabeth Lange, Jeanne Françoise Julie Adélaïde Récamier, and two very popular Créoles: Fortunée Hamelin and Hortense de Beauharnais. Hortense, a daughter of the Empress Josephine, married Louis Bonaparte and became the mother of Napoleon III. Fortunée was not born rich, but she became famous for her salons and her string of prominent lovers. Parisian society compared Germaine de Staël and Mme Raguet to Minerva and Juno and named their garments for Roman deities: gowns were styled Flora or Diana, and tunics were styled à la Ceres or Minerva.

The leading Incroyable, Paul François Jean Nicolas, vicomte de Barras, was one of the five Directors who ran the Republic of France and gave the period its name. He hosted luxurious feasts attended by royalists, repentant Jacobins, ladies, and courtesans. Since divorce was now legal, sexuality was looser than in the past. However, de Barras' reputation for immorality may have been a factor in his later overthrow, a coup that brought the French Consulate to power and paved the way for Napoleon Bonaparte.

The Bals des victimes, or victims' balls, were balls that were said to have been put on by dancing societies after the Reign of Terror. To be admitted to these societies and balls, one had to be a near relative of someone who had been guillotined during the Terror. The balls came to prominence after the death of Robespierre, supposedly first being held in early 1795 and first mentioned in popular writing in 1797.

The bals des victimes allegedly began as part of a rash of merrymaking and balls that broke out as the Terror came to an end. According to one source, they emerged as an idea of youths whose parents and other near relatives had gone to the guillotine, and to whom the revolution had now restored their relatives' confiscated property. Reveling in the return of fortune they established aristocratic, decadent balls open to themselves alone.

Descriptions of the balls' particulars vary, but the common thread is that they were a cathartic device in which the participants acted out the emotional impact of their relatives' executions and the social upheavals occurring as a result of the revolution. Many who described the balls, often generations afterwards, nevertheless found them a scandalous idea. Whether real or imagined, the very idea of the balls reflected the post-Terror generations' morbid fascination with the horror of the guillotine and the excesses of the French Revolution with its mass executions.

Those who attended the orgiastic balls reportedly wore mourning clothes or elaborate costumes with crepe armbands signifying mourning. Some accounts have both men and women wearing plain but scanty dress in the wake of the impoverishment of the Revolution, at least until the return of their fortunes at which time ball dress became highly elaborate. Others describe women dressing scandalously in Greco-Roman attire, with their feet bare or adorned only by ribbons. The style of dress at such a ball was known by some as the "costume à la victime."Women, and by some accounts men too, wore a red ribbon or string around their necks at the point of a guillotine blade's impact. Both men and women attending the balls were said to have worn or cut their hair in a fashion that bared their necks in a manner reflecting the haircut given the victim by the executioner, women often using a comb known as a cadenette to achieve this fashion.[According to some, this was the origin of the feminine hairstyle known as the "coiffure à la victime" or more popularly the "coiffure à la Titus", or (in England) "a la guillotine". Some sources state that a woman sporting this hairstyle sometimes wore a red shawl or throat ribbon even when not attending a bal des victimes.

In another macabre touch, instead of a graceful bow or bob of the head to one's dancing partner, a man who attended a bal des victimes would jerk his head sharply downwards in imitation of the moment of decapitation. Some sources suggest that women, too, adopted this salutation.

Friday 29 August 2014

Terror! Robespierre and the French Revolution

Terror! Robespierre and the French Revolution is a 2009 documentary broadcast on BBC Two in July 2009.

In 1794, French revolutionary Maximilien Robespierre produced the world's first defense of "state terror" - claiming that the road to virtue lay through political violence. This film combines drama, archive and documentary interviews to examine Robespierre's year in charge of the Committee of Public Safety - the powerful state machine at the heart of Revolutionary France. Contesting Robespierre's legacy is Slavoj Žižek, who argues that terror in the cause of virtue is justifiable, and Simon Schama, who believes the road from Robespierre ran straight to the gulag and the 20th-century concentration camp. The drama, based on original sources, follows the life-and-death politics of the Committee during "Year Two" of the new Republic. It was a year which gave birth to key features of the modern age: the thought crime; the belief that calculated acts of violence can perfect humanity; the notion that the interests of "mankind" can be placed above those of "man"; the use of policemen to enforce morals; and the use of denunciation as a political tool.

Terror! Robespierre and the French Revolution

The Reign of Terror (5 September 1793 – 28 July 1794), also known simply as The Terror (French: la Terreur), was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution, incited by conflict between rival political factions, the Girondins and the Jacobins, and marked by mass executions of "enemies of the revolution". The death toll ranged in the tens of thousands, with 16,594 executed by guillotine (2,639 in Paris), and another 25,000 in summary executions across France.

The guillotine (called the "National Razor") became the symbol of the revolutionary cause, strengthened by a string of executions: King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, the Girondins, Philippe Égalité (Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans), and Madame Roland, and others such as pioneering chemist Antoine Lavoisier, lost their lives under its blade. During 1794, revolutionary France was beset with conspiracies by internal and foreign enemies. Within France, the revolution was opposed by the French nobility, which had lost its inherited privileges. The reactionary Roman Catholic Church did everything to discredit the Revolution, which had turned the clergy into employees of the state and required they take an oath of loyalty to the nation (through the Civil Constitution of the Clergy). In addition, the First French Republic was engaged in a series of wars with neighboring powers intent on crushing the revolution to prevent its spread.

The extension of civil war and the advance of foreign armies on national territory produced a political crisis and increased the rivalry between the Girondins and the more radical Jacobins. The latter were eventually grouped in the parliamentary faction called the Mountain, and they had the support of the Parisian population. The French government established the Committee of Public Safety, which took its final form on 6 September 1793 in order to suppress internal counter-revolutionary activities and raise additional French military forces.

Through the Revolutionary Tribunal, the Terror's leaders exercised broad powers and used them to eliminate the internal and external enemies of the Republic. The repression accelerated in June and July 1794, a period called la Grande Terreur (the Great Terror), and ended in the coup of 9 Thermidor Year II (27 July 1794), leading to the Thermidorian Reaction, in which several instigators of the Reign of Terror were executed, including Saint-Just and Robespierre.

