Rachel (aka La Grande Rachel aka Mademoiselle Rachel aka Rachel Félix) (with Allison Epstein)

My name is Ann, joined this week by Allison, to talk about a tits out women who only needs one name: RACHEL.


Tragic Muse: Rachel of the Comédie-Francaise by Rachel H. Brownstein




As mentioned in the episode, here are images of Rachel’s tomb

And here is Wikimedia Commons’s page of images of Rachel, almost entirely in various togas, her signature look.

Learn more about ALLISON and their books at allisonepstein.com

Subscribe to Allison’s Substack at rapscallison.substack.com

Get 15% off all the gorgeous jewellery and accessories (many pieces are also of roles that Rachel played!) at common.era.com/vulgar or go to commonera.com and use code VULGAR at checkout

Get Vulgar History merch at vulgarhistory.com/store (best for US shipping) and vulgarhistory.redbubble.com (better for international shipping)

Support Vulgar History on Patreon 

Vulgar History is an affiliate of Bookshop.org, which means that a small percentage of any books you click through and purchase will come back to Vulgar History as a commission. Use this link to shop there and support Vulgar History.

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Total Score:



Vulgar History Podcast

Rachel (aka La Grande Rachel aka Mademoiselle Rachel aka Rachel Félix) (with Allison Epstein)

December 6, 2023

Hello and welcome to Vulgar History, a feminist women’s history comedy podcast. My name is Ann Foster, and this is our Festive Seasonal Tits-Out Holiday Spectaculare! I started this podcast four years ago in 2019 and one of the traditions that we have established is that I always do something special at around Halloween and something special in December. The vibe, I think I explained this in the episode, but the vibe of the tits-out festive holiday spectacular is just kind of like, this can be a stressful time for some people or a joyous time for some people and what I wanted to do is have some episodes… These are just nice episodes. It’s a story that you can relax, you don’t have to worry, there’s not too many shitty men trapping women in towers or whatever. There’s not going to be… Mm, there might be some murders but not, like, of the main character. These are just nice stories to just curl up with some hot cocoa, or I guess if you’re in Australia, curl up with some iced tea and just sort of like, vibe out and just know that it’s going to be an okay time. It’s going to be somebody who is going to die of natural causes.

Anyway, for this one, this was a suggestion by tits-out brigade number named Momo from our Discord server. We have a Discord on the Patreon for anyone who is on the $5 or more level, although anyone can give me a suggestion anywhere, that just happens to be where this one came from. And I mean, I’m going to explain in the episode who it is and why we’re talking about them, but I think you’re going to really enjoy this episode and I think you will understand pretty much right away why I invited the guest who I invited to join me for this one. So, I hope you can all have a nice time listening to the story of Rachel.


Ann: Hello everyone, and welcome to Vulgar History, a feminist women’s history comedy podcast hosted by me, Ann Foster. And every year, every year, I’ve been doing the podcast for four years (which is bananas to me to think about) but the years 2020 and 2021 don’t count, for anyone, so it’s really just two years. Anyway, I started a tradition of doing a Festive Tits-Out Holiday Spectacular which, when I looked back at the people I’ve discussed in this so far; the first one was Lettice Knollys, and then the second one was Princess Cecilia, the pirate princess from Sweden, and then last year was Doña Gracia Nasi. And when I was looking at this year and who am I going to cover and what is the theme? I do the Halloween specials which is always just like, who is a spooky bitch? And I am running out of spooky bitches because for Halloween I don’t want to be like, “And here’s a person who was accused of being a witch and then she was murdered. The end.” I want it to be a nice story so I’m running out of things.

So, I was like, what am I doing for the holiday spectaculars? And I think it’s similar where it’s like, let’s do a story that is tits-out but also nice. I want this to be a nice story because it’s a stressful time of year for everybody, even in a non-chaos year of international events. So, here’s a nice story you can listen to and vibe out and just be like, this person is going to be okay. There are not going to be murders– Well, [laughs] I was going to say there are not going to be executions and there are executions but not of this person, they’re just happening around this person. Anyway, it’s a nice story. The way the timing worked out as well is that this episode is coming out just before the first night of Hannukah so it’s kind of like Tits-Out Festive Holiday Spectacular: Hannukah Edition, in that way.

Also, a request that I get– I don’t know, I get suggestions from people. When people ask for requests, sometimes I take that more seriously than a suggestion because it’s like, someone has a need, this is someone’s culture, and they want to hear that reflected back in the podcast. I’m like, I want to find someone! So, for Jewish people, I’ve had requests, “I’d love it if you did more Jewish people on the podcast.” I’m like, I would love to! I would love to do more non-British, royal, white Christians [laughs softly] in general and the challenge in that, to me, is like, most of the history I have access to as an English-speaking person is white, Christian, just royal people in western Europe are all Christian… I think… I feel fairly confident in that.

But then somebody in the Discord who goes by the name Momo, don’t know your real name, but Momo, thank goodness for you because you were like, “What about Rachel?” And I was like, “Who is Rachel?” And then I read about Rachel, and I was like, this is amazing. It’s a Jewish person but it’s also a nice story so that fits for the festive holiday celebration. And then I was just like, oh no this is 19th century France, everyone is called Louis, I don’t know what’s going on. And that’s why I’ve invited, friend of the podcast, Allison Epstein! Welcome, Allison.

Allison: Hello! [laughs] I am here as the unofficial 19th-century France correspondent.

Ann: Thank goodness because I… Even just preparing this I was like, “Allison, this revolution, is this the Les Mis thing?” And you’re like, “No.” Then you made a spreadsheet with a flow chart.

Allison: I did. I made Ann a flow chart of the Louises, just for reference for the sheer number of men in this story named Louis.

Ann: And honestly, also named Napoleon, but we’ll get to that. I truly did not realize… I just have done most of the research I’ve ever done has been about England-related things and I’ve sort of avoided France partially because they’re all called Louis and that’s confusing to me. Did not realize how chaotic the 19th century was in France.

Allison: It was a fucked-up time to be French. I’ll tell you what. [chuckles]

Ann: There’s a lot going on. So, this is the backdrop of the saga we’re telling but can’t avoid talking about it because it becomes involved, like anyone who is living through world events, kind of unavoidably.

But then also, there’s the Jewish aspect of this. So, Rachel, the person we’re talking about, is a Jewish person and so you also have done all this research because various reasons, including that your next book is about… Tell people what your next book is about and why you’ve done this research.

Allison: Yes. I have been researching the history of Jewish people in Europe and such for the last several years because I’m working on a book that is a retelling of Oliver Twist from Fagin’s perspective. So, trying to untangle Dickens’s antisemitism is what I’ve been working on. And I’m like, “Okay, I’m doing this as historical fiction, I need to know a lot about what it was like to be Jewish in Europe at this time.” And if you want to know the most depressing kind of research to do it’s being Jewish in Europe in the 19th century. There are very few good stories in that research, so I’m thrilled Ann, for a happy, Jewish, 19th-century France story. [laughs]

Ann: This is the thing too. We’re talking specifically about a Jewish person and the Jewish experience today. But in general, when I’m trying to find stories for this podcast, not just for a feel-good story for the holidays but also in general… I talked about this when I was talking to Alice Rutkowski about Louisa May Alcott and she mentioned, Alice did, it’s hard to be scandalicious or tits-out when your family is relying on you for income, when you’re a marginalized person, when you’re a lower class. It’s just like, yeah. I like to tell stories on the podcast, there are so many great podcasts out there that tell stories of heroines, of people doing great things but I tell stories of dirtbags who do stupid things. [laughs]

Allison: And we love them for it!

Ann: And it’s harder to find stories like that from somebody who is not the dominant culture, right, in a particular place.

Allison: Right. Because you’ve got way more leeway if you’re the daughter of the king, you can do whatever you want.

Ann: Yes. Princess Cecilia of Sweden being an excellent example.

Allison: The very same.

Ann: Yeah. And at the same time, I have come across stories… I love, Allison has listened to every episode of Vulgar History so I can throw stuff out and you’re like “Yeah, I’ve heard that.” But the interview I did with Nikki Taylor who wrote her book about enslaved Black women who killed their employers, there was the one dirtbag who was like, an enslaved Black woman in America who would be like, “I’m just going to Bible study,” and then she’d steal the money from the house and go gambling on riverboats.

Allison: What a legend!

Ann: Like, you can be a dirtbag in various ways, and people were, but my challenge as this podcast host is to find those people and it’s just harder to find them.

Anyway, Rachel. So again, Momo, from the Discord group. If you want to join the Discord group– Sometimes people are like, “You should start a Discord.” And I’m like, “I did!” Anyone who joins the Patreon at Patreon.com/AnnFosterWriter at the $5 or more level, you get into the Discord, and we chat. But you can also recommend things to me in all kinds of ways without joining the Patreon, that just happens to be where I learned about Rachel… What a gift.

So, Rachel. And one of the first things I think I told you Allison is that her name is just Rachel. It’s like Cher, Zendaya. Just Rachel.

