Tag Archives: Josephine

Mrs Daffodil on Flowers

A miniature flower painting by Jan Frans van Dael, mounted as a brooch. http://webapps.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/explorer/index.php?qu=jewellery&oid=156467

Since the Family is away on holiday over the week-end, Mrs Daffodil is taking this opportunity to take a brief holiday of her own, possibly paying a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show and returning, refreshed, Wednesday next.

She has posted on floral themes many times, so, to while away the hours for those of Mrs Daffodil’s readers who will be counting the moments until a new post appears, here are some posts pertinent to the topic of flowers.

Strange Flower Superstitions of Many Lands

Queen Adelaide’s Flower-Acrostic Dress

The Wild-Flower Wedding

A Miniature Matterhorn and Gnome Miners

Funeral Flowers for Young Helen

Napoleon and the Gardener

A very recent post: The Black Rose

And Mrs Daffodil’s favourite gardening story, “The Occasional Garden,” by Mr H. H. Munro [Saki]

Mrs Daffodil wishes all of her readers a delightful and restful week-end with well-filled picnic hampers and unclouded blue skies.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Josephine and the Old Shoes: 1789

Josephine's daughter, Hortense de Beauharnais, as Queen of Holland

Josephine’s daughter, Hortense de Beauharnais, as Queen of Holland


After the divorce of the amiable Josephine from her second husband, Napoleon, she retired to Malmaison, a pleasant country residence not far distant from Paris. Here, though retaining the title of empress, she lived in comparative seclusion till the period of her death in 1814. Some time before her lamented decease, she was visited by two young ladies of her acquaintance, whose interview with her is thus described by one of the party, in the Memoirs of Josephine:—’It happened to us to request of the empress to show us her diamonds, which were locked up in a concealed cellar. She yielded with the most willing compliance to the wishes of such giddy girls as we were, ordered an immense table to be brought into the saloon, upon which several of her maids-in-waiting laid a countless number of caskets of every form and shape. They were spread upon that spacious table, which was absolutely covered with them. On the opening of the caskets, we were perfectly dazzled with the brilliancy, the size, and the quantity of jewels composing the different sets. The most remarkable after those which consisted of white diamonds, were in the shape of pears, formed of pearls, perfectly regular, and of the finest color; opals, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, were encircled with large diamonds, which were, nevertheless, considered as mere mountings, and never taken into account in the estimation made of those jewels. They formed altogether a collection which I believe to be unique in Europe, since they consisted of the most valuable objects of that description that could be found in the towns conquered by our armies. Napoleon was never under the necessity of seizing upon objects, which there was always evinced the utmost anxiety to offer to his wife: the garlands and bouquets formed of such a countless number of precious stones had the effect of verifying the truth of the descriptions hitherto so fanciful, which are to be met with in the fairy tales. None but those who have seen this splendid collection can form an adequate idea of it.

‘The empress seldom wore any other than fancy-jewels; the sight, therefore, of this exhibition of caskets, excited the wonder of most of the beholders. Her majesty greatly enjoyed our silent admiration. After having permitted us to touch and examine everything at our leisure—” I had no other motive,” she kindly said to us, “in ordering my jewels to be opened before you, than to spoil your fancy for such ornaments. After having seen such splendid sets, you never can feel a wish for inferior ones; the less so, when you reflect how unhappy I have been, although with so rare a collection at my command. During the first dawn of my extraordinary elevation, I delighted in these trifles, many of which were presented to me in Italy. I grew by degrees so tired of them, that I no longer wear any, except when I am in some respects compelled to do so by my new rank in the world: a thousand accidents may, besides, contribute to deprive me of those brilliant though useless objects. Do I not possess the pendants of Queen Marie Antoinette? and yet am I quite sure of retaining them? Trust to me, ladies, and do not envy a splendor which does not constitute happiness. I shall not fail to surprise you, when I relate, that I felt more pleasure at receiving an old pair of shoes, than at being presented with all the diamonds which are now spread before you.” We could not help smiling at this observation, persuaded as we were that Josephine was not in earnest; but she repeated her assertions in so serious a manner, that we felt the utmost curiosity to hear the story of this wonderful pair of shoes.