After the resolution of the foreign wars during 1791–93, the violence associated with the Reign of Terror increased significantly: only roughly 4 percent of executions had occurred before November 1793 (Brumaire, Year I), thus signalling to many that the Reign of Terror might have had additional causes. These could have included inherent issues with revolutionary ideology, and/or the need of a weapon for political repression in a time of significant foreign and civil upheaval,leading to many different interpretations by historians.

Many historians have debated the reasons why the French Revolution took such a radical turn during the Reign of Terror of 1793–94. The public was frustrated that the social equality and anti-poverty measures that the Revolution originally promised were not materializing. Jacques Roux's Manifesto of the Enraged in 25 June 1793 describes the extent to which, four years into the Revolution, these goals were largely unattained by the common people. The foundation of the Terror is centered on the April 1793 creation of the Committee of Public Safety and its militant Jacobin delegates. The National Convention believed that the Committee needed to rule with "near dictatorial power" and the Committee was delegated new and expansive political powers to quickly respond to popular demands.

Those in power believed the Committee of Public Safety was an unfortunate, but necessary and temporary reaction to the pressures of foreign and civil war. Historian Albert Mathiez argues that the authority of the Committee of Public Safety was based on the necessities of war, as those in power realized that deviating from the will of the people was a temporary emergency response measure in order to secure the ideals of the Republic. According to Mathiez, they "touched only with trepidation and reluctance the regime established by the Constituent Assembly" so as not to interfere with the early accomplishments of the Revolution.

Similar to Mathiez, Richard Cobb introduced competing circumstances of revolt and re-education within France as an explanation for the Terror. Counter-revolutionary rebellions taking place in Lyon, Brittany, Vendée, Nantes, and Marseille were threatening the Revolution with royalist ideas.[ Cobb writes, "the revolutionaries themselves, living as if in combat… were easily persuaded that only terror and repressive force saved them from the blows of their enemies."

Terror was used in these rebellions both to execute inciters and to provide a very visible example to those who might be considering rebellion. Cobb agrees with Mathiez that the Terror was simply a response to circumstances, a necessary evil and natural defence, rather than a manifestation of violent temperaments or excessive fervour. At the same time, Cobb rejects Mathiez's Marxist interpretation that elites controlled the Reign of Terror to the significant benefit to the bourgeoisie. Instead, Cobb argues that "social struggles" between the classes were seldom the reason for revolutionary actions and sentiments.

Francois Furet, however, argues that circumstances could not have been the sole cause of the Reign of Terror because "the risks for the Revolution were greatest" in the middle of 1793 but at that time "the activity of the Revolutionary Tribunal was relatively minimal."Widespread terror and a consequent rise in executions came after external and internal threats were vastly reduced. Therefore Furet suggests that ideology played the crucial role in the rise of the Reign of Terror because "man's regeneration" became a central theme for the Committee of Public Safety as they were trying to instill ideals of free will and enlightened government in the public. As this ideology became more and more pervasive, violence became a significant method for dealing with counter-revolutionaries and the opposition because, for fear of being labelled a counter-revolutionary themselves, "the moderate men would have to accept, endorse and even glorify the acts of the more violent."

On 2 June 1793, Paris sections – encouraged by the enragés Jacques Roux and Jacques Hébert – took over the Convention, calling for administrative and political purges, a low fixed price for bread, and a limitation of the electoral franchise to sans-culottes alone. With the backing of the National Guard, they persuaded the Convention to arrest 29 Girondist leaders, including Jacques Pierre Brissot.[17] On 13 July the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat – a Jacobin leader and journalist known for his violent rhetoric – by Charlotte Corday resulted in a further increase in Jacobin political influence.

Maximilien Robespierre had others executed via his role on the Revolutionary Tribunal and the Committee of Public Safety
Georges Danton, the leader of the August 1792 uprising against the King, was removed from the Committee. On 27 July Maximilien Robespierre, known in Republican circles as "the Incorruptible" for his ascetic dedication to his ideals, made his entrance, quickly becoming the most influential member of the Committee as it moved to take radical measures against the Revolution's domestic and foreign enemies.

The result of this was policy through which the state used violent repression to crush resistance to the government. Under control of the effectively dictatorial Committee, the Convention quickly enacted more legislation. On 9 September the Convention established sans-culottes paramilitary forces, the revolutionary armies, to force farmers to surrender grain demanded by the government. On 17 September the Law of Suspects was passed, which authorized the charging of counter-revolutionaries with vaguely defined crimes against liberty. On 29 September the Convention extended price-fixing from grain and bread to other essential goods, and also fixed wages. The guillotine became the symbol of a string of executions: Louis XVI had already been guillotined before the start of the terror; Marie-Antoinette, the Girondists, Philippe Égalité, Madame Roland and many others lost their lives under its blade.

The Revolutionary Tribunal summarily condemned thousands of people to death by the guillotine, while mobs beat other victims to death. Sometimes people died for their political opinions or actions, but many for little reason beyond mere suspicion, or because some others had a stake in getting rid of them.

Among people who were condemned by the revolutionary tribunals, about 8 percent were aristocrats, 6 percent clergy, 14 percent middle class, and 72 percent were workers or peasants accused of hoarding, evading the draft, desertion, rebellion.[21] Maximilien Robespierre, "frustrated with the progress of the revolution," saw politics in a rather tyrannical way because "any institution which does not suppose the people good, and the magistrate corruptible, is evil."

Another anti-clerical uprising was made possible by the instalment of the Revolutionary Calendar on 24 October. Hébert's and Chaumette's atheist movement initiated an anti-religious campaign in order to dechristianise society. The program of dechristianisation waged against Catholicism, and eventually against all forms of Christianity, included the deportation or execution of clergy; the closing of churches; the rise of cults and the institution of a civic religion; the large scale destruction of religious monuments; the outlawing of public and private worship and religious education; the forced abjurement of priests of their vows and forced marriages of the clergy; the word "saint" being removed from street names; and the War in the Vendée.

