This is The Siècle, Supplemental 14: Émigrés.

Welcome back everyone. I’d like to start off by apologizing for the fact that this is another supplemental episode instead of the next planned regular episode. I’ve heard from some of you about how frustrated you are that I’ve been releasing a lot of interviews and other bonus content lately instead of more researched episodes. And trust me, I get it. I want to move the narrative along as much as you do.

Here’s what’s up: what you’re about to hear is a recording I’ve been keeping in my back pocket for a long time. It’s a talk I gave at the Intelligent Speech conference last summer, an online event with the theme of “escape.” So my talk, called “You Can’t Go Home Again,” was about the French émigrés, the people who fled abroad during the Revolution — and in particular what their experience was when they came back to France.

I’ve intended for a while that this would be my episode for April 2022, for a reason I’ll tell you about shortly. But my planned March episode, “The Doctrinaires,” got derailed by some real-life events: I just got a new day job, and I’ve also got a litter of six newborn foster kittens in my attic. So while this next episode is written, I wasn’t going to be able to record and edit it before April 1. Rather than push my March episode into April by a few days, I figured I’d just flip-flop my schedule and release the finished April episode now. It’s not ideal, but in the long run, you’ll get the same content you were going to get — just in a slightly different order.

So why was I planning this live episode for April? Well, I need to prepare my presentation for an upcoming event that some of you might be interested in. From April 22 to 24, I’ll be a “guest of honor” at an online conference called “Barricades,” which is devoted to Victor Hugo’s novel “Les Misérables” and its impact. I’ll be participating in at least two events:

  • At 1:30 p.m. Central Time on April 22, I’ll be taking part in a panel discussion with Nemo Martin of the Bread & Barricades podcast and Professor Briana Lewis of the Les Misérables Reading Companion podcast about our experiences podcasting about this period of French history.
  • At 2 p.m. on April 23, I’ll be giving a talk called “Why the Restoration Matters,” about how this under-studied period of French history shaped Les Mis and the world.

Besides my sessions, there are more than two dozen other panels and talks scheduled. These include researched presentations by academics about French history and literature, and also fan-driven discussions of things like Les Mis cosplay and fanfiction.

So if that sounds up your alley, check it out! The conference is entirely online and runs from April 22 to April 24. Tickets for “Barricades” cost 10 British pounds, or about 13 U.S. dollars at current exchange rates. Any profits left over after covering the conference costs will be donated to the nonprofit Just Detention International, which works to end sexual abuse of prisoners. You can register and find out more information at barricadescon.com.

In the meantime, here’s the audio of my talk from last year about French émigrés. This was originally delivered live, from notes, rather than in a studio from a script, so there are rather more “ums” than you’re used to from The Siècle! You may also notice I was working with a worse microphone than I am now.

This was originally delivered with a slide deck, so as always, visit thesiecle.com/supplemental14 to view a full transcript of this talk along with period images. That transcript was produced by Jen Fuller. In the audio that follows, you’ll hear me interact with a host; that’s Cyrus Roedel of the Revolution 1 podcast.


My name is David Montgomery, I’m the host of The Siècle, a history podcast. Today you’ve heard a lot about escape, that being the theme. A lot of talks about fascinating and daring escapes. But for the next 20‒40 minutes, though, I want to talk about something else, which is what happens after you escape. Specifically, I want to talk about the French Revolution and the thousands of so-called émigrés who fled the country.

This is not the dramatic adventure story, the Scarlet Pimpernel smuggling the aristocrats way from the guillotine. This is the less dramatic, but I would argue more interesting story of how people go on living, coping, and adjusting to changed circumstances.

In some ways, that’s the spirit of my podcast, The Siècle. I cover the history of France that people usually skip right over – the hundred years in between Napoleon and World War I. But I’d argue that this ostensibly boring period is actually incredibly interesting. It’s the period in which the modern world was born. Similarly, while the dramatic escapes from the guillotine may be more Hollywood-ready, I think the story of how formerly privileged people deal with their reduced situation might be more relevant for general history for people who aren’t in life or death situations.

I’m going to start off with a little bit of a quick overview of the emigration.

