The downfall of the Comtesse de Stainville

The first chapter of my book Blood Sisters is set in the early 1770s and is based on an incident that involved the unattractive, rather boorish army officer Jacques Philippe de Choiseul, Comte de Stainville and his beautiful wife, Thérèse de Clermont d’Amboise who married on 3 April 1761 in Paris when the groom was forty and his bride barely […]


A sweet boy painted by Boucher

This has been one of my favourite portraits ever since I was a little girl and came across it in a book about Waddesdon Manor. I was really thrilled to see the real thing a couple of years ago when we went there for the day and it was just as lovely as I had always anticipated. The portrait is […]


A halcyon exile at beautiful Chanteloup

A beautiful portrait painted in 1775 by Jacques Wilbaut of the Duc de Choiseul with his mistress, the Comtesse de Brionne and best friend, Abbé Barthélmy, enjoying each other’s company in one of Choiseul’s beautiful salons in his château at Chanteloup. The Duc, once such a favourite of Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour had failed to secure the good […]


The sad tale of why Ville from HIM hates me…

This man hates me. No, really. He does. Many, many years ago I was much cooler than I am now and had pink hair (um, okay I still have pink hair but let’s ignore that for now) and a nose ring and wore corsets and short faux fur skirts with ripped fishnets and big boots and hung out with Boys […]


A row of handsome gentlemen

Les gentilhommes du duc d’Orléans dans l’habit de Saint-Cloud by Félix Philippoteaux (1839) after Louis Carrogis dit Carmontelle (1770). This is a jolly painting for a crisp winter morning isn’t it?


A portrait of the Duchesse de Chaulnes?

Somewhat surprisingly, considering that she meticulously listed her sitters, many portraits by Vigée-Lebrun remain unidentified. This is one example, which I have been studying for quite a while as it is such a lovely painting and it seems odd that no one has managed to identify the sitter. I’m no expert but I am guessing a date of circa 1780-4 […]


Marie Antoinette’s ladies in waiting

Laure-Auguste de Fitz-James, Princesse de Chimay (1744-1804) was one of the numerous children of Charles Berwick, Duc de Fitz-James (1712-1787) and his wife Victoire de Louise Josèphe Goyon de Matignon (1722-1777). She was married to Philippe Gabriel Maurice Joseph d’Hénin Liétard, prince de Chimay on 28 September 1762 at the age of eighteen. Sadly, the couple did not have any […]


The unfortunate Duchesse de Chaulnes

Madame la Princesse de Lamballe was not the only unhappy young wife at the court of Versailles when Marie Antoinette arrived there as a giddy young bride in 1770. One of her first ladies in waiting, the Duchesse de Picquigny (later to become Duchesse de Chaulnes) was also in a pretty depressing situation, which must surely have roused the sympathy […]


The pulchritudinous Honourable Mrs Graham

Mrs Graham was a renowned beauty, who had additional bonus exotic points for having been raised in Russia where her father, Baron Cathcart was Ambassador to the court of Catherine the Great. Her arrival back in England must have been akin to the return from Paris of Anne Boleyn two centuries earlier and it is no surprise that her husband […]


The belle Marquise de la Fare

This exquisite piece is a portrait by Jean Honoré Fragonard of Gabrielle de Riquet de Caraman, the Marquise de la Fare, probably painted in 1775 at the time of her marriage to the Comte de la Fare. Gabrielle-Françoise-Victoire de Caraman was born on 28th June 1755 the daughter of the Marquis de Caraman and his wife, Marie-Anne de Hénin Liétard, […]


A Revolutionary family portrait

The Comte de Bourcet and his family by Charles-Paul Landon, 1791. At first glance this is a charming family group but then when you look more closely, it becomes much more complicated. The Comte was the Officier de Maison for the household of the Dauphin and here, he makes no secret of his royalist loyalties as busts of the imprisoned […]


A harmonious lady

A portrait of Mary Hamilton Beckford, painted in 1799 by Benjamin West. This graceful portrait is a formidable testament to the good breeding, aristocratic heritage and excellent taste of the sitter. The eye is drawn to the elegant house in the background and to the book of music on Mrs Beckford’s lap, both carefully placed to ensure that any onlookers […]


The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned

I was very excited to hear about the new upcoming exhibition at Hampton Court Palace this summer: The Wild, the Beautiful and The Damned, which looks at the beautiful and rather decadent art work produced under the aegis of the later Stuart courts. This is particularly well timed for me as I am working on a novel about Charles II’s […]


The beautiful world of Madame de Pompadour

They’ve recently reconstructed how they think Madame de Pompadour’s rooms at Versailles may have looked when she lived in them. How beautiful is this bedroom? It’s clear from looking at her belongings and portraits that Madame was fond of what I always call ‘mermaid colours’: the rich and varying blue and green hues of the sea and sky. It’s reminiscent […]


A lady in prettiest pink

How is this for splendid? It’s a portrait of Sir John Pole and his wife Elizabeth by Thomas Hudson and was painted in 1755. I love how the beautiful shimmering salmon pink of Lady Pole’s gown is echoed in the sunset behind the couple. I also love Lady Pole’s faintly coquettish and yet arch air and the rather risky way […]


A dream dressing table

I would adore a dressing table like this one. Funnily enough, they don’t sell furniture like this at Ikea, which is a shame. I remember that Grange, one of the more upmarket furniture shops had a ‘French Revolution’ collection in 1989, which was just wonderful. I particularly recall a very beautiful bed and a copy of Lafayette’s desk. You can […]


Marie Antoinette’s lioness – Madame Auguié and her daughters

A beautiful portrait, recently sold at Sotheby’s, of Adélaïde Genet, Madame Auguié (1758-1794), the sister of Madame Campan and one of the last femme de chambre of Marie Antoinette. This gorgeous pastel portrait is by Anne Vallayer-Coster and was probably exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1781 and later copied by Kucharski. Madame Vigée-Lebrun, who knew both Madame Auguié and […]


Mademoiselle de Bourbon, the richest girl in France

‘I smiled and curtsied, shyly looking around the gorgeous candlelit room at their faces, some were smiling and friendly but most were rather stern. ‘I am very pleased to meet you all.’ The King led me between them, personally introducing me to each and every member of my new family. Thanks to Abbé Vermond I already knew the names of […]


Princess Maria Luisa of Parma

I’ve written about Maria Luisa of Parma before but just wanted to share this wonderful 1765 portrait by Laurent Pécheux. The artist was summoned from France to Parma in January 1765 to paint the young princess for a portrait that was to be sent to Madrid where it could be scrutinised by her future husband, the Prince of Asturias and […]