The following is based on a series of letters written by Frances Julia Sayer, later Madame de Pougens, that appeared in a journal published in 1915, the articles written by Lady Florence Kinloch-Cooke.
This document will cover the life of Frances Julia Sayer as grand-daughter of Edward Evelyn of Felbridge, and member of the Sayer family of Richmond, together with her life as Madame de Pougens. The document will also cover some of the content of the letters written about her stay in Paris in 1788, just before the French Revolution, and her life in France in 1814-15, during the Napoleonic Wars, together with a background of historical events to help put the contents of the letters in context.
Evelyn family of Felbridge
Frances Julia Sayer was the grand-daughter of Edward Evelyn of Felbridge whose family had owned property in the Felbridge area since 1588 with the purchase of seventy acres of land made by Edward's great, great grandfather, George Evelyn of Nutfield. In 1692 Edward Evelyn's father settled the property in Felbridge, by then consisting of the seventy acres of land and a newly built house called Heath Hatch, on his youngest son William who sold it to his older half-brother Edward in 1719 [for further details see Handouts Felbridge Place, SJC 10/99 and The Commonplace Book of Edward Evelyn, SJC/JIC 09/07].
Edward Evelyn was born on 6th August 1681, the son of George Evelyn and his second wife, Margaret née Webb, George having at least nine (possibly eleven) children and three wives during his life time. Edward was George Evelyn's sixth child and third son, and was educated at Oxford becoming a barrister-at-law, like his father, before embarking on a military career rising to the rank of Colonel in 1713.
In 1719, Edward Evelyn retired from the military and moved to Felbridge with his wife Julia, making the house at Heath Hatch their permanent residence. Edward Evelyn had married Julia, the daughter of James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde, in June 1713. Edward and Julia had four children including; a son (un-named) born in 1714 who sadly died in 1716 being buried on 27th September 1716, Julia Margaret who was born on 13th August 1715 being christened on 15th September 1715, James born on 17th July 1718 being christened on 11th August 1718, and John christened on 14th May 1725, all the christenings taking place at St Margaret's, Westminster.
There is no further information on John, but James married firstly Annabella Medley, heiress of Buxted Park in Sussex, with whom he had a daughter, Julia Annabella. On the death of Annabella, James married Joan Pane née Cust on 8th May 1761, with whom he had another daughter, Anne. Julia Annabella was born on 7th July 1757 and married, on 6th October 1785, Sir George Augustus Shuckburgh (later Shuckburgh Evelyn). Anne was born on 18th December 1767 but died in 1790 after an accident where her gown caught fire, being buried on 21st April 1790, leaving Julia Annabella as sole heiress of the Felbridge and Buxted estates.
Edward and Julia Evelyn's daughter Julia Margaret married James Sayer of Richmond on 19th July 1755 at Chelsea. Julia Margaret and James Sayer had one daughter, Frances Julia who was born in 1757. It is Frances Julia Sayer, later Madame de Pougens after her marriage to Marie Charles Joseph de Pougens, who wrote the letters on which this document is based.
Sayer family of Richmond
The Sayer family of Richmond descend from the Sayer family of Yorkshire. Frances Julia Sayer's grandfather on her paternal side was James, born the son of Robert and Elizabeth Sayer, and was christened in Stockton in 1695. Robert and Elizabeth had at least one other son, William, who was christened in 1694.
In 1713 James was apprenticed to Thomas Burdus, an attorney of Durham. Five years later, James married Thomasine Middleton on the 29th July 1718 in Durham Cathedral, Thomasine having been christened in 1698, the daughter of John Middleton. James and Thomasine had at least two sons, James born in 1719 and Robert born in 1725. As young men, both James and Robert moved to London, and by 1750 Robert had established himself as a print seller whilst James was admitted to the Middle Temple in 1758 and in 1760 was called to the Bar.
Frances Julia's uncle Robert Sayer married Dorothy Carless on 16th July 1754 and they had at least five children, Dorothy born in 1755, James born in 1757, Robert born in 1758, Dolly born in 1759 and Julia born in 1760. Their son James married Anne Eleanor Plimpton in 1784 and they had at least two sons, the first dying as an infant. Their second son was called Robert being born on 1st February 1797, but sadly Anne died soon after the birth. With the loss of his wife, James nominated his cousin Frances Julia Sayer (later Madame de Pougens) as Robert's guardian in the event of his death, which occurred in 1803, when Robert was just five years old. Robert went on to be educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and by 1817 had been admitted to Lincoln's Inn. In 1820 he married Frances Errington at Bagnères-de-Bigore in the South of France, and they went on to have at least five children, the first being christened Frances Julia, presumably after his guardian and second cousin who by then had become Frances Julia de Pougens. As a point of interest, Lady Kinloch-Cooke, who wrote the articles including the Pougens letters, was born the daughter of John L Errington, a relation of Robert's wife Frances.
Returning to the direct line of descent of Frances Julia Sayer, her father James married Mary Overton on 6th January 1746 and they had Edward born in 1747 and Letitia born in 1748. Edward was educated at Westminster and then Harrow, and in 1777 was admitted to the Middle Temple becoming a barrister in 1783. In 1784 he published 'Observations on the Police and Civil Government of Westminster with proposals for their Reform' and in 1816 appeared in the 'Dictionary of Living Authors' being described as a 'very ingenious poet and an excellent painter', and was also said to have produced a number of 'admirable caricatures'.
Shortly after the birth of Letitia, Mary unfortunately died and James married for a second time, Julia Margaret Evelyn, the daughter of Edward Evelyn of Felbridge (see above). Julia, at the time of her marriage in 1755 was nearly forty years old and it would seem that James and Margaret had just the one child - Frances Julia (later Madame de Pougens) who was born on 2nd May 1757.
In 1765, Frances's father James was made the Deputy Steward of the Royal Manor of Richmond in Surrey, rising to the position of Steward, a position he held until his death. James was also Deputy High Steward of Westminster and was a personal friend of George III, who gave him the freehold of the Manor House, Marsh Gate, in Richmond, which became his family home.
Frances's mother Julia died in 1777 aged just sixty-two and when her father James died in 1799 aged eighty, the Manor House, Marsh Gate, passed to his son Edward. Frances's brother Edward never married and died in 1834 leaving an estate that was estimated to be worth about £5,000. On his death, Edward's estate passed to Frances, by then Madame de Pougens, her affairs being administered by their second cousin Robert Sayer, the son of their cousin James Sayer and his wife Anne (see above).
Letters from France - 1788
The following is a summary of the contents, with some extracts, of letters written by Frances Julia Sayer (FJS) to her father James Sayer of Marsh Gate, Richmond, on a visit to Paris in the summer of 1788. The letters were written at a time when Louis XVI had been on the throne for four years, when France's finances were a disaster with the burden of taxation fast becoming intolerable. There was a huge gulf between the French aristocrats and the common people of France, and the whole nation was seething with discontent. Louis XVI was considered a weak man and the queen, Marie Antoinette, was able to exercise considerable influence over him and her unwise counsels, frivolous temperament and desire for power put her out of touch with the people. The national circumstances of general and political unrest soon led to the French Revolution, beginning with the meeting of the States General in May 1789, a day remembered as 'the last of the old Monarchy of France and the first of the Revolution'. This was followed by the storming of the Bastille on 14th July and the removal of Louis XVI and the Royal family from Versailles to Paris in October 1789. In September 1792 France was proclaimed a Republic and on January 21st 1793 the King was executed.
