Please, No Pissoirs in Public!

You may recall reading our blog The Pee Ladies of Paris (November 7, 2015). Well, I’m going to take you on another journey into the history of public urination in Paris. Our discussion could easily take place in London or any major European city (e.g., Berlin, Stockholm, or Lisbon).

During the Middle Ages, there were no toilets (unless you were the king and queen or of high nobility), no sewer systems (other than the river and city streets), and no way to relieve oneself in public unless you were female and had your ladies-in-waiting form a circle around you to shield your actions. For the men, it was much easier. They just urinated in public—seemingly no shame in this other than the smell.

PUBLIC URINATION

Public urination was banned in Paris by the 1700s. For convenience purposes, “barrels of easement” were placed on the street corners. Unfortunately, the problems—public views and the stench—were not solved.

Palais de Justice. Notice the pissoir in the foreground. Photo by Charles Marville (c. 1853). Gift; Government of France; 1880. PD-100+. Wikimedia Commons.

Palais de Justice. Notice the pissoir in the foreground. Photo by Charles Marville (c. 1853). Gift; Government of France; 1880. PD-100+. Wikimedia Commons.

Napoléon III had enough of this by the mid-1850s and he ordered Baron Haussmann to create a device for men to urinate in but out of public sight. These became known as Pissoirs or Vespasiennes: structures to support and screen the urinals (and men) in public space. The name Vespasienne was given to the urinals in honor of the Roman Emperor Vespasianus who installed the first public toilet system in Rome.

Cast iron and slate urinal with three stalls. Avenue du Maine, Paris. Photo by Charles Marville (c. 1865). Gift; Government of France; 1881. PD-100+. Wikimedia Commons.

Cast iron and slate urinal with three stalls. Avenue du Maine, Paris. Photo by Charles Marville (c. 1865). Gift; Government of France; 1881. PD-100+. Wikimedia Commons.

Haussmann did not have to go far to meet the emperor’s expectation. About sixteen years earlier, Claude-Philibert Barthelot, comte de Rambuteau designed a green steel public urinal with ornamental columns and a screen that encircled the core. Although it did not provide total privacy—only the man’s torso was covered—it did result in a cleaner city and reduced the stench. England imported the urinal where it became known as the “Superloo.”

A public toilet, Paris, France. This is a modern Sanisette. Photo by Riggwelter (2006). PD-CCA Share Alike 4.0 International and attribution: user: (WT-shared) Riggwelter at wts wikivoyage. Wikimedia Commons.

A public toilet, Paris, France. This is a modern Sanisette. Photo by Riggwelter (2006). PD-CCA Share Alike 4.0 International and attribution: user: (WT-shared) Riggwelter at wts wikivoyage. Wikimedia Commons.

By 1914, Paris had more than 4,000 public urinals of the de Rambuteau design. For various reasons the number began to decline with only 1,200 in existence by the 1930s. It is said that during World War II, French Resistance members would meet in the urinals because of the “privacy.” The 1960s saw the green urinals phased out and replaced with public pay toilets. By 1980, freestanding public toilets or Sanisette (unisex and self-cleaning) became the norm.

The only original Vespasienne in existence is located next to the wall of the prison de la Santé on the Blvd. Arago in the 14e. Photo by LPLT (2009). PD-CCA Attribution-Share alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

The only original Vespasienne in existence is located next to the wall of the prison de la Santé on the Blvd. Arago in the 14e. Photo by LPLT (2009). PD-CCA Attribution-Share alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Only one of the original Vespasiennes still exists in Paris. It is located on the Boulevard Arago, just west of the intersection with Rue de la Santé. Despite the graffiti, peeling paint, and its age, the classical design work can still be seen. The neighborhood takes great pride in their green steel public urinal.

THE HOLE IN THE GROUND

Several years ago, Sandy and I were with our adult children in Deauville waiting for the train to Paris when our daughter announced she had to go to the bathroom. There was one women’s bathroom in the train station. After several minutes, she came out horrified. The bathroom facilities consisted of a hole in the ground. So you can see that things really have improved since the Middle Ages.

OTHER WATER WORKS

Other Paris water works from the 19th century include the Wallace Fountains. Please visit my previous blog, Wallace Fountains (March 12, 2016), for a history of these ornate water fountains.

SOMEONE IS READING OUR BLOGS

I’d like to thank Dr. Prem Williams for her e-mail and kind comments concerning our last blog (A City of Light). Prem lived in Paris and was “immersed in the Age of Reason … and intellectual life of the enlightened world.”