The enactment of a law on 21 October 1793 made all suspected priests and all persons who harboured them liable to death on sight.[24] The climax was reached with the celebration of the goddess Reason in Notre Dame Cathedral on 10 November. Because dissent was now regarded as counter-revolutionary, extremist enragés such as Hébert and moderate Montagnard indulgents such as Danton were guillotined in the Spring of 1794. On 7 June Robespierre, who favoured deism over Hébert's atheism and had previously condemned the Cult of Reason, recommended that the Convention acknowledge the existence of his god. On the next day, the worship of the deistic Supreme Being was inaugurated as an official aspect of the Revolution. Compared with Hébert's somewhat popular festivals, this austere new religion of Virtue was received with signs of hostility by the Parisian public.

Fatal Purity
By Marisa Linton | Published in History Today 2006  /

Marisa Linton examines a work on one of the main characters in the French Revolution.

Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution

 Ruth Scurr

Chatto and Windus    369 pp    £20      ISBN  0701176008

The two leading figures of the French Revolution who remain best known today are at opposite ends of the spectrum, Marie Antoinette and Robespierre. Robespierre’s character is by far the more complex and compelling. Marie-Antoinette found herself at the centre of the Revolution only through the chance that made her an empress’s daughter and a king’s wife. Fate had destined Robespierre for obscurity and a respectable life as a small-town lawyer. However, once the Revolution broke out, he threw himself into it wholeheartedly and  forged himself a unique place at its very heart.

He became synonymous with all that was best about the Revolution: he was a tireless defender of liberty, equality and the rights of the poor and dispossessed. But he is also indelibly associated with the most hideous aspect of the Revolution: the use of Terror. His enigmatic personality still commands our attention: to understand Robespierre is to begin to understand the Revolution.

In 1789 Robespierre was a shy, unknown deputy in the Estates General, notable mostly for the awkwardness of his public speaking. He learned quickly: Mirabeau saw immediately what made Robespierre special: ‘That man will go far. He believes what he says.’ Robespierre was a politician by conviction and his ascetic personal life reflected this. Even at the height of his power he lived as a lodger in the house of a master carpenter. Politically astute, stubborn, infuriatingly convinced of his own rectitude, he was that most remarkable of mortals – an incorruptible politician.

No French revolutionary has attracted more biographies than Robespierre. Most have been either passionately for or passionately against him. He has that effect on people. His earnest sincerity commands respect; his conviction appals us. Indeed, it is the very integrity of his principles that makes his adoption of violent tactics so horrifying: a fact recognized by his two greatest English biographers, J.M. Thompson and Norman Hampson.

And now we have the latest biography of Robespierre, the first book by a relatively unknown author. The publisher makes great claims for it, stating that it is: ‘The highly-anticipated debut of a major new historian’, and asserting that the book ‘sheds a dazzling new light’ on the puzzle that is Robespierre. Well, does it? Far from it. This book is not likely to be of interest to anyone with specialist knowledge of the Revolution. There is no new material, no original interpretation, no use made of the burgeoning new studies of political culture and language in this period that could throw fresh light upon the subject. But that should not trouble the general reader. The story of Robespierre is itself an extraordinary one. And Scurr does a very competent job, giving her account in a clear and evocative style. At times, particularly as the narrative reaches its climax, her language approaches the almost poetic quality this tale can inspire in even the most prosaic historians. Political biographies, however, straddle an awkward position between addressing the role of the individual, and the events that shaped the time. The most notable shortcoming of this book is the downplaying of the politics of the Revolution itself. Thompson said it was misleading to think of the Revolution as having leaders at all, for they were ‘swept off their feet, and carried along by a movement which they were powerless to control.’ This does not always come across in Scurr’s account. She attributes much of the hostility between the two revolutionary groups, the Jacobins and the Girondins, to the personal enmity of their respective leaders, Robespierre and Brissot. She states: ‘Robespierre had made an implicit pact with street violence in order to destroy his Girondin enemies in the Convention.’ This is misleading: personal rancour there was in plenty, but that was not why the Girondins were overthrown. The overwhelming reasons were the war and war policy, the fate of the King, and the question of how far the Parisian lower classes, the sans-culottes, the practitioners of street violence, should control the Revolution. Eventually, the sans-culottes  took matters into their own hands to put the Jacobins in power. Robespierre and the Jacobins chose to ride the tiger of direct popular democracy in allying themselves with the sans-culottes. But to ride a tiger is a dangerous business and the Jacobin leaders wielded the Terror partly to stop the sans-culottes doing it on their own account. ‘Let us be terrible,’ said Danton, ‘to save the people from being so.’ Was Robespierre the hero or the villain of the  tragedy that was the Revolution? This book is a good place to begin the search for an answer.

  Marisa Linton is the author of The Politics of Virtue in Enlightenment France (Palgrave, 2001).


Date: March 19, 1989, Sunday, Late City Final Edition Section 7; Page 1, Column 3; Book Review Desk

Byline: By EUGEN WEBER; Eugen Weber, a professor of history at the University of California at Los Angeles, is the author of ''Peasants Into Frenchmen.''/

Lead: LEAD: CITIZENS A Chronicle of the French Revolution. By Simon Schama. Illustrated. 948 pp. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. $29.95.


CITIZENS A Chronicle of the French Revolution. By Simon Schama. Illustrated. 948 pp. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. $29.95.

 Recumbent readers beware. Those who like to do their poring lying down will scarcely rush to take up this book. It is monumental. Once hefted, however, and well balanced on lap, knee or chest, ''Citizens'' will prove hard to put down. Provocative and stylish, Simon Schama's account of the first few years of the great Revolution in France, and of the decades that led up to it, is thoughtful, informed and profoundly revisionist. Mr. Schama, who teaches history at Harvard University, has committed other large and readable tomes. But nowhere more than here does he challenge enduring prejudices with prejudices of his own. His arguments, though, are embedded in narrative. Above all, he tells a story, and he tells it well.