Immediately after the execution, France declared war on Britain, rekindling a war for world domination that had begun in 1695 and continued the reign of William and Mary as part of the Wars of Spanish Succession, in which Frances Sayer's grandfather, Edward Evelyn, had fought and been captured (for further details see Handout, The Commonplace Book of Colonel Edward Evelyn, JIC/SJC 09/07), and which would continue until 1815. 1793 also saw the formation of the Committee of Public Safety and the Revolutionary Tribunal heralding what was called the Règne de Terreur (Reign of Terror) that began in September 1793 and lasted until July 1794. During the last six weeks nearly fourteen hundred people, largely aristocrats and nobles, were put to the guillotine in Paris alone, under the banner 'Liberté, Égalité et Fraternité' (Liberty, Equality and Fraternity).
Frances was accompanied by Mrs Huber, (possibly Maria Aimée née Lullin the wife of Swiss naturalist François Huber), on the journey to Paris, the party being delayed a day at Dover through lack of wind to sail to France. The letters are written with such frequency that they are like a diary or journal. What is most striking about the observations that Frances made is the fact that despite the general feeling and political unrest in France at the time of her visit, the daily routine of life in Paris continued much as usual, the privileged classes seemingly totally unaware of the events that would occur within a year of her visit.
29th May - Calais
They arrived in Calais at 10 o'clock having left at 6.40am. The journey was cold so the ladies sat in their carriage that had been lashed to the deck for transporting. On arrival the tide was out so they had to get into small boats to be ferried to the town, the carriage followed later when the ship could dock.
FJS was struck by the differences she saw between England and France.
1st June - Paris
They left Calais on the Thursday evening and went to Boulogne, staying in an 'English Inn' with 'English servants etc'.
FJS comments that on the journey she noticed that there was a lot of ground wasted in France compared to England, 'no hedges, little patches of corn, then grass, then trefoil etc, fewer farm houses and not near so many Country Houses'.
They left Boulogne early and breakfasted in Montreuil, a fortified town, then on to Breteuil where they slept, having dined in their carriage on cold ham and chicken. They stayed at a 'French Inn' but FJS comments that it was not as good as the Castle Inn at Marlborough back home in England. They breakfasted at Clérmont near to where the Prince of Condé had a Chateau.
FJS comments that the road from Chantilly to Paris was 'noble', boarded by fine trees all the way, although she thought the roads were not as good as 'our excellent roads', but that the entrance into Paris via the Gate of St. Denis was 'far superior'.
On arrival in Paris they travelled along the Boulevard where FJS comments 'I was struck with the appearance of the People, the Houses, the little Shops, so gay, so many people walking about, so well dressed, I was quite delighted'.
After arrival at their hotel she had her hair dressed ready to walk to the Court that was at St. Cloud. The hairdresser remarked that the 'Plate' could not be removed from Versailles with the Court so a new set had to be purchased at a cost of 3 million 'livres' [pounds].
Frances and Mrs Huber left their hotel apartment and walked to St. Cloud passing several shops that were open - 'on a Sunday too!' They saw the Queen, Marie Antoinette, at the window at St. Cloud and again later in a carriage being driven through the gardens before returning to their apartment in the evening.
5th June - Paris
They went to various shops during the day and in the evening to the theatre to see Zaire by Voltaire. After the play they went to the Palais Royal that belonged to the Duke of Orleans. He had built on most of the Gardens although there was still a small Garden left in which there was an assortment of Chinese Pavilions that sold Ice and refreshments. FJS compared it to Vauxhall back in England.
On the Tuesday they dined with Comte Odune before again going to the theatre. This time they watched a comedy having the use of the box belonging to Mde. Rilliet, a relation of Mr Huber. At midnight they watched 'some magnificent illuminations and fireworks' at the Duke of Montmorency's, but FJS describes the event as 'moderate and very inferior to Badminton'.
The next day they went to the Lyceum and Thuilleries 'a noble Garden if one may give it that name, the Louvre is an immense Palace, indeed the Publick Buildings are infinitely superior not only to ours , but to anything I have imagined, but then the streets, the common houses, are miserable, the City appears to me a fine mixture of Grandeur and littleness, of Luxury and poverty, where the convenience and the comfort of the people at large is never thought of, and yet how gay, how happy they all look'.
A trip down the Boulevard one evening FJS describes it as 'looking like a fair', first meeting a man on stilts playing a fiddle, then a man and woman singing on a stage, then another man with a false head and two faces. On that particular evening they went to a 'little Spectacle like our Sadlers Wells' where they enjoyed watching an 'excellent mimic'. On leaving they were 'accosted' to see some wax figures that FJS described as 'superb'.
On return to their hotel FJS wrote to her father about reports of disturbances in Brittany to which five Regiments of Horse had been ordered, stating the 'the noblesse side with the Parliament'.
14th June - Paris
Writing to her brother Edward, FJS comments upon the political unrest in France stating that if she were a French woman she would 'look a little grave at the present alarming state of affairs' but that true French women continue to live 'just as cheerful as if the revolt at Grénables was as harmless as the Battles on their Stage'.
However, despite the state of affairs FJS writes 'Paris is delightful, because it is so different from London, a great source of amusement to a Stranger as one makes comparisons for ever. London has a great many advantages over Paris in points of comfort and neatness, but as to Grandeur and Magnificence in Publick Buildings, Palaces, Theatres and Hotels, I think Paris is very superior'. She refers to the River Thames as 'Silver' when compared to the 'Muddy Seinne'.
FJS makes reference to the growing unrest in France, particularly what she called the 'outrages in Grénobles' continuing, 'They first plunder'd the Comte de Clermont's house most completely, insulted him, nay the axe was held over his head a moment or two, destroyed statues, or pictures of the King and of Louis ye 15th, spit on them'.
21st June - Paris
FJS writes about proposed changes in the Ministry, with the Prince de Conti to be the Prime Minister, stating that 'he is a great friend of M. de Pougens'. She also writes that after dining with Mdme. Sorins near the Bois de Boulogne, that she and her companions returned late and walked in the Thuilleries that was full of people that she observed to be 'so cheerful and happy' commenting 'I do not wonder M. de Pougens is struck with the tristesse [dreariness] of our Sundays'.
FJS compares the French and English reflecting that 'the manners of the French are certainly softer, milder than ours, their way of living is much more temperate that it admits of their assembling together in large bodies without you ever seeing any riot, disturbance or quarrel; their pursuit is pleasure and they always look as if they had found it', in hindsight, how wrong she was. She continues, 'But suppose, even in so small a place as Richmond, Booths for refreshments were to be erected on the Green as they are here in the Champs Elisées, the Thuilleries, the Palais Royal and especially the Boulevards, where the lowest order of people assemble. I fancy "your worship" would have good employment the next morning, and many a black eye and a bruised head would John Bull have to complain of'.
30th June - Paris
FJS, writing to her brother Edward, thanks him for his letter and recounts a visit to a house called 'le Desert', accompanied by Mr and Mrs de Witt. The garden, she was informed, was, 'à L'Anglais', 'without order and regularity!', which FJS found quite amusing. FJS comments that Mrs de Witt was not unlike Mrs Fitzherbert, 'as she is fat and fair though not quite forty'. The de Witts were very wealthy, most of their wealth invested in Holland, and Mr de Witt commented that 'if [the] Politicks of that Country did not change in three or four years, he must settle somewhere, and was inclined very much to buy an Estate in England'.