What’s New With Sandy and Stew?

Stew has finished the first GUIDRR Guide on a series of guides in Nashville. The first one is a driving tour around Franklin, Tennessee based on the Battle of Franklin. All proceeds will be donated to the Battlefield Trust organization. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the Franklin Battle sites.

The Guidrr app can be downloaded for free. Individual Guides can be purchased on an in-app basis. At this time, Guidrr is only supported by Apple iPhone.

We have a lot of stories and we’re looking forward to sharing these with you. Please continue to visit our blog site and perhaps you’d like to subscribe so that you don’t miss out on our blog posts, past and current.

Find Stew’s books on Amazon and iBooks.

Follow Stew:

1462505356_Facebook

1462420482_Twitter

1462422248_Instagram

 

 

We need your help

Please tell your friends about our blog site and encourage them to visit and subscribe. Sandy and I are trying to increase our audience and we need your help through your friends and social media followers.

Thank You

Sandy and I appreciate you visiting with us. We have some exciting things on the horizon and we’ll keep you updated as we go along.

Please note that we do not and will not take compensation from individuals or companies mentioned or promoted in the blogs.

Stew_Ross_Logo_CMYKCopyright © 2016

 

 

 

A City of Light

I love it when I get feedback from folks who read these blogs (and my books). Thank you for taking the time to write me (yes, I know it’s e-mails but it’s still writing). One of the things I appreciate is constructive feedback. That is one of the best ways for anyone to improve.

SOMEONE’S READING MY STUFF

Christina and her husband live in Australia and recently read one of my books. They are frequent visitors to Paris. She loved the illustrations/images and mentioned how she learned new things about the city from reading the book. It’s that type of feedback which keeps me going.

Fortunately, Christina pointed out an error I made. I referred to Paris as the “City of Lights” when in fact, the proper term is “City of Light.” I greatly appreciated her bringing this to my attention. Not only will we correct that in future editions but also I decided to write this blog on the “City of Light” so as to enlighten all of us. Read More

Marie Antoinette’s Lover?

Was he or wasn’t he? Only Axel von Fersen and Marie Antoinette know the truth. However, historians accept the fact that Count von Fersen was madly in love with Marie Antoinette (1755–1793). He was at the center of several key events during the French Revolution involving the king and queen. Eventually, like Marie Antoinette, von Fersen met a violent death.

THE SWEDISH NOBLE

Axel Fersen. Oil Painting by Carl Frederik von Breda (18th century). Löfstad Castle, Sweden. PD-100+. Wikimedia Commons.

Axel Fersen. Oil Painting by Carl Frederik von Breda (18th century). Löfstad Castle, Sweden. PD-100+. Wikimedia Commons.

Hans Axel, Count von Fersen (1755–1810), was a Swedish noble, diplomat, and soldier. As a young officer in the French army, von Fersen met the French Dauphine in 1771—they were both sixteen at the time. She soon invited him to Versailles and von Fersen quickly became one of Marie Antoinette’s favored guests. By 1781, von Fersen was serving with other French officers in the American War of Independence. Marie Antoinette became queen during his years away from France and the two of them frequently exchanged letters. Read More

The Street of Horrors

On Monday, 22 March 1944, the crumpled and broken body of Pierre Brossolette (1903-1944) lay on the ground outside the building located at 84, avenue Foch in an upscale Parisian neighborhood of the 16th arrondissement (district).

After two and a half days of torture by the Gestapo, Brossolette recovered enough consciousness to determine he was about to divulge information about his colleagues in the French Resistance. He stood up in his cell and flung himself out the sixth floor window. His last words were “all will be fine Tuesday.”

THE STREET OF HORRORS

11, rue des Saussaies à Paris. One of the Gestapo headquarters. Photo by Erwmat (2013). PD-CCA-Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

11, rue des Saussaies à Paris. One of the Gestapo headquarters. Photo by Erwmat (2013). PD-CCA-Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Upon entering Paris on 14 June 1940, the Germans and the various military and civilian units began to immediately appropriate hotels, vacated buildings (many by Jewish citizens), French government buildings, vacant embassies, or just kicked out the existing residents of a building they wanted to occupy.

The different departments of the Nazi police system (commonly grouped under one name: Gestapo) annexed many of the buildings on Avenue Foch. It didn’t take long for the Germans to settle into Paris. The Abwehr (German Intelligence Service) had been operating in Paris during the 1930s and it was clear they had “mapped” out the entire city and identified all potential sites for the Germans to occupy.