Allison: Iconic.

Ann: Which is right away, I’m like, “Oh, I’m interested.” She’s also, AKA La Grande Rachel.

Allison: Even better. [laughs]

Ann: Sometimes just La Grande [Allison laughs] and sometimes Mademoiselle Rachel.

Allison: I think La Grande Rachel is the greatest thing a person could ever be called. I will be waiting for a better detail in this story.

Ann: So, she’s French, which is why I’m pronouncing her name Rachelle. It’s spelled R-A-C-H-E-L, so to me is just like Rachel, which to me, is such an everyday name that so many people have. It’s like if you were just like, “Oh, I’m Allison.” When your name is Allison, you can’t just go by Allison. [laughs] If your name is Zendaya, sure. But it’s someone just being like…

Allison: “I’m John.” You’re going to have to go on… yeah.

Ann: So, I love that she’s just Rachel. I will also mention, and I’ve told you before when we were doing the Mary, Queen of Scots season, remember there was the servant called French Paris?

Allison: I sure do.

Ann: And I did have more than one instance where I was fact-checking some stuff and I went on the old Google.com and I was like, “French Paris,” and guess what does not come up? Information about that person. Because guess what? Those words have other meanings that are more common. So, I did have that incident at least once perhaps, no, more than once, when I was researching, I was just like “Rachel date of death,” [laughs] and it’s like… You can’t just type in “Rachel,” the name Rachel.

And this is also where I was like, am I the first podcast that’s done an episode about Rachel? So, I was looking up like… Because if you go into Apple Podcasts or whatever, you can do an episode search but I’m like, how do I search this? Has anyone done an episode about Rachel? Let me Just type in “Rachel.” Anyway, so I don’t know if anyone has done a podcast about her before. I was typing in “La Grande Rachel, Mademoiselle Rachel.” [laughs]

Anyway, my main reference for this podcast is a biography that’s sort of an interpretive biography of Rachel which is, you know what, the vibes, of course that’s how she’s written about. So anyway, it’s a book called Tragic Muse: Rachel of the Comédie-Française and this is by Rachel Brownstein. It’s the sort of biography where her experience researching it is part of the narrative, so she talks about calling up the French archives because she wrote it in the ‘90s, there’s not email. And she told them her name was Rachel and they’re like, “Oh, I see why you’re researching this.”

Allison: I’m laughing but you did just interview an expert, first of all, because her last name was Foster. So, sometimes that is what happens.

Ann: Sometimes that is true. And that is part of why Rachel Brownstein was interested in this story. Anyway, so then I also did, there are a couple of articles. There’s one by Irina Rabinovich, recently, from 2022, “Unpacking Rachel Felix’s ‘constructed’ and ‘self-constructed’ Jewishness.” And then an article about Rachel from the Jewish Women’s Archives and also from JewishEncyclopedia.com. All those links will be in the show notes as well. I will say that Rachel Brownstein’s book is out of print as a book, but you can acquire it as an eBook or used copies. So, we’re going to get into this and I just want to… I don’t know. Antisemitism will occur but this is still a nice story. So, I don’t know.

Allison: That’s fair. It’s the 19th century. I think that went implied.

Ann: Okay, okay. I don’t think trigger warnings are required here, is what I’m saying.

So, Rachel. [laughs] I’ve been so excited to tell Allison this story for so long. I keep almost DMing you the entire story but then I’m like, “No! You have to save it.” So, I’m just excited to finally be here and able to tell you this story. Rachel was born on February 28, 1821. A couple things about that date. This was 11 days after the birth of Lola Montez in Ireland.

Allison: What a year to be alive.

Ann: What was happening astrologically? [laughs]

Allison: They were both born with the sign of Messy Bitch, and I love that.

Ann: I love it, I love it. There are a couple points in this story… I don’t know that these two ever encountered each other but there are points where their stories really paralleled each other. So, I feel like what I ended up thinking is this is sort of like in Star Wars; the light and the dark force have to balance. So, it’s like Lola Montez was born, so Rachel had to be born to somehow balance the universe. Or the other important detail is that two months and a bit after both of them were born, Napoleon died. So…

Allison: Yay!

Ann: I think you first suggested that the combination of the tits-out energy of Lola Montez and Rachel both entering the world, it took a few months to get to Saint Helena…

Allison: It was a ways away, yeah. He’s near Angola, you’ve got to wait for the trade winds but after that, yeah. The sheer energy, he was just like, “Oh no, two tits out women have been born, I must depart.”

Ann: He can’t stand up to that.

Allison: Can’t do it.

Ann: So, Rachel. Her name, like eventually she just becomes Rachel, but I will explain how she got to that point. So, her name was… [stutters] “She was born to itinerant Jewish pedlars on the roads in Switzerland.” So, there wasn’t a birth certificate.

Allison: Yeah, she was born. We do know that.

Ann: We do know that. Later on, the birth certificate was supplied. Anyway, her name was maybe Elisa-Rachel or Rachel-Elisabeth, like a hyphenated name because her siblings had names that were like that. It’s kind of like an Old Testament name and a New Testament name or a Jewish name and a Christian name. Her sister was called Sophie-Sarah, which I think is probably something where it’s just like, the parents wanted to give them options, you know, to code switch, depending on where you’re going.

Allison: Absolutely. I think there are still people who do that now. Let me get my non-Jewish name out for the paperwork.

Ann: Yeah. So, her parents; her father was called Jacques and her mother was Therese Esther Hayer, triple names. And their last name was Félix which is a French… You’re also here as somebody who knows French, a bit more than me.

Allison: A bit. I knew a lot of French five years ago.

Ann: So, Félix is a French name/word that means basically, happiness.

Allison: It’s Latin for luck, right?

Ann: Yeah. So, the Jewish last name Baruch has the same meaning. So, chances are their last name was Baruch and they changed it to Félix to be like, I don’t know if there was– God, all this stuff. Napoleon or somebody was like, “Jewish people can be citizens, but you have to have French names,” so maybe that’s why they changed it.

Allison: They’re like, okay, we’ll translate our own names into a Latin language just to be safe.

Ann: Yeah. So, and this is part of where it’s like, she became just Rachel. It’s like, yeah, what did her last– You know? I don’t think she was ever really committed to this as a last name to begin with. Anyway, so parents, “Jacques and Therese Esther Hayer were Jewish pedlars who sold second-hand clothes from a wagon they used as both home and warehouse.” She was born on the road, basically literally in Switzerland, in the Swiss town of Mumpf, which is spelled M-U-M-P-F.

Allison: Spelled like it sounds.

Ann: Mumpf. So, Switzerland at this point, 1821, was “Somewhat risky territory from Jewish pedlars because they were legally barred from residing or establishing businesses in the country,” but her mother was in labour, so she had to be born. So, there were some, like, shitty biographies written about her in the early 20th century. In the Rachel Brownstein book, she’s kind of like, “Well, here’s what might have happened.” But a weird combination of glorification of her but also this like, “Look how Jewish she was.” So, some of the stories of her birth really sound like the nativity story in the sense of it’s this Jewish husband or wife and she has to have a baby but there’s room at the inn but instead of Herod is doing a census or whatever, it’s like Jewish people aren’t allowed to go into inns. So anyway.

Allison. I mean, yeah.

Ann: Then there was a whole thing of she was born and at some point, she might have fallen out of the wagon and then she was saved by this dog [Allison laughs] or maybe she was saved by… A lot of the stuff was retroactively trying to show that this is why she became such a legendary person. So, these weird biographies really mythologized her birth to show that she was destined… I think it was something like, a French person caught her falling off the wagon and that was how they knew she would be the saviour of all of France, spoiler. [chuckles]

Allison: Seems like the guy who caught the baby should be saviour of all of France, like, handing her to Jacques over there.”

Ann: Either a dog or a French person saved her. [laughs]

Allison: If a dog’s catching babies, I want to talk to the dog, not the baby.

Ann: Yeah, true. So, there were also four other siblings born. She had an older sister Sophie-Sarah and then had four other siblings, Raphaël, one name, Rébecca, one name, Adelaïde-Lia, two names, and Mélanie-Dinah. So, I feel like all of them, the names are flexible, the names are like, guidelines.

So, her dad, Jacques, this is where it gets like… The people in this story are dirtbags and then the way that they’re talked about sometimes is antisemitic so I’m trying to be like, here’s what they’re like. So, their dad was kind of a shitty stage dad-type energy. He was also a grifter because he’s a hustler. If he’s just like, “I’m selling second-hand clothes out of a wagon that I also live in,” it’s like, yeah, he’s going to be…

Allison: You know what’s not going to make you a lot of money? Selling a bunch of second-hand clothes on the streets where the only thing that’s going on is a dog catches babies sometimes. Guy’s got to hustle.

Ann: Exactly. So, he’s got a lot of strategies to make money. He’s like, multiple entrepreneurship which can be interpreted as being like, “Oh, he’s money hungry,” or whatever. It’s like no, he’s just…

Allison: No, he wants enough money to feed his five or six children? Probably.