‘”I repeat it, ladies,” said her majesty: “it is strictly true that the present, which of all others has afforded me most pleasure, is a pair of old shoes of the coarsest leather; you will readily believe it when you shall have heard my story. I had set sail with my daughter Hortense, from Martinique, in the West Indies, on board a ship in which we received such marked attentions, that they are indelibly impressed on my memory. Being separated from my first husband, my pecuniary resources were not very flourishing; the expense of my return to France, which the state of my affairs rendered necessary, had nearly drained me of everything; and I found great difficulty in making the purchases which were indispensably requisite for the voyage. Hortense, who was a smart, lively child, sang negro songs, and performed negro dances with admirable accuracy; she was the delight of the sailors, and in return for their fondness, she had made them her favorite company. I no sooner fell asleep, than she slipped upon deck, and rehearsed her various little exercises to the renewed delight and admiration of all on board. An old mate was particularly fond of her; and whenever he found a moment’s leisure from his daily occupations, he devoted it to his little friend, who was also exceedingly attached to him. My daughter’s shoes were soon worn out with her constant dancing and skipping. Knowing, as she did, that I had no other pair for her, and fearing lest I should prevent her going upon deck, if I should discover the plight of those she was fast wearing away, she concealed the trifling accident from my knowledge. I saw her once returning with bleeding feet, and asked her, in the utmost alarm, if she had hurt herself. ‘No, mamma.’ ‘But your feet are bleeding.’ ‘It really is nothing.’ I insisted upon ascertaining what ailed her, and discovered that her shoes were all in tatters, and that her flesh was dreadfully torn by a nail.

“We had as yet only performed half the voyage; a long time would necessarily elapse before I could procure a fresh pair of shoes; and I was mortified at the bare anticipation of the distress my poor Hortense would now feel at being compelled to remain confined in my wretched little cabin, and of the injury her health might experience from the want of exercise. At the moment when I was wrapped up in sorrow, and giving free vent to my tears, our friend the mate made his appearance, and inquired with his honest bluntness what was the cause of our whimperings. Hortense replied in a sobbing voice, that she could no longer go upon deck, because she had torn her shoes, and I had no others to give her. ‘Is that all? I have an old pair in my trunk; let me go for them. You, madame, will cut them up, and I shall sew them over again to the best of my power. Everything on board ship should be turned to account. This is not the place for being too nice or particular. We have our most important wants gratified when we have the needful.’ He did not wait for our reply, but went in quest of his old shoes, which he brought to us with an air of exultation, and offered them to Hortense, who received the gift with every demonstration of delight. We set to work with the greatest alacrity; and my daughter was enabled, towards the close of day, to enjoy the pleasure of again amusing the ship’s company. I repeat, that no present was ever received by me with more sincere gratitude. I greatly reproached myself for having neglected to make inquiries after the worthy seaman, who was only known on board by the name of James. I should have felt a sincere satisfaction in rendering him some service, since it was afterwards in my power to do so.”

Hortense afterwards became the wife of Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland, and mother of the present President of France, Prince Louis Napoleon. The poor circumstances in which Josephine had thus been placed, by her sudden removal or flight from Martinique, after the breaking out of the rebellion in that island, were less distressing than her subsequent sufferings on her arrival in France. Her husband, M. de Beauharnais, who had figured as one of the early military leaders in the French revolutionary movements, was seized, condemned, and brought to the guillotine; and she narrowly escaped the same fate only by the death of Robespierre, whereupon she was released from confinement.  

Chamber’s Miscellany 1853

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Josephine, estranged from her first husband, Alexandre, Compte de Beauharnais, had returned to her native Martinique in 1786. Alexandre had a change of heart and entreated her to return. She did so in the voyage described above. Although this is an excerpt from Chamber’s Miscellany, the original appears in Memoirs of the Empress Josephine by  John S. Memes, LL.D., 1838, who says in his preface: “The biographer who professes to write from other sources than personal knowledge can claim little merit beyond diligent inquiry and happy arrangement. Whether he has been fortunate in their combination does not belong to the author to determine ; but he believes the materials will be found to have been laboriously collected and carefully examined. Upwards of one hundred volumes, many of them unknown to the English
reader, have been consulted ; but it was deemed unnecessary to crowd the page with references, especially as the main facts in these Memoirs are made to rest chiefly on the authority of the principal personage. The numerous letters and con-
versations of the Empress which appear in the volume, are from originals understood to be still in possession of her family, or from sources equally

“Airy But Costly Trifles:” Society Ladies’ Historic Fans: 1890



Airy but Costly Trifles Belonging to Well Known Ladies

Curious Histories Connected With Many of the noted Fans Owned by New York Ladies—Painted and Decorated.

