Marie Antoinette’s sister in law, Isabella of Parma

A portrait of the Princess Isabella of Parma. She had the most amazing name – are you ready for this? Princess Isabella Maria Luisa Antonietta Ferdinanda Giuseppina Saveria Dominica Giovanna of Parma. Cor blimey. She was born in Madrid on the 31st December 1741, the daughter of Louis XV’s adored eldest daughter, Louise-Élisabeth, who was the only one of his […]


A quick visit to the Ten Bells, Spitalfields

The Ten Bells is right next to Christ Church in Spitalfields and directly opposite the entrance to the now trendy and bustling Spitalfields Market. There has been a pub on the corner of Fornier Street and Commercial Street since 1752, but the Ten Bells as we know it now has only been in existence since Victorian times, when it served […]


Marie Antoinette and her children at the Tuileries

A charming miniature of Marie Antoinette with Madame Royale and Louis-Charles, painted in early 1790 by François Dumont. It was almost certainly commissioned in 1789 but was not destined to be completed until the family were already imprisoned in the Tuileries and such happy, bucolic pleasures were a distant memory.


St Germain en Laye

I hope you’ve been enjoying the history posts that I scheduled for this month while I crack on with writing my novel about Henrietta Stuart! I think that I may have gone a teensy bit overboard, but I hope you’ll all forgive me for that. I’ve been really enjoying writing this novel as it means I can write about the […]


The fascinating Mademoiselle de Charolais

One of my all time favourite historical novels is Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen, which tells the story of the aristocratic beauty Barbara, her chaotic and wonderful family and her immense love for the charismatic, handsome and much older Roger. It is an amazing sweeping epic that vividly brings to life the early years of the eighteenth century, […]


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 […]