Ann: Yeah, he’s hustling and it’s like, of course he was because otherwise, they would all die. So, the family is doing everything they can to make money, and one of the things is that Sophie-Sarah and Rachel would go out on the streets and Sophie-Sarah would play a guitar and then Rachel would sing, and they would make money like, busking basically. But then, he was like, wait a minute. And this is kind of like, I’m going to guess you haven’t read Britney Spears’s memoir? The Woman in Me.

Allison: Not yet. It’s on my TBR though.

Ann: It’s really good. It’s really interesting and well written but kind of like Britney Spears’s father, he was like, “Wait a minute, my daughter Rachel is actually talented, I could make money from this!” So, the family went to Lyon, France. [pronounced with slight French accent]

Allison: Lyon, yeah.

Ann: Lyon, Fronce.

Allison: Fronce! Mais oui.

Ann: Where there was a pre-existing Jewish community of people. So, this is, I don’t know, 1830 or something by now. But since 1791, I wanted to mention this, the French Revolution happened and there was the Republic and everything. As part of that, in 1791, three kinds of people were allowed to be French citizens that weren’t before, and those types of people were Jewish people, Protestants, and actors.

Allison: [giggles] I didn’t know that. that’s really funny. [still giggling]

Ann: Yeah. This comes up because Rachel is going to be an actor, obviously. And this is where the article I read just recently; I had put these notes together and then found another article that was helpful, the one about Irina Rabinovich was talking about… For Rachel, in terms of being marginalized from society, it’s like, she’s a woman and she’s Jewish and she’s an actor. It’s like…

Allison: Three strikes.

Ann: That’s a lot. That’s an extra level up in terms of the challenges of her daily life. But as we’ll see, [laughs] she crushes it. So anyway, one day Rachel and Sophie-Sarah were out playing guitar and singing on the street, they were ages 8 and 10 or something like that. Side note, as an adult, Rachel would proudly display a guitar in her home and say, “This was the guitar I was playing when I was a young urchin,” and then she sold it for a lot of money to one of her lovers. Knowing Rachel, and her family’s ability to just like, find a way to make money, and I don’t mean that in an antisemitic way, I mean that you know…

Allison: Listen, as someone who has been researching Jewish dirtbags for years, don’t worry about it.

Ann: Okay. I just want everybody to know, she and her family are really good, like the Kardashians; they just find an opportunity in everything. So, I feel like Rachel where she’s like, “Oh yes, that was the guitar I played when I was a child.”

Allison: It was not bitch, that’s just a guitar you found in a second-hand shop somewhere and you’re like…

Ann: And if she sold it, she’d replace it with another one and sell that one.

Allison: Yes, hundred percent. Yes.

Ann: That’s the vibe. Anyway. So, one day, she and her sister, they were maybe singing close to brothels or whatever, I don’t know, a lot of the… So, this is part of like, a kind stranger was like, “Oh wow, look at these talented young girls. I need to rescue them from this life of singing outside of brothels.” [chuckles]

Allison: I mean, fair, that’s not great for an 8-year-old.

Ann: No, but it does have a bit of a… This guy who discovered them, the vibe is a bit of like, white saviour. Because their life was not amazing but how much was he like, “Oh, I must save these young ethnic children.” But also, he was just like, “Oh shit, this is a young Britney Spears. Rachel oh my gosh.”

Allison: Yeah. “Maybe I can stage manage this precocious 8-year-old.”

Ann: And guess what? Yeah. [laughs] So anyway, the guy who discovered them was this Parisian musician/educator called Étienne Choron and he was like, “These two girls should attend my acting school in Paris.” So, the family went to Paris in 1831. This was one year after the July Revolution had installed a guy called Louis Philippe as king of the French.

Allison: Yes. This is why you brought me onto the podcast. [laughs]

Ann: So, there was the French Revolution.

Allison: There was. This was in 1789. So, that was about, what is that? 40 years ago? Yes.

Ann: Yeah. 1831, yeah. So, 40 years ago there was the French Revolution in which Marie Antoinette was killed, all the shit went down… guillotines…

Allison: And her husband who was the King but whatever. You know, mostly Marie Antoinette.

Ann: Her husband, yeah.

Allison: Yes. And so, that was the French Revolution and there was a period of about like, 10 to 15 years where they were like, “Okay, let’s try to figure out what it would be like to have a republic. Let’s try to create some kind of a Parliament. Let’s do our best to ride this democracy thing out.” And then as we all know, Napoleon said, “However, I could be the emperor, that sure would be easier for everybody involved,” and Napoleon was emperor for, like, a whole decade.

Ann: Yeah. And then after he died…

Allison: So, Napoleon was exiled for the actual final time in 1815, so still 15 years before all of this. So, then they’re like, “Okay, we don’t have an emperor, we don’t have a parliament, we’ve got to find somebody else to be in charge of France again,” and the monarchists who were like, “Things sure were better before we had the French Revolution,” were like, “Okay, we’re going to put another king back on the throne.”

Ann: So, they’re looking at the family tree on a scroll, they’re like, “This guy’s dead, this guy’s huh, who’s… [stammers] … This guy! Louis Philippe.” So, he’s not directly…

Allison: Well, we didn’t get to Louis Philippe quite yet, I’m so sorry. First, they went to Louis XVI’s younger brother, they were like, “Let’s just go directly to the next guy in line as if this were all just done right.”

Ann: Sorry. I was confused because everyone is called Louis.

Allison: You know, this is a different Louis. This is Louis XVIII, younger brother of Louis XVI, not Louis Philippe. Can you believe those are three different men? [laughs]

Ann: How could I not keep track of that, that’s so straightforward.

Allison: So, French Revolution, guillotined king, his younger brother is king for a while, then he dies, and his brother Charles becomes king. Charles is king in 1830. Charles is extremely unpopular, nobody like Charles. And he tries to deal with this lack of popularity by cracking down on journalists in public assembly, and freedom of speech, and stuff and the French are like, “Well, we just had a revolution 40 years ago, Sir. We can do it again.” So, they take to the streets, they make barricades, they yell at the king. And the king, who would prefer not to get guillotined like his older brother, Louis XVI, runs away with his son. They’re like, “Absolutely not, we’re going to go live…” He goes to England for a while, he actually lives in Holyrood Palace for a while, which I thought was dope.

Ann: Where Rizzio was murdered!

Allison: The very same.

Ann: Okay, okay.

Allison: So, he’s travelling Europe and now they have to find somebody else. And so, that’s where Louis Philippe comes up. He’s like…

Ann: This is where you unfurl the scroll…

Allison: You unfurl the scroll, and you go all the way back up the French family tree. They’re going grandfathers up to Louis XIV who was the Sun King, famously known to be extremely fancy and extravagant and had loads of mistresses, he was the one in the Affair of the Poisons, if you remember.

Ann: Oh, we’re going to talk about him in a bit, yeah.

Allison: Wonderful. Because if you go back up the family tree of the French to Louis XIV, he had legitimate sons that got all those other Louises. And then he had a famous mistress, Madame de Montespan, [Ann gasps] who if you remember from the La Voisin episode, was the mistress who tried to murder a bunch of babies in a Black Magic ritual to make the king fall in love with her… Allegedly, allegedly.

Ann: Yeah. Not allegedly.

Allison: I mean, I think it… Yes.

Ann: That’s canon on this podcast.

Allison: That is canon, that is a historical fact. So, she and Louis XIV had their own line of descendants and Louis Philippe is descended from her.

Ann: Okay, is he the one who is called the Citizen King?

Allison: Yeah. He’s way off there on the fucking family tree; you have to throw a dart to catch him on the family tree. So, he’s just “one of the guys,” he’s just “one of the people.” He’s not. He’s a direct descendant of the king but that’s how they were trying to market him because the French were very upset with kings at this point. But that’s the July Revolution.

Ann: In terms of what you just said, I need to tell everybody because I’m in Canada, a Commonwealth country. On our currency is the monarch of Great Britain. And it was just released what the Charles coins are going to look like. Barf. It’s like Charles, but he’s wearing not a crown, it’s his profile, his face profile. He’s wearing not a crown and he’s wearing, you can tell from the bust, just a suit. So, it’s like, “Well, that just looks like some guy.” The Queen on the coins, she’s wearing pearls and a crown, it just looks like a queen. This just looks like you put some guy on my money. People are saying they’re going to call them the “Chuck Buck.”

Allison: [laughs] It’s the Citizen King of the present day.

Ann: Well, and that’s one theory I think, he wants to be like, “I’m not like the old king, I’m a cool king.” Where it’s like, okay, so you’re on my coin not wearing a crown but you’re still on my coin!

Allison: Exactly. Yes. This is exactly what it was like.

Ann: Yeah. The Citizen King is like, “I’m not like the other kings, I’m a cool king.”

Allison: But you’re still a king!

