I mentioned in a post last month that I was excited to be given permission to write a novella that will be used as a promotional freebie between Ring of Secrets and its sequel, tentatively titled Mask of Truth. This one is set in the days leading directly to the French Revolution, and now that I've given myself a crash-course in research for it, I thought it would be fun to talk about some of the differences I've discovered between the French system of the day and the English (which I know a whole lot better!) =)
For starters, the whole class system is set up a bit differently. In England we have the Peerage, which consists of all folks titled, below which is the slew of gentlefolk who trace their linage back to the Peerage but have themselves no title. Titles in English are bound up by strict law--family estates are usually tied to them, and there's no wiggle room without an act of Parliament. It goes to the eldest male in the paternal line, and that's that.
|"The Triumph of the Third Estate"|
In France, however, we have Estates. The First Estate is the king and the church. The Second Estate is the host of nobles--and this, unlike England's, isn't a closed system. Rich folks could occasionally buy their way into the noble class, and if you were born into it, you stayed in it, whether you yourself had a title or not. I even read that quite a lot of people pretended to have a title, going by "comte" (count/earl) whether they deserves it or not, LOL. Then there was the Third Estate, made up of the commoners who were, throughout history up to this point, terribly neglected and oppressed by the nobles who controlled almost all aspects of their lives.
And while we're on the subject of titles, I found it totally bizarre that the title itself isn't capitalized in French, just the "where" part of it--so it isn't le Comte d'Ushant, it's comte d'Ushant. And rather than answering to "my lord" or "my lady," these nobles were just monsieur and madame and mademoiselle--which is why even those titles were banned during the Revolution and everyone was just "citizen."
|Robe a l'Anglais|
But the funniest thing is the fashion. Up until this point, French fashion was all the rage all the world over, and Marie Antoinette was a fashion icon. But as the queen spent more time with her children and less in the public eye, fashion shifted. Out were the exaggerated plumes and beads and gems and curls, and in came the simple styles a l'Anglais--in the English fashion! There's even a report of a woman attending a ball in a manly riding habit *gasp!*
I'm not quite as immersed in the setting as I would be for a full-length book, but I'm certainly having fun with my clashing English and French. =) Of course, all this is just the backdrop for my charming young French noblewoman, my handsome and noble-spirited English military officer, and my dastardly French duc. Mwa ha ha ha! ;-)
Now back to them I go!