 The French Revolution, according to Mr. Schama, was no bourgeois thrust against stodgy despotism or anachronistic aristocracy. The old regime was not old, nor did it act anachronistic, fusty or decrepit. Neither stagnant nor reactionary, the French nobility, at least its most audible and visible members, were more open to new blood, ideas and ventures than they had ever been. Two-thirds of noble families had become ennobled during the 17th and 18th centuries: a nobleman was no more than a successful bourgeois; and capitalist enterprise among nobles was as vigorous as among their bourgeois counterparts. Far from offering an obstacle to progress, the greatest modernizers in metallurgy, mines, shipbuilding or street lighting were nobly born. Far from rejecting the social and intellectual lessons of the Enlightenment, nobles echoed them: not least the gentleman Mr. Schama says was known in America as Marcus D. Lafayette. In their sympathy for new ideas, the Marquis de Lafayette and his equally noble friends were no exception; and the reign of Louis XVI, Mr. Schama insists, was troubled more by addiction to change than by resistance to it. Indeed, he argues, revolutionary violence was fired more by hostility to modernization, attempted or proposed, than by the will to speed it forward.

 Like the elite, government was less interested in tradition than in novelty and greater efficiency. The bureaucratic personnel of the 1780's would be recalled to office by Napoleon in the late 1790's, to mend the mess the Revolution left behind. Queen Marie Antoinette was lampooned as Madame Deficit, but expenditure on all Court items, 6 or 7 percent of the total budget, was about half what the British spent on their monarchy.

 There were serious problems, similar to those faced by other contemporary regimes: venality of office (51,000 public offices held as private property) facilitated cash flow but blocked reform; tax exemptions at the top encouraged tax evasion at the bottom. But the root of the fiscal problems was the cost of armaments, coupled with resistance to new taxes. By 1788, debt service accounted for almost half of current revenues. But in 18th-century perspective, even this huge debt was neither exceptional nor unmanageable. And those who sought to manage it on the King's behalf were more than empty heads presiding over empty purses. Nevertheless, aggressive, reforming managers in high office did not manage to reform; and the money crisis turned into the political crisis that led the monarchy to its end.

 In my view, Mr. Schama underestimates structural problems that no 18th-century regime effectively coped with. But he is right to shift blame for failure from structural dysfunctions to ''circumstances and policies'' - that is, to men and, above all, to a well-meaning but indecisive King, who was addicted to changing ministers in midstream. In Louis XVI, royal irresolution produced political incoherence. With no two ministers following the same strategy, fiscal policies especially were inconsistent and ineffective. Meanwhile, it became clear that true fiscal reforms could be achieved only with the support of representative bodies. But the re-creation of an assembly representative enough to save France from bankruptcy aggravated the crisis such an assembly was supposed to solve. Public debate swelled to unexpected heights. Didactic or preachy, it often affected the muscular patriotism learned from the classics and reinforced by recent American example. Patriotic freedom would surely produce money, where reforming absolutism had not. And, just as had happened 20 years before in Britain's American colonies, argument drifted from particulars to generalities, from particular privileges, policies and liberties to more general liberty.

 This is where circumstances altered cases. For two years before the Estates General assembled at Versailles in May 1789, harvests had been rotten, food supplies were short and opportunities to earn a living wage in an agriculture-driven economy had shrunk. With 40 percent of the kingdom's population dependent on charity, hunger bred anger, crowds turned into mobs. It was to defend liberty and its patriotic proponents embattled at Versailles that Parisian crowds rioted in July 1789; but also, and more so, they rioted for bread and against taxes.

 On July 12, the wall surrounding Paris was breached and its customs posts sacked and burnt. On July 14, the Bastille fell and its seven prisoners were released: four forgers, two lunatics and one aristocratic delinquent, imprisoned at his family's request. The Bastille's governor was slaughtered; his head, hacked off with a pocketknife, was stuck on a pike and carried through streets filled with cheering crowds. That day and later, other heads were flourished in the breeze. Two, belonging to noble ''vampires'' who were blamed for the famine, had hay stuck in their mouths. Virtue militant carried a pike, and used it. Hungry, irrational, suspicious crowds easily turned from anger to murder. Real grievances were fed into a great furnace stoked by the newly emancipated press - which was less ideological than viciously vulgar, less philosophical than pornographic - and by the creative truculence of street-corner orators.

 Here lay the source of that relation between blood and freedom, or blood and bread, that was established not by the Terror of 1793, but by the patriotic stirrings of 1789. As Mr. Schama says, the Terror was merely 1789 with a higher body count. There would have been no Revolution, no source of revolutionary energy, without violence. It was violence, Mr. Schama says, that ''made the Revolution revolutionary.'' He might have added: violence expanded from its normal place among ordinary people to those social groups hitherto protected from its more discomforting aspects.

 Nor, Mr. Schama reminds us, would revolutionary transformations have taken place without the intervention of those whom they most affected. The mass abandonment of feudal privileges on Aug. 4, 1789, was accomplished by dukes and bishops.

 Despite sporadic violence, the early Revolution was a bit like the hot-air balloons that trailed tricolor ribbons over the Champs-Elysees to celebrate a new Constitution. But to get that Constitution, crowds had been brought into the streets. It would be hard to drive them off when constitutional government provided less bread than absolutism had done, when patriotism delivered no provender. There is no more reason to associate food and freedom than there is to believe liberty compatible with equality. But, in Mr. Schama's words, asking for the impossible is one good definition of a revolution.

 A lot of impossible things were asked for in the name of reason or patriotism, liberty or equality. In 1790 the clergy were declared civil servants and asked to swear a loyalty oath to the state that paid them. Most declined. Church property, nationalized and sold to pay state debts, did not solve the economic crisis. But by creating a cleavage between those who followed the state and those who followed the Pope, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy insured that differences over fundamental social and political reforms would spiral into a civil war that was also, as Mr. Schama calls it, a holy war.

