Two It-Girls of the Directoire Period

Just a little something on two of the it-girls of post-Thermidor France.

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Juliette Recamier, by Gerard. Image via Wikipedia.

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Theresia Carbarrus Tallien, artist unknown. Image via Wikipedia.

Both Juliette Recamier and Theresia Carbarrus Tallien happened to be BFFs with another infamous merveilleuse of the period, a certain Rose de Beauharnais, and one of the most intelligent women of the period, Germaine de Stael..  But both women were as different as could be.  While Juliette preferred to present herself more as delicate, girlish, and probably just a little twee, Theresia had no problem embracing the newer, more scandalous fashions of the period and embracing her sexuality as a woman.

Their lives during the French Revolution were just as different as their personalities.  Juliette was spared many of the horrors of the Revolution and married a much-older banker at the age of fifteen.  Theresia, the daughter of a nobleman, divorced her husband and, as the lover of Jean-Lambert Tallien, became involved in politics.  Through her influence on Tallien, she was able to secure the release of many prisoners.  Her activities attracted the wrong kind of attention and she was arrested and taken to La Force prison, where she stayed until the fall of Robespierre’s government.  She eventually married Tallien, but they divorced a few years later. It was Theresia who introduced Napoleon Bonaparte to her friend Rose, an event which sparked the beginning of a new era in France.

Both Theresia and Juliette would eventually be on the receiving end of Napoleon’s dickishness, but let’s be honest: The man couldn’t handle how fabulous they were, which was, you know, his problem.

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BFFs 4 Lyfe Juliette Recamier and Theresia Tallien in a painting by Marguerite Gerard. Image and artist information via madameguillotine.org.

You can read more about Juliette Recamier and Theresia Carbarrus Tallien at author Melanie Clegg’s blog, madameguillotine.org.uk.  She has written two excellently informative posts about these two very fascinating women.

Bio source: Moore, Lucy.  Liberty: The Lives and Times of Six Women in Revolutionary France.

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2 thoughts on “Two It-Girls of the Directoire Period

  1. I love this post! I have never heard of either woman before, but this post makes me want to learn more. I am utterly fascinated, and I find myself drawn to both women, Theresia in particular. Thank you for the insights, this is much more history than I ever learned in high school.

    • Thanks! I also edited to add the source I used for the bios of these two women. Be warned, though, that Moore is a monarchist and has a huge crush on Jean-Lambert Tallien, who by all accounts could be a very brutal man, particularly to his wife.

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