Events in Modern Languages & Cultures
Bowes Lecture Series: Dr Tom Stammers, 'Relics of Bourbon and Bonaparte: collecting post-revolutionary France in nineteenth-century Britain'
John and Josephine Bowes were deeply interested by the troubled history of France, collecting vestiges not just of the revolutions that toppled successive regimes (1789, 1830, 1848, 1870-71) but also traces of those rulers who had tried to impose some kind of fragile order. This included the Bourbons dynasty, the relatives of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette who had returned to the throne in 1815; the younger branch of that family, the Orleans dynasty, who governed from 130 until 1848; and the conspiratorial nephew of the Emperor, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, who fashioned the Second Empire after 1852. Numerous items in the Bowes Museum- including portraits, prints, autographs, medals and personal keepsakes- commemorated the unfolding drama of French politics. These objects presented an intimate, even sentimental, glimpse into the fortunes and tragedies of these three ruling families. But they also testify to the Bowes' effort to track down objects related to the monuments, the descendants and the loyal followers of these dynasties, both in France and during their exile years in Britain. This paper considers the Bowes as royal trophy hunters, and compares their passion for recent French history with other nineteenth-century British collectors, such as Lord Ronald Gower.
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