English Women and the French Revolution

Planting of the Tree of Liberty  Lesueur Brothers, (1749-1826) Musee Carnavalet, Paris.

Early in the French Revolution, English women, critical of their own society, cross the Channel with high hopes to see for themselves what’s going on. Some will remain observers; others will become involved. The beautiful courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott, much painted by Gainsborough, hides the Governor of the recently-sacked Tuileries Palace between two mattresses in her own bed, and then gets into the bed herself – they stay like that for fours hours while the house is searched. Both could have lost their lives. Another keen observer of the Revolution is Mary Wollstonecroft. Back in England the conservative Hannah More, ex-playwright, writes entertaining dialogues aimed at putting the working man off revolution.

The lecture is illustrated by paintings, portraits and caricatures by both French and English artists of the day.