Search

Heritage: A 17th century European tour

PUBLISHED: 18:00 21 September 2018

The Louvre, Paris, was the home of Louis XIV. Photo: PA

The Louvre, Paris, was the home of Louis XIV. Photo: PA

PA Archive/PA Images

In his latest column, Prof Ged Martin takes us on a stagecoach journey back through the mists of time

The accounts recorded every penny spent on the two young gentlemen’s study tour of France, right down to the very last leg, the stagecoach home to Hornchurch.

Dacre and Richard Barrett were the teenage sons of the owner of the Aveley mansion Belhus.

In May 1670, they left for a 19-month immersion in French culture, escorted by their German tutor Henry von Bobbart.

On reaching Paris, they hired a “lacquay” – a lackey or manservant.

He was given a smart uniform, complete with “ribbands”.

Later, a cart ran over his foot, and his broken bones required surgery.

The young men ordered ornate outfits from Parisian tailors, such as “Twoe silk suits with pantaloons”, and 22 pairs of gloves.

France imported furs from its colony, Canada.

The brothers each purchased a “bever”, a tall hat made from beaver pelts. These were stiffened with mercury, a chemical whose fumes caused brain damage – which probably explains our phrase, “mad as a hatter”.

The French monarch, Louis XIV, was Europe’s grandest potentate.

The youngsters toured “the King’s houses about Paris”, visiting the Louvre and Fontainebleau. (Louis only occupied his grandest palace, Versailles, in 1682.)

At the Palais de Luxembourg (where the upper house of the French parliament meets today), Richard Barrett’s sword was stolen.

Later, after relocating to Orléans, in the Loire valley, they made an excursion to the magnificent Château de Chambord, where the French Court was in residence.

There they probably saw the “Sun King” in all his majesty.

To use the Château as a summer hunting lodge, Louis XIV built stables for 1,200 horses.

Not surprisingly, Chambord eventually became too expensive even for Europe’s richest ruler.

It wasn’t just a sight-seeing holiday. Dacre and Richard were in France to become cultured gentlemen. They studied the language (although not for long) and employed a “Dancing master for 10 months & a half”.

Musicians taught them to play the lute, “the guitarre” and the “castaniettes”.

They gave up fencing lessons after just two months: the equipment was expensive, and maybe the pastime was too dangerous.

A great deal was spent on a “tennis master”, who coached them in “tossing of balles &c.” This was Real (i.e. Royal) Tennis, an indoor game like squash. Lawn tennis was only invented in 1873.

Sometimes they misunderstood French customs. “We were invited to a Christmass supper, but payed for it.”

An educational visit took them to see criminals broken on a wheel.

France executed its felons by tying them on their backs around the rim of a huge cartwheel.

The executioner then smashed their bones with a sledgehammer, starting by breaking the legs, which caused agonising but non-fatal injuries.

It could take hours, even days, for criminals to die.

Eventually, the executioner would take pity and aim a massive whack at the victim’s chest, triggering a fatal heart attack.

This was called “the blow of mercy”. We still use that French term, “coup de grâce”, although in a rather more general sense.

Dacre and Richard paid to watch three criminals killed in this way.

As a bonus, a fourth offender was “shot to death”.

The French revolutionaries replaced the punishment in 1791 with the quicker guillotine.

In December 1671, Von Bobbart and the young Barretts headed slowly back towards “Cales” (the English pronunciation of Calais).

The brothers made a short side trip on their own to Dunkirk, their first time off their tutor’s leash.

Loaded with luggage, the three reached London just after Christmas. On 30 December, they caught a stagecoach at Whitechapel, “and soe to Hornchurch”, where the Belhus coachman probably met them.

I imagine Dacre and Richard jolting along Hornchurch High Street, their heads full of elegant palaces and screaming criminals. When they caught sight of the spire of St Andrew’s church, they’d have known they were almost home.

Related articles

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Romford Recorder visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Romford Recorder staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Romford Recorder account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Romford News Stories

Yesterday, 17:18

Our reporter Liam Coleman met with the big man before a hectic few weeks.

Yesterday, 15:00

A special needs school in Harold Hill said its first Christmas fete was a resounding success for all the pupils and families that came for the festive afternoon.

Yesterday, 14:27

A 69-year-old woman was taken to hospital with “life-changing” injuries after a hit and run in Havering-atte-Bower.

Yesterday, 14:09

Crossrail, London’s new east to west railway service, may be delayed even further and could require a £2billion funding boost, Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed.

Yesterday, 12:00

A Hornchurch secondary school was one of 28 schools in London to receive an award for encouraging active and safer modes of travel.

Yesterday, 10:39

A Hornchurch fostering agency has received an “outstanding” Ofsted report.

Yesterday, 07:00

Twenty-five pubs in Havering have closed their doors since 2001, figures have revealed.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Recorder readers this week.

PROMOTED CONTENT

From November, The Mercury in Romford begins to celebrate Christmas. The mall has plenty of gift ideas, fun events and activities for everyone

Vauxhall has completed its sport utility vehicle range with the third, and largest, Grandland X. We put the SUV, now available at Tony LeVoi in Romford, to the test.

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining,” so the saying goes. So if some warm weather is making your conservatory uninhabitable, think about replacing its roof with a flat one and adding a roof lantern instead.

Newsletter Sign Up

Romford Recorder twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists

Education Promo

News from your area

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now