One trip that FJS made, with the de Witts was to visit the 'Invalides', which having recently had a visit from the King and Queen, was in 'great order'. She writes, 'We walk'd through the Refectory, where the officers were at supper, and it appear'd to us most excellent stews of meat and vegetables. Afterwards we went into the Kitchen, and saw the immense provisions for the morrow; the neatness of it surpris'd me, and much more the Infirmary, through which I walk'd, no bad smells, though there seem'd to be many sick, all in white line beds, the curtains drawn round so that it was perfectly inoffensive to all one's senses; a profound silence, though there were many women attending the sick. I fancy they are better taken care of than at Chelsea..'
Much of FJS's time in Paris is spent dining with various aristocratic and influential people including Mon. Jacques Necker, the Finance Minister of France, whom FJS got on very well with commenting that 'even my bad French would not have kept me silent with M. Necker', although she was not too fond of his wife. She also dines with the Duke of Dorset before his return to England, being one of about thirty guests, all English, stating 'His Grace was very civil to me, the Dinner very magnificent, and a fine sirloin of Beef gave it a very English air'.
FJS also visits the theatre frequently, enjoying plays, opera and dance, as well as enjoying the street side shows that perform along the Boulevard. On one occasion FJS visits M. Vien, 'the Sir Joshua Reynolds of France', the Cabinet du Maréchal de Noailles where there was 'a fine collection of pictures' and the Palais Royal that also housed a collection of pictures. On more than one occasion JFS visited the Gobelin Manufactory where she was able to not only see 'the people at work, but several pieces of Tapestry already finished, indeed equal to the most beautiful painting'.
7th July - Paris
Writing to her father, JFS informs him that 'Mr Hayes has just been to visit me, he surprised me much by saying the King was going to Cheltenham. I hope the waters will entirely remove his bilious complaint. What one hears of other Kings and Queens makes one the more thankful for our gracious Sovereign, the more anxious his valuable life should be preserved. Mr P Stanhope would laugh at me, but though no Tory like Edward, I can respect such a King and love such a Queen... How does the Sunday School go on? Have you ever, my dear Papa, given any account of it to the Queen? I am afraid she will be displeased at the neglect'.
28th July - Paris
JFS dines in the country with Comte Diodaty, stating that it was 'a pleasant day, not too hot. I was quite surpris'd as we went along to see them cutting Barley, and making Hay at the same time, an operation performed here in a most awkward manner, and much too late one should imagine, but they are forbid to cut Hay before Midsummer, for what reason I cannot discover'.
The same letter continues, 'Now let me talk to you of Versailles, which at last and to my great satisfaction I have seen.... I was much struck, first with the size of the Town, and then with the immensity of the Palace, of which I had formed no idea, indeed they say it contains 10,000 inhabitants. I cannot say much for the beauty of the buildings, and still less for the Gardens, but there is an air of grandeur in the whole, very imposing to a stranger, especially to one who had never seen Royalty in such a form. The Apartments are magnificent, the Gallery, the Guards, the numerous attendants, the concourse of people of all descriptions walking in full liberty all over the Palace, except just the private apartments, surpris'd me in a great degree'. FJS and her companions went to the Chapel and saw the King and his two brothers and sister-in-law take Mass, although in the opinion of FJS they must have behaved very inappropriately as she writes '..pray tell my Brother so far from its exciting my devotion I hardly knew I was in a House of Prayer. ...he [the King] never ceased talking and laughing with his Brothers the whole time. How different thought I from our King, who I figured to myself at that moment "en famille" at the Parish Church at Cheltenham without one Guard. We left the Chapel just before Mass ended, and returned to the Gallery to see the King pass, he is not an unpleasant looking man though certainly ugly, his youngest Brother the Count d'Artois is handsome'.
One of FJS companions on the visit knew someone who was able to let them see the Queen's Apartments and what they called the 'little apartments', which were not normally shown to visitors, the Queen being away at Trianon, a Palace near Versailles at the time. They returned to the Palace after dinner and not only saw the Queen's Apartments but also 'the King's, Madame Elizabeth's, his sister. The Queen's bedchamber is very magnificent indeed, but the little Apartments consist only of two or three very small Book Rooms, with a Piano Forte and some work which proved they were rooms she lived in'.
The same letter also states, 'Yesterday evening [27th July] we spent very agreeably in a profound solitude, we could hardly imagine we were within three miles of Paris in the Bois de Boulogne, no strait alleys, fine old oaks and some deer, which almost made me fancy myself in Richmond Park. ... Anything that reminds me of England and especially Richmond is so delightful to me'.
4th August - Paris
FJS continues her review of Versailles, 'We walked a little in the Gardens; Oh how frightful! long alleys of nothing but clipped walls of Hornbeam, a few spouting fountains, "enfin" our gardens are so much superior to their gardens as their palaces are to ours'. FJS, changing the subject goes on to 'The letter you have sent me was from Miss Evelyn with divers commissions, Gown, Lace, etc'.
9th August - Paris
FJS writes excitedly of being invited by M. de la Garde, the President, to Versailles for the reception of the Ambassadors from Tippoo Saib of India. FJS and her companions managed to get front row seats and spent several hours before the commencement of ceremonies watching 'les Grands Seigneus at les Femmes de la Cour'. All the women had looked up their old Gold and Silver Gowns in order to look very fine, there were several very pretty women all so well dress'd, with a certain air and grace, a "tournure" (as it is called here) very peculiar to them. The Queen preceded by Madame and Mde. Elizabeth the King's sisters, was very richly dress'd, she is a fine woman, whether she thinks it necessary to put on a stern and haughty aspect I know not, but certainly she had it to a great degree, something contemptuous and scornful. ...soon after her came all the Foreign Ministers, the Duke of Dorset walked with the Prussian Minister, ... Comte Diodaty our Chaton friend, was amongst them, and the old Baron I beat so unmercifully at Whist one night. After the Ambassadors came the Prince of Conty, the House of Conté consisting of the Prince, the Duc de Bourbon and his son the Duc d'Enghien, a very fine boy, then Duc d'Angoulême a little boy dressed up like a man, the Cmte d'Artois, his father, followed and then Monsieur [Louis Stanislas Xavier, Count of Provence, afterwards Louis XVIII], and then the King, rolling along, very finely dress'd an immense diamond in his hat ... He was followed by L'Archevèque, the Ministers etc'. After the King was seated, the Indian Ambassadors arrived.
12th August - Paris
FJS writes that she saw 'two tolerably pretty Operas' and that the box next to them belonged to the Duc de Bourbon. 'He was there, and is such a pleasing looking man, I am quite angry with his wife for not living with him. She is sister of the Duc d'Orleans, but I don't know their history, only that he has a sweet pretty Hotel in the Champs Elisées, and that His highness lives with his Father, the Prince de Conté, in the Palais Bourbon..'
19th August - Paris
FJS writes that 'the Guet' [Watch] were marching about the streets more than usual and when she returned home found Mr Huber 'with a face as long as his arm'. He explained that an Edict had been issued that morning suspending the payment of public interest. This meant that for example, if you had five hundred pounds interest, you would only be paid three hundred; the rest would be paid in paper, twelve months later by the Royal Treasury. As a consequence of this there was a run on the banks with everyone trying to change their notes into coin, although FJS comments that 'there is hardly any Louis d'or [gold] to be seen', and that she 'would not be the Minister for anything, power or money could give me'.