 Then, in 1792, patriotism culminated in foreign wars; and the pressures of conflict, internal and external, pushed terrorism to new lengths. Because they were reminiscent of aristocratic ways, elegance, manners, wit were denounced as treason. The King was deposed, and a new calendar opened with ''Year One of French Liberty.'' In revolutionary newspeak, liberty, of course, meant its opposite: a police state, in which spying, denunciation, indictment, humiliation and death threatened all. The sententious religion of universal brotherhood gave way to the polemics of paranoia: Rousseau with a hoarse voice, as Mr. Schama puts it. Personal scores became political causes. Nuts came out of the woodwork. Marat was one, but a nuttier enthusiast, the Marquis de Bry, gauging the mood of the hour, offered to found an organization of tyrannicides - 1,200 freedom fighters dedicated to the murder of kings, generals and assorted foes of freedom.

Thus was the joy of living replaced by the joy of seeing others die. Mr. Schama is at his most powerful when denouncing the central truth of the Revolution: its dependence on organized (and disorganized) killing to attain political ends. However virtuous were the principles of the revolutionaries, he reminds us that their power depended on intimidation: the spectacle of death. Violence was no aberration, no unexpected skid off the highway of revolution: it was the Revolution - its motor and, for a while, its end.

 In the National Assembly Mirabeau had argued that a few must perish so that the mass of people might be saved. It turned out that more than a few would perish. Politicians who graduated from rhetoric to government found that rhetoric made government impossible. If patriotism was to triumph, politics had to end; liberty had to be suppressed in the name of Liberty; democracy had to be sacrificed so that Democracy should live. Speaking from the ruthless precinct of the Committee of Public Safety, Saint-Just, who is one of Mr. Schama's favorite antiheroes, insisted that the Republic stood for the extermination of everything that opposed it. And absence of enthusiastic support was opposition enough.

 With the likes of Saint-Just and Robespierre (a state scholarship boy, typical of old regime meritocracy), doublespeak was in the saddle. Murderously weepy, sadistically moralistic, fanatically denouncing as fanatics those who did not share their fanaticism, men like Robespierre stood for the will of the people as long as the people's will matched their own visions. Ever offering to die for their beliefs, they got the sour satisfaction of undergoing the martyrdom they professed to seek: murderers murdering murderers before being murdered in their turn, until the last days of July 1794 brought an end to the Terror, though not to continuing terrorism.

 This is where Mr. Schama's chronicle of the Revolution ends, before successive regimes - Directory, Consulate, Empire - tried to pick up its pieces. But not before its author presents the bill for access to French citizenship: a quarter-century of warfare, with its fallout of militarism, nationalism and xenophobia; the disaster of the Vendee, where civil war wiped out one-third of the population; the ruin of port cities and textile towns that had been the growth areas of 18th-century France; the losses to French trade, which, by 1815, was only about 60 percent of what it had been in 1789. One could add that, by enforcing and thus discrediting paper money, the Revolution set back its popular acceptance by a century and accentuated national problems of credit and cash flow.

Mr. Schama reacts against intellectual cowardice, against self-delusion, against ascribing greatness to great horrors and painting brutish acts in brilliant colors. Above all, he reacts against violence, against the way violence as means was allowed to become violence as end, against the way politicians, historians and simple-minded nincompoops rationalize violence as pathological, or sanitizing, or necessary, or whatever.

 Because they are forcefully expressed and buttressed by illuminating anecdotes, the selectiveness of his views is not immediately evident. One can be so swept along by Mr. Schama's brio that his biases seem irrelevant. They are not, because they are as exaggerated as current exaggerations in the opposite direction, and because they conceal aspects of events that receive no notice. For the positive side of the Revolution, readers will have to turn elsewhere. Mr. Schama has given us a grand argument for the prosecution. Lively descriptions of major events, colorful cameos of leading characters (and obscure ones too) bring them to life here as no other general work has done. Baroque eloquence and rococo sparkle make the book long but never long-winded. All in all, it is an intelligent book for intelligent readers that is also a delight to read. THE SEAT OF THE BEAST DESPOTISM

 The first number of the Revolutions de Paris, published on the seventeenth of July, was devoted to a lengthy - and rather muddled - account of the insurrection. . . . ''The cells were thrown open to set free innocent victims and venerable old men who were amazed to behold the light of day.'' The reality was less dramatic. Of the seven prisoners, four were forgers who had been tried by regular process of law. The Comte de Solanges, like de Sade, had been incarcerated at the request of his family for libertinism. . . . The remaining two prisoners were lunatics. . . . One of them, however, ''Major Whyte'' (described in French sources as English and in English sources as Irish), was perfect for revolutionary propaganda, bearing as he did a waist-length beard. With his carpet of silvery whiskers and shrunken, bony form he seemed . . . the incarnation of suffering and endurance. So Whyte was called the major de l'immensite and was borne around in triumph through the streets of Paris, amiably if weakly waving his hands in salutation, for in his bewildered condition he still assumed he was Julius Caesar.

 Such was the symbolic power of the Bastille to gather to itself all the miseries for which ''despotism'' was now held accountable, that reality was enhanced by Gothic fantasies. . . . Ancient pieces of armor were declared to be fiendish ''iron corsets'' applied to constrict the victim and a toothed machine that was part of a printing press was said to be a wheel of torture. Countless prints . . . supplied suitably horrible imagery, featuring standing skeletons, instruments of torture and men in iron masks. . . . The Bastille, then, was much more important in its ''afterlife'' than it ever had been as a working institution. . . . Transfigured from a nearly empty, thinly manned anachronism into the seat of the Beast Despotism, it incorporated all those rejoicing at its capture as members of the new community of the Nation. From ''Citizens.''

Wednesday 27 August 2014

The Village - BBC One (VIDEO/TRAILER Bellow)

The Village is a BBC TV series written by Peter Moffat. The drama is set in a Derbyshire village in the 20th century. The first series of what Moffat hopes will become a 42-hour TV drama was broadcast in spring 2013 and covered the years 1914 to 1920. A second season began broadcasting on August 10, 2014, and will continue the story into the 1920s. Future series will be set during the Second World War, post-war Austerity Britain, and later.

