empire style wedding dresses

A true story with an ending straight out of Poe. 'One hundred and fifty years ago, as France passed from monarchy to republic to empire, the courtesan known as La Païva [pictured] set out to conquer Parisian society – and pulled it off so grandly that even she was surprised. From a nearly penniless [lady of the night], she rose to massive fortune and major political influence, with Emperor Napoléon III himself among her many, many admirers.La Païva, as her contemporaries understood, was more than just a courtesan, but an archetypical figure of the European 19th Century – when tectonic shifts in social organisation saw the old order give way, and a new class of capitalists and empire-builders set about remaking the world. Her waist was large, and her face was described by writers of the time as mannish. Yet La Païva had a virtue greater than beauty, and more enduring too: steely, total ambition.She was born in Russia in 1819, the child of Polish and German Jews in a land not hospitable to her religion. We know little about her youth: Esther Pauline Lachmann was her given name, though she soon adopted the name Thérèse, the first of many French affectations, and later called herself Blanche. By 17 she was married, to a tailor with tuberculosis. She dutifully bore him a son, but less than a year later she was off to Paris – without her child, without even divorce papers, but with an iron determination to make it to the top of European society.So in 1841, aged 22, she set out for the Prussian spa town of Ems, with a trunk full of borrowed evening gowns and fake jewelry. She bagged herself a pianist – one Henri Herz, wealthy but not wildly loaded, who set her up with an apartment, jewels, the works. Soon she was back in Paris, hosting a successful salon, and not quite married. The Muscovite tailor was still her lawful husband, and though she now called herself Madame Herz, no one was fooled, least of all the gatekeepers of King Louis-Philippe’s circle, who turned her away from court.In the expanding Paris of Napoléon III and Baron Haussmann, with its new boulevards and massive construction, new money was no barrier to social standing. Ostentation was in, and so-called respectable people mixed freely with the empire style wedding dresses demimonde . “Under the Second Empire,” wrote the art critic Charles Blanc, “a growing luxury so corrupted manners that an honest woman could no longer be recognised by her style of dress.”The Second Empire was to be La Païva’s playground. Having got what she wanted from her spendthrift marquis, she dispatched him in a letter that concluded: “You go back to Portugal; I shall stay here and remain a whore.” (Soon enough, back in Lisbon, he duly committed suicide.) Now she was that rarest thing, a courtesan with a title, and with it she won a succession of paramours, ever more powerful and ever richer.One gent she seduced by offering him her body for the length of time it took to burn ten thousand francs in her fireplace. She called her jewels “my children”; her actual kids were nowhere to be seen. She had become a legend, and raised her prices accordingly – settling at last for no one less than Guido, Count Henckel von Donnersmarck, a much younger Prussian and one of the richest men in Europe. He gave her everything, and underwrote the construction of her very own hôtel particulier with a very prominent address: 25, avenue des Champs-Élysées.But by 1871, when the country was routed in the Franco-Prussian War, the mood towards La Païva has soured. She was accused of being a German spy. At the opera, so the story goes, the audience hissed when she entered. Her Prussian spouse did not help matters, but it was more than Germanophobia that did her in. The Second Empire’s loose morals and mixing of classes became suspect in the years after the defeat. Courtesans, in a weird way, became scapegoats for national weakness – and La Païva, not only a courtesan but a Jew to boot, was scapegoat number one.It was time to go. La Païva and her last, richest husband lived out the rest of her days in a giant mansion in Silesia, in what today is Poland. After she died in 1884 her widower, heartbroken [and still obsessed], did not bury her. Instead he had her corpse embalmed in alcohol, cried over the dead courtesan for months, and then stored her body in the attic – without telling his subsequent, shocked wife [who it is rumoured stumbled over the rock crystal casket with its macabre contents on her wedding night, like Bluebeards wife]. In 1901, Kaiser Wilhelm granted Henckel von Donnersmarck the title of Fürst – the highest rank in the German nobility below the Kaiser himself. You have to wonder if he went upstairs to tell his preserved spouse the news: La Païva, at least in death, had become a princess'.Source: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20151222-la-pava-19th-century-paris-celebrity-prostitute