Continuing on a brighter note, JFS writes, '..we went with Mde. la Presidente, and her two sons, to Moncleau, a house quite in the Suburbs of Paris, belonging to the Duke of Orleans. We only saw the Garden which is call'd English, but I had to protest according to custom against a windmill, ruins, dirty twisting rivulet and a thousand other absurdities which they think as necessary to an English garden as green grass and uncut trees'. Whilst there she also visited the dairy and met an English dairymaid from Farnham who was working there.
Of the atmosphere in Paris, FJS writes that it is in 'a general alarm and panic prevails, a general Bankruptcy is expected, nothing can be more melancholy', and on visiting the Palais Royal a gentleman exclaimed 'Good God, still here ladies? why don't you fly this unfortunate Country? how can you (who are not obliged to) stay one moment amongst a people devoted to destruction?' FJS laments 'How it will all end nobody can guess'.
16th August - Paris
With troubles looming in Paris, FJS brother Edward agrees to travel to Paris to collect her and return to England. The end of this letter states 'Oh, how glad I shall be to find myself once more at dear Marsh Gate talking over with you all the pleasure of my Journey, which would have been too perfect had it not been mixed with some uneasy apprehensions. Adieu my dearest Father, ever most dutifully and most gratefully yours'.
Chevalier and Madame de Pougens
In 1805, at the age of forty-eight, Frances Julia Sayer married Chevalier Marie Charles Joseph de Pougens. Marie Charles Joseph de Pougens had been born on 15th August 1755, choosing to be known simply as Charles. It is generally accepted that he was the illegitimate son of the Prince of Conti, and Madame de Guimont, although this was later disputed by Madame Louise Saint-Leon (referred to as Madame Louise by Frances de Pougens), a friend who completed the book about his life called Mémoires et Souvenirs de Charles Pougens (Memories and Remembrances of Charles de Pougens). However, if the Prince of Conti was Charles's father, it is unclear whether it was Louis François I de Bourbon who was born in 1717, or his son, Louis François Joseph II de Bourbon, who was born in 1734. What is known is that the 'Prince of Conti' requested that Charles visit him regularly, and Charles was also certainly well acquainted with other members of nobility during his life, both French and foreign. One example being that as a child, when he had broken his arm, he received a gift of a box containing a grapefruit and an orange, together with a golden cap topped with a heron's feather, from the King of Poland, Stanislas Leczinski.
The first Prince of Conti candidate who could have been Charles's reputed father was Louis François I de Bourbon who had been born in 1717, and was Prince of Conti from 1727, until his death in 1776. He was the son of Louis Armand II and his wife, Louise Élisabeth de Bourbon-Condé, an illegitimate grand-daughter of Louis XIV. Louis François pursued a military career and was a confident of the King until 1755 when his influence was curtailed by the King's mistress Madame de Pompadour. He had fallen so out of favour that in 1756 when the Seven Years War broke out he was refused a command in the army. After this point he began to oppose the royal government. On his death in 1776 he was succeeded by his son Louis François Joseph (the second Prince of Conti candidate who could have been Charles's reputed father) who had been born in 1734. He too pursued a military career and fought in the Seven Years War, siding with the French chancellor in his struggle against parliament.
After the storming of the Bastille at the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789, Louis François Joseph emigrated and refused to share in any plans for an invasion of France. In 1790 he returned home to France but was arrested in 1793 by order of the National Convention, being later acquitted. After this point he was reduced to poverty with the confiscation of all his wealth and possessions and was exiled to Spain, along with all remaining legitimate members of the house of Bourbons. Refusing to share in any Royalist plots, Louis François Joseph lived in isolation in Barcelona until his death in 1814 when the legitimate House of Bourbon-Conti became extinct.
As for Charles de Pougens, his early childhood was spent in the care of a nanny, the wife of a gardener to the Prince of Conti, but was later put into the care of Madame Beaugé who was referred to as his 'housekeeper'. Charles's education included studying mathematics, literature, music, including playing the violin, bass violin and mandolin, languages, including Latin and German, drawing and painting. He also had a keen interest in natural history, and as a child, one of his favourite pass-times was to sit and draw whilst Madame Beaugé read novels aloud.
It was said that he had an exceptional enthusiasm for study and in 1776 he was sent as an envoy to Rome. It was whilst in Rome that Charles began to write his Trésor des origines et Dictionnaire grammatical raisonné de la langue Française, (Treasury of origins and grammatical reasoned Dictionary of the French language), and also whilst in Rome his talents as a painter won him admittance to the Italian Academy of Fine Art, with a painting called The Merchant's Slaves. Shortly after this honour he was appointed a member of the Institute of Science and Fine Arts in Bologna. As a man of letters, Charles was elected as a member of thirty-eight French and foreign academies during his life and was a prominent member of the Royal Institute of Paris. He enjoyed a high reputation being frequently consulted by leading French writers of the day, and for many years acted as the literary counsellor to the Dowager Empress of Russia.
In November 1778 Charles de Pougens fell ill with smallpox, believed to have been contracted on a visit to the catacombs in Rome as from that day he felt increasing pain and experienced increasing discomfort until he was forced to retire to his bed, at one point being given just two hours to live. However, the fever eventually broke and he had not been badly disfigured but the illness resulted in the partial loss of sight giving him impaired vision seeing only colours as through a foggy lens. On returning to Lyon in France in 1779, he was offered medical help to improve his sight but unfortunately as a result of the treatment he completely lost his sight at the age of just twenty-four.
However, whilst in Rome, Charles had researched material for his book in the Vatican library, and despite his loss of sight, back in France he began to write essays on various subjects. On his return to France, Charles was made a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Fine Letters and Art of Lyon. In 1780 Charles returned to Paris and in 1786 he was sent on a diplomatic mission to London where he continued his linguistic research at the British Museum, and eventually at most of the major libraries of Europe, including the Royal Library of France. It was whilst on his visit to England that Charles met Frances Julia Sayer for the first time. They were introduced to each other by Mr and Mrs Huber, who had known both Charles de Pougens and 'the kind and interesting Miss Sayer'. Unfortunately, their acquaintance was cut short as a year later Charles was forced to return permanently to Paris after contracting a chest infection.
Back in France, Charles worked on a drama called Julie, ou la Religieuse de Nîmes (Julie, or the Nun of Nîmes) that was read in the literary salons of Paris by the actor François Joseph Talma. Charles also became associated with the philosophers of the day, corresponding with Jean Jacque Rousseau, one of the major philosophers and literary figures in France at the time. Charles also published the works of Jean le Rond d'Alembert a French mathematician, mechanician, physicist and philosopher, and in 1788 Charles became re-acquainted with Frances Julia Sayer, during her visit to Paris in the spring and summer of that year (see above).
Charles was still living in Paris in 1789 when the storming of the Bastille occurred but due to the unrest he and a party of companions, consisting of his secretary and Madame and Mademoiselle Thiery, were forced to leave the city and take refuge with at the home of Madame Louise and her mother who lived at St. Germain. It was a difficult journey as they could not cross the city for fear of arrest but they eventually found a carriage willing to take them as far as Nanterre from where they walked on foot to the house at St. Germain.