The Village tells the story of life in a Derbyshire village through the eyes of a central character, Bert Middleton. Bert has been portrayed as a boy by Bill Jones, as a teen by Alfie Stewart, as a young man by Tom Varey, and as an old man by David Ryall. John Simm plays Bert's father John Middleton, an alcoholic Peak District farmer, and Maxine Peake plays Bert's mother, Grace. Peake is a preferred actress of the writer, who has called her "the best actress of her generation", and she has featured in two previous Moffat series, Criminal Justice and Silk.

Writer Peter Moffat has spoken of wanting to create 'a British Heimat', alluding to Edgar Reitz's epic German saga Heimat, which followed one extended family in a region of Rhineland from 1919 to 1982. Unlike Downton Abbey, this version of history is a working-class history—"domestics are expected to face the walls when the master walks by"
The first series was filmed in and around Hayfield, Edale, Glossop, Chapel-en-le-Frith and Charlesworth in the Peak District, and in the grounds of Tatton Park in Cheshire, during October to December 2012. The four first episodes were directed by Antonia Bird, her last work before her death the same year.

John Simm used local historian Margaret Wombwell's book Milk, Muck and Memories in his research for how the farmers from the period lived, and Moffat researched locally and at the Imperial War Museum.

On 28 April 2013 the BBC Media Centre reported that "BBC One's critically acclaimed epic Sunday night drama series starring Maxine Peake and John Simm will return with six more episodes next year." The second series began filming at the end of March 2014 in Derbyshire. The stately home and grounds at Lyme Park were used as a new filming location. It was confirmed by cast members on Twitter that filming for the second series had wrapped on 4 July 2014.
We long for a sense of belonging that village life offers
Britain's continuing fascination with a life connected to the land finds new expression in Peter Moffat's historical drama series
Rachel Cooke

For all that it longs to act as a bracing corrective to ITV's ludicrous Downton Abbey, the BBC's hyped new drama The Village isn't without its share of historical falsehoods. Its characters – we're in 1914 as it begins – talk of women's suffrage and the coming war in a way that you feel real people probably never did (a kind of polarised ping pong over the dinner table), and it seems unlikely that an upper-class young woman would ever have had spur-of-the-moment sex in the bracken with the servant whose job it was to draw her bath.

Nevertheless, as you will find should you watch the first part tonight, it's impossible not to admire the ambition of this show. Peter Moffat, its writer, wants nothing less than to tell the story of the 20th century through the lives of the inhabitants of one tiny Peak District village; the plan is that, future commissioning editors allowing, The Village will eventually comprise some 42 hours of television.

He has, he says, written an "ordinary epic", a narrative that is determined to be interested in life as it is lived. Given the way that television works these days, this is brave-bordering-on-foolhardy. Hillside intercourse apart, such quotidian rhythms are going to require more than a little patience on the part of the audience.

Moffat's bosses at the BBC, of course, will be betting on viewers swooning contentedly at the sight of clouds scudding over Edale and Hayfield, the Derbyshire villages where it is filmed, even if they aren't absolutely gripped by its plot. And not without reason. Our love of the idea of the village, if not the reality, shows no sign of letting up. We cleave to it through thick and thin, for all that most of us live in cities and suburbs; for all that so many villages now have only half-lives, thanks to second-home owners and post office closures.

Last week, much of the news was frantically metropolitan: Boris Johnson in Islington, David Miliband in Primrose Hill, Pippa Middleton and her sushi notionally at the offices of Waitrose Kitchen magazine in Ladbroke Grove. All the same, we also learned both the best place (supposedly) for rural living in England (the villages of the borough of Waverley in Surrey, according to the Halifax), and that the long-standing editor of The Archers, Vanessa Whitburn, has decided to move on – and I bet you a million pounds that it was these stories that were the more resonant for most people. Boris Johnson is endlessly entertaining but he is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a balm for the soul.

Novelists and dramatists tend to talk of villages as microcosms; the universal emotions are all there, but helpfully boundaried and with some pretty scenery to boot. Property writers, on the other hand, purr seductively over quality of life: villages are safe, and near good schools, and the air is clean.

Of course I understand both of these arguments. I like Barbara Pym and the thought of being able to leave my back door open as much as the next woman. But neither one of them truly explains the enduring fascination of villages for the kind of people who would feel buried alive if they actually had to live in one. I'm the sort of a person, literally and metaphorically, who needs to know that I can buy a paper and a pint of milk at any time of day or night. So why is it that when I'm anxious about work and life, I lie on my bed and picture myself walking across the green of a small village in County Durham? What is it that my heart is seeking as I turn myself into a human version of Google Earth?

My own hunch is that this longing is to do with sense of place, a connectedness that is increasingly elusive in our cities, which all look alike, and whose inhabitants come from everywhere and nowhere.

Peter Moffat has strained his every sinew not to gild his fictional village with what he has called a "Ready Brek glow": crops fail, families go hungry, and a scrap of tripe in milk is thought a feast fit for a king. It's no bucolic idyll. But even so, the romantic in him won't, or can't, dispense with the idea of the bond between his characters and their land.

In the first episode, John Middleton (John Simm), a struggling farmer, forces his small son Joe – a boy unwilling to work in the fields – to stare at the flag floor of the family kitchen and consider its ancient dips. By the door and the hearth, it curves steeply, worn down by the feet of many generations. Beneath the dining table, however, there is no slope, for this piece of furniture is never moved, and meals are eaten quickly, being only fuel. I didn't believe John's speech as a piece of realism but I felt its power as poetry.

We city dwellers, for all that we might cherish the sound of police sirens and hard-braking buses, are just so much flotsam and jetsam. London, the city where I have lived for 20 years, has swallowed me up. But being invisible isn't the same as belonging.

