Modern France


History of Modern France

The Third French Republic 1870-1940. Part 4


Zoom lecture




26 May 2021


Les Précieuses Ridicules

The Three Aristocrats of the Third Republic:

Countess Greffulhe, Count Montesquiou & Anna de Noailles

with Chris Boïcos


The period running from 1890 to the eve of WWI is often called the "Belle Époque” in France despite the many social and political upheavals of the time. In the upper classes of Paris, true financial and political power was held by the new bourgeoisie of industrialists, financiers and high civil servants. Yet aristocratic names and titles (officially abolished by the Republic) still gave their holders a considerable social cachet and encouraged precious attitudes and eccentric behavior which the more stolid bourgeois dare not assume.


In our lecture we will examine three of the most conspicuous aristocratic characters of the era, whose personalities, fashion statements and talent for self-advertisement both fascinated and repelled their contemporaries but never left them indifferent. Their mark on the fashions, arts and literary culture of the Belle Époque was considerable and all three served as models for the greatest literary account of the era, Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu [Remembrance of Things Past].

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