After the unrest had quietened down Charles and his companions returned to Paris. The Prince of Conti had withdrawn to Lalande, a few miles from Paris and urged Charles to visit him as often as possible. Then in 1793, amid increasing unrest, the Prince of Conti and Charles de Pougens were threatened by what Madame Louise called a 'terroriste', resulting in the Prince of Conti being arrested and Charles again retreating to St. Germain. However, his stay there was short after placards began to appear offering rewards of hundreds of francs to anyone denouncing an aristocrat. With this threat looming, Charles and his companions headed back to the relative anonymity of Paris.
By 1795 the 'Terreur' was at its height with fifty to sixty people being dragged to the scaffold every day. As mentioned above, Prince of Conti had been arrested and, possibly by association, the name of Charles de Pougens appeared on the guillotine list, but for some unknown reason he was not arrested. However, although his life had been spared, Charles was ruined by the depreciation of assignats, the paper currency issued during the French Revolution, and the cessation of his royal pensions. To survive, Charles became a translator before launching into the book trade, eventually running a printing company that provided employment for fifty men. However, his business was undermined by a series of bankruptcies and Charles had to take out a series of loans to continue, even acquiring a loan from Napoleon, then the First Consul, who advanced him a considerable sum of money.
In 1803, communications, which had been disrupted between France and England, were briefly restored and Frances Sayer was able to spend a few weeks with her friend Charles de Pougens in Paris, although she could not yet land at any port on the French coast. Then two years later Charles travelled to the Netherlands to meet Frances Sayer and on 29th June 1805, Charles de Pougens and Frances Julia Sayer married in Paris. Although having married into the Catholic faith, Frances remained a Protestant and was said to have borne 'no malice towards religious opinions differing from her own'. Shortly after their marriage Charles and Frances, accompanied by Madame and Mademoiselle Thiery, travelled to Vauxbuin to stay with Madame Louise in a small house belonging to her aunt.
Vauxbuin is seven miles south-west of Soissons, being in the canton or small territorial division known as Soissons-South. The Soissonnais area extends from the L'Aitette valley in the north to the forest of Retz in the south. The original city of Soissons was built on a plateau above the River Aisne in the Roman period and has a rich heritage of architecture from succeeding centuries. Frances de Pougens was delighted with the picturesque countryside and liked to take long walks in the woods and hills surrounding the house.
In October 1805, the de Pougens' returned to Paris and Charles resumed his work, although over the next three years they returned to the small house in Vauxbuin, spending several months of the summer there. In 1807 Charles retired from his printing business and in 1808 the de Pougens went to stay permanently at the small house in Vauxbuin, which had now been left to Madame Louise on the death of her aunt. It was hoped that the stay would both restore Charles's health and allow him time to concentrate on his literary work.
For six years, Charles and Julia de Pougens lived an idyllic life in Vauxbuin but on 5th February 1814 the Soissonnais area was invaded by the Russian Army and the de Pougens' and their companions hurriedly left Vauxbuin. On 21st February, after the unrest had appeared to have quietened down, they returned, however, on 2nd March the Cossacks returned to the area and set up camp in the vicinity resulting in mass looting of property in the area. Charles wrote to the Earl of Woronzow asking for safe guard as a correspondent with the Dowager Empress of Russia, and was granted seven officers and five soldiers to guard the house. However, their presence was not strong enough and within a couple of days the house was also completely looted. After this the de Pougens' and their companions packed up and moved to St. Germain.
Letters from France - 1814-15
The following is a summary of the contents, with some extracts, of letters written between 1814 and 1815 by Frances de Pougens (FJP) to her friend Mrs, (afterwards Lady) Dundas of Aske Hall near Richmond in England, close to where Frances had lived before her marriage to Charles de Pougens in 1805. The letters detail, at first hand, everyday life as experienced by her and her friends in Paris and the Soissonnais area of France at the climax of the Napoleonic Wars in France.
The wars had started in 1803 when Napoleon Bonaparte seized power in France, crowing himself Emperor in 1804. French power rose quickly, conquering most of Europe but it collapsed rapidly after France's disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812. In 1813 Alexander I, Emperor of Russia, and Frederick William III, King of Prussia, entered into an alliance with the express purpose of expelling Napoleon from Germany. They were later joined by Emperor Francis of Austria, and on 19th October 1813, after being vanquished at Leipzig, Napoleon began to retreat to France. In the meantime, Wellington had thwarted Joseph Bonaparte in the Spanish Peninsula, ending French aspirations there. By the end of 1813, the Allies decided to invade France and march on Paris, dividing their forces into three great armies. One of these armies, led by Generals Wintzenerode and Bülow, approached France via Cologne, Liège and Namur, taking up position on the road to Paris via Soissons.
Unfortunately the location of the Soissonnais area has meant that it has been the focus of several major battles over the centuries, and has always been regarded as a position of considerable strategic importance. In 1814 the area suffered a great deal and, for several months, was the centre of fierce fighting between Napoleon's forces and the Allied troops. Again, one hundred years later in World War I, the Soissonnais area saw fierce fighting and today Vauxbuin is the resting place of thousands of soldiers killed during this fighting, remembered at the Necroplises National (National Cemeteries).
At the time that Frances was writing the letters, the Soissonnais area suffered being taken by the Allied forces, re-captured by the French and then retaken by the Allied forces, the last siege lasting a month when the town was bombarded by the Allies and forced to surrender. On 31st March 1814 the Allied forces entered Paris and instead of meeting opposition were welcomed into the city. Emperor Alexander appointed General Sacken as Governor declaring that he 'did not make war on France, but against one man whom he had once admired' - Napoleon Bonaparte. Emperor Alexander then turned to the future of the Government of France and decided to recall the Bourbon family to the throne. Pending the arrival of Louis XVIII, who had been living the life of a country gentleman in England, a Provisional Government was set up under the Comte d'Artois with the title of Lieutenant Governor.
Meanwhile, Napoleon, arriving in Paris was forced by the members of the Senate to abdicate on 6th April 1814, and was exiled to the island of Elba. On 3rd May 1814, Louis XVIII returned to Paris as King of France, and on 30th May a peace treaty was signed between France and the Allies. However, on 1st March 1815, Napoleon left Elba and landed in Cannes, picking up support along the way, he marched on Paris where he over-threw Louis XVIII, claiming back his old title of Emperor. The Allies rapidly gathered their forces and Napoleon took his 124,000-strong army to strike against them in Belgium. The Napoleonic Wars finally ended following the defeat of Napoleon at the decisive Battle of Waterloo in on 18th June 1815, although sporadic outbreaks of fighting still continued along the eastern borders and the outskirts of Paris until the signing of a cease-fire on 4th July 1815. Napoleon abdicated in favour of his son Napoleon François Joseph Charles, who became Emperor for just fifteen days, before also abdicating in favour of the return of Louis XVIII. Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to the remote island of Saint Helena in the south Atlantic, where he died on 5th May 1821.