You might be aware that France had this little thing called a revolution. The monarchy was overthrown, lots of people were guillotined. This is incredibly oversimplifying. But as part of that ‒ the Revolution and the Reign of Terror – you had a lot of people who felt that for their political or social reasons, that they were not going to be able to survive. If they stuck around, they were going to go to the guillotine. There were other people who maybe weren’t necessarily in imminent danger of losing their life, but who were unwilling to accept the Revolution and the changes that they thought were unacceptable. In both of these groups you’d have people who leave the country for the safety of other places, whether it’s physical safety or moral safety.

So, who were the émigrés? There is an incredibly complicated and vibrant and still ongoing scholarly literature to this day debating, trying to figure out how many people actually were that took part in the emigration. This was really hard in part because some people left for a couple months or a year and came back, while other people were gone for a generation. Perhaps the best estimate is that there were maybe 130,000 people or so who fled France.1 These were people of varying social status and they went to very different places.

So, the stereotypical émigré is the noble: the bewigged aristocrat fleeing the guillotine. And this is partially true. There were some 20,000 French nobles who emigrated during the Revolution.2 And this includes the most famous ones: the most socially prominent, wealthy, famous émigrés. Ones who were kings and dukes and bishops. Well, not the bishops, we’ll get to them in a second. And again, there’s a lot of debate about how many émigrés there were and how many nobles there were. But some people estimate that there were perhaps 15% all French nobles left the country, and that a significant portion of French noble families had at least one member leave the country. A lot of times, you know, the male head of household would emigrate and the women would stay behind, because they were seen as being less in danger, or somebody needed to stay home and take care of the property, etc.

With 130,000 people fleeing France and 20,000 of them being nobles, that means that only a fraction of émigrés were nobles. So, who were the rest?

Well a lot of them were clergy. The Revolution – again vastly oversimplifying – tried to control and then later destroy the Catholic church, about 3,000 clergy were killed, often in gruesome ways during the Revolution. Some 20,000 left the priesthood. As many as 40,000 clergy emigrated, which would be about 25% of all the clergy in France.3 Now, many of these were lower level clergy, so they were less socially prominent than the aristocrats, they get less attention. But there were far more of them numerically, both in absolute terms and relative terms.

Isaac Cruikshank, “Emigrant Clergy Reading the late Decree that all who returns shall be put to Death,” 1792. Public domain via Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

And if you’ve done the math you know then you know by now that the majority of émigrés were neither nobles, nor clergy, but commoners, members of the so-called “third estate.” These were by far the least prominent socially group for at least a couple of reasons. One is that many of them were just servants who were coming along with nobles. Others were peasants or sailors who may have hopped across the border when things got hot and then came back a few months later. And perhaps most importantly, while 15 percent of nobles left and 25 percent of the clergy left ‒ less than 1 percent of the third estate ultimately emigrated. So as a social force, it was a much less significant group.

While mentioning this, the nobles are often overrepresented as the face of the emigration. I say that as warning because I’m about to overestimate nobles as the face of the emigration in the rest of this, because there’s simply more historical material about them.

So, I also want to emphasize that there was lots of differences within the émigrés, and not just social status. There’s a stereotype that émigrés were all reactionary ultraroyalists. At the time, and since, a lot of people have sort of used émigré as a shorthand for reactionary ‒ treating the two groups as one and the same. And of course, not all ultraroyalists emigrated and not all émigrés were ultraroyalists. émigrés were probably disproportionately reactionary; the kind of person who was most likely to leave France was the kind of person who had those far-right politics. And some people went to the right while in emigration.

One example you can see here on the right is a fellow named Mathieu de Montmorency, who was a young aristocrat revolutionary on the left side of the National Assembly. He was driven into exile as the Revolution radicalized. And when he came back to France in 1814, he was a hyper religious, ultra-catholic, reactionary ultraroyalist. His experience was not alone. For a lot of people, the experience of being surrounded by fellow émigrés and watching from abroad what was happening to France only hardened their position that the whole revolution was a disaster.

Mathieu de Montmorency, author unknown, 1820. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

But many émigrés were moderate or even liberal. People like Talleyrand was an émigré for a while. The Marquis de Lafayette was technically an émigré. He fled the Revolution because it was getting too radical and he was in danger. The Duc d’Orléans, whose father changed his name to Citizen Égalité ‒ “citizen equality” ‒ as a sign of his commitment to the Revolution, he was also an émigré, who spent a lot of time traveling in the United States.