Ann: Yeah, yeah. So, Louis Philippe, listeners, this is why Allison is here, she’s going to explain stuff. Rachel, we love her, but she’s living in this time of rapid turnover of who is in charge of France, and it becomes very pertinent to her life.

So, at this point, she’s a little girl going to acting school, little child star. So, she and her family settled in Paris in the Marais district, which was the Jewish neighbourhood and I think still is the Jewish neighbourhood.

Allison: It’s very bougie now.

Ann: Oh, is it?

Allison: It’s very expensive to live there now. It did not used to be because that’s how gentrification works.

Ann: They lived across the street from the morgue, Rachel and her family.

Allison: I bet you people were just dying to get in there, Ann.

Ann: Ba-ba-bum… Ching! So anyway, she and her sister, Sophie-Sarah, attended this, Étienne’s school for child stars or whatever and were trained in acting and music. So, this is very important, and I don’t know what your background is on this but I’m hoping you know something about it [chuckles] which is the tradition of classical drama in France. Do you know anything about that?

Allison: Probably not but I am willing to try.

Ann: Okay. So, at this time, one of the most popular sorts of plays to be performed were plays about Napoleon.

Allison: Okay! That’s why I don’t know anything about it because I refuse to learn.

Ann: I love that this episode is coming out around the same time that that movie Napoleon is coming out. Anyway, France was like, Napoleon had only just died like 10 years ago and they’re all just like… They’re already like, “That’s retro.” Napoleon vintage, they’re just like, “Remember when Napoleon was the emperor?” Like, you kicked him out!

Allison: Well, they’ve had four kings since then, it’s been a busy time.

Ann: So, they’re like, in retrospect, was he so bad?

Allison: Yes. Yes, he was.

Ann: So, plays about Napoleon were really popular at the time. Did this imprint on Rachel in some ways? We’ll talk later about her psychology and her choice of lovers. Anyway, plays in general were really popular and this is kind of the first time in France, potentially anywhere where performers became celebrities and stars. When we’re talking about, like your first book, Kit Marlowe and William Shakespeare times, which is England, not France, it’s like, oh, there are the players, the actors, but they weren’t feted by high society.

Allison: Yeah, they were like, no one wanted to associate with them.

Ann: Yeah. So, this is where, a couple things. I mentioned Rachel: woman, Jewish, actor. She slid in, she was born in exactly the right time to make a go of things because actors were starting to become wealthy celebrities who could hang out with the aristocracy. Also, Jewish people had more rights than they ever had before in France? So, good timing on her part to be born under the Lola Montez moon.

Allison: On the side of the road next to a dog.

Ann: [laughs] Like Jesus, no room at the inn. So, at around this time, there’s something like 9,000 Jewish people in Paris, which is three times as many as there had been a couple of decades before. Jewish people were coming there because it was like, guess what? Change your last name, you can be a citizen. Napoleon had in fact appointed some sort of government, self-government for Jewish people so this encouraged Jewish people, intentionally; he wanted immigration from Jewish people to come to France so more of them did and then kind of developed a neighbourhood. So, the general aim of the Jewish community in Paris was to, “Retain religious identity while attaining social assimilation.” So, they were not under pressure, officially, to convert and they were allowed to sort of like, have your Jewish neighbourhood.

So, remember how only recently, Jewish people and actors were allowed to be citizens? So, the way that both were treated, the rights were really similar, actors and Jewish people. So, both actors and Jews were denied Christian marriage and burial.

Allison: Okay. One of those makes sense.

Ann: I don’t know. Somehow, a lot of Jewish people started entering the theatre community, maybe because it’s like, well…

Allison: None of us can get married so we may as well.

Ann: I don’t know it’s like, “Well, it’s not going to change what we can or can’t do, our rights are the same as actors so let’s all be actors.” So, Jewish actresses and models became trendy at this time when Rachel is coming of age. So, this is setting the stage for her to succeed in this really interesting, unanticipated, to me, way of like, you know what’s really hot right now? Jewish actresses. Like, what? Okay.

Allison: She’s like, “Guess what…”

Ann: “Guess who I am.” Okay, so she’s in like, child star acting school in France. So, 1834, she’s like 13, and an American actor named Edwin Forrest was just around. There was a showcase for like, emerging young talent and he saw her. He wrote this, not later knowing how famous she would be, at the time he wrote… And I need to make it clear to everybody that Rachel was very thin because of starvation reasons. It’s similar to what I’ve read about Audrey Hepburn who, during World War II was so undernourished that she became really thin and then just was really thin the rest of her life. It affects you in a lifelong way when you’re starvation… living. Anyway, so Rachel was always a very, very small, thin person. I wanted to preface this because Edwin Forrest wrote, “That little bag of bones…”

Allison: Rude.

Ann: “…with the marble face and flaming eyes,” is how he described her. In her, he could see “demonical power. If she lives and does not burn out too soon, she will become something wonderful.” And this is not dissimilar to how people talked about her as an actor. Her acting was so intense. And I don’t know, I was trying to think of someone to compare her to and I can’t because it’s just like, she was so intense with acting that everyone was like, “Holy shit. Oh my god.” All I can think of is to compare it to a singer who is really powerful or something. She’s this little, tiny person but she’s so intense that everyone is just like, “Ah!” as we’re going to see. That’s her style, she’s tiny but intense.

So, when she was aged 15, she left acting school to go make a go of it. Her dad was her manager, so she went to the Théâtre Molière where she received additional training and then she was admitted to the prestigious Conservatoire and then she soon left the Conservatoire for higher-paying work at the Theatre de la Gymnase, which looks like the Theatre of Gymnastics but it’s not.

Allison: I was going to say, the Gym Theatre? Okay. Which is, by the way, what we had in my middle school. The theatre was just a little stage at the very far end of the gym underneath the basketball hoop.

Ann: Yeah. Sort of like the cafetorium.

Allison: Exactly.

Ann: Basically, she’s going from place to place learning theatre acting training. I think I write about this later, but I’ll describe it to you now. When I say she’s getting theatre acting training, she’s being trained in the classical repertoire which is like, the plays that were popular when Louis the Sun King was around. These were plays that all glorify France and it’s like, the national French identity are these plays that are very old fashioned and not very popular but it’s the official theatre of France. And they’re trained in like, here’s how you say your lines. You’re trained in like, you learn the hand movements. So, every time you see these plays being performed by anyone, they’re doing the same hand movements as someone 100 years ago doing the same part.

Allison: That’s wild.

Ann: Yeah, so it’s frozen in amber, acting like it’s 1640 or whatever. So, this is the training she’s receiving. It’s like, very specific to perform only these plays in this specific way. But what she brings to it is intensity. [both laugh] Anyway, so then later she began, she’s like 15. By the time she’s 16 she’s taking private lessons with a guy called Joseph Isidore Samson, who I mention is 43 at the time, just because…

Allison: And also, the Phantom of the Opera, I’m assuming, based on the way the story is going.

Ann: [chuckles] He lives in the sewers. The phantom of the cafetorium, yes.

So, there are a lot of older men father-figure type people in her life, which, some of the other biographies that were written closer to when she was alive were like, “Well surely, she was just their pawn, she was their puppet. These men with ambitions were using her.” Where it just like, or was she so weirdly god-level talented that they all just wanted to be her manager and make money? It’s a Britney Spears situation.

Anyway, so Samson. It’s kind of like there’s Samson and then there’s her dad and they were often compared– She’s going to become famous very shortly, so this is why I’m saying like, everyone knew about them. They were portrayed as rivals to manage her for control over her career, Samson versus her dad, which is going to heat up. Anyway, when she’s 17 she signs a contract at the most prestigious institution of the French stage, the Comédie-Française. This was the official state theatre when Samson himself was an actor. So, she signed on as a pensionnière which basically means… Okay, I’ll explain this. So, this is France’s principal stage company, created in 1680 by Louis XIV, is that right?

Allison: That sounds right.

Ann: I don’t know. Was that the Sun King? XIV?

Allison: Yes. XIV was the Sun King.

Ann: That guy. And he invented it to “Preserve the great dramatic works written during his reign.”

Allison: Yes. That’s a thing the Sun King would do. Correct.

Ann: Yeah. It’s like, “The greatest plays of all time are the ones written for me.”

Allison: “For me, about me, while I was watching.”

Ann: Exactly. So, that’s what’s like, “Do these plays exactly the same for the rest of time. Only these plays and act them in this way.” So, these tragedies were written in rhyming verses of 12 syllables, following the rules of art invented by Aristotle in Ancient Greece. So, the plays were based usually on classical, mythical stories so it’s like Clytemnestra and I don’t know, all those people that people are writing novels about now, Midea, all those ones, these types of stories. And the plays all had a minimum of togas– [chuckles] Or sorry, a minimum of characters, [Allison laughs] a maximum of togas. Everyone wore togas. I sent you a number of pictures of Rachel, Allison.

Allison: Yes. I was going to ask you why she was in togas in all of them and now I feel like I know. Sort of.

