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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

17 November 2008

Les Pavillons

The “getaway” spot has been a part of our culture for a long time. But what are we getting away from? Today, it is generally the city, and many people have some version of a place they escape to on weekends whether it is a true second home or a tent site in a national or state park.

In the eighteenth century Les Pavillons were where courtiers would go to escape the crowds at the Versailles. The Pavillon de Hanover at left is one such example. These exquisite buildings could be found in the city or the country. They were of varying size, though generally much smaller than we would associate with the wealth of that period.

Pavilions fit between two Regency getaways: follies, usually seen on great estates, though pavillons were bigger and more complete domestically and the "rustic" hunting Bos ,though the French pavillons was more convenient geographically. Though pavillons were meant as an escape they were only an escape from the crowds and not from the comfort and elegance of the period. The interior salon at left give us a sample of the lifestyle, so differnt from Versailles where much of the time was spent standing (and looking for a bathroom)

In my WIP I wanted a small townhouse for the use of my hero’s mistress and found one Pavillon that suited my needs and taste perfectly. To move it to England I had my hero’s father, who had spent a great deal of time in France, hire the son of the orginal architect to build a version of it in London. Then the duke gave it to his "too serious" oldest son. My architectural resource is LES PAVILLONS OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY by Jerome Zerbe and Cyril Connolly.

The pavillon I chose is the Pavillon Colombe located outside Paris. (see below) It was built in 1769, for three sisters of Venetian background, all actresses who abandoned the stage for marriage or lovers but retreated to the pavilion when the need arose. The original owner was the lover of Mary Catherine Colombe's (seen here in a painting by Fragonard). Whe he married, he allowed her the use of the retreat for the rest of her life. She lived to be eighty.

After the Great War, Edith Wharton purchased Le Pavillon Colombe and erstored it. It was her favorite residence after The Mount, her home in Lenox, Massachusetts. In 1979when this book was published the owners were the Duke and Duchess de Talleyrand who attempted to restore the interior to its original configuration.

I cannot find any information on its current status but it will be lovingly described in my next Pennistan book STRANGERS KISS

Architecture always distracts me, especially residential architexture. I have a book on tree houses but have not been able to fit that in a regency story yet. What bits of history do you want to share with your readers? And readers, what do you always want to know more about?




7 Comments:

Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Hi Mary, as I was googling Marie-Catherine Colombe, I came across a piece that the Duke and Duchess of Talleyrand were auctioning off at Christie's that came from Le Pavillon Colombe recently. Apparently they are still restoring the pavilion.

I find I have tons of stuff I want to include in my current WIP, but I've had to temper my enthusiasm and just use what is necessary for the book. If I included everything I've learned during my research, it would start to resemble a work of non-fiction, than fiction.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

What a wonderful post, Mary! Gives me all sort of ideas for my own books actually :-). I love buidlings--I bases the houses in my books on real houses (or bits of different real houses put together), assemble pictures, draw floor plans, and, especially in the case of country houses like Dunmykel in "Beneath a Silent Moon," often figure out the house's history through the centuries so I can decide what was build and rebuilt when. Then of course, I want to use all that in the book and very often I only need a fraction of it...:-).

11:24 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

This is fascinating, Mary, and relevant to our recent visit to Sans Souci, at Potsdam in Germany. Because what was particularly interesting is that the main palace there is small -- around 10 principal exquisite rococo rooms -- while Frederick the Great put up the rest of the family in the larger, grander 200-room Neues Palais. How very enlightened of him.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Mary Blayney said...

Elizabeth, I think I saw that last night and forgot to follow-up on it today -- thanks for the reminder.

Tracy, isn't it great being a Hoyden. You can use lots of that creativity here -- I would love to hear about the history of even a make-believe house. I think it would make it more "real" for all your readers.

I did not spend as much time as I would have liked on Pennford Castle, parts of which have been on site since the 1200's, there just wasn't time. Hopefully I will not have written myself into a tight spot and can work on the history of it when the deadlines are not so close together!

Pam, I have not researched much architecturally beyond England, France and the US -- must extend my studies of castles to a new level. Thanks for the inspiration.

And by the way, The Petite Trianon, was Marie Antoinette's pavillon where etiquette was relaxed. The gentlemen continued with billiards when she entered and the ladies did not have to stop their stitching.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Hi, Mary!
Amanda McCabe visited La Petite Trianon recently and wrote about it for Risky Regencies

I almost always find a real house for my characters and then give it a fictional name. The house for Amanda, Deb Marlowe, and my anthology, The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor (May 2009) was based on Marble Hill near Richmond, UK. Somehow it is more fun to imagine my characters in a real house with real rooms.

Of course, you have completely intrigued me with the words "I wanted a small townhouse for the use of my hero’s mistress and found one Pavillon that suited my needs and taste perfectly." Want to read it now.

I'm not sure if you were after the same concept but when I saw Chiswick the guide said it was used as a weekend getaway for the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. I did think it rather small in ducal standards.

5:38 AM  
Blogger Mary Blayney said...

Hi Diane -- My current hero, the Duke of Meryon has a house in Richmond -- a place to getaway with the family -- it is the house featured on the cover of his story STRANGER'S KISS (the one I'm working on now) --nice thing about dukes is that you can give them a house anywhere you want. I did come across Chiswick and several others that inspired me. Will be sure to check out what Amanda wrote on Risky Regencies

9:02 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Thanks for introducing me to this aspect of life, Mary! I always think architecture is character, in the same way that wardrobe is, as we discussed a few weeks ago. In this case, not only the architecture and location of the pavilion getaway, but the interior decor says so much about the person who owns it and sees it as a retreat, especially if their other abode also figures as a "character" in the story.

When I was researching and writing my Emma Hamilton novel, TOO GREAT A LADY, I was charmed by the little summerhouse Sir William Hamilton had at Posillipo, where he and Emma loved to escape. I think it had just 3 rooms and a kitchen; and it was right on the water and they used to skinny-dip in the grotto and in the piscina that Sir William had made for him. It was too small for entertaining guests, so it really provided a love nest for the 2 of them.

3:04 PM  

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