As another example emigration meant a lot of former nobles had the experience of, for example, Britain’s more liberal culture and politics and a lot of them came away impressed thinking that France could do to imitate that.4

So, as I said émigrés went everywhere: Austria, Russia, the United States, but London was sort of the epicenter. You can see here a political cartoon from Britain at the time showing a bewigged aristocrat meeting a stolid John Bull, a representative of the British people. People went where they went because of safety. Britain obviously would be protected by the English Channel, and the English Navy was less vulnerable to attack. But they also had money and Britain provided foreign subsidies — as did many other countries. So, you could get paid, subsidized in the same way that many countries today provide some subsidies to refugees. But these subsidies weren’t enough and a lot of these newly foreign nobles were forced to do something truly horrendous, which is work.

Right: An infuriated French dancing master holding a violin is accosted by a taxman demanding duty on hops. Artist unknown, Jan. 26, 1803. Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 via The British Museum.

These are people who had been living off of the income from their estates, but the French government took steps to stop émigrés from benefiting from their assets. They seized the assets often, they stopped money from moving overseas. And so you had a whole host of incredibly prominent dukes, duchesses, counts, who were forced to take up fairly menial jobs. The Comtesse de Saisseval started a business making straw hats. Marquise de la Tour du Pin became a linen worker. The Duchesse de Gontaut sold paintings. And the Duc d’Orléans, who I mentioned earlier, who would later become king of France, worked as a teacher.

It was possible to go too far. Making hats was seen as tolerable, but one noble was court-martialed by his social club and expelled for the crime of becoming a servant. It was seen as just too degrading — much more degrading than making hats.5

But eventually, the danger receded and émigrés started to go back home. Even in the 1790s you had some people returning home as the governments rose and fell in Paris. But especially once Napoleon took power, he took efforts to try to bring émigrés back. So in 1800 there was an edict that said all émigrés who hadn’t taken up arms against France were welcome to return. In 1802, even the ones who had fought against France were allowed to come back to France. In 1801, Napoleon struck a deal with the Catholic Church, which brought a lot of the clergy back, who had fled because they were unwilling to accept the Revolution’s religious changes.

But there were a few diehards, several thousand who remained in exile all the way to the end until Napoleon fell in 1814. In 1807, there were 1,461 émigrés in England, of whom 808 were laity and the rest were clergy.6

Still the alacrity with which most émigrés returned at the first possible moment was a little bit embarrassing to the true believers, the ones who were going to refuse to go back to France until the ancien régime was restored.7 The leader of the émigrés in England, the ultra-reactionary Comte d’Artois, was basically forced to give returning émigrés his blessing, because he was advised that they were going to go back regardless, so he’d better make it look like he approved if he didn’t want to turn them against him.8

So, the émigrés came back to France, and this is what I really want to focus on after sort of laying the groundwork for what happened here.

Whether they came back in 1800 or 1814, émigrés generally returned to less money, less status, and less power than they had had before they left.

Let’s focus on that money first. I mentioned how the Revolution had taken steps to prevent the assets and the money of the émigrés from being sent to them overseas so they could benefit. And a lot of that was from confiscating property. The Revolution confiscated huge swaths of land owned by the Catholic Church, as well as there was a law that meant that if you emigrated, your property back in France could be forfeit. So most of these émigrés had some of their property confiscated. This ultimately ended up being up to one-fifth of noble owned property in France. So that was bad enough, you came back and your property was gone. On top of that, noble privileges were abolished by the Revolution. Before the Revolution a lot of nobles had been exempt from taxes. One estimate is that about 5 percent of noble wealth was taken by taxes before 1789. After The Revolution, there was a uniform land tax that fell on everyone of around 16 percent.9 So much higher taxes.

Nobles had also received money from so-called feudal dues, which were ancient privileges that they had the right to extract from their peasants on their land. They might have a right to confiscate a share of their peasants’ crops. They might have a monopoly on the use of the village’s mill or olive press. They may be able to charge peasants for the right to transfer land or to get married. And there was what was known as the corvée, which as the right to force your peasants to work on your lands for a certain amount of days per year ‒ building roads, or doing other sorts of labor. And all of these were abolished in the Revolution. So, before the Revolution, you had income come from a certain number areas. These feudal dues, from rents on your land, etc., and now all this was gone.

