The fuse to the powder keg

weatherUnbelievable but true — the polar vortex is back. It doesn’t bother me half as much as it did during 2013-14 also known as the longest winter of my life. I think it safe to say people have watched the weather since people first walked the earth. As we never want to be out in bad conditions, it’s important to know what’s what to the best of your ability. Weather can influence many things for the good or bad.

Notable weather watchers
Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Minister of Finance to Louis XIV urged the construction of the Paris Astronomical Observatory.  The idea behind it was to facilitate global exploration by studying weather. Completed in 1671, this Observatory has been keeping track of weather a long time. Here are some particularly interesting details of weather recorded in France in the late 1780’s:

April to July 1788~
The  growing season that year saw a ridge of high pressure throughout the region and with it a hot and dry period of drought. I should note that at this time the French peasant farmers were still farming using the same poor practices in use during the Middle 807437759Ages. Crop production was looking pretty bleak. By mid-July, the harvest of the meager corn had begun. (corn in this case was barley, oats, wheat, or rye).

The Paris Astronomical Observatory recorded that a devastating thunderstorm passed through the region. An observer to the day was Lord Dorset, the British Ambassador to France. Here’s what he had to say:

“About 9 o’clock in the morning, the darkness at Paris was very great… The hailstones that fell were of a size and weight never heard of before in this country, some of them measuring sixteen inches … and in some places even larger. Two men were found dead upon the road … all the corn and vines destroyed, windows broken and even houses beaten down … It is confidently said that from four to five hundred villages are reduced to such great distress the inhabitants must unavoidably perish”.

Holy cow — Sixteen-inch hail! 

I should add here that at this time 90% of the population of France was trapped in a feudal system that required them to pay dues to the nobility and the Church. If they went hungry doing it, so be it. It didn’t help that King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, and the rest of the French nobility they rubbed elbows with, continued living their lavish lifestyles.  It also didn’t help  that France had already bled the populace dry from supplying the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution. A side note: Marie Antoinette never said, “Let them eat cake” upon learning the peasants had no bread.  The phrase most likely came from the mind of Jean-Jacques Rousseau the philosopher.

Winter 1788-89~
That following winter was one of the harshest winters ever recorded in Europe. Thomas APRIL 03Jefferson, the American minister to Paris at the time, wrote this:

“there came a winter of such severe cold as without example … the mercury was at times 50 F below freezing … Great fires at all the cross roads around which the people gathered in crowds to avoid perishing with cold”.

Spring and summer 1789~
Food was scarce that spring and the high cost of what was available created panic throughout the population. Riots were common — 300 between April and July. This time came to be called “the Great Fear of 1789”
. The  stark reality of starvation melded with the seething resentment of the uncaring nobility. It lit a fuse on a powder keg that July.

The angry mob
On the morning of July 14, an angry peasant -French-Revolution-Delacroixmob stormed the Bastille. At first they were met with canon and artillery fire, but after several hours of this cooler heads prevailed. They organized and united and called themselves the National Constituent Assembly. They seized the weapons there and use them on the king’s soldiers. The storming of the Bastille was the beginning of the Reign of Terror. In the ten years that followed, thousands died by the expedient killing machine — the guillotine.

July 14th ~ Happy Bastille Day ~ the start of a French Republic

redA macabre addition to this tale~
Following the executions of the aristocracy and insanity of the Reign of Terror, the bourgeois population made light of it all. Women cut their hair short (as was done to those getting their heads chopped off) and everywhere people tied red ribbons around their throats and on their clothing to commemorate and trivialize that violence. The Victim Ball was a popular party theme conceived by those in mourning for headless friends and family. They often consisted of funeral-style banquets served on top of a coffins and dished up on black dishes.  Weird stuff.


For 100 days, I’ll post something from my chosen topic: Clichés.
There are 71 entries to come.

Here’s a cliché for today:

Like a chicken with his head cut off


4 Us iconToday is Author Marianne Stephens’ blog day.

The July contest is on and all the prizes go to ONE WINNER!


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About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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8 Responses to The fuse to the powder keg

  1. Ray G says:

    Many of the wars up to and including genocide in recent history and currently stem from the same causes. People starving while others are living in luxury. From crop failure from changing climate and encroachment such as on the West Bank and the problems in Ukraine to revenge for thousand year old feuds things never seem to change.

    My favorite painting from the Louvre is Liberty by Delacroix. I spent almost an hour studying that painting when we only had about two hours to see the whole museum. I love museums, hate tours.

    • mikey2ct says:

      I agree Ray about liking museums but hate tours. Maybe a tour is a good introduction to a given museum though. I grew up in Philadelphia, PA and the Art Museum is just awesome!

      • I do like factory tours. I love seeing how things are made. Museums? I say leave me alone to do my own absorbing. I’m sponge when left to my own devices. 🙂

    • So true. I got into a conversation not long ago about the human species as compared to the chimpanzees. Chimps are far more aggressive than their milder cousins the bonobos. Fossil records suggest there have been other Homo species developing side by side with our sapiens. Neanderthals for instance. Was it our innate aggression that allowed us to dominate?

      Liberty by Delacroix is a great picture. I’ve seen artists redoing it with modern themes of revolution. The Louvre is on my list of want to sees. My kids saw it when they were there.

  2. mikey2ct says:

    I’m a big fan of Tour de France and watched it today again. I was expecting a Bastille Day post and you came through on one of France’s long holiday weekends. Bravo, Rose!

    • 🙂 Someone had to acknowledge it. lol

      Tour de France. I can’t even imagine riding a bike that hard and fast for that distance. I get a case of “rubber legs” after a 45 minute stint on the treadmill. So sad about Lance. He was a winner for even competing after cancer. He should have left it at that.

  3. Our own weather is becoming as severe and drastic as it was back then in France, it seems.

    • I hear it’s very hot down your way. This morning it’s 54º here. You’d swear it was mid-September by the feel of it. I’d really hate to live on the demarcation line between your weather and mine. I’m located in tornado alley as it is.

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