20th March 1814 - Paris, Rue du Bac, No.18, Faubourg St. Germain
Writing to Mrs Dundas, and referring to her husband always as M. de Pougens, FJP states 'You are happy my good friends to feel the calamities of war only in your pockets, be assured next to a wild beast a Cosaque is the animal the most to be dreaded, though we were rather less exposed than the poor city of Soissons, still our pretty quiet retreat has suffered much, two poor old paysnas [countrymen] died of the ill treatment they received, our Lorin had many a lash, and the knout [a whip with a lash of leather thongs twisted with wire] was once held over dear M. Pougens' head. Our house was pillaged from top to bottom, all our provisions, so that one day we remained with 11 eggs among 15 and a few potatoes; we were obliges to kill our old hens to make some soup, but that was the least of our cares, the horrible presence of these Tartare du désert armés jusqu'aux dents [Tartars of the wilderness armed to the tooth] continually entering our house, and menacing us with their drawn sabres, was too much, and as soon as the road was safe, we removed hither'.
Continuing with the horrors she saw or heard about, FJP writes, 'The next time our poor Soissons was taken the town capitulated, and was treated still more cruelly than the first, the women especially, no age was safe from violence. A poor old woman above 60, who makes my corsets, was a victim of their brutality, a poor girl on the body of her dead mother, and 2 thirds of the inhabitants stript of all their effects and clothes. A friend of ours had 40 Cosaques at once in her house, her Apartments are on the ground floor, they rushed into her Bedchamber with their horses, carried off all she possessed in linnen and clothes, broke her fine china and frightened her out of her senses almost..... Happily we had concealed all our valuables and the best part of our clothes, but the servants and the household linnen have been pillaged, M. de Pougens had buried his manuscripts, but they did not disturb his books; the proprietors remaining in their houses, at least in our Village, was a safeguard, where soldiers found nobody they broke and destroyed without mercy'.
After the Cossacks had left, the Soissonaise area was invaded by Prussians, which according to those who remained in the area, were worse than the Russians that followed. The de Pougens' remained at St. Germain until relative peace was restored to the Soissonnais area by what FJP describes as 'An army of heroes headed by a Hero' referring to Napoleon and his army.
14th April - Paris, Rue du Bac, No.18, Fuabourg St. Germain
FJP writes 'We have suffered much terror and not a little loss, we took refuge here at last and shall remain till our pretty retreat [Vauxbuin] is once more the seat of peace and quiet, I long to hear from you more than I can express. M. de Pougens charges me to say a great deal for him. Alas! His health has suffered much, he is grown very thin and looks ten years older at least, my poor nerves have been much shattered, but I begin to revive again'.
21st April - Paris
Writing after the siege of Paris and the abdication of 'the Emperor' [Napoleon], FJP writes 'It must be owned that the city owes much to the magnanimity of the Emperor Alexander. He is universally beloved..... to-day he is expected at a general assembly of the Institute. I have tickets ..... and am going with our Soissons friends, the Comte and Comtesse de Gestas, who are not sorry to regain their titles.... I own my English feelings and ideas made me melancholy at the triumphant entry of foreign troops, not so the Parisians, the Boulevards were full of well-dressed women all exclaiming 'comme ils sont gentils, ils sont plus beaux que nos officiers [how they are kind, they are more handsome than our officers]'.
The de Pougens were kept abreast of the things that were happening back at Vauxbuin, including the occupation of their house by a General Thielman, by their servants who still remained at the house and fortunately little damage was reported although Charles de Pougens's books had been 'very much deranged'. FJP continues 'There remains nothing in the basse cour [poultry yard] but a certain donkey - cows, hog, poultry all devoured', and that the Prussian Officers that entered their house had 'carried off a mandoline which M. de Pougens brought from Italy above thirty years ago and on which he composed such pretty airs, a bust of Jean-Jacques [Rousseau] in the garden is broken and I fear some of our books are gone'.
25th April - Paris
FJP writes that she has few regrets except 'not being able to follow the dictates of my heart, I may say ours, to set immediately for England is a motive of deep regret. The pillage we have suffered, still more the extraordinary expenses incurred, have devoured all our loose money. M. de Pougens has 5 or 6 livres owing him from Russia at least, that sum he devotes to our journey as soon as we can obtain it'. The de Pougens's were still getting reports from Vauxbuin that FJP records in her letters, but they were always depressing.
28th April - Paris
FJP writes, whilst waiting for the return of the King [Louis XVIII] to Paris, 'We are still afraid to return to Vauxbuin, though very sorry to pass all the sweet nightingale season in dirty Paris. Would the foreign troops had left us!'
2nd May - Paris
FJP writes, 'This is my birthday and I can hardly believe I am 57 years old, for thank heaven I feel my heart still very young'.
3rd May - Paris
The de Pougens had received slightly more encouraging news from Vauxbuin and FJP writes, 'We have better news from Soissons with respect to provisions, so we should at least have a Spartan dinner to offer you; we are employed now in repairing our losses in kitchen furniture, china, even the watering-pots in the garden have been carried off; the papers in the rooms dirtied and torn, mattresses and bedding all so dirty they must be washed and re-washed, but we have most excellent servants who are anxious for our return. They will be ready in a short time; I fancy about the 15th we shall leave Paris. Coffee is already fallen in price as well as sugar, the former much cheaper than with you..... they were screaming in the streets the other day 'Mort de la chicorée et résurrection du Caffé' (Death to chicory and long live Coffee)'.
4th May - Paris
FJP reports the return of 'the King and Madame [Marie Thérèse Charlotte, Duchesse d'Angoulême, the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette], Prince de Condé and Duc de Bourbon were en calèche [in an open carriage] and very gracious, but Madame very grave. Can one wonder? What must have been her feelings on entering again le Château des Tuileries? The newspaper which I have just read says she fainted away, so great was her emotion'.
5th May - Paris
FJP writes enthusiastically, 'I am just returned from my pretty Bath perfumed with lilacs and wallfowers. My Caffé au lait formerly 10 pence English has fallen to 8, owing to the résurrection du Caffé.
Throughout the rest of May FJP reports her day-to-day living, visiting the library, reading, attending the occasional dinner party and visiting one or other titled lady, whilst Charles de Pougens resumed his literary advice to the Dowager Empress of Russia. With the return of the monarchy, life begins to resume semi-normality in Paris, although Emperor Alexander and his troops were still resident in the city. FJP writing, 'Paris is quieter, the patroles are excellent and the quarrels are no longer alarming'.
29th June - Vauxbuin, près [near] Soissons, (Aisne)
'We are once more settled in our pretty quiet retreat'. On returning to Vauxbuin the de Pougens discovered that 8,000 men had been garrisoned on the hill opposite their house and on frequent sorties into Soissons battles had raged near their garden where 'bullets fell continually'. FJP reports, 'All our Books were dispersed about the house, however, few were lost except a Volume of Buffon's Birds an excellent edition, which is a great loss as the rest are now of no value, and a few volumes of Voltaire'. In their absence their house had become home to General Thielmen, who fortunately liked walking in their garden and placed sentinels on the gates to prevent wanton destruction of it by general troops. FJP writes, 'Had they established themselves they would have discovered no doubt the hiding-places in the garden, where we had concealed our valuables'.
The inhabitants of the area were requested to submit a list of losses they had incurred during the Siege of Soissons and the Pougens estimated that they had lost about 6,000 francs, not including the expensive journey from Vauxbuin or the cost of the required new wall paper.
