Before the Storm – Facts

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The novel starts in Bath, which is one of my favourite towns. Mrs Garland and her eldest daughter are in the Assembly rooms at a dance. During the Georgian era Bath became fashionable. The architects John Wood, the Elder, and his son, John Wood the Younger, laid out new areas of housing for residents and visitors. Assembly rooms had been built early in the 18th century, but a new venue for balls, concerts and gambling was envisaged in the area between Queen Square, The Circus and the Royal Crescent.  The New or Upper Assembly Rooms opened with a grand ball in 1771 and became the hub of fashionable society, being frequented by Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, along with the nobility of the time.

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In the novel Clementine likes to go for a walk and usually ends up on Pulteney Bridge. Pulteney Bridge crosses the River Avon in Bath, England. It was completed by 1774, and connected the city with the newly built Georgian town of Bathwick.

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Mrs Garland mentions the Gunning sisters as models for what she wanted for her daughters, two Irish girls that ended up married to some noblemen. According to some sources, when Maria and her sister Elizabeth Gunning came of age, their mother urged them to take up acting in order to earn a living, due to the family’s relative poverty. With their attendance at local balls and parties, the beauty of two girls was much remarked upon. They became well-known celebrities, their fame reaching all the way to London, with themselves following soon afterwards. On 2 December 1750, they were presented at the court of St James. By this time, they were sufficiently famous that the presentation was noted in the London newspapers. Within a year, her sister Elizabeth had married the Duke of Hamilton. In March 1752, Maria married the 6th Earl of Coventry and became the Countess of Coventry.

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In Bath when Clementine and Venetia are going for a walk, they see a notorious woman, la Duchesse de Polignac, who is said to be a friend of Marie Antoinette. Yolande Martine Gabrielle de Polastron, Duchess of Polignac (8 September 1749 – 9 December 1793) was the favourite of Marie Antoinette, whom she first met when she was presented at the Palace of Versailles in 1775, the year after Marie Antoinette became the Queen of France. She was considered one of the great beauties of pre-Revolutionary society, but her extravagance and exclusivity earned her many enemies.

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In London the Garlands live in Highbury. The majority of the development of the area occurred in two phases; until the 1870s many large Italianate villas were built, mostly in the southern part of Highbury, which is when the Garlands moved to the area.

The Knowles (Phoebe and her family) lived in Bloomsbury. Bloomsbury is an area in the West End. The area was laid out mainly in the 18th century, largely by landowners. The major development of the squares that we see today started in about 1800.

Clementine and Eliza mention Queen Charlotte living in Buckingham House. Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (Sophia Charlotte; 19 May 1744 – 17 November 1818) was the wife of King George III. She was Queen of Great Britain and Ireland from her marriage in 1761 until the union of the two kingdoms in 1801, after which she was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until her death in 1818. St. James’s Palace was the official residence of the royal couple, but the king had recently purchased a nearby property, Buckingham House, which was relatively more private and compact, and which stood amid rolling parkland not far from St. James’s. The Queen favoured this residence, and spent much of her time there, so that it came to be known as The Queen’s House. As many as 14 of her 15 children were born in Buckingham House.

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In Paris the Garlands settle in Rue de L’Université.

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Clementine meets her future husband, le duc de Culanges when she and Sidonie visit Amboise. Amboise  is a commune in central France. It lies on the banks of the Loire River, 27 kilometres east of Tours.

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When the French revolution starts, Clementine is a lady-in-waiting for Marie Antoinette, and a mob surprises them in Versailles. On 6 October 1789, the royal family had to leave Versailles and move to the Tuileries Palace in Paris, as a result of the Women’s March on VersaillesThe Women’s March on Versailles  was one of the earliest and most significant events of the French Revolution. The march began among women in the marketplaces of Paris who, on the morning of 5 October 1789, were near rioting over the high price and scarcity of bread. Their demonstrations quickly became intertwined with the activities of revolutionaries, who were seeking liberal political reforms and a constitutional monarchy for France. The market women and their various allies grew into a mob of thousands. Encouraged by revolutionary agitators, they ransacked the city armoury for weapons and marched to the Palace of Versailles. The crowd besieged the palace, and in a dramatic and violent confrontation, they successfully pressed their demands upon King Louis XVI. The next day, the crowd compelled the king, his family, and most of the French Assembly to return with them to Paris.

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Our characters are present at meetings of the National Assembly. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly, which existed from June 13, 1789 to July 9, 1789, was a revolutionary assembly formed by the representatives of the Third Estate (the common people) of the Estates-General.

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The National Assembly met in the Salle du Mange. The indoor riding academy called the Salle du Manège was the seat of deliberations during most of the French Revolution, from 1789 to 1798. On 9 November 1789 the National Constituent Assembly, formerly the Estates-General of 1789, moved its deliberations from Versailles to the Tuileries in pursuit of Louis XVI of France and installed itself in the Salle du Manège on the palace grounds.

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There is also mention of the National Convention. The National Convention was a single-chamber assembly in France from 20 September 1792 to 26 October 1795  during the French Revolution. It succeeded the Legislative Assembly and founded the First Republic after the insurrection of 10 August 1792. The Legislative Assembly decreed the provisional suspension of King Louis XVI and the convocation of a National Convention which was to draw up a constitution.

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There are some important characters of the French Revolution mentioned in the novel. There is Georges Danton. Georges Jacques Danton ( 26 October 1759 – 5 April 1794) was a leading figure in the early stages of the French Revolution, in particular as the first president of the Committee of Public Safety.  A moderating influence on the Jacobins, he was guillotined by the advocates of revolutionary terror after accusations of venality and leniency toward the enemies of the Revolution.

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Robespierre is also another name mentioned in the book. Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre ( 6 May 1758 – 28 July 1794) was a French lawyer and politician. He was one of the best-known and most influential figures associated with period of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. As a member of the Estates-General, the Constituent Assembly and the Jacobin Club, Robespierre was an outspoken advocate for the poor and for democratic institutions. He campaigned for universal male suffrage in France, price controls on basic food commodities and the abolition of slavery in the French colonies. But although he was an ardent opponent of the death penalty, he played an important role in arranging the execution of King Louis XVI, which led to the establishment of a French Republic.

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The Queen finds refuge in the Tuileries after Versailles. On 20 June 1792, “a mob of terrifying aspect” broke into the Tuileries, made the king wear the bonnet rouge (red Phrygian cap) to show his loyalty to the Republic, insulted Marie Antoinette, accusing her of betraying France, and threatened her life. The Brunswick Manifesto, issued on 25 July 1792, triggered the events of 10 August when the approach of an armed mob on its way to the Tuileries Palace forced the royal family to seek refuge at the Legislative Assembly. Ninety minutes later, the palace was invaded by the mob who massacred the Swiss Guards

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