Ann: So, these plays, they’re just… [laughs] Everyone does these hand gestures, they say these lines in exactly the same way, and they wear togas all the time. I’ll post a bunch of pictures on Instagram too but Rachel herself, in all her portraits she’s wearing a toga, in the political cartoons of her it’s like, how will they know it’s Rachel? “We’ll put her in a toga.” She did wear regular clothes [laughs] when she wasn’t performing but when she was performing, all togas.

Allison: Togas or bust.

Ann: And you know what? Comfortable. Like a muumuu. Sure.

Allison: Honestly, if I could wear a toga to work, I would.

Ann: Exactly. So, each of the actors working for the Comédie-Française specialized in a certain type of character because the plays were just like, “Here’s the hero and here’s the ingénue.” So, the same actor would always play the same sort of role, which is… Yeah. The same way that it’s like, and they would do these hand gestures, it’s all very, “Here’s the rules and this is what we follow.”

Allison: Yeah. Very formulaic.

Ann: Okay, so after the French Revolution, the first one, the main one… Before, these plays were only allowed to be performed at the Comédie-Française but after the French Revolution, they’re like, “Republic! Anyone can perform these plays.”

Allison: “Theatre for the people! But still do the same hand gestures.”

Ann: Yes. But the actors at the Comédie-Française were recognized as the best in France so this is the ultimate place you wanted to go. And also, for actors, you wanted to go there because, at the Comédie-Française, you had a share in the decisions and profits of the company. It was kind of a union, they paid into a pension for retired members. At the other theatres, you were treated not that well, so this is the ultimate place you want to go, and she got there aged 17. She was signed on as a pensionnière, she was paying into the…

Allison: Paying into the union.

Ann: The union pension fund.

Allison: She’s got her equity card, she’s ready to go.

Ann: And this is where they’re like, “What is your name and age?” And she’s like, “I don’t have a birth certificate, I was born on the road in Mumpf.” [Allison laughs] She and her father made up a birth certificate, but this is where it’s like, is that when she was born? Is that what her name was when she was born? [grumbles] But they needed something because there’s this whole thing also about is she underage or not? Oh, that’s coming up. Anyway, so Napoleon. This is another reason I brought you onto this episode, Allison. He is dead but he looms large.

Allison. Okay, great.

Ann: So, during his time as emperor, he was a fan of the hand gestures and the togas.

Allison: Well, of course, because that was ancient France when it was powerful and great like him.

Ann: So, this genre had a bit of a revival under him but then he went into exile, and it went out of fashion because yeah, if someone now was like, “I perform plays as they were done in 1862,” it would be like, “No one wants to see that.” But suddenly, these tragedies became the most popular thing in France because of Rachel. So, she’s 17 years old, she made her debut at the Comédie-Française that June 1838 and then a couple months later, that September, the influential theatre critic, Jules Janin, saw her perform for the first time and wrote two rave reviews and then suddenly, box office ticket sales increased drastically. He was like, “This bag of bones!”

Allison: “She’s so intense!”

Ann: I can’t… Her performances, there are portraits of her and photographs but the way that everyone writes about her performance, I truly don’t know what to compare it to… I don’t know. I keep saying Britney Spears but it’s like someone just coming out of nowhere and being so good at something. Maybe… I don’t know, within my lifetime, Lady Gaga just suddenly appeared and everyone was like, “Where did she…?” And she was also not a child star before. Someone who just arrives and is so freakishly good, I don’t know. Rachel, there’s no one like Rachel. Marilyn Monroe maybe?

Anyway, so as soon as these reviews came out, everyone was just like, “We all need to go see Rachel!” It was rich people, poor people, the Jewish people wanted to support her, everyone was going to the theatre to see her do the hand gestures. [laughs] They’re all like, “Rachel! Teenage bag of bones.” Anyway, she was so “successful that the theatre gave her a golden wreath,” which is a thing that the theatre, Comédie-Française, gave to their most successful stars. Citizen King, Louis Philippe came to see her perform, he personally complimented her for bringing back classical French tragedy. As a gift, he gave her a library of the classics.

Allison: Okay. She’s like, “Thanks. Money would have been better.”

Ann: Yeah. She’s like, “Can I have another beat-up guitar that I can sell on eBay?”

Allison: Could she read? Do you know?

Ann: Yes. Yes. Oh god, okay. So, there’s a thing about the weird– Again, I have to emphasize, I didn’t read these books, but Rachel Brownstein talks about them (the weird early-1900s biographies) that were just like, Rachel was this child Jesus person and apparently as a young toddler she spontaneously recited the ballad of “The Wandering Jew.” [Allison laughs] I think her parents in their van/home had books and I think she read them as a girl. But for sure, she went to acting school and she learned to read there.

She was immediately acclaimed as the most amazing actress ever to perform these roles and suddenly, the plays were popular again because of her, 17 years old, intensity. So, she’s performing these rhyming scripts of these old-fashioned plays using these generational hand movements, but her passion suddenly made them interesting and vital, and people cared again. There wasn’t a lot of room for her to change things, she had to perform it in this way but her passion, “She was visibly wracked by her performances.” She was really performing her little heart out, 17 years old, I just want to emphasize that because this is wild.

So, her dad and Samson fought over who would oversee her career because she was making so much money for the theatre. So, during an argument between them, the dad wanted more money for Rachel and himself. So, at this point, she had made 200,000 francs in six months for the company. So, the dad, reasonably, was like, “Your cost sharing. I love your union and your pension, but shouldn’t Rachel get paid a bit more since she’s the only reason anyone is coming?”

Allison: That’s a lot of money. I’m bad at conversion rates but that’s a lot of money!

Ann: 200,000 francs in the 19th century, like… What I was thinking is like the Taylor Swift Eras tour. Taylor Swift is making more money than the backup dancers because if she wasn’t there, no one would go.

Allison: It’s profit sharing but it doesn’t have to be equal profit sharing if you’re the one who is doing all the work.

Ann: Yeah. So anyway, Samson was like, “Oh, but when you signed the contract, when she was 15, you said that she would do equal profit sharing,” and then Samson threw the dad down a flight of stairs.

Allison: Ooop! Okay.

Ann: So, then the dad took Samson to court, and he won because the contract Rachel had signed as a minor was invalid because she was a minor but that’s where it’s like, but how old was she? When was she born? When you gave the birth certificate, what year did you write on it and was that intentional? Anyway…

Allison: Good for the dad because I would sue anybody who threw me down a flight of stairs.

Ann: Yeah. And also, it’s like, this is all portrayed in the press at the time being like, “Oh, Rachel and her dad, they’re so money-hungry because they’re Jewish.” No. They’re just people who want to be paid for their work. So, there’s a lot of this sort of stuff throughout her life. Anyway, Rachel also wanted to maximize her income, basically, by performing in the suburbs of Paris, at other theatres. Samson was like, “That degrades the sanctity of the Comédie-Française!”

Allison: Oh, shut up, sir.

Ann: Yeah, and she’s just like, “I am making a lot of money so fuck you. What are you going to do without me? Do you want me to be in your company? Then you also have to let me do this,” basically. But being part of the company meant you only got so many days or weeks off per year to tour so that got in the way of her doing other performances. She was also encouraged to distance herself from her family and therefore from her Jewish roots, but she never did. She was always very loyal to her family, and she never changed her religion even though people were constantly trying to make her do that.

Allison: Good for her.

Ann: Yeah! She gave generously to her family. At one point she bought her sister, Sophie-Sarah, a fully furnished home.

Allison: I love that! That’s what everyone says they’re going to do, “I’m going to buy my mom a house!” That’s so sweet.

Ann: Well, I love buying her a home that was furnished. She could just walk in the door and live there. She also always helped support her mother. At one point she went on a tour around England and a duchess gave her a shawl and then she gave the shawl to her mom. She was always really giving back to her family, in a really genuine way which I really like to see because they grew up in this caravan [laughs] with nothing and she was always grateful to them and taking care of them.

She was also… The next time any of us is asked, if you’re throwing a dinner party, who do you invite? Rachel. “She was hilarious, witty, clever, and fun to be around.” This is also a specific time and place where because of the Republican ideals or something, it was like, people were inherently the station that they were by which I mean, Rachel carried herself with gravitas and with importance because of doing acting and I’m sure her posture was like, wild. But she seemed like a rich important person and they’re like, “Yes. And because of humanism, we believe that she is.” Even though she was born poor, she was allowed to be elevated into these aristocratic spaces. So, a generation ago they would have been like, “No, you can’t come in here, you’re Jewish, you’re poor.” But now they’re like, “No, people are inherently who they are.”

Allison: Right. And it’s been such a tumultuous time, the last 40 years, in regards to who is in charge and who is important and who is not important that I really think humanism was just them throwing up their hands being like, “We don’t know. Let’s try it, see what happens.” It was the perfect time to be…

Ann: Exactly, exactly. And France versus England because in England, that was not the vibe but in France it was. So, she was elevated. But also, she was so funny and witty and like, at dinner parties, everybody loved her. I didn’t write any of them down because they did not make sense to me but there are various jokes that people reported that she made and maybe in French they were funny but…

Allison: Maybe in French, they were funny 200 years ago. Probably doesn’t translate real well.