That meant that many, not all, but many of these émigrés came back home to being almost as poor as they had been when they were in exile and having to make hats, or whatever. One estimate is the average noble family was about one-third poorer after the Revolution than before. The average provincial noble family saw its annual income reduced by a third, from around 8,000 francs, before the Revolution to around 5,200 francs per year after. It’s important to keep in mind when talking about this one-third reduction to 5,200 francs per year, that the average peasant farmer during this time might earn 300 or 400 francs per year. While these émigrés were poorer, they were not exactly destitute.

One example we talked about, the Marquise de la Tour du Pin, earlier, who became a linen worker. She lamented that the Revolution “ruined by father-in-law and our family fortunes never recovered.” She estimated that her family’s income had been slashed by 58,000 francs per year. But, of course, that still left them with 22,000 francs per year. Which is a lot less, but still probably in the top 1 percent of French society.10

Left: Lucie Henriette Dillon, Marquise de la Tour du Pin, a French memorialist, as a young woman. Artist unknown, late 18th Century. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Even nobles who weren’t quite so rich, and there were a lot of them were heard to lament when they were preparing to go back home, “where shall I go to hide my poverty?”11 It was deeply embarrassing to be an impoverished noble, because being of noble blood and being rich were supposed to go hand in hand. Being in debt was one thing, but being actually poor was something else entirely.

Some nobles were so embarrassed that they just stopped acting like nobles. They pretended to be commoners. They stopped using their title, their seal, their visiting cards, because it was less embarrassing to just seem to be an ordinary commoner getting by than to be a count who was penniless and living in a shack.12 De la Tour du Pin, who I’d mentioned before, said that her family had been “forced to contrive a living, sometimes by the sale of the few possessions remaining to us, and sometimes by taking salaried posts.”13 You sort of hear the disdain dripping from her voice there at the thought of having to work for a living. Being in exile was one thing, making hats, but once you’re back in France, the idea of having to take a position for the salary was deeply humiliating.

Many nobles who still had some money, tried to use it to buy back their confiscated property, or they found people who were willing to loan them money to do so. Sometimes these buyers agreed to sell, which restored the pride and income. But though a lot of properties returned, some people lamented that all their efforts to keep themselves afloat were in vain.14

Whether or not they had money left, these returning émigrés suffered an intense loss of social status. The clergy ‒ which had previously been largely independent, funded by vast landholdings and a direct 10 percent tithe they could impose on the population ‒ they’re now employees of the government. Noble titles were legally abolished by the Revolution. When Napoleon finally brought his own noble titles back, that meant that the old nobility now had to share their titles and status with new nobility. And finally, people who had been feudal lords now find themselves being merely landlords. Instead of having special social rights, they were just rich, collecting rents. Many commoners took great pride in showing their new legal equality with their former masters, including the ultimate indignity of suing them and taking them to court over various disputes.15

Finally, the returned émigrés found that they had a lot less power. All the ancient privileges and influence were gone, the regional parlements that had given many nobles a voice. If they wanted power, they had to work for Napoleon. And Napoleon could always decide that he didn’t like you anymore, and he was going to fire you, or worse. The famous writer Chateaubriand found that out when he published a pamphlet attacking Napoleon. The emperor shut down Chateaubriand’s newspaper, seized his property, and almost arrested him.16

Right: “The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries,” by Jacques-Louis David, 1812. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

But still, many former émigrés were more circumspect, kept their heads down, worked under Napoleon. Even if deep down they wished that the Bourbons, the family of Louis XVI were still ruling France. And then comes 1814 and the Bourbons come back. Napoleon is defeated, abdicated. The Bourbons return, the last émigrés come back to France. And they find themselves finally ‒ both the ones who just came back and the ones who’d been there all along ‒ finally had new access to power, wealth, and status.

