Crossing Swords with Traditional History

Joseph BoulogneAndrea here, musing again on how our fresh perspectives on history continue to weave such exciting new threads into the tapestry of the past. I love learning about extraordinary people whose stories never got told in the traditional narratives, especially when it’s someone whose life intersects with the Regency era. So I was absolutely enthralled by a recent article in the New York Times on Joseph Bolougne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges.

A champion fencer . . . a virtuoso violinist and composer of classical music whose sonatas influenced Mozart . . . conductor of the leading symphony orchestra in Paris . . . a man at home in the cultured salons of Paris who hobnobbed with the Prince Regent in London . . . The Chevalier was also famous “across the Pond”—in fact John Adams called him “the most accomplished man in Europe in riding, shooting, fencing, dancing and music.”

So why have most of us never heard of him? Well, my guess would be that it’s because Joseph Boulogne is the son of a wealthy Frenchman with plantations in Guadaloupe and Ann Nanon, his wife’s enslaved African maid.

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