Ann: “These hand gestures!” Yeah, exactly. The jokes were the same. So, she was just a cool person that everybody enjoyed, she was very pleasant and then when she acted, she was so intense!

Allison: So much!

Ann: I don’t know. Katharine Hepburn maybe? I’m trying to think of someone who has this weird energy. Okay, 1840, I’m not sure what’s happening vis à vis the world, oh, Louis Philippe is still Citizen King.

Allison: Still there. He’s got a couple more years, spoiler.

Ann: Okay, 1840, Napoleon’s body was returned to Paris and there was this big funeral march thing to be like, he died in exile but now, retro, vintage Napoleon fans are like, “We like him again, let’s celebrate his death.”

Allison: “Let’s get him back from that tiny island where the wallpaper killed him and let’s bury him ostentatiously, somewhere in Paris because we like him now.”

Ann: Exactly, exactly. Mary Shelley was in town at this point, I just wanted to mention, but she had to miss the funeral because it was too cold and snowy for her liking, but she wrote, “I know I missed a thing that would have been cool. But it was cold, so I didn’t go.” And this is the first of many Vulgar History cameos of people in this story. Anyway, so Napoleon’s body, I guess was on Saint Helena this whole time?

Allison: Yeah, they buried him because he died. And then they were like, “Oops no, now we’ll bring him back.”

Ann: Okay. So, I’m going to just foreshadow something. So, his body was returned by Louis Philippe, one of his sons, the Prince of Joinville, was a guy who was like, a military captain but he had a beard even though military captains weren’t allowed to have beards, but he was Louis Philippe’s son, so he was allowed to have a beard. He was among the procession. I won’t even foreshadow. Spoiler, he’s soon to become Rachel’s lover, the Prince of Joinville.

Allison: This man with a beard.

Ann: Yes. And do you remember in the Catalina de Erauso episode, I think you started doing a tally of how many cousins she kept running into?

Allison: Yes.

Ann: Yeah, I think here we’re going to need to keep a tally of how many lovers who are Napoleon-adjacent. [laughs]

Allison: Okay. I will keep track on a little piece of scratch paper.

Ann: This is one. The Prince of Joinville is one because he was the one who recovered the body and was in the procession. Anyway, this same year– Oh my god! This is part of where I was like, “Rachel, I’m obsessed.” There’s a list on her Wikipedia page of every role she’s ever played around this time. So she’s, I don’t know what, 18 at this point, she played Mary, Queen of Scots.

Allison: Yesss!

Ann: In a play that was like Mary, Queen of Scots versus Elizabeth. She played Mary, Queen of Scots. Later on, she played Fredegund [Allison gasps] in a play of Fredegund and Brunhild.

Allison: Incredible!

Ann: I was like, “Wait. Frédégonde! Does that French name mean what…”

Allison: “Is that my Fredegund?”

Ann: Frédégonde.

Allison: It was.

Ann: She played Cleopatra. I was just like, “She’s doing all the tits-out ladies from my podcast!” But I love that she was in this play, Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth and she played Mary. She was in Fredegund and Brunhild and she played Fredegund. She was the roles I would want.

Allison: On the side of Vulgar History.

Ann: Yes, Vulgar History coded. So, then she was invited to perform in London. So, she went there to perform five performances, because remember she only has a certain amount of time that she’s allowed to be away from the Comédie-Française. She went there to do five performances, all of which sold out. She was basically the same age as Queen Victoria, by the way. Queen Victoria was like, two years older years than her and she had just barely become Queen. Queen Victoria loved her, she invited Rachel to dine and perform at Windsor Castle and gave her an engraved bracelet that said something like, “From Victoria to Rachel.”

Allison: Thanks Victoria.

Ann: But in French so it’s like, “Victoria à Rachel” so I just picture Taylor Swift friendship bracelets.

Allison: Yes!

Ann: The Duke of Wellington, is that from Napoleon, the Battle of Waterloo?

Allison: Yes. He’s the one who beat Napoleon. He’s a very tiresome man but he did beat Napoleon so shout out to him for that.

Ann: He had such a crush on Rachel and France was like, “Ha-ha-ha! France rules. Look the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon but now Rachel has defeated the Duke of Wellington.”

Allison: I love that for her! Yes, great.

Ann: Yeah. So basically, she conquered England even though not everyone there understood French, but they still were like, “Her intensity transcends language. She’s so intense!” [laughs]

Okay. So, then she had this other lover whose name is, he’s not Napoleon-adjacent, he’s just some guy. He’s one of these old men father figures who I think were maybe all her “lovers”. Anyway, this one guy, Docteur Véron, for some reason, he was just being hilarious at a dinner party. They had written some sexy letters back and forth and he read some letters from her at a dinner party. So, she was, remember, a teenager. So immediately, her reputation went from Rachel this chaste virgin, role model, to like “Whoooore!”

Allison: John Knox’s ghost from the wings of the Mary, Queen of Scots play yelling.

Ann: Absolutely. So again, I don’t know, I just kind of like Britney Spears, she went from this virgin to this whooore, but Rachel, like Britney Spears, was like, “Okay I can vibe with this. I’ll just be a femme fatale now, which I already was so moving on.” So, this Affair of the Letters was a huge deal in the newspapers like, “Rachel, oh my god! She wrote sexy letters. Ahhh!”

Allison: She’s like, “You haven’t seen anything yet.”

Ann: Absolutely. Queen Victoria was like, “Doesn’t bother me.”

Allison: Because Queen Victoria literally never stopped fucking Albert for a single second her whole life. Queen Victoria was getting it on she’s just like, “Get it girl. Love this.”

Ann: Queen Victoria was just like, “Relatable.” Anyway, here’s some actual foreshadowing. 1841, so she’s like 20 years old and she retroactively, we know that this is when she showed the first signs of Vulgar History’s traditional malady, tuberculosis.

Allison: There it is.

Ann: So, the vibes are a bit Satine in Moulin Rouge.

Allison: A bit? A lot, yeah.

Ann: So, her first public, other than Docteur Véron, her first publicly known lover was Louis Philippe’s son, François de Bourbon d’Orléans, the Prince de Joinville, with the beard, the head of the Napoleon-body-gets-returned-party parade. He was about her same age, nice for a change.

Allison: Love that.

Ann: He was also a painter, which I like. There’s a painting of the Napoleon funeral parade and it’s done by him and it’s of him.

Allison: Yay! He’s just like, “I was there, this is my selfie.”

Ann: “This is what I looked like.” Anyway, he seemed like an okay person. So apparently, allegedly they met because he sent a note to her backstage that said basically, “Where and when?” [Allison gasps] And she sent a note back being like, “My place, tonight.”

Allison: Oh my god, that’s so juicy I love it.

Ann: Yeah. But you know, in French.

Allison: Où? Chez moi.

Ann: Chez moi, ce soir. Anyway…

Allison: She literally looked this man in the eyes and went, “Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir?

Ann: She did! Moulin Rouge!

Allison: There we go.

Ann: So, she wrote to him, they wrote letters, these still exist, I think. He called her his “Ol’ Rachel” and she called him “My old dog.” Anyway, they were just like, whatever. So, they were together for a while but even long after their breakup, she kept his affectionate final breakup letter from her. He wrote a letter being like, [laughs] “It’s over, I’m sorry,” on a Post-it or whatever and she wrote on that letter from him, “You take with me my first, my last love. I will live, I will love, never again.”

Allison: Aww, sweetie.

Ann: Don’t worry, she does.

Allison: Liar. But sweet.

Ann: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, he also remembered her fondly. And this is what we’re going to see; she was always on good terms with all of her lovers. She stayed friends with all of them, even the old men like Docteur Véron who did the Affair of the Letters, they were still cool. She was just like, great ongoing relationships with all the lovers.

Now, the amount of lovers does become similar to on, Our Flag Means Death, Spanish Jackie and her husband’s, [Allison laughs] is kind of the vibe because there are so many lovers they call themselves, Le Cercle de Rachel, the Rachel Circle.

Allison: They unionized! [Ann laughs] Yay!

Ann: So, there’s no jealousy.

Allison: They got their own group chat. [laughs]

Ann: It’s like, “Okay, I’m seeing her Monday, you’re seeing her Tuesday.” It’s also just like, French and civilized and polyamorous and just, everyone was on board. It was said Rachel has two bracelets made from all of the rings given to her by her various lovers and the rings were so big that she could only wear one of the bracelets at a time because the bracelet was so heavy.

So, she’s just killing it. She played Frédégonde, all these different roles, her most famous role was Phèdre in the play Phèdre, there are statues of her as Phèdre. This became what she’s best known for, playing Phèdre, which is a mythological person, I assume. In 1843, Rachel took a new lover who is Count Walewski, Napoleon’s illegitimate Polish son.

Allison: Check.

Ann: Are you familiar with Napoleon’s illegitimate Polish son?

