Pierre-Louis and Sabine de La Rochefoucauld, Duke and Duchess d’Estissac, with an ancestor. “Throughout Europe there are families like ours. I especially admire the Habsburgs. They’re the most fervent, almost mystics.” Photograph: Lara Marlowe
Because he was grand master of the royal wardrobe, the presence of François Alexandre Frédéric de La Rochefoucauld was required when Louis XVI dressed in the Palace at Versailles. One morning 224 years ago – some accounts place it before the storming of the Bastille, others immediately after – the king asked de La Rochefoucauld if it was true there was a revolt in Paris.
“No, majesty. It is not a revolt; it’s a revolution,” de La Rochefoucauld replied. He was the first to define the founding event of modern French history.
De La Rochefoucauld’s grandson, nine generations removed, Pierre-Louis de La Rochefoucauld, duc d’Estissac, lives a block away from the Champs-Élysées, where the French republic will celebrate its revolution tomorrow. This year, as every year, the duke, aged 65, will pay it no notice. “We had to run away, hide or get killed,” he says. “It’s not a date I want to remember.” The family has proof of its lineage for the last 1,000 years, back to Foucaud the 1st in 1019. In the 17th century, François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld, became a famous writer of maxims and memoirs, whose pithy observations on human folly are still quoted today.
Some 15 de La Rochefoucaulds were guillotined in the revolution. The present-day scion has a special fondness for Pierre-Louis de La Rochefoucauld, Bishop of Saintes. “Because I bear his name, I feel close to him.” The duke never passes the intersection of the rue d’Assas and Vaugirard without thinking of his namesake, who was detained in a Carmelite chapel there with 150 other clergy on September 2nd, 1792.
“They were ordered to recognise the new status of the church under the revolution,” the duke recounts. “All of them said No. One by one, they were shoved into the garden where dozens of ‘patriots’ fell upon them, killing them with hammers and knives.”
Pierre-Louis de La Rochefoucauld was declared a blessed martyr in 1920. He would have been canonised, the duke believes, had the church not been intimidated by the government. “In France, the legal government considers that the revolution was a marvellous thing,” he says bitterly.
There are fewer and fewer practising Catholics in France, the duke admits. “If you go into a church, you see people like me. Chivalry was the basis of the old nobility, and the Catholic faith is the basis of chivalry. Throughout Europethere are families like ours. I especially admire the Habsburgs. They’re the most fervent, almost mystics.”
The duke is “not at ease” in street demonstrations, but he nonetheless marched twice last winter, against the law that legalised same-sex marriage. The demonstrators were “happy and sympathiques, but I was horrified by the behaviour of the police”.
The socialist education minister Vincent Peillon holds a doctorate in philosophy, and published a book, The French revolution is not over, in 2008. Peillon is a bugbear of religious conservatives, who accuse him of wanting to abolish gender differences and impose his “atheist ideology”.
The duke sees the present government as modern-day Jacobins. “Peillon says ‘we’ when he talks about the revolution. He believes that as long as theCatholic Church exists ‘we’ will not have won entirely,” he explains.
The duke “worked in property”. His wife, the duchess Sabine, does public relations for the Louvre. Their name has been an advantage in those professions. Many French people, for example around the family château at Combreux, respect their role in history, he says. Others are hateful, like the jealous colleague who once told his wife, “I thought they guillotined you all in the revolution.”
France’s surviving 6,000 aristocrats struggle to slow the erosion of their property and traditions. The duke goes stag-hunting often, in the forest of Orléans. Nearly every year, he says, he and fellow hunters have to stave off some draft law seeking to ban it.
The duke’s father was president of the 1,200-strong, all-male Jockey Club, which Marcel Proust described as the most closed circle in the world. Liveried servants still address members by their titles. “We have a principle; one doesn’t come to the Jockey to do business,” the duke says.
Unlike the British aristocracy, French nobles have largely shunned commerce – and marriage outside their milieu. “The Anglo-Saxon expression, ‘to make money’ – I find it horrible, horrible. And I am not alone.”
He particularly objects to fortunes amassed in finance, because it produces nothing real – probably the only sentiment he shares with president François Hollande.
With a rich heritage rooted in mythology and symbolism, Zeus+Dione transcends classical notions of style and design. Named after the parents of the ancient Greek Goddess of love, beauty and eternal youth, the brand is characterized by a unique interpretation of myth and tradition. While various aspects of ancient culture affect the design of each new collection, the Greek letter, Delta Δ, is a predominant undertone of the brand, alluding to spirituality, harmony and creativity.
Beyond symbolism, Zeus+Dione’s lifestyle collections are influenced by minimal structures, geometry and precision, all of which are elements prevalent in classical Greek architecture & design. The inspiration drawn from doric elements are the clean lines embellished with intricate details and elegant patterns stemming from geometric shapes.
KYRVAN is based in Ierapetra, a seaside town on the island of Crete, formerly known as "Kyrva". It is founded by three friends whose common origin and love for their local heritage inspired them to create an everyday elegant espadrille shoe handmade from traditional wefts and patterns. Our philosophy is to make high quality shoes that stand out for their unique identity and craftsmanship, and at the same time to promote local traditions and preserve the art of weaving and shoe making. Though we strive to make our products locally, we are also passionate about providing the highest quality of materials. Therefore we source the soles of our shoes from our Mediterranean neighbors in Spain, who are the original jute sole artisans. Our shoes, dressed with traditional wefts and patterns, are handmade in Crete by local artisans. Some of our fabrics come from local weaving workshops, and others are vintage traditional textiles. Each pair is one-of-a-kind and the number of pairs for each style is limited.
100% Greek cotton, goat leather, suede
Our shoes are packaged in a traditional Cretan handmade shoulder bag called a “Vourgia”, with braided strings and a tassel, made from 100% cotton. The Vourgia bag was traditionally used by Cretan farmers to carry their food, water or wine when they went to work in the fields.
Did I trick you into reading this post , by its title?
I hope I did, because Royal doesn't get any more royal than this rest-bar in the heart of Athens.
It used to be one of the residences of King Otto and Queen Amalia, the first loving king and queen of Greece at the beginning of the 19th century.
Today the residence at 16-18 Kalamiotou str. is a lovely greek-with-a-twist restaurant and bar with cocktails like the one named after Helen of Troy. Between Hera, goddess of marriage, this queen of Sparta, chose Aphrodite, goddess of love. I very much feel for her!
Do let me know when you visit Athens!
I'll be glad to show you around the best unseen spots of us locals, at a very reasonable fee.