New York, Sept. 10. [Special Correspondence of the World-Herald] Likely enough, there is some truth in the tradition regarding a bit of lace and ivory called a fan, which belongs to a certain New York family, and which says that it was “bartered for a kiss.” This heirloom came originally from the Imperial family of Russia, but at what time in its career or by whom it was “bartered” tradition has kept no record. Of beautiful and costly fans owned by New York ladies, one is a Chinese affair belonging to Mrs. Frederick Vanderbilt. It is a very dream, so delicate in its ivory carving. Mrs. Hicks-Lord is the lucky possessor of a really magnificent fan. It is composed of the finest and daintiest point d’Alencon, with an artistic combination of leaves and flowers. The frame is of white figures, with any quantity of ornamentation in gold. It was worn suspended from a chain of diamonds and pearls. Mrs. Whitelaw Reid has a most exquisite affair in the shape of a fan. It is of white silk, embroidered in colors and ornamented with small pearls. Mrs. Coleman Drayton has a vellum fan, painted with a scene from Spanish history and mounted on carved sticks of sandal wood. Mrs. Schuyler Van Rensselaer has one painted by Seloir and valued at $2,000. Mrs. Whitney has a very valuable point d’Alencon fan, mounted on a frame work of gold. Of fans with historical associations, one belonging to Miss Furniss was painted in Spain in commemoration of the signing of the Utrecht, with the inscription upon it: “Por el amor de la Pay.”


The late Mrs. John Jacob Astor had probably the finest collection of fans in the country. There were among the number many charming specimens of the famous Vernis Martin, which time has not robbed of its soft lustre. The mounts are of paper, silk and vellum, exquisitely painted, one representing the “Toilet of Venus.” The sticks in ivory are overspread with the Vernis Martin, showing a surface of great brilliancy. Another dainty one in Mrs. Astor’s collection represents a Champetre group of youths and maidens upon a crag overhanging a bit of summer sea. Perhaps one of the choicest fans is one belonging to Mrs. Newhold Morris. It is of crepe lisse, delicately painted, edged with point d’Alencon and mounted on sticks of mother of pearl. Of other fans belonging to New York ladies, one is a regency fan with a scriptural subject painted upon the mount, the sticks being decorated with Chinese enamel faces in cartouches. Mrs. Jesse Seligman has many costly fans. One of the Louis Quinze period has depicted upon it a scene from harem life, and is decorated with gilt and silver medallions upon kid. A regal fan made over a hundred years ago for some almond-eyed empress of the flowery kingdom is now at the Metropolitan Museum of art, where this “thing of beauty and joy forever” has a large case devoted exclusively to its own royal use. This fan is an airy, fairy combination of gauze, ivory, jade and many other precious metals of exquisite workmanship.


A fan belonging to a New York lady was originally given by Napoleon to Josephine and then by the empress to Mme. Campau, from whom it passed to its present owner. Of other beautiful fans owned by fortunate New York ladies, one painted by Detaille is a spirited picture of horses taking the fence at Jerome Park; another, by the painter Borra, minutely depicts a christening scene before a Spanish alcalde, while a third shows a charming skating scene in the Bois de Boulogne, painted by Lafite. The fan which Mrs. Levi P. Morton carried on the night of the centennial ball is an heirloom—exquisitely carved ivory sticks and charming water color painting on white silk.

“The Swedish Nightingale,” Christine Nilsson, is an enthusiast in the matter of fans. She has a collection of rare and beautiful specimens. Among the number is one which was presented to her by the ex-Empress Eugenie. It formerly belonged to Mme. DuBarry—possibly it is the famous one valued at so many thousand francs. Another of the fair singer’s fans is one which was given to her by the crown prince of Russian and is an exact copy of the one that belonged to the queen of Oude.

There are many private collection of fans, those of Baroness A. Rothschild and Mme. A. Jubinal of Paris being the more valuable. In the former collection is a very ancient fan of woven bulrushes and painted in various colors. It is ornamented with pearls and has a handle of jade. Another very rich fan, which now belongs to M. Eugene de Thiac of Paris, is the one presented to Marie Antoinette on the birth of her son, the dauphin, May, 1785. This fan is of ivory, open worked and richly carved. It was painted by Vien and was designated as the “handsomest and most celebrated fan in the world.” A fan, now in the possession of the countess of Chambord, formerly belonged to Ninon de l’Eclos. It is of tortoise-shell, incrusted with mother of pearl and the leaf painted with an episode from “Jerusalem Delivered.” As early as the tenth century the fan was common France among the titled dames, and at a later period it was affected by the gallants of the day. In China every drawing room is so abundantly supplied with fans, that each caller on a reception day is presented with one as soon as she enters. For a lady to carry a fan is entirely out of the question.