The building at 84, avenue Foch became the main headquarters for the Gestapo. The sixth floor was converted to torture rooms and cells. Throughout the Nazi Occupation, the neighbors could hear the screams from the victims of Gestapo torture. Parisians quickly determined this street was not a place you wanted to visit.

Avenue Foch became known to the French as The Street of Horrors.

POLICE

Over time, the Gestapo and its various units expanded throughout the city. They developed satellite offices, branches, and substations where torture rooms and cells were established. Gestapo agents dressed in suits, wore black trench coats, and drove black cars (presumably Citroëns). Parisians (especially Jewish citizens) learned quickly that a night time knock on their door might lead to bad things happening to members of the family.

Paris, German Police Headquarters, 1 May 1943. Pierre Laval (left) and Carl Oberg (right). Photo by unknown (1943). German Federal Archives. PD-CCA Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Paris, German Police Headquarters, 1 May 1943. Pierre Laval (left) and Carl Oberg (right). Photo by unknown (1943). German Federal Archives. PD-CCA Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

By the time Karl Oberg (1897-1965) arrived in Paris in May 1942 as the new HöbererSS and Polizeiführer (chief of all Nazi police activities), approximately 2,400 men served under his command. Despite the need for more men, Oberg was not able to obtain additional forces from Berlin. He didn’t have to. The Vichy government supplemented his forces with several Fascist and anti-Semitic organizations.

FRENCH COLLABORATION

One of the unpleasant facts of the Occupation was the collaboration of certain segments of French society. There were three primary groups that assisted the Germans in rounding up and deporting the Jews (and other “undesirable” groups), fighting the French Resistance, and overall policing in the Occupied Zone, including Paris. A discussion of the collaborationist French media is a subject for another day and blog.

FRENCH POLICE

The French police in Paris carried out much of the heavy lifting for the Germans in regards to arresting and transporting Jews to a deportation camp in Paris known as Drancy (basically this was a holding area prior to boarding the trains to Auschwitz). Their support of German policies and the implementation dwindled as time went on. Because of the police support during the liberation, most of them did not suffer retribution. The police headquarters was (and still is) located on the Île de la Cité at 1, rue de Lutèce.

MILICE FRANÇAISE (FRENCH MILITIA) AKA MILICE

This was a paramilitary organization created by Pierre Laval (Prime Minister of Vichy France) in 1943. Its purpose was to fight the French Resistance and arrest Resistance members. The primary tactic of the Milice was torture, executions, and the roundups of Jews for deportation. Miliciens were considered more dangerous than the Gestapo and the SS since Milice members were French and it was difficult to identify them. Joseph Darnand (1897-1945), the French leader of the Milice, was granted membership in the SS as an Obersturmführer. The Milice were hated by most of the French and more than 1,500 were executed when liberation took place in August 1944. The rest fled to monasteries and convents in France and Quebec. Headquarters for the Milice was located at 44, rue Peletier.

THE CARLINGUE (FRENCH GESTAPO)

Plaque put up at 93, rue de la Lauriston, Paris. Former headquarters of the Bonny-Lafont gang. Photo by Wikimedia Commons/MU (2010). PD-CCA-Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Plaque put up at 93, rue de la Lauriston, Paris. Former headquarters of the Bonny-Lafont gang. Photo by Wikimedia Commons/MU (2010). PD-CCA-Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Also known as the Bonny-Lafont Gang, the Carlingue was called the French Gestapo. Pierre Bonny was a corrupt ex-policeman who teamed up with Henri Lafont, a professional criminal. The Carlingue’s members were criminals recruited from French prisons. The Gestapo formed the organization in 1941 and its primary purpose was to fight the Maquis. Members of the Maquis were young French men who fled to the countryside to evade the forced labor laws. The Carlingue was heavily involved in the black market during the Occupation. The Bonny-Lafont gang/Carlingue operated out of the building located at 93, rue Lauriston. The basement was soundproof with three poles used for the execution of hostages and others. Many of the members of the Carlingue were rounded up during and after the Liberation, tried, and executed.

GESTAPO TORTURE KITCHENS

As the Occupation wore on and especially after the Germans invaded Russia, French resistance increased. As resistance activities grew, so did the reprisals by the Germans. If you were arrested for things as menial as a curfew violation, you’d be held in prison as a hostage. When there were actions against the Germans, especially assassinations, they would randomly pick hostages to be executed.

However, many of the arrested foreign agents (e.g., SOE agents), resistance members (e.g., Jean Moulin, Pierre Brossolette), and others deemed as enemies of the Third Reich underwent excruciating torture.