Allison: I was not at this point, no.

Ann: I wasn’t sure. So, Alexandre Florian Joseph, Count Colonna-Walewski was born near Warsaw in Poland. His mother was Countess Marie Walewska and her husband was this guy, Count Walewski but everyone knew Napoleon was the father of this baby. Never formally acknowledged but everybody knew. Anyway, he was boring, and she didn’t like him, but she has this Napoleon fetish, we’re discovering. Anyway, so she’s just like, “Napoleon’s son? Yes. I’m going to add him to my circle of lovers.”

Anyway, Count Walewski tried to do a makeover on her where he’s just like, “I’m going to treat you, teach you how to be a fancy lady.” And she’s like…

Allison: He tried to My Fair Lady her, and she was like, “Bitch, no. I’m already more successful than you.”

Ann: “I’m Rachel.” Just speaking of her name, when she was going to acting child star school, she went by Elisa Saint Félix, was her Christian name.

Allison: That sounds like the kind of name I would have come up with when I was trying to come up with a pen name as a child.

Ann: Yeah. But then when she signed her contract with the Comédie-Française, she was just Rachel, which was really notable and interesting because Rachel is a Jewish name. Now, it’s like, maybe not automatically seen as a Jewish name but then, in France…

Allison: At the time, yeah.

Ann: … it was a super Jewish name, and she could have not had that be her name, but she was like, “No, I am Rachel. I am Jewish.” Her Jewishness was always an important part of her and it also, in terms of building her celebrity brand made her exotic or whatever.

Anyway, so they lived together, her and Count Walewski, in his fancy place. The silver and the china of the household had her symbol on it which was the single letter R with a buckled belt. [chuckles] R with a belt is her inscription for herself and they started having a salon so everybody… Because she was so fun and cool to be around, she told these jokes, so all the cool people came to hang out at their salon. She had a friend who was this lady writer/journalist, Delphine de Girardin, who was moved to write a new play casting her as the biblical heroine Judith, famously, the beheader of Holofernes, my tattoo I have on my arm. Anyway, so to celebrate this role of a famous stabbing person, Rachel laid out a display of ceremonial daggers in her home, at her salon.

Allison: Like, “I could stab any one of you if I wanted to.”

Ann: I mean iconic. So, she gave birth to a son who was Alexandre-Antoine Colonne, Count Walewski is the father’s child, making this baby Napoleon’s grandson.

Allison: [through laughter] Mission accomplished, Rachel.

Ann: This time period where she’s with Count Walewski holding the salons is around the same time Lola Montez was in Paris, fucking critics and dancing at the opera. They had to have known about each other.

Allison: Yeah! I hope so.

Ann: The critics that Lola Montez was fucking for good reviews… Rachel would have heard that there was this horrible dancer on stage at the Paris Opera.

Allison: They’re in the same town!

Ann: They’re running in the same circles. It’s like George Sand is there, Victor Hugo was there; these are the people Lola Montez hung out with. It’s all one circle.

Allison: I hope they got coffee one afternoon and were like, “You know what? Got any tips?”

Ann: The dirtbag energy. This is where I thought about the two of them being born so close together. Lola Montez, she was untrained and terrible at performing and yet that was compelling. But then Rachel was so well trained. They’re really a yin-yang situation and they’re both successful in different ways. Anyway, at one point, speaking of this circle of people, Alexandre Dumas, the main one, not the dad, the one who wrote, what was his famous book? The Three Musketeers?

Allison: The Three Musketeers one, yeah.

Ann: So, he’s there being this notable wit, he’s part of these gatherings. And he wrote to her being like, “Can I join your circle of lovers? Here’s my official application.” [laughs]

Allison: [laughs] ”I have 20 years of experience. Here are three references. Here’s my union card.”

Ann: [laughs] Yeah. So, the same thing that she did with the breakup letter. So, he wrote a letter being like, “Please, can I be your lover?” And she wrote back on that same letter and returned it to him being like, “I’m returning this letter that you clearly wrote by mistake.”

Allison: Yes, girl!

Ann: [laughs] And he then became a hater, you know, as, you know, shitty people… It’s like, not just be cool and you can join the circle of lovers. So, he criticized her for, “How dare she go perform plays in other places, she’s disloyal to France,” blah blah blah.

Allison: She just didn’t want to fuck you, man.

Ann: She toured around the UK including in Glasgow which was notable because a notice about her coming to perform there like “Listen, I know nobody here speaks French, but you don’t need to.”

Allison: “However, she’s so intense, it’s fine.”

Ann: “You’ll understand it regardless.” It’s like watching an action movie. But this thing in the newspaper in Glasgow said, “You will learn more French from seeing her perform for one hour than you would from a year of French lessons.”

Allison: Okay. Bold claim.

Ann: Yeah. But I love that she’s performing everywhere but only ever in French and people are just still going, even if they don’t know French.

Allison: They’re like, “Yeah, I’m in. Let’s do it.”

Ann: Anyway, so then she and Count Walewski were basically monogamous when they were together but then she got bored and seduced this guy called Émile de Girardin, the husband of her friend who wrote the Artemisia, who wrote the Judith play.

Allison: Ouch.

Ann: But I think everyone’s just cool, they’re all just fucking each other.

Allison: Oh, they’re fine. “You can have this husband for a while, I don’t need him.”

Ann: Okay, but Allison, for your tally, this guy is known as the “Napoleon of the Press.” He’s a newspaper guy who dressed like Napoleon 24/7.

Allison: What? Okay. [laughs] I thought you were going to be like, “He was a no-holds-barred journalist who would go in and get the truth even if they didn’t want you to.” You meant he was like the guy in my college dorm who would dress up like Jesus sometimes and we would call him E Squad Jesus.

Ann: Yeah.

Allison: Okay, got it.

Ann: Yeah. He would wear Napoleon cosplay and like, brush his hair like Napoleon, you know, put his hand in his front shirt.

Allison: In the… Yeah. Listeners can’t see, we both just tried to put our hands through the buttons of our shirts. [laughs]

Ann: But if we know something about Rachel she’s just like, “Oh my god, that guy looks kind of like Napoleon. I have to fuck that guy.”

Allison: “My favourite kind of man, vaguely Napoleonic.”

Ann: Yeah. So, this guy, the Napoleon of the Press, he had famously killed a man in a duel.

Allison: Wait, I’m so sorry. I just realized what the Napoleon of the Press reminds me of and it’s the Napoleon of Crime, Macavity, from the musical Cats.

Ann: [laughs] Rachel would have fucked him too.

Allison: I know! [laughs] It’s Idris Elba, we all would!

Ann: But this guy also, Napoleon of the Press, another standout detail about him, is he kept alphabetized dossiers on everyone important he knew in case he had to blackmail them one day.

Allison: Yes! I love this man.

Ann: I feel like, I started making dossiers myself of all the lovers but then I’m just like, there are not enough hours in the day to explain to you how interesting all of her lovers were. Anyway, and then Rachel was also maybe lovers with his wife who wrote the play for her. So, everyone is just fucking everyone, that’s what’s happening.

Allison: Love it. Great, perfect.

Ann: But not great at this point because Count Walewski heard about her having lovers again, so he took their 15-month-old son but then eventually returned the baby and then married someone else.

Allison: I’m sure he’s like, “Actually, I do not want to take care of this. He’s with you now.”

Ann: Yeah. [laughs] So, Rachel just went on, she never had another monogamous relationship I don’t think. She wrote, “I am free and intend to remain free. I will have renters but not owners.”

Allison: Oh yes!

Ann: Which I love. One of her mottos was apparently, “I love to be loved as I love when I love.”

Allison: I think that’s a quote from Moulin Rouge probably.

Ann: Sounds like it. Actually, “I will have renters but not owners,” is very Satine-coded from Moulin Rouge except she never met Ewan McGregor and she’s just like, “I’m going to fuck anyone,” and everyone’s like, “That’s great. Guess who loves you? France.”

Okay 1847, the Russian writer Alexander Herzen wrote:

Her acting is fascinating. While she is on stage, no matter what happens, you cannot take your eyes off her. This weak and fragile being dominates you. I cannot imagine that anyone would not abandon himself to her power during the performance. I imagine I can still see that proud pout, that sharp whiplike gaze.

Whatever she’s doing in these performances it’s like…

Allison: She’s killing it.

Ann: The intensity! [laughs] Anyway, then she took, as another lover, this guy called Arthur Bertrand, who had been in the Napoleon funeral procession.

Allison: Check.

Ann: Because his dad had been Napoleon’s steward, Arthur had been born in Saint Helena.

Allison: I feel like I should check twice for that.

Ann: Yeah. Oh, this is what… We just recorded another thing a bit ago and I was like, there’s someone with Darnley energy, who was it? This guy. So, he asked her for money all the time and when she didn’t give him money, he would steal it from her.

Allison: Yup. That’s a thing Darnley would do.

Ann: That is the Darnley vibe. But anyway, she loved him because his main hobby was Napoleon.

Allison: Yes.