The Church had new prominence and new resources. They got more funding, there was a determined drive to recruit new priests, to give them more money, to re-evangelize the population. The Restoration government had a Chamber of Peers modeled on the House of Lords ‒ which was a hereditary appointment that had a handsome salary.17 Émigrés took roles in political organizations, form a movement called ultraroyalism. That sometimes controlled the elected chamber of deputies, took a role in shaping national power. Louis had a royal bodyguard, that was staffed by men whose bloodlines were rather more impressive than their military records.

There are civil service jobs now available. 70 percent of Restoration prefects were members of the noble class.18 And again, I’m sort of conflating nobility and émigrés, not all nobles emigrated, not all émigrés are nobles, but this is the most prominent group here. In general, whether you were an ultraroyalist or more moderate, the Restoration was good news for the kind of person who had tried to emigrate. There were exceptions of course.

Finally, there were military appointments available. Not as it was before the Revolution ‒ when only nobles could become officers ‒ but a lot of émigrés were able to get cushy jobs in the military. I want to highlight one example here because it’s particularly telling. A fellow named Hughes Duroy de Chaumareys was a noble émigré and then in 1814 after coming back to France after a generation abroad, he was appointed to command a frigate, despite the fact that he hadn’t put to sea in two decades. On his very first voyage he crashed his ship into a reef ‒ killing more than a hundred people in one of the most infamous shipwrecks in European history before the Titanic.19

“The Raft of the Medusa,” by Théodore Géricault, 1819. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Despite all of this new social power and privileged, all these jobs that were available, it was never enough. For every émigré who was given a sinecure, many more were denied jobs that they wanted. The Restoration kept the Napoleonic nobles, so the old nobles still had to coexist with these new up-jumped parvenues. Clergy were, despite their higher prominence, still state employees. The feudal dues were gone. The confiscated lands were never returned and the ancien régime on a whole was never restored. The Restoration was, despite many people wanting it to be, always more of a compromise with the Revolution rather than a repudiation of it.

Still, a lot of these émigrés felt that the government was now on their side, or at least ought to be, and sort of threw around their perceived power. So, a lot of nobles and clergy alike tried to pressure the owners of their confiscated property to give it back. Some clergy refused holy sacraments to anyone who still owned confiscated property.20 There were some areas where nobles still lorded over their peasants like before. They addressed them with the informal “tu” pronoun, like they were children. There was one restored noble who we’re told to have treated their peasants like slaves, “Woe to the person who didn’t remove his hat while speaking to him, for a blow of his walking stick soon knocked off the offending headgear.”21 This wasn’t universal, but it was common. There was a famous song from the period that ran, “See this old marquis bloke treats us like conquered folk.”22 (It’s impressive that that rhyme managed to translate over from French to English. I’m always glad when that happens. It makes my life much easier.)

But despite all this there was no putting the genie back in the bottle. France had changed for good. Those efforts to recover the confiscated land, denying the sacraments and all that ‒ that was deeply unpopular and sparked a huge backlash, which ultimately contributed to Napoleon’s return in 1815 on a wave of unpopularity for the Bourbons. This didn’t last; he was defeated at Waterloo and exiled again to St. Helena. This all remained unpopular and Louis’s government, despite many people wanting to return the land, was never able to give it back. There was ultimately, in 1825, some compensation. Some taxpayer money used to compensate people who’d had their land confiscated, but this was sort of seen as a half measure.23 Clergy continued to be state employees.24 [It was] nothing that the émigrés wanted. They were not able to get back what they had before. And this was deeply humiliating by people who thought their time had finally come and they should have had it back!

But I want to close by noting something that was maybe not always so easy to see at the time for the people going through this. Many of these émigrés and their descendants lived a life of wealth, power, and privilege after coming back home. It was just not the kind they thought they deserved. From a distant perspective it’s easy to see, on the one hand that, many of these people were doing just fine for themselves. But also of course, in our time you can earn $70,000 dollars and be a perfectly fine salary, and so is $100,00, but if you go from $100,000 to $70,000, it’s going to upsend your life a bit. So, it makes sense that people had difficulty adapting to their drastically reduced circumstances. This definitely contributed to a lot of instability in France. There’s resenting of the émigrés, émigrés resenting people right back. There were governors that rose and fell, conspiracy theories, secret groups. It was all very dramatic. I don’t have any more time to go into that, I have already gone longer than I intended. If you like what you heard here, you can listen to The Siècle which is my ongoing podcast telling the story of France from 1814 to 1914. You can also visit the website where I have annotated transcripts for every episode.