Mme. Pompadour had a wonderful fan. “Lovers in a riot of light, Poses and vapourous dew,” is the poetry of the subject. The prose of the matter is that it had a lace mount which cost $30,000. It took nine years to make the sections, each of the five containing a medallion. The miniatures were almost invisible to the naked eye, but revealed a wonderful delicacy of execution under the microscope.

Watteau, Lebrun, Gerome, Bonheur, Boucher, Laufe, Rosalba, Carriera and Garnarvi are some of the famous artists who helped to paint beautiful fans for the Grande dames of their times. Shakespeare in several of his plays alludes to the fans of the period. These were usually suspended from the girdle by a golden chain, a fashion which has been revived in our own day. The first Greek fans were made of acacia, plantain and lotus leaves. In the time of Euripides peacock feather fans were used. These fans were much used by the Romans also. The great circular fans, which are used on state occasions still in Rome, are called flabella.

A Chinese fan was found among the effects of the queen of Ah-Hotip, who lived a thousand years or more before the Christian era and has sticks and crown still covered with gold and around the tops are holes still visible where the ostrich feathers were affixed. In the museum of the Louvre there is a Chinese fan made of bamboo leaf and ornamented with bulrushes. It is not less than fourteen centuries old.

Queen Bess of “peppery temper” was called the patron of fans of which she had a large collection. It was the only gift, so she declared, that a sovereign could accept from a subject. In the hand of a Spanish woman the fan – “el abanco” plays an important and most attractive part. During the delightful summer nights, when the moon sheds her light around, the Prado presents a romantic pictures, there is much magic in that little zephyr, folded and unfolded with a careless ease which none but Spanish women can display, moved quickly in recognition of a passing friend or elevated and opened over her head as if to frame it. There can be no doubt but that it helps on affairs of the heart. Camping by the blue vault of heaven many a love tale is then told and listened to with favor.

Regarding the flirtation qualities of the fan, a writer of society verse has written the following lines: 

HE SPEAKS. Painted and perfumed, feathered and pink,

Here is your ladyship’s fan.

You gave me to hold, I think,

While you danced with another man.

Downy and soft like your fluffy hair,

Pink like your delicate face;

The perfume you carry everywhere

Wafted from feathers and lace.

Painted and perfumed, dainty and pink,

A toy to be handled with care;

It is like your ladyship’s self, I think,

A trifle as light as the air.

 For you are a wonderful triumph of art,

Like a Dresden statuette;

But you cannot make trouble for my poor heart,

You innocent-faced coquette.

For I understand those enticing ways

You practice on every man.

You are only a bit of paint and lace,

Like that delicate toy—your fan.


Omaha [NE] World Herald 14 September 1890: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil always equips herself with a fan and considers that far too little attention has been devoted to the fan’s potential as a weapon. She does not speak of that roguish little tap on the manly chest, which is so necessary an aid to flirtation, but rather of fracturing the wrist of some malefactor or overzealous suitor, as Mrs Daffodil has had occasion to do.

A lady needs only a little ingenuity in the choice of her fan guards to ensure her perfect safety. Iron fan guards, while an obvious choice, are too tiring to the wrist. Mother-of-pearl, satin- and rosewood are decorative, but useless in an emergency. Lignum vitae or boxwood, with their dense character, would be excellent choices. Chemists, we read, are experimenting with productions of gutta percha and rubber. If substantial enough, or if weighted, rubber fan guards would produce the same effect as what is vulgarly termed a “cosh” and might be useful when traveling alone.

In a situation such as a ball, you may find yourself equipped only with the standard issue ivory or mother-of-pearl fan. If a so-called gentleman offers you an insult, it becomes a nice question of which you value more highly—your virtue or a costly fashion accessory? Think carefully about wasting a hand-painted silk Duvelleroy on a cad. Speaking practically, virtue is easily simulated, while it is difficult, if not impossible, to repair a crack in an ivory fan satisfactorily.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.