The methods of torture included near drowning, breaking of limbs with a spiked ball, merciless beatings until one fell unconscious, or having fingernails removed with hot irons or other sharp instruments. If the victim didn’t talk (which was rare), they would be shipped off to one of the death camps – survival was rare.

The Gestapo called their torture rooms “kitchens.”

A GESTAPO KITCHEN

PIERRE BROSSOLETTE

After Liberation, Brossolette was considered to be the leader of the French Resistance until Charles de Gaulle decided to elevate Jean Moulin to that top spot. After his death, Brossolette’s remains were cremated and his ashes placed in the columbarium at Père Lachaise cemetery. Pierre Brossolette has now been recognized for his role in the French Resistance and given the honor of a final burial spot in the Pantheon – joining Jean Moulin.

We need your help

Please tell your friends about our blog site and encourage them to visit and subscribe. Sandy and I are trying to increase our audience and we need your help through your friends and social media followers.

Thank You

Sandy and I appreciate you visiting with us. We have some exciting things on the horizon and we’ll keep you updated as we go along.

What’s New With Sandy and Stew?

We hope you notice our new logo Stew Ross Discovers. Habib and his team at Locomotion Creative created this for us when we realized that the brand had to target Stew Ross and not Yooper Publications. We really like it because it says “Go out and discover, even if it’s raining.” That is what we’re trying to do with the walking tour books based on historical events and periods of time.Stew_Ross_Logo_CMYK

Let us know if you like the logo.

We have a lot of stories and we’re looking forward to sharing these with you. Please continue to visit our blog site and perhaps you’d like to subscribe so that you don’t miss out on our blog posts, past and current.


GUIDRR GUIDES

The Guidrr app can be downloaded for free. Individual Guides can be purchased on an in-app basis. At this time, Guidrr is only supported by Apple iPhone.

Click here:

Guidrr_logo icon

 

 

 

Find Stew’s books on Amazon and iBooks.

Follow Stew:

1462505356_Facebook

1462420482_Twitter

1462422248_Instagram

 

 

Please note that we do not and will not take compensation from individuals or companies mentioned or promoted in the blogs.

Copyright © 2016 Stew Ross

Twenty Years After the End of World War II: Dutch Memories

Twenty Years After the End of World War II: Dutch Memories

Posting this blog on the fifth of each May has become a tradition for me.

Today is Liberation Day (also known as Freedom Day) for Holland. It was 5 May 1945 that Canadian forces along with other Allied forces were able to obtain the surrender of German forces in the small Dutch town of Wageningen. This led to the complete surrender and liberation of the country.

NETHERLANDS AMERICAN CEMETERY (MARGRATEN)

American World War II Cemetery in Margraten, The Netherlands. Photo by Kees Verburg (2014). PD-CCA-Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

American World War II Cemetery in Margraten, The Netherlands. Photo by Kees Verburg (2014). PD-CCA-Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

There is a cemetery near Maastricht. It is the final resting spot for 8,301 American soldiers and a memorial for the 1,722 men missing in action. They were casualties of Operation Market Garden (17–25 September 1944) and other battles aimed at liberating Holland. Operation Market Garden was a failed Allied attempt to liberate Holland.  There are other military cemeteries nearby for the British and Canadian men who did not survive the battle.

John J. Lister killed in action on 7 April 1945 – 48 Infantry Batalion – 7th Armored Division – C Company. Photo by Erfgoed in Beeld (2006). PD-CCA-Share Alike 2.0. Wikimedia Commons.

John J. Lister killed in action on 7 April 1945 – 48 Infantry Batalion – 7th Armored Division – C Company. Photo by Erfgoed in Beeld (2006). PD-CCA-Share Alike 2.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Individual Dutch families have adopted every man who perished in the battle. Each man’s grave is kept up and decorated by their adopted family. Even a portrait of their adopted soldier sits in their respective homes.

HONGERWINTER

The Dutch railway workers called a strike during the battle. They felt it would increase the chances of success by the Allied forces. The battle failed and Holland would have to wait another 7 months to be liberated. In the meantime, the Nazi regime under Arthur Seyss-Inquart retaliated by not allowing any food into the country. Holland was literally being starved to death during the Hongerwinter (winter of hunger). More than 20,000 people died that winter of starvation. If you read any biography of Audrey Hepburn, you will hear about her experience during that time.

