Sunday, November 28, 2010

From Courtesan to Countess

Celeste de Chabrillan led a long and amazing life. She rose from the bottom - a poor, working-class district of Paris - to marry a nobleman. During her youth she suffered abuse at the hands of her mother's boyfriends, became a prostitute, and even spent time in prison. In spite of all this, she managed to educate herself and write novels, memoirs, and plays. She even spent time in Australia because her husband became the French Consul here.

Celeste, the illegitimate daughter of milliners, endured her father's death at only 6 years old. Born in Paris in 1824, she grew up in a very poor area of Paris. Her mother's new lover beat both of them and the mother ended up in hospital at one stage. Advised to flee, she and Celeste walked to Lyon! The boyfriend unfortunately followed them, but he was killed in an attempted robbery.

They returned to Paris and formed a close bond. Young Celeste became apprenticed as a seamstress at 11 and an embroiderer at 14. Unfortunately, her mother couldn't resist bad men and the mother's second boyfriend attempted to rape Celeste. She fled and was given refuge in a brothel. This was raided and Celeste went to prison.

Her mother eventually rescued her but she didn't believe Celeste's story. The relationship became fraught. Celeste wanted to become a prostitute at 16 and register herself as one. The mother refused at first but she eventually relented, which is very odd.

Poor Celeste had a terrible time and found it difficult to leave. The madams of the brothels indebted the girls to keep them in line. Celeste left but life on the streets was, of course, worse.

Celeste and the Count

The beautiful Celeste pulled herself off the streets and became a dancer at La Mobille dance hall. She also learned to be an equestrienne and worked at the Hippodrome. She must have had quite a way with men because she attracted a Dutch baron and a Russian prince.

Unfortunately, she was badly injured at the Hippodrome and feared for her future. She relates that the Count 'rescued' her. She met the handsome playboy at the Cafe des Anglais, a restaurant frequented by the 'demi-monde'. Lacking money, the young courtesan decided to write her memoirs but she was to bitterly regret this.

Count Alexander de Chabrillan was a heavy gambler and needed to 'marry a dowry'. He couldn't find one, however, and fell more and more in love with Celeste. She refused to marry him. His family sent him to Australia to distance him from this unsuitable woman. He wrote loving letters and Celeste relented when he returned. This put his family into a rage so the couple fled to London where they married.

Life in Melbourne

Celeste didn't have a good time in Australia and longed to go back to Paris. She had attempted to have the publication of her memoirs stopped but word had even reached Australia. She found herself ostracised by snobbish colonial ladies who regarded her as a harlot.

The start of her stay here was ominous. After travelling out on the Croesus, she had to walk for two hours, her feet ankle-deep in mud, to reach their wooden hut in St.Kilda. She had to pay a fortune for a simple meal of ham and eggs on the way.

Her husband involved himself in the life of the colony. The couple held balls, attended social events, and Chabrillan presented books to the Public Library. He was well-liked here, but got into trouble for protecting a Frenchman involved in a duel. Celeste turned to writing further memoirs and novels, and educated herself with the help of a dictionary.

Celeste eventually returned but her husband died here. He was given a notable funeral. She bought a country property near Paris and held a Salon attended by such people as Garibaldi and Gambetta. She also acted and even managed a theatre. She even founded a home for poor girls. She also wrote more novels during the 1870's and 1880's. Unfortunately, she fell into poverty again but she was eventually granted a pension. Celeste de Chabrillan died at 85.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Expat Royal Brides

Not many expat royal brides are as happy as our Princess Mary. You can read about some of them here: Expat Royal Brides.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Girl Who Didn't Sell Oranges

She was called the ‘Muse of Paris’ by the Empress Eugenie. Beautiful and wealthy, she held famous Salons attended by artists and writers. She was a patron of the Arts, encouraging young and talented people. She also collected art and antiques.
Princess Mathilde Bonaparte loved her life in Paris, but she had a tough time getting there. Born in 1820, she was the daughter of a German princess and Napoleon’s brother, Jerome. She grew up in Italy, living in Rome and Florence. She enjoyed balls and parties and studied many languages. Her life may seem idyllic, but she lost her mother when she was very young. Her father was mainly interested in her as a useful pawn in the marriage stakes.

Her beauty attracted many suitors, and she set her sights on the romantic musician Liszt, at one stage. However, young Mathilde soon only had eyes for one man. Her cousin, Louis Napoleon, handsome and suave, attracted her attention and they were soon engaged. Louis was poor and in exile then, so Jerome didn’t approve. The engagement was broken.

Marriage to Prince Demidoff

After Jerome met the fabulously wealthy Russian Prince Anatole Demidoff he was extremely anxious to secure him for his daughter. The Prince was obsessed with the Bonaparte family and collected Napoleonic memorabilia. He made Jerome pay a large dowry for the marriage in spite of his wealth.

The couple lived in Russia for a short time where the Princess made a great impression on Tsar Nicholas 1, her mother’s cousin. He liked her beauty and bright personality. The Tsar even said that he would have liked her to marry his son!
The marriage turned out to be a disaster. The Prince abused poor Mathilde and kept his mistress, Valentine de St. Aldegonde. Mathilde entreated him to give Valentine up but he refused. Demidoff even slapped the Princess at a ball. This was called the ‘slap that was heard around the world’.

Mathilde eventually fled to Paris with her handsome lover Émilien de Nieuwerkerke, who became director of the Louvre, and her jewelry. Finally the marriage was annulled. The Tsar made the Prince settle a large allowance on the wronged Mathilde. She even had trouble keeping her jewelry which Demidoff was demanding. She could now fulfil her long-held dream of living in Paris and being a prominent figure in the world of arts and fashion.

Mathilde in Paris

Mathilde helped Louis Napoleon financially with his coup against Louis Philippe. She played the role of the Imperial Princess for her old lover. Mathilde probably still held a flame for her old fiancée but Louis Napoleon wanted a young, untouched bride to be the Empress. He met the lovely Spanish Eugenie at one of Mathilde’s Salons.

The Princess appears to have had a great time in Paris. She wore the latest fashions by designers such as Worth. She held Salons attended by writers, such as Dumas and de Maupassant. She employed Theophile Gautier as her librarian. She collected art and painted herself. She even painted with Giraud. She also had her handsome lover! After he died she lived and may have married another artist, Claudius Marcel Popelin.

Princess Mathilde did take her royal role seriously enough to form a charity, however. She founded a house for sick and disabled girls which she called ‘Asile Mathilde’. She also established scholarships for writers and artists.
Princess Mathilde was thankful for her wealth and lovely life. She remarked that: “If it weren’t for him [Napoleon 1], I’d be selling oranges in the streets of Ajaccio.”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

We Await Queen Kate

Yes, I will call her Princess Katherine soon. I just liked the title. A royal wedding! Bliss! I hope to study every aspect of it. I am very excited because Kate Middleton and I share a common ancestor. It will be good to be related to our future Queen.

In the meantime, wonderful Mandy at The Royal Representative has lots of news about it.

I know that I have been a bit 'slack' lately - I hope to write some new posts soon.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Sainted Princess

(The Palace of Camerino by Anthony Paglialunga)

Would you give up the splendid life of a princess to become a nun? I wouldn't! However, Camilla da Varano did. She has recently been canonized. You can read her story here: The Sainted Princess.
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