Collecting, Politics and Exile: the Fate of Royal Heritage in Nineteenth-Century France

On Wednesday 1st February we are delighted that Dr Tom Stammers will be giving a paper for the Modern and Contemporary History seminar series.Stammers M&C.jpgThe revolutionary history of France took a particular toll on the palaces and the possessions of the French monarchy. Whilst historians of heritage have analysed the process by which the treasures of the crown became redefined as the property of the nation within France, far less attention has been directed to the fate of objects that circulated outside national borders. Yet France’s royal families- Bourbon, Orléans and Bonaparte- each spent large periods of their lives in exile, and seized on material culture as a way of affirming their patriotism and dynastic identity.

This paper will be focused on the Orléans dynasty, who lived from the 1848 Revolution to the Franco-Prussian War in the suburbs of London. Deprived of the throne, Louis-Philippe and his sons struggled to uphold their dignity and credentials as a ruling house. In this time of limbo, cultural pursuits- whether art collecting, exhibitions, literature- were a crucial means of integration into the elite tiers of British society.  The enormous correspondence of the duc d’Aumale and the comte de Paris with Lady Frances Waldegrave offers an unrivalled glimpse of the family’s evolving cultural and political ambitions, torn between trying to build a home in Britain and harbouring dreams of a restoration. This paper will analyse what collecting can reveal about the family’s affinity for British political culture in the 1850s and 1860s- and also what it discloses about the failure of liberal monarchy in France after 1871.

Tom Stammers is lecturer in Modern Cultural History at the University of Durham. He has researched and published widely on the history of collecting in post-revolutionary France. He is currently completing a book manuscript entitled Collection, Recollection, Revolution: Scavenging the Paris in Nineteenth-Century Paris. Tom has published in leading journals in European cultural history and has been awarded fellowships at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris and the Maison Française in Oxford; in 2015 he organized a major conference with St John’s College, Oxford and the Ashmolean Museum on collecting and cultural history entitled A Revolution in Taste: Francis Haskell’s Nineteenth Century which will become a volume published by Oxford University Press. He is starting new research on the formation, exile and dispersal of French royal collections in Britain and Europe in the nineteenth century, as well as on the evolution of the Louvre. He is a frequent contributor to the arts magazine Apollo.

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