Barbe-Nicole Clicquot lived an upper-class life during a tumultuous time in French history and, upon her marriage, worked with her husband in a very unusual capacity: helping to run a family vineyard. But, when he passed away at a very young age, she made an unusual and audacious choice about how to live her life.
Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin was born on December 7, 1777, in Reims, France. She was the eldest of three children of Nicholas and Jeanne-Clementine Ponsardin. Her father, a wealthy textile merchant, hobnobber with royalty, and a very fast (and smart) talker was able to keep the family safe and their fortunes intact during the French Revolution and all the changes in government that happened afterward.
Barbe-Nicole was married at 20 to the 24-year-old lad next door, Francois Clicquot. They had quite a bit in common and soon added to that list with: “learn all about becoming a vigneron” and running the Clicquot-Murion and Son vineyard, a side business in Francois’ own family’s textile business. They had one daughter, Clementine, and faced one failure after another trying to get the wine business off the ground.
And then, Francois died when Barbe-Nicole was just 27. Over a life of genteel widowhood or perhaps, remarriage, she chose to continue the work that they had begun together. With the assistance of her generous father-in-law, a mentor/temporary partner in the wine business, and a very enthusiastic outside salesman, Louis Bohne, the Veuve (that means, “widow” in French) Clicquot changed the company name to Veuve Clicquot and got very, very busy. She followed the same tradition that she and Francois had set: one failure after another during the reign of Napoleon who kept getting into war with the very countries that she was trying to establish a business in.
Finally, she got her big break when Russian soldiers took control of the city of Reims, fell in love with her outstanding sparkling wine, and became ambassadors for her product back in Russia.
Barbe-Nicole’s is a tale of defying the odds, planning ahead despite every evidence that you should quit, perfecting your craft and preparing for success whenever it may strike, and succeeding at a time in life when most women were…well, certainly not running a successful, international company and creating innovations that would be used for centuries.
Along the way, we dispel some myths about the beverage, give a mini-lesson in champagne production, talk about life in France during the beginning of the 1800s, and tell the story of a remarkable woman who became the face of champagne and the head of a world-famous champagne house.
Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot died after a very long life and a great deal of success on July 29, 1866, at the age of 89.
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The epicenter of Veuve Clicquot is their website. There’s lots of marketing (Barbe-Nicole would be proud) but also some things to discover about the Grande Dame herself and you can book a visit at the vineyard (you know, for the next time you’re in France!)
Madame Clicquot: A Revolutionary Musical cast recording, “Vintage 2023!”
While we can’t comment on the story holding up over time, there are several versions of The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma (“Emmuska”) Orczy for you to choose from: Here’s a free audio version on Libravox and the version we discussed was the 1999 televised series with Elizabeth McGovern (oh heeeey, it’s Cora Crowley!)
The jury is still out on the quality of the 2023 movie, Widow Clicquot which (as of recording) was just premiering at the Toronto Film Festival. There isn’t even a trailer to share yet (as of this writing) but here is an early review from IndieWire. We’re going to wait and judge it for ourselves!
Join us on our Facebook private page, The History Chicks Podcast Lounge, and join the conversation about what YOUR Vitamin H/Macaroni and Cheese movie is (this only makes sense after you listen to the podcast!)
The song in the middle is Champagne by Leht Mo Jo, and the end song is That’s What Hopes Are For by Emma Wallace both used with permission,
We’ve gone fishin’…okay, not real fishing, but we have taken a little summer break to focus on some life transitions that we have going on in our personal lives. Because one of them has to do with sending our sons off to the next chapters in their lives and facing empty nests ourselves, we thought of Lillian Gilbreth. Not only because she had many children herself, or because we both admire her so much for all she did as a working mom when working moms were very rare (in her social class, anyway.) We didn’t think of her because of her long-lasting and still-in-use work to make women’s lives easier (and men’s, of course.) Nope. We thought of this episode because both of our about-to-be-launched sons are in it! Not only is Beckett’s son in the 30-Second Summary, but the boys, who were 10 at the time, were causing a ruckus while we were recording!
This summer we’re all Barbie Girls, but the origin of this iconic doll stems from a very real woman, Ruth Handler. After seeing the movie, we thought that listening to Barbie and Ruth’s history really would enhance the experience–there are A LOT of Barbie history Easter Eggs in there, thanks Greta Gerwig!
This episode was recorded several years ago, and the entire shownotes can be found HERE! SHOWNOTES ARE HERE!
*The beginning section of part two of this episode, the story of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, has the strongest Little Ears warning we’ve ever had. Adults, please preview this before kids (or really, anyone who is sensitive to violent content) listen. You can pick her story back up at the 48:00 minute mark.*
After our discussion about the heritage of Queen Charlotte, we decided to divide and conquer with two mini-episodes on aristocratic women of color in the Georgian and Victorian eras.
We left Charlotte in a very sweet place: her family was growing, she was able to indulge her love of botany and other sciences through her many homes, her husband, King George III, was on a high note on the favorable scale…life was pleasant and lacked (much) drama.
But all that is going to change. She does keep having children in this final episode of our series, 13 of them reach adulthood. Okay, so her boys–especially the heir, the Prince of Wales- were growing into rogues but in an almost cute way and when things went sideways they went sideways hard.
In this episode, we tracked the mental illness of King George III (which didn’t really strike until he was in his 50s) and the impact it had on Charlotte, the family and the country. Charlotte goes from a sweet shepherdess of a mother who has her stuff together to a frazzled, confused, suspicious, and ever-stressed-out queen.
Within the two episodes, we cover her entire life and try to make it easy for you to separate the fact from the fiction on Netflix’s limited series, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story.
Time Travel With The History Chicks
Was Queen Charlotte black? How far back in her family tree did this ancestor live and what is the story behind why people think so? This Smithsonian article will give you a place to start you tumble down a rabbit hole. SMITHSONIAN
For the whole heartbreaking story of Princess Charlotte of Wales, the heir that never was, we covered her back when we were newbie podcasters, in 2011! Episode 13.
Historic Royal Palaces has a treasure trove of information on all things British Royal, here’s Kew Palace (well, the rebuilt one) you can see why it was a favorite of the family (and why we need to go there when we visit London this fall!)
Ways that the zebra became shorthand for greed and stupidity through political cartoons: PRINCETON
There are many Horrible Histories (no Drunk History though) on Charlotte’s era that we’ll just put this one episode here as a lovely example.
Break song: Handel’s End Song: Lost by Mary Ellen Lynch
Come with us to visit the world of Queen Charlotte (and centuries of others) this September as we take a Field Trip to London! Almost full! If you would like to sign up or learn more, visit our friends at Like Minds Travel!
Season Three of Netflix’s Bridgerton series, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story begins:
Dearest Gentle Reader, This is the story of Queen Charlotte from Bridgerton. It is not a history lesson, it is fiction inspired by fact. All liberties taken by the authors are quite intentional.
Cool, cool…but what is the true story of this very real figure in history? How much truth did Julia Quinn and Shonda Rhimes let into the series, what is entirely fiction…and what is open for debate? While we’re no Lady Whistledowns, we can confirm those truths, and reveal the fictions for what they are.
This isn’t a media recap, having seen the series or not really doesn’t matter, although we do reference the show a few times, it’s basically our usual Not A History Lesson chat about this oft-misunderstood 18th Century queen.
Time Travel With The History Chicks
All media sources and recommendations will be on the shownotes for Part Two