Do politicians watch any television apart from the odd box set of The West Wing and Borgen? My strong guess, having interviewed dozens of the breed, is that they don't. But we must hope that a few do at least try The Village, a series that is political in the very broadest sense of the word. Our politicians need to get back in touch with the emotional ties between town and country as a matter of some urgency.

For far too long, they have divided people into "urban" and "rural" and, having counted the relevant heads, made policy decisions based on the conviction that city types, who comprise the bigger, louder group, simply don't care what happens in the countryside (we see this most recently in this government's disastrously haphazard and wilfully ignorant new planning regime, which favours greenfield development over brownfield).

This is madness, and it will bite them on the bum in the end. And just to flip the argument over: understanding why people in Birmingham and Newcastle and Sheffield never miss The Archers, and spend a few minutes of every working day staring dreamily at village houses on the Rightmove website, should be the bottom line for those of our politicians who hope to make Britain's cities less dysfunctional (assuming such creatures do exist). For it's only by discovering what it is that so many of us are missing that we will have any hope at all of making our home towns better places – happier places – to live.

The Village: the most accomplished new drama of the year so far
Ben Lawrence is very impressed by the first episode of The Village, BBC One's epic new period drama.

In television drama, rural poverty doesn’t exist. Grim urban reality is one thing, but when it comes to the countryside, there is a need for reassurance, cosiness and, that dreaded word, heritage.
At first, it seemed that The Village (BBC One) would be a paean to our rural past. As present day centenarian Bert (played by David Ryall) reflected on his childhood and the day in 1914 when the first bus came to his small Derbyshire community, it felt certain that the next hour would play out like an extended Hovis advertisement. However, things soon became strange, poetic, ugly and dark in the most accomplished new drama of the year so far.
The lens in Peter Moffat’s six-part series is young Bert (an astonishingly assured performance from 12-year-old Bill Jones) and in the first episode, we saw him navigate a pretty wretched existence: frequently beaten at school for writing with his left hand, tormented at home by his angry, embittered father (John Simm) whose crop failure on their small farm was a metaphor for his failure as a human being. Small comforts for the boy came from his kind, quiet mother (Maxine Peake), determined that her children escape to a better life and from his adored older brother Joe (Nico Mirallegro) who went to work at the “big house” and, by the end of the episode, was marching to war, and possibly to a premature, heroic death.
When The Village slipped occasionally into period cliché (the solitary drinking of John, a dinner-party conversation about suffragism in which each person was strategically placed to offer a different point of view), it was saved by imaginative dialogue, and odd, unexpected resolutions.
Real effort has been made to create an authentic community. We witnessed conversations about mortality in a women’s bathhouse. We saw muscular Christianity visited on the village children by a buttoned-up, sadistic teacher who had failed to get enlisted on account of his low height. Most importantly, The Village refused to foist contemporary relevance on its audience. This was drama as history where the past is definitely another country.

On the strength of the first episode, The Village marks a much-needed return to intelligent populism for BBC One drama. And Moffat, who has already shown considerable talent with Criminal Justice, has just proven that he is one of the most imaginative and important writers working in television today.

Monday 25 August 2014

Les Délices de L’Ancien Régime /Hotel Caron de Beaumarchais - Paris (France) (VIDEO Bellow)

12, rue Vieille-du-Temple 75004 Paris
Tel : +33 (0)1 42 72 34 12 - E-mail :

“The MARRIAGE OF FIGARO, Beaumarchais's most famous play, inspired the hotel’s entire decor. Charm, gaiety, joie de vivre, elegance, refinement and a spirit of freedom, all the elements making up the originality of French culture were born under Beaumarchais.”

 “The famous, boisterous, 18th-century playwright Beaumarchais lived close by, just up the street, at 47 rue Vieille-du-Temple.” 

