The hallmarks of the eighteenth century—its opulence, charm, wit, intelligence—are embodied in the age's remarkable women. These women held sway in the salons, in the councils of state, in the ballrooms, in the bedrooms; they enchanted (or intimidated) the most powerful of men and presided over an extraordinary cultural flowering of unprecedented luxury and sophistication. It is this captivating world that Olivier Bernier recreates. A world in which the shrewdness of Madame de Pompadour or the beauty of Madame du Barry could change the course of great nations. A world that could encompass the piquant frankness of Abigail Adams and the dark plotting of the queen of Naples. This world has been swept away, but its great ladies, the first modern women, still speak to us.
Fourteen dashing and sometimes tragic women—empress and dressmaker, bluestocking and courtesan—come to life here in a series of lavishly illustrated essays. Delightfully informative, this timely book charts the beginnings of women's liberation, illuminates the century for those who are unfamiliar with it, and provides new insights for those who know it well.
Chapter 1: The Emergence of Power
Madame des Ursins
The Duchesse de Berry
Chapter 2: The Sway of Intelligence
Madame du Deffand
Madame de Pompadour
Chapter 3: Writer and Publicist
Chapter 4: The Flesh Triumphant
Madame du Barry
Chapter 5: In Search of Freedom
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
Chapter 6: Working Women
Chapter 7: To Rule a World
The Margravine of Bayreuth
Queen Maria Carolina
Olivier Bernier was born in Hartford, Connecticut, of French parents. He was educated at the École Alsacienne and the Lycée Henri IV in Paris, receiving his baccalaureate in 1958 and a B.A. from Harvard College in 1962. Two years later he returned to the United States and became an exhibition director, later general director of the Martha Jackson Gallery, during which time he earned an M.A. (1965) at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts. His other works include Pleasure and Privilege (Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1981), a cultural and historical study of the late eighteenth century. Mr. Bernier, who lives in New York City, is now writing a biography of Louis XV.