17th July, Vauxbuin
Despite the ravages of war in the area, FJP writes, 'Would you believe it, we are starving here in the midst of plenty, that is the farmers, who complain bitterly they are ruined from the low price of corn, bread is only 2½ sous a lb., little more than 1d. English. Rents here are paid in corn. M. Dansé, [the local mayor] too fears they will have no hands to get the harvest in, for the moissonneurs [harvestmen] are always paid in corn, and will of course prefer more profitable labour. In spite of the immense armies, there is an amazing quantity of corn in the country, and the harvest, they say, promises enough for four years to come'.
During the summer and early autumn of 1814 life began to return to normal in Vauxbuin and houses and gardens began to be re-built after the Siege. FJP continued her correspondence with Mrs Dundas recanting still more horror stories of the invasion and occupation of the area, as and when she was told them, together with details of her day-to-day life and events.
14th October 1814, Vauxbuin
FJP, writing about the poor state of the grape harvest in the region states, 'Alas! The vintage is not only bad but small and the wine will be hors de prix [priceless], the allied Armies have exhausted the Country so entirely, we give 150fr, for what used to cost 70, and after all not so good'.
However, within six months of the above letter, France was once more plunged into war with the return of Napoleon.
10th April 1815, Vauxbuin
FJP, writing nearly six weeks after the return of Napoleon on French soil, states, 'What a revolution, I call it révolution à la violette [revolution of the violet]. You know doubtless the soldiers during the last year gave the Emperor the name le petit père la violette [this was the name by which Napoleon was secretly known by throughout the French army and it was commonly rumoured that he would appear with the violet in spring on the Seine to reclaim his position]. An almost universal discontent prevailed against the regal government at Paris, the Emigrants and Priests have rendered the King very unpopular..... Enfin all prepared the way for our great Emperor'.
At the time of writing, Charles de Pougens was in Paris and FJP was very anxious for his safety there, but her fears were unfounded as the Old Imperial Guard had remained loyal to Napoleon and as FJP writes 'had hidden their eagles and their cockades [the decoration and ornamental rosettes of ribbon that they had worn on their hats under the command of Napoleon]'. Whist in Paris, Charles de Pougens was received by Napoleon and even spoke with him.
Tuesday 18th April, Vauxbuin
FJP writes, 'The civil war then a mere feu de paille [a bitter fire of straw] is quite at an end and indeed if you are tempted to let slip once more the dogs of War God knows where or when the havoc may end. The army is filled with the most surprising enthusiasm, which added to their sense of lost glory and to their revenge for the invasion of last year I am certain would make them perform wonders'. At the time of writing there was an estimated 250,000 strong troupe of soldiers. FJP continues, 'I fear you have in England a very mistaken idea of things here - in the name of common sense how could the Emperor have performed his journey with a poignée d'hommes [handful of men], if the Country had not been devoted to him, as well as the Army?.... I do assure you I feel not the least fear we should be otherwise defended in case of War than the last time when we were betrayed on all sides, but I must indeed hope for the sake of humanity such a calamity will be spared. I think it will'
There was to be a lapse of three months between the letter above and the next written to Mrs Dundas. During these months Napoleon had fought and lost the Battle of Waterloo and FJP's political opinions would appear to have changed considerably.
Wednesday 19th July 1815, Vauxbuin
'You will be delighted to hear we have not yet seen an enemy, no not in the shape of honest John Bull, whose good discipline is universally allowed, therefore I do not feel much afeard of him, but the horrid Prussians spread havoc and devastation wherever they pass... Our pretty quiet Valley is almost the only spot which can boast that "trenching War has not channel'd her fields or bruised her flowerets with the armed hoofs of hostile paces" - the frequent passage of troops which we have been obliged to lodge has been ruinous indeed, but otherwise without the shadow of a complaint, for my part, I am quite sick of revolutions, and hope we shall now go on quietly; everything promises better than last year I think. However, I can find cause to rejoice in the restoration of our good King, yet I own I am indignant at the fine Ladies who dance all day long at the Tuileries, when the country round Paris presents a scene of misery and desolation; the poor peasants ruined, obliged to leave their miserable cottages to take refuge in Paris, and there to sleep on the bare stones. The situation of things was dreadful before the arrival of the allied Sovereigns...'
Shortly after writing the letter of the 19th July, four hundred Russian troupes arrived in Soissons being housed in the Chateau that was uninhabited at the time.
Friday 4th August
FJP writes 'Having an opportunity of sending to Paris, I will dispatch this tardy letter... Our Russians are very quiet, we feed them as well as we can, that is the village in their different shares. I will write again my dear friends, as soon as I can, for I am sure you will be anxious about us, however, I firmly believe all will end peacefully'.
Wednesday 9th August
FJP writes '30,000 frs. Given by the town to soldiers has disposed them to march out today I believe, and the Russians march in tomorrow, but only previsoirement [provisionally] they say, and are to be soon succeeded by the English and Hanorverians.... M. Dansé is rejoiced he has got rid of his cavalry, who were a very heavy load; we still have the 40 men on the Hill'.
FJP concludes her letter 'You ask my dear friend, when shall I visit England. Alas! I dare never promise myself such a satisfaction, or I would again say next Spring, I could not expose M. de Pougens to the winter journey, but the early part of the Summer I do and will hope; having a little business in London we would make Richmond our headquarters where there are always lodgings like a water drink-place'.
Friday 11th July
FJP writes, 'Alas! My friend when may we hope for quiet at least, it seems farther off than ever.... We are glad to have our post restored, and our 40 Russians are departed but they have quite ruined us, ... At Coeuvres (a village near) in one house during the term of 3 weeks they drank 79 bottles of brandy! It is true our expense is heavy, but thank God without terror...'
Friday 18th August
FJP reflects upon the content of the letters she has written to her friend Mrs Dundas, saying 'I am almost afraid of writing anything more than the old story "if you are well I am well etc", however my English independent spirit is not yet dampened, and my pen is so used to give you all I think, that I yield to the temptation and after all what can be more innocent? God knows all I wish for is peace and quiet'. In the same letter FJP recounts how Mdme. de Gestas, who owned a hotel in Soissons, ordered the doors to be 'thrown open' for the arriving Russians but found that they ate and drank all day and all night, saying that she was 'half ruined'. FJP also states that they had had to put up one of the Prussian officers for a night before he marched on Paris. At first he was late and rather insolent, but after Charles de Pougens's 'extreme politeness subdued him' he 'conversed very freely'. FJP commenting, with amusement, that the Prussian thought of the Russians as imbeciles and blockheads and that the Russians thought of the Prussians as rogues and thieves, obviously no love lost between the two Allied Forces! The incident ends, 'Our Prussians departed early next morning having behaved tolerably, only beat a few of the poor paysans'.
Concluding the letter FJP wrote, 'The news from Soissons to-day [Wednesday 23rd August] is that the Russians are soon to depart, by whom succeeded we know not as yet. Mdme. de Gestas may rejoice for the old cook told our John this morning they had drunk 80 bottles of brandy in 9 days!' The letters continued through August, September and October, FJP recanting various stories of day to day living, the area constantly under occupation by one or other Allied Force with the local population obliged to put up one or more of the men in their homes. Writing on 28th September FJP talks about a group of her 'compatriotes' that passed through the area, being asked to translate as they spoke very little French. On arrival FJP discovered they were an officer and a 'party of 6 women, 4 who had infants......all poor things with the jolting of the waggon. They came from Antwerp and, as one told me after much recollection, were going to St. Dennis......We sent them sugar, etc, and this morning before I was up they came to thank me. The officer supt with us, a decent man very timid though an Irishman (who have a different reputation), he served 5 years in Spain and said they are going to winter quarters and are to stay 4 years in them, he is perhaps mistaken but certainly they would not have permitted these soldiers' wives to come from Antwerp if they were not to remain some time'.