Tribute to Dutch Women of the Winter of Hunger. Photo by Peter de Wit (2008). Tile made by ‘De Porceleyne Fles’ in Delft, Netherlands. PD-CCA 2.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Tribute to Dutch Women of the Winter of Hunger. Photo by Peter de Wit (2008). Tile made by ‘De Porceleyne Fles’ in Delft, Netherlands. PD-CCA 2.0. Wikimedia Commons.

LIBERATION DAY

Every May on the fifth, Liberation Day is celebrated in Holland. For two minutes, everything and everybody stops while the church bells ring. At the end of the day, a concert is held. Beginning in 1965 (the 20th anniversary of the liberation), Nino Rossi’s taps called “Il Silenzio” is played as the final piece of the concert.

I will never forget as a 10-year old living in Wassenaar Holland beginning in 1965, stopping on the street wherever we were at the time, we stopped talking, and listened to the church bells ring for 2 minutes—every year on 5 May.

I invite you to click on the following link and listen to a 13-year-old Dutch girl, Melissa Venema, play “Il Silenzio” during the 2008 concert celebrating the liberation of Holland. The Royal Orchestra of the Netherlands backs her up. It is very moving—at least for the former 10-year old, now 60.

Grab a tissue before you listen to this. I do.

PRESIDENT’S SPEECH

“On this peaceful May morning we commemorate a great victory for liberty, and the thousands of white marble crosses and Stars of David underscore the terrible price we pay for that victory. For the Americans who rest here, Dutch soil provides a fitting home. It was from a Dutch port that many of our pilgrim fathers first sailed to America. It was a Dutch port that gave the American flag its first gun salute. It was the Dutch who became one of the first foreign nations to recognize the independence of the new United States of America. And when American soldiers returned to this continent to fight for freedom, they were led by a President (Roosevelt) who owed his family name to this great land.”

George W. Bush
President of the United States
28 May 2005
Netherlands American Cemetery

Featured Image:  Unknown Soldier Cross. Photo by Visserp (2013). PD-CCA-Share Alike 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

We need your help

Please tell your friends about our blog site and encourage them to visit and subscribe. Sandy and I are trying to increase our audience and we need your help through your friends and social media followers.

Thank You

Sandy and I appreciate you visiting with us. We have some exciting things on the horizon and we’ll keep you updated as we go along.

We have a lot of stories and we’re looking forward to sharing these with you. Please continue to visit our blog site and perhaps you’d like to subscribe so that you don’t miss out on our blog posts, past and current.

Find Stew’s books on Amazon and iBooks.

Are you following us on Facebook and Twitter?

Please note that we do not and will not take compensation from individuals or companies mentioned or promoted in the blogs.

Copyright © 2016 Stew Ross

 

They Listened to What I Said

The United States government finally listened to what I had to say.

Worth $100,000 in mint condition!

Inverted Jenny – 1918. Photo by SabreCEO (2006). PD-USGOV. Wikimedia Commons.

Effective 10 April 2016, the Post Office reduced its rate on first class mail from 49 cents to 47 cents. This was the first time they lowered the cost of a stamp in 100 years. Why? I have no clue. Seems stupid to me considering their financial condition. But hey, I’ll take a 4% cut in any of our expenses.

MY CONVERSATIONS WITH THE GREEN HILLS POST OFFICE

I have a lot of interaction with the Post Office. I have a P.O. Box there to collect mail for Southeast Business Forums and Yooper Publications. One at a time and when requested, I mail my books to Amazon from the Green Hills post office (presumably someone has put an order in for a book). After Amazon conducts their quarterly inventory count and finds too many of my books are taking up shelf space, I receive the extra ones back. Happy Face!! Oh, I also buy my stamps from the nice folks behind the counter. Read More

Killed in the Service of Her Country

One of my friends, Rhea Seddon, was one of the original six women astronauts selected in 1978 for the space program. She and the other five women were pioneers. One of those five women, Judy Resnik, lost her life on one of the Challenger missions.

I’m writing for a mobile travel app called Guidrr. The Guides I create specialize on historical events and people. One of the new Guides is “Amazing Women of Historic Nashville.” As I began my research, I found someone from Nashville who was another pioneer and like Rhea, she was an aviator. And like Judy, Cornelia was killed in the line of duty.

DEBUTANTE TO WARTIME PILOT

Cornelia Fort (with a PT-19A). Photo by Unknown (c. 1942). PD-USGOV. Wikimedia Commons.

Cornelia Fort (with a PT-19A). Photo by Unknown (c. 1942). PD-USGOV. Wikimedia Commons.