Question and answer section

ROEDEL: Thank you, David. We already have a question from Andrew, who asked “how did the non-noble émigrés fit into the Restoration debates like national lands?”

THE SIÈCLE: So it really sort of depended. In the popular writings at the time, most of the vile, the anger is directed at the nobles and the clergy. They were the most prominent, they were the wealthiest — nobody really cared that much except maybe in your village if you were a peasant who left the country for six months or something like that. But if you were the duke of so-and-so, then what you did impacted a whole lot of people. So it’s a question of perspective. If you’re telling the story of an individual or a small village, then yes, these decisions that ordinary members of the third estate [took] are deeply important for history, from sort of a social history perspective. But from a political history perspective, these commoner émigrés were much less significant as players. So it sort of depends on which approach you want to do historically.

ROEDEL: The next question from Daniel: “Are there still open claims today from émigrés?”

SIÈCLE: No, that 1825 compensation package, the so-called “émigrés billion,” as it was called, [it was] deeply unpopular but it sort of worked. It settled a lot of the outstanding claims. It gave nobles money that many could use to buy back their property ‒ maybe at a premium if people didn’t want to sell before. It also meant that the people who had owned that property now finally for the first time felt secure that the government wasn’t going to take it away, because now there had been this compensation and there was this huge sort of festering sore, that people were terrified that the government was going to try to restore, to seize back this land. Louis XVIII swore up and down that “no, we’re not going to do this.” He even put it in the constitution that this land was never going to be returned. People didn’t believe it and there are still instances of decades and decades after the fact of politicians accusing nobles long after this time period of plotting to recover their confiscated land or of applying to reimpose the 10 percent tithe. So, it remained an ongoing political issue, but generally speaking it was not a mass political issue after the 1820s.

ROEDEL: Stephanie asks, “Do you have any episodes specifically about the children born abroad, but who moved back to France with their parents later in their childhood. Third culture kids of their time, so to speak.

SIÈCLE: I don’t have any episodes on that. They’re actually not super visible in the sources. There were a lot of people in the sources who were young men and young women when they went into emigration and came back 20 years later as adults whose lives had been shaped in many ways. One of the common experiences was that all the French Kings of this time for like a 40-year period were huge Anglophiles. They loved Great Britain because they had spent the formative years of their life in exile there. Also of course they recognized that from a geopolitical standpoint France couldn’t beat Britain so they might as well join them. There were definitely lots of instances of people whose lives were deeply shaped by being émigrés, the experience of being poor, the experience of living in other cultures. Certainly knowing English was common. There was a ton of cross-Channel visits by members of the upper classes of both countries, in part because so many émigrés had lived in England, spoke the language now and had good contacts there.

ROEDEL: Cynthia asks, “Do you have any idea how many or what percentage of the ancien régime period went extinct?”

SIÈCLE: So this is a complicated question because the ancien régime didn’t have… there was no formal registry of who was a noble. But there was a huge informal effort both before the Revolution and after the Revolution to create unofficial peerages. Books that accounted for a who’s who, a Burke’s peerage for France. And there were lots of different private groups. There were huge feuds between publishers of different competing books of the peerage. People sued each other, accused each-other of being frauds. So-and-so claimed to have noble backing but wasn’t. Some of these were basically monetary scams where you had to pay to be listed. So there are all sorts of efforts to try and track this. But generally speaking, unless you were of the grand upper nobility, it didn’t make much of a ripple if your family died out. Most people didn’t care. And it was also ‒ over the sort of 30 years after the Revolution, after Napoleon ‒ it was fairly easy to fake being a noble. You could just start calling yourself instead of, for example Honoré de Balzac, the famous writer, he was born Honoré Balzac. He started using the so-called noble particle, the “de” in there, which makes you sound like a noble because it made him sound more impressive. There was no law against that. Generally speaking, lots of people did that. If you’ve read the Count of Monte Cristo, a major portion of that plot is commoners who pretending to be nobles, because they have money and they sort of manufacture a fake noble identity and no one really cares. Obviously people did care, it was a huge scandal if it was found out, but it was relatively easy to do.

