Liberty: The Lives and Times of Six Women in Revolutionary France

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9780007206025: Liberty: The Lives and Times of Six Women in Revolutionary France

The bestselling author of ‘Maharanis’ recreates the lives of six remarkable women who, in a time of violent revolution, leapt at the chance to exercise their considerable charm, intelligence and acumen, and make their mark on history.

Germaine de Stael was an intellectual and an aristocrat, equally obsessed by politics and love affairs, who is said to have helped write the 1791 Constitution. Her fellow salonnière, Mme Roland, was a bourgeois housewife who became a fervent and influential revolutionary, until Robespierre’s regime sent her to the guillotine.

While female intellectuals sipped wine in their salons, their working class counterparts patrolled the streets of Paris with pistols in their belts. Theroigne de Mericourt was an ill-treated mistress when she fell in love with revolutionary ideals and became an ardent anti-royalist until a mob beating by ‘sans-culottes’ ended her activism. The mob in question was made up of members of the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women, whose founder, Pauline Leon, agitated for women's rights.

After the sans-culottes came the 'sans-chemises' – the glamorous (often skimpily clad) merveilleuses. Decadent Theresia Tallien combined sexual license with the secular amorality of the new Republic and reportedly helped engineer Robespierre's downfall. Her only rival for beauty was Juliette Recamier, whose elegance made her salons the most sought-after in Paris. When she refused Napoleon’s advances she was exiled from the city until his fall.

Writing with vigour and passion, Lucy Moore reanimates these witty salonnières, fervent citoyennes and glittering merveilleuses to illuminate the brief, hopeful period in which the Revolution seemed to offer them the freedom they craved – and the ways in which it failed.

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Review:

‘This book is excellent…Moore seems to have that rare gift of making a work both scholarly and yet as readable as a thriller.’ Julian Fellowes

‘A fascinating spectrum of female experience inside the Revolution and among the ruins it left behind… “Liberty” is extremely elegant and thought provoking…In mapping these six varied and overlapping lives, Moore vividly reminds us of the immense struggle there has been to establish political rights for women.’ Daily Telegraph

‘Lively, well-researched…it is no small task to bring together six such different lives against a historical background of rapid and complicated change but Lucy Moore has done it with skill and brio.’ Sunday Telegraph

From the Back Cover:

‘Woman is born free and lives equal to man in her rights,' declared Olympe de Gouges in 1791. Throughout the French Revolution women, inspired by a longing for liberty and equality, played a vital role in stoking the fervour and idealism of those years. In her compelling history of the Revolution, Lucy Moore paints a vivid portrait of six extraordinary women who risked everything for the chance to exercise their ambition and make their mark on history…

At the heart of Paris's intellectual movement, Germaine de Staël was a figure like no other. Passionate, fiercely intelligent and as consumed by love affairs and politics, she helped to write the 1791 Constitution at the salon in which she entertained the great thinkers of the age. At the other end of the social scale, her working-class counterparts patrolled the streets of Paris with pistols in their belts. Théroigne de Méricourt was an unhappy courtesan when she fell in love with revolutionary ideals. Denied a political role because of her sex, she nevertheless campaigned tirelessly until a mob beating left her broken in both mind and body. Later came the glittering merveilleuses, whose glamour, beauty and propensity for revealing outfits propelled them to the top of post-revolutionary society. Exuberant, decadent Thérésia Tallien reportedly helped engineer Robespierre's downfall - in so doing, she and her fellow 'sans-chemises' ushered in a new world that combined sexual license with the amorality of the new Republic.

Writing with vigour and sympathy, Lucy Moore reanimates the lives of six remarkable women from these three very different segments of French society. Through their lives, loves and failures, the wider history of the Revolution receives a compassionate retelling that illuminates not only the brief, hopeful period in which equality seemed within reach, but also the ways in which they were betrayed.

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