Writing on Thursday 2nd November, shortly after the an explosion of the 'Poudrière' [powder store] that half demolished Soissons, FJP says 'I am going to Soissons to dine with the Gestas the first time I have visited our poor Town since the explosion which we felt here severely as we are only two miles from it'. After her visit FJP writes 'Just returned from Soissons the entrance is melancholy but at the Gestas' we drank all manner of loyal healths in busk Champagne'. This was the last letter written by FJP in 1815, and although the Allied Forces remained in occupation in France for a further three years, the de Pougens were not called upon to experience the horrors and discomforts of war again.
Life for the de Pougens after the Napoleonic War
As life resumed normality after the end of the Napoleonic War, Charles embarked upon the publication of a dictionary and a book about his life. As for Frances, although she identified herself fully with the activities and concerns of her adopted country, she remained and Englishwoman at heart, never surrendering her native independence of character and thought. Described as having a 'spirit of the purest good-nature with a keen sense of humour' Frances was beloved and respected by a wide circle of friends and relations both in England and in her adopted country.
Frances was always particularly pleased to receive the occasional visit from her second cousin, Robert Sayer (for whom she had been appointed guardian), and his wife, Frances. She also corresponded with the Evelyn side of her family, receiving a letter from John Evelyn, a descendant of her great uncle William Evelyn, who wrote in 1817 stating 'I received a letter from Mr Bray informing me that Lady Evelyn was dead and had left me her estates in Kent and Surrey.... Wooton [being the estate in Surrey] is a pretty place, a very good house, magnificent extensive woods, and a very good demesne well watered, but it does not answer the exaggerated descriptions given of it as to beauty. I went there and staid one day, a lone solitary house in the country won't do without society, especially in an English winter which is a compound of every species of bad weather'. As a point of interest, had France's uncle, James Evelyn of Felbridge, had a male heir the property would have passed to him.
The de Pougens spent eighteen happy years in Vauxbuin but, unfortunately on 19th December 1833, Charles died at the age of seventy-eight and he never saw the publication of his two books. The dictionary was eventually published as the Dictionnaire de la langue française (Dictionary of the French language) in 1863, and the book about his life, entitled Mémoires et Souvenirs de Charles de Pougens (Memories and Remembrances of Charles de Pougens), was completed after his death and published in 1834 by his friend of forty-eight years, Madame Louise.
As for Frances, she remained in Vauxbuin after the death of her husband, Charles de Pougens, enjoying the picturesque countryside. In old age, Frances retained her faculties and much of her mobility and in 1845 wrote, 'My health, thank God, is still wonderfully good. I have been racing in the garden for an hour without being tired, still at past eighty-eight, one must be prepared'. Even in a letter written just before she died she wrote, 'I have been walking this morning in the garden as usual.... My eyes still continue pretty good and I can read my book'.
Frances Julia de Pougens died in December 1851 in Vauxbuin, at the age of ninety-three. Her remains were returned to England and were buried in the Evelyn family vault, beside her mother, Julia Margaret Sayer née Evelyn, at St Nicholas in Godstone in Surrey. On the death of Frances, her estates and property passed to her second cousin, Robert Sayer.
It would appear from the available evidence that the Sayer family was a close knit family, and retained their ties with the Evelyn family. Perhaps Frances, having lost her mother when she was twenty, felt duty-bound to assume her position in the Sayer family, especially having an unmarried brother and father to care for. In 1786, at the age of thirty-one, Frances was introduced to her eventual husband, Charles de Pougens. In 1788 Frances became re-acquainted with Charles de Pougens on her visit to Paris and perhaps after the death of her father in 1799 she felt independent enough to contemplate her own life. However, any ideas she may have formulated regarding Charles de Pougens were interrupted by the French Revolution compounded by the fact that England and the France were not on good terms until 1803, and then only for a brief period in time. Perhaps then, grasping the moment, she felt able to pursue her own happiness, marrying Charles de Pougens in Paris in 1803, making France her adopted country.
Frances was a cultured and well learned woman, enjoying the arts and architecture, particularly interested in gardens and the countryside. At first, speaking limited French, she was still able to comment on agricultural practises and make comparisons between France and England whilst on her initial visit to Paris in 1788. She was at ease with the aristocrats and influentials of France both before and after the French Revolution. Frances was also considered to be kind and interesting and, perhaps most importantly, approved of as a companion for Charles de Pougens by Madame Louise, his friend of forty-eight years.
From the letters written on her visit in 1788, Frances certainly had an affinity with France, its people, life style and culture, and seemed more than happy to spend the rest of her life with Charles de Pougens in Vauxbuin, the quiet village in northern France. However, having made her choice the de Pougens then found themselves at the centre of disruption caused by the Napoleonic wars, concluding with the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. It is perhaps ironic that Frances lived to see the conclusion and final cessation of France's battle for world domination that had been started back in the reign of William and Mary in which her grandfather Edward Evelyn had fought and been captured in the wars of the Spanish Succession.
Yet despite the disruption of the wars, Frances seems to have taken everything in her stride, recording every detail, no matter how small, in the letters she sent to her friend Mrs Dundas back in England. The collection of letters give an extraordinary view of life in France during one of the most turbulent periods of its history, with only the occasional regret that Frances could not make the journey back to England.
In 1833 Frances's husband Charles de Pougens died but she chose to remain in Vauxbuin. A year later, in 1834, Frances's brother Edward died and she inherited the Sayer estate of Marsh Gate which in turn she left to her second cousin Robert Sayer to manage, yet still Frances chose to remain in France until her death in 1851. However, in death her English ties came to the fore and her remains were returned to England where she was buried in the Evelyn family vault beside her mother at Godstone and not with her husband in France.
Handouts Felbridge Place, SJC 10/99, FHA
Handout, The Commonplace Book of Colonel Edward Evelyn, SJC/JIC 09/07, FHA
Handout, Felbridge School, SJC 09/05, FHA
Handout, Felbridge Monument, SJC 08/99, FHA
Handout, The Felbridge Chapel, SJC 05/00, FHA
Handout, Beef and Faggot Charity, SJC 03/03, FHA
Sayer History, http://www.wadleyfamily.co.uk
French Revolution, http://.www.victorianweb.org
Article, A visit to Paris on the eve of the Revolution, 1915, by Lady Florence Kinloch-Cooke, FHA
Souvenirs and Memories of Charles de Pougens, initiated by Charles de Pougens and Madame Louise Saint-Leon
Louis Francois I, Prince de Conti, http://en.wiipedia.org
Napoleonic Wars, http://en.wiipedia.org
Battle of Waterloo, http://www.britishbatles.com
Article, Letters from Paris and Siossons a hundred years ago, 1915, by Lady Florence Kinloch-Cooke, FHA
Article, Letters from Paris and Siossons a hundred years ago - II, 1915, by Lady Florence Kinloch-Cooke, FHA
Our thanks are extended to Harry Sayer who forwarded copies of the letters of Madame de Pougens that appear in the articles written by Florence Kinloch-Cooke to the Felbridge Archive.