Cornelia Fort (1919–1943) was the daughter of Rufus Fort, the founder of National Life and Accident Insurance Company. She grew up in a privileged Nashville home with a future of cotillions, marriage to a prominent Nashville man, and the quiet country club life.

Cornelia didn’t want to become a debutante—she wanted to fly. She became the first female pilot instructor in Nashville. By 1941, Cornelia had signed up as a flight instructor with the Civilian Pilots Training Program. Shortly after that, she was sent to Honolulu and hired to teach flying to defense workers, soldiers, and sailors based at Pearl Harbor. Read More

Hallucination Caused by Fear?

Sandy and I recently shared cocktail hour with some good friends of ours. Joe grew up in upper New York in a town (Malone) twelve miles from the Canadian border and 58 miles south of Montreal. After World War II had ended, Joe’s father told him about the German U-boat activity in the St. Lawrence River and the effect it had on the Canadians.

Daniel Gallery, Commanding Officer of the Guadalcanal on the Conning Tower of the captured U-505. Photo by USN (June 1944). PD-US Government. Wikimedia Commons.

Daniel Gallery, Commanding Officer of the Guadalcanal on the Conning Tower of the captured U-505. Photo by USN (June 1944). PD-US Government. Wikimedia Commons.

According to Joe’s father, the French Canadians weren’t too worried about the German occupation of France and the collaborationist government known as Vichy. That is until a U-boat was discovered in Montreal Harbor and stories of German spies being off loaded onto Canadian soil. That woke them up.

The Battle of the St. Lawrence

This is the term used today to describe the periods of time when the U-boats actively hunted down convoy boats in the St. Lawrence River. There were two primary periods of activity: May 1942 to September 1943 and then a resumption of activity in the fall of 1944 (due to a new technology on the submarines that allowed them to stay submerged longer). Read More

Wallace Fountains

 

Personnes se désaltèrant à une fontaine Wallace à Paris. Photo by unknown (1911). Bibliothèque nationale de France. PD: Domaine Public. PD-US. Wikimedia Commons.

Personnes se désaltèrant à une fontaine Wallace à Paris. Photo by unknown (1911). Bibliothèque nationale de France. PD: Domaine Public. PD-US. Wikimedia Commons.

Throughout the centuries clean and drinkable water in Paris was very difficult to find. Running water didn’t come to certain parts of Paris (e.g., Village of Saint-Paul) until the early 1970s. Well, one person saw to it that the citizens of Paris, in particular the poor, had potable drinking water available to them shortly after the Paris Commune of 1871.

British Assistance

Immediately after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, a little-known charity called the British Charitable Fund (BCF) was established for the purpose of assisting British citizens who had moved to France and became destitute. In other words, they needed financial assistance for food and shelter. One of the largest benefactors (and later, a BCF trustee) was Sir Richard Wallace (1818–1890).

Wallace was a British expat living in Paris who had inherited a large sum of money from his father in 1870. Among his other philanthropic endeavors, he founded a hospital. However, Sir Richard’s legacy to modern day Paris is the Wallace Fountain found throughout Paris (and other parts of the world). Read More

The French Lucrezia Borgia

La Voisin. Engraving by unknown (c. 17th century). Author’s collection

La Voisin. Engraving by unknown (c. 17th century). Author’s collection

When I think of famous poisoners throughout history, Lucrezia Borgia (1480–1519) and her poison ring come to mind. However, Lucrezia was small potatoes to Catherine Deshayes Monvoisin (1640–1680). Known as La Voisin, Catherine was a fortuneteller, palm (and face) reader, astrologist, seer, herbalist, sorceress, a reader of Tarot, and accused of being a witch. She also practiced midwifery and performed abortions. However, her most lucrative enterprise was being the poisoner to “the stars.”

Portrait of Louis XIV. Oil on canvas by Charles Le Brun (1661). Palace of Versailles. PD-100+. PD-US. Wikimedia Commons.

Portrait of Louis XIV. Oil on canvas by Charles Le Brun (1661). Palace of Versailles. PD-100+. PD-US. Wikimedia Commons.

Catherine provided her services to many of the well-known aristocracy of Paris during a period of King Louis XIV’s reign (1643–1715). In fact, her clients were so well heeled that once Louis became aware of the situation, he had all the evidence sealed or destroyed so no one would ever know the true facts. You see, one of Catherine’s best customers was Louis’s mistress, Madame de Montespan (1640–1707) and he couldn’t afford to have a scandal of this magnitude. Read More