ROEDEL: No more questions from the chat right now. But I have a question, though. You’ve talked a lot about the influence that the émigré community played in French politics, what impact did they have on the politics of the countries they emigrated to.

SIÈCLE: This is a great question and something I’ve thought about adding to the presentation, but I’ll ultimately and probably correctly decided I didn’t have time for. So, the best evidence we have [is] for Britain, where there were the most émigrés and the freest press, so you have a lot of contemporary accounts published of reactions. As you might expect today, the way refugees are treated in First World countries, it was controversial. Some people didn’t like that the British government was paying a subsidy to exiled Catholic priests. That was seen as backing Popery in some areas. There was that image of, it was called “The Enraged Dancing Master,” that cartoon there is making fun of the exiled French nobles. The cartoon has a joke about Britain trying to enforce a tax on hops with a pun on the plant and dancing.

Right: An infuriated French dancing master holding a violin is accosted by a taxman demanding duty on hops. Artist unknown, Jan. 26, 1803. Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 via The British Museum.

So there was some resentment, but most sources seemed to find that, on the whole, the émigrés were accepted. Many of them, the aristocrats were welcomed into high society in England. There’s certainly some influence, there were ties that were forged between British nobles that met French exiles, which would then prove lasting into the 1820s, 1830s. And of course all of these émigrés helped provide a spur for the countries they were in to not compromise, to keep fighting Napoleon. It would have been embarrassing for Britain to make a permanent peace with Napoleon when they were also playing host to Louis XVIII in exile, and his whole family. It seemed that they had obligations beyond what they wanted to do. So the émigrés sort of constituted a spur to not compromise and to not make peace.


Thank you again for listening! Remember to register for the Barricades Convention, April 22 to 24, if you’d like to hear me and others talk about Les Misérables. That’s at barricadescon.com.

Instead of blathering on more, I’ll just wrap this up and get back to working on the next episode. Join me very soon for Episode 29: The Doctrinaires.

  1. Robert Forster, “The Survival of the Nobility during the French Revolution,” Past & Present no. 36 (July 1967), 75. 

  2. John Dunne, “Quantifier l’émigration des nobles pendant la Révolution française : problèmes et perspectives,” in La Contre-Révolution en Europe: XVIIIe-XIXe siècles, Réalités politiques et sociales, résonances culturelles et idéologiques, ed. Jean-Clément Martin (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2001). 

  3. Peter McPhee, A Social History of France: 1789-1914, 2nd ed. (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 62. 

  4. Nicholas Richardson, The French Prefectoral Corps, 1814-1830 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966), 11-12. 

  5. Margery Weiner, The French Exiles: 1789-1815 (London: John Murray, 1960), 108-12. 

  6. Weiner, The French Exiles, 151. 

  7. McPhee, A Social History of France, 79. 

  8. Weiner, The French Exiles, 147. 

  9. McPhee, A Social History of France, 17, 103. 

  10. McPhee, A Social History of France, 103. 

  11. Weiner, The French Exiles, 145. 

  12. David Higgs, Nobles in Nineteenth-Century France (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), 5. 

  13. McPhee, A Social History of France, 103. 

  14. Forster, “The Survival of the Nobility during the French Revolution,” 73. 

  15. McPhee, A Social History of France, 104-5. 

  16. François-René de Chateaubriand,Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb, translated by Robert Baldick (London: Hamish Hamilton Ltd, 1961; London: Penguin Classics, 2014), 228-9. 

  17. Guillaume de Bertier de Sauvigny, The Bourbon Restoration, translated by Lynn M. Case (Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 1966), 290. 

  18. Richardson, The French Prefectoral Corps, 9. 

  19. Jonathan Miles, The Wreck of the Medusa (New York: Grove Press, 2007), 23-7. 

  20. Sheryl Kroen, Politics and Theater: The Crisis of Legitimacy in Restoration France, 1815-1830 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 94-5. 

  21. McPhee, A Social History of France, 155-6. 

  22. Robert Tombs, France 1814-1914 (Harlow: Addison Wesley Longman, 1996), 332. 

  23. As discussed in Episode 28: Charles in Charge

  24. De Sauvigny, *The Bourbon Restoration, 306-7.