Beaumarchais was born Pierre-Augustin Caron in the Rue Saint-Denis, Paris on 24 January 1732.
 He was the only boy among the six surviving children of André-Charles Caron, a watchmaker from Meaux. The family had previously been Huguenots, but had converted to Roman Catholicism in the wake of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes and the increased persecution of Protestants that followed. The family was comfortably middle-class and Beaumarchais had a peaceful and happy childhood. As the only son, he was spoiled by his parents and sisters. He took an interest in music and played several instruments. Though born a Catholic, Beaumarchais retained a sympathy for Protestants and would campaign throughout his life for their civil rights.
From the age of ten, Beaumarchais had some schooling at a "country school" where he learned some Latin. Two years later, Beaumarchais left school at twelve to work as an apprentice under his father and learn the art of watchmaking. He may have used his own experiences during these years as the inspiration for the character of Cherubino when he wrote the Marriage of Figaro. He generally neglected his work, and at one point was evicted by his father, only to be later allowed back after apologising for his poor behaviour.
At the time, pocket watches were commonly unreliable for timekeeping and were worn more as fashion accessories. In response to this, Beaumarchais spent nearly a year researching improvements. In July 1753, at the age of twenty one, he invented an escapement for watches that allowed them to be made substantially more accurate and compact. One of his greatest feats was a watch mounted on a ring, made for Madame de Pompadour, a mistress of Louis XV. The invention was later recognised by the Academy of Sciences, but only after a dispute with Lepaute, the royal watchmaker, who attempted to pass off the invention as his own. The affair first brought Beaumarchais to national attention and introduced him to the royal court at Versailles.
Beaumarchais' problems were eased when he was appointed to teach Louis XV's four daughters the harp. His role soon grew and he became a musical advisor for the royal family.In 1759, Caron met Joseph Paris Duverney, an older and wealthy entrepreneur. Beaumarchais assisted him in gaining the King's approval for the new military academy he was building, the École Royale Militaire, and in turn Duverney promised to help make him rich. The two became very close friends and collaborated on many business ventures. Assisted by Duverney, Beaumarchais acquired the title of Secretary-Councillor to the King in 1760–61, thereby gaining access to French nobility. This was followed by the purchase in 1763 of a second title, the office of Lieutenant General of Hunting, a position which oversaw the royal parks. Around this time, he became engaged to Pauline Le Breton, who came from a plantation-owning family from Saint-Domingue, but broke it off when he discovered she was not as wealthy as he had been led to believe.
His name as a writer was established with his first dramatic play, Eugénie, which premiered at the Comédie Française in 1767. This was followed in 1770 by another drama, Les Deux amis.
Beaumarchais's Figaro plays are Le Barbier de Séville, Le Mariage de Figaro, and La Mère coupable. Figaro and Count Almaviva, the two characters Beaumarchais most likely conceived in his travels in Spain, were (with Rosine, later the Countess Almaviva) the only ones present in all three plays. They are indicative of the change in social attitudes before, during, and after the French Revolution. Figaro and Almaviva first appeared in Le Sacristain, which he wrote around 1765 and dubbed "an interlude, imitating the Spanish style."To a lesser degree, the Figaro plays are semi-autobiographical. Don Guzman Brid'oison (Le Mariage) and Bégearss (La Mère) were caricatures of two of Beaumarchais's real-life adversaries, Goezman and Bergasse. The page Chérubin (Le Mariage) resembled the youthful Beaumarchais, who did contemplate suicide when his love was to marry another. Suzanne, the heroine of Le Mariage and La Mère, was modelled after Beaumarchais's third wife, Marie-Thérèse de Willer-Mawlaz. Meanwhile, some of the Count monologues reflect on the playwright's remorse over his numerous sexual exploits.
Before France officially entered the war in 1778, Beaumarchais played a major role in delivering French munitions, money and supplies to the American army.
To restore his civil rights, Beaumarchais pledged his services to Louis XV. He traveled to London, Amsterdam and Vienna on various secret missions. His first mission was to travel to London to destroy a pamphlet, Les mémoires secrets d'une femme publique, which Louis XV considered a libel of one of his mistresses, Madame du Barry. Beaumarchais was sent to London to persuade the French spy Chevalier D'Eon to return home, but while there he began gathering information on British politics and society. Britain's colonial situation was deteriorating and in 1775 fighting broke out between British troops and American rebels. Beaumarchais became a major source of information about the rebellion for the French government and sent a regular stream of reports with exaggerated rumours of the size of the success of the rebel forces blockading Boston.
Once back in France, Beaumarchais began work on a new operation. Louis XVI, who did not want to break openly with Britain, allowed Beaumarchais to found a commercial enterprise, Roderigue Hortalez and Company, supported by the French and Spanish crowns, that supplied the American rebels with weapons, munitions, clothes and provisions, all of which would never be paid for. This policy came to fruition in 1777 when John Burgoyne's army capitulated at Saratoga to a rebel force largely clothed and armed by the supplies Beaumarchais had been sending; it marked a personal triumph for him. Beaumarchais was injured in a carriage accident while racing into Paris with news of Saratoga.
Beaumarchais had dealt with Silas Deane, an acting member of the Committee of Secret Correspondence in the Second Continental Congress. For these services, the French Parliament reinstated Beaumarchais's civil rights in 1776. In 1778, Beaumarchais' hopes were fulfilled when French government agreed the Treaty of Alliance and entered the American War of Independence followed by Spain in 1779 and the Dutch Republic in 1780.
Le Barbier premiered in 1775. Its sequel, Le Mariage, was initially passed by the censor in 1781, but was soon banned from being performed by Louis XVI after a private reading. Queen Marie-Antoinette lamented the ban, as did various influential members of her entourage. Nonetheless, the King was unhappy with the play's satire on the aristocracy and overruled the Queen's entreaties to allow its performance. Over the next three years, Beaumarchais gave many private readings of the play, as well as making revisions to try to pass the censor. The King finally relented and lifted the ban in 1784. The play premiered that year and was enormously popular even with aristocratic audiences. Mozart's opera premiered just two years later. Beaumarchais's final play, La Mère, premiered in 1792 in Paris.
In homage to the great French playwright Molière, Beaumarchais also dubbed La Mère "The Other Tartuffe". All three Figaro plays enjoyed great success, and are still frequently performed today in theatres and opera houses.
It was not long before Beaumarchais crossed paths again with the French legal system. In 1787, he became acquainted with Mme. Korman, who was implicated and imprisoned in an adultery suit, which was filed by her husband to expropriate her dowry. The matter went to court, with Beaumarchais siding with Mme. Korman, and M. Korman assisted by a celebrity lawyer, Nicolas Bergasse. On 2 April 1790, M. Korman and Bergasse were found guilty of calumny (slander), but Beaumarchais's reputation was also tarnished.
Meanwhile, the French Revolution broke out. Beaumarchais was no longer the idol he had been a few years before. He was financially successful, mainly from supplying drinking water to Paris, and had acquired ranks in the French nobility. In 1791, he took up a lavish residence across from where the Bastille once stood. He spent under a week in prison during August 1792, and was released only three days before a massacre took place in the prison where he had been detained.
Nevertheless, he pledged his services to the new republic. He attempted to purchase 60,000 rifles for the French Revolutionary army from Holland, but was unable to complete the deal. While he was out of the country, Beaumarchais was declared an émigré (a loyalist of the old regime) by his enemies. He spent two and a half years in exile, mostly in Germany, before his name was removed from the list of proscribed émigrés. He returned to Paris in 1796, where he lived out the remainder of his life in relative peace. He is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

L'Hôtel Caron de Beaumarchais propose à ses hôtes une expérience tout à fait unique. Un séjour dans le Paris du Grand Siècle. Une évasion dans les coulisses du temps, sous le regard complice et séduisant de Madame de Pompadour et de son protégé, Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais.
C'est l'intuition géniale de Alain Bigeard, qui a conçu cet hôtel « bonbonnière » au début des années 1990, que de recréer l'ambiance d'une demeure de charme du 18e siècle. Le site -- un ancien hôtel du cœur de Paris -- se prêtait parfaitement à l'exercice, avec ses belles poutres d'époque et sa cave en pierres de taille. Chaque chambre y a été aménagée dans l'atmosphère du siècle de Louis XV et du style si délicat qui le caractérise, entre rose franc et bleu pastel.