Ann: He just liked obsessing about Napoleon, so did she. That’s what happened. Then she got pregnant again by this guy, but she toured England and Scotland while pregnant, doing her hand gestures. And while pregnant touring England and Scotland she embarked on two parallel affairs with two men who were cousins of each other, one of whom is the man who would later become Emperor Louis Napoleon.

Allison: Nooooo! [Ann laughs] Yesssss!

Ann: And his cousin, Prince Napoleon, known as “Plon-Plon.”

Allison: [laughs] I’m sorry, I did know that but it’s funny to hear it out loud.

Ann: Are you familiar with these people?

Allison: I knew that name because it’s really hard not to.

Ann: Yeah, Plon-Plon, also called Nap but I’m calling him Plon-Plon, obviously. [Allison still laughing] Okay, so this is two more for your tally sheet.

Allison: Oh yes, I’ve got them. I’m really hung up on Plon-Plon, I’m sorry. [laughs]

Ann: Well, I’ve not stopped talking about Plon-Plon. I’m going to explain who everybody is. So, these two guys, who she met while pregnant, touring her plays in England, they met like on a train. [laughs]

Allison: Was Skimbleshanks driving the train? [laughs]

Ann: [laughs] Driven by the Napoleon of Crime, Idris Elba.

Okay, so the first guy, Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte. His father was Louis Bonaparte, the younger brother of Napoleon so this guy is Napoleon’s nephew. But also, his mother was the daughter…

Allison: This is so messy!

Ann: … of Napoleon’s wife Josephine from her first marriage. So, this guy is basically, I don’t know, this is like… She has fucked so many Napoleon-adjacent people it’s like when you put it all together…

Allison: Who have also fucked Napoleon-adjacent people. Because I think he was also like, “You know who I should definitely sleep with is my…” I think it must have been… cousin?

Ann: My sister-in… I don’t know. Oh my god.

Allison: Niece? I don’t know, everyone’s name is Louis so it’s really hard to track.

Ann: So, we’re calling this guy CL, Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, CL. The other guy we’re calling by his own nickname, Plon-Plon.

Allison: Because what else would we possibly call him?

Ann: So, CL was born in 1808, so he’s like, 15 years older than Rachel. Plon-Plon was born one year after Rachel. They’re all adults, whatever. His name was Prince Napoleon Joseph Charles Paul Bonaparte, usually called Napoleon Jérôme Bonaparte or Jérôme Bonaparte. He was the second son of Napoleon’s youngest brother. So, these guys were both the sons of Napoleon’s brothers. His popular nickname Plon-Plon stemmed from his difficulty in pronouncing his own name while still a child. Which I’m going to say, his name was Napoleon Joseph Charles Jérôme… It’s like, yeah, that is…

Allison: It’s a lot for a child.

Ann: Plon-Plon. So, that’s allegedly why he’s called Plon-Plon but some other historians and contemporary letters suggest it was because he ran in cowardice during battle when the bombs fell. But what does that have to do with Plon-Plon? I don’t know. Of these two guys, Plon-Plon was cooler.

Allison: Despite everything you just said.

Ann: Despite being called Plon-Plon. Well, what does that say about CL? [chuckles]

Allison: Yeah. Not a lot.

Ann: Anyway, so Plon-Plon was really into classical art, and he commissioned a replica of a Greek temple for Rachel which is still a place, I think, which has a big mural of Rachel in it. They were also wildly rich. Anyway, then she had her son (because remember she’s been pregnant this whole time). So, her second son, the father was Arthur (the Darnley guy) the son was called Gabriel-Victor Félix. So, she gave him her own surname, I guess because of illegitimacy reasons. But it was interesting because she had two sons; they were both baptized Christian, interestingly, but one was the son of a count, Napoleon’s grandson, and the other one is the son of the guy who was born on Saint Helena. So, one of her sons was really wealthy based on the dad and the other son was a normal citizen son.

Anyway, so now it’s 1848. Revolution is occurring.

Allison: Yup, this is revolution number three, I think. Four? It’s hard to say. We’ve done a lot at this point, but this is the… What do they call this one?

Ann: The Les Misérables one.

Allison: No. We’ve already passed that.

Ann: Oh, did we? Okay.

Allison: Nothing happened.

Ann: This is… So, what happened here, and this might have been copy-pasted from your notes you gave me, the king, Louis Philippe the Citizen King, abdicated.

Allison: He abdicated because the alternative was, they were going to murder him, and he would prefer not to do that. It’s the February Revolution, I forgot the month, this is the February Revolution. February 1848, Paris is like, “I really hate Louis Philippe, we’ve actually hated him for 18 years but now we’re going to finally do something about it.” And he says, “Okay fuck, I will get out of town, bye.”

Ann: But this is like the second one you’ve talked about who, having seen their own family be guillotined pretty recently was like, “I’m just going to leave.”

Allison: You know what? And more power to them for that. They’re like, “Nah. Y’all have it. Bye.”

Ann: The energy, we’ve talked about this, maybe in the Napoleon episode or something, but the energy of France as a country to just riot at the drop of a hat.

Allison: At the drop of a fucking hat!

Ann: It’s still going on. Remember last year or something when there were those pictures of people drinking champagne in a restaurant and outside it’s like, mayhem and things are on fire? It’s just like, that’s just the French way. Was it they were rioting because they were like, “How dare you decrease the mandatory retirement age?” Yeah, this is still the vibe of France, I think.

Allison: Increase, I’m sure. The retirement age.

Ann: Increase.

Allison: Although, if you want to decrease my retirement age, that would be great.

Ann: I think they were rioting because they didn’t want to decrease it.

Allison: Really?

Ann: [laughs softly] I forget.

Allison: Okay. You know, why not?

Ann: Anyway, they rioted, it’s 1848. CL, her lover, who she met on the train, the cousin of Plon-Plon, came back to Paris, elections happened, and he became the first-ever President of France, but he was like, “I prefer Prince-President. I’ll be the Prince-President.”

Allison: And they’re like, “No. But okay, sure.”

Ann: After the Citizen King now it’s the Prince-President. And when his term ended, he was like, “What if I stay being Prince-President?” And then he did and was like, “Let’s just make this official and change my title to Emperor Napoleon!”

Allison: And then I’m over here like, “God dammit we already did this once with an Emperor Napoleon, why is there another one? But there is, Napoleon III.”

Ann: So, the Comédie-Française, which you’ll recall was the official French theatre, invented by the Sun King, was briefly renamed Theatre of the Republic because they’re like, “We’re a republic now.” And they’re like, “Rachel, we need you to act. Ticket sales are down Rachel, because there’s a revolution.”

Allison: People are building barricades; they’re not coming to the theatres.

Ann: And she’s like, “I just gave birth.” [laughs]

Allison: “Please, I’m so tired.”

Ann: “I just gave birth, I’m having so many lovers. I just got two more, one of them is the emperor now, I guess. I need six weeks maternity leave,” is what she specified. Anyway, so what happened, and this is a picture I sent you, so she’s like, “Okay fine, I’ll return.” So, they’re doing a play and in the middle of the play, she came out in her toga, and she recited the lyrics of “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem.

Allison: Classic Casa Blanca move, I love it.

Ann: She didn’t sing it, she recited it with hand gestures, intensely. Ending with her dropping to one knee while holding a flag, which is one of the pictures I sent you. Everyone lost their mind. [both laugh] They rioted, they were just like, “Rachel! Sing ‘La Marseillaise.’”

Allison: “We haven’t rioted in six weeks and then you held up a flag. It’s time to go.”

Ann: But it’s Rachel. So, she became the symbol of the Revolution and of France itself. I think this is where the story started being built of her Jesus-like birth and being saved by the dog because they’re all just like, “She is France.”

Allison: “Look at her, she has a flag.”

Ann: So, then the theatre was like, “This is great, ticket sales are up. Rachel, can you just recite ‘La Marseillaise’ 37 more times?” And she’s like, sure. So, she just started reciting the ‘Marseillaise’, and everybody lost their mind, she went around and did fundraisers for the republic organized by George Sand and all she would do is do this, go down on one knee and everyone would lose their mind. It’s kind of like… [sighs] I don’t know, when Lil Nas X was doing “Old Town Road.”

Allison: [laughs] He’d just show up in a gymnasium of children who would just be like, “Yessss!”

Ann: While she herself is being like, “I’m really tired of doing this.” [both chuckle] The republic paid, they sponsored her tour to tour around other parts of France to do the “Marseillaise” because this was getting people to support them as the government. At one point her carriage fell off the road, soldiers helped her out and they were like, “Can you say the ‘Marseillaise to us?” [Allison laughs] And she did.

Allison: “Can you do the thing?”

Ann: Anyway, while touring she donated money to the unemployed, she paid a visit to condemned murderess, Marie Lafarge, in jail who was dying of tuberculosis, coincidentally. And apparently, this is because Rachel was preparing to play Midea, I think, and she’s like, “I want to talk to an actual person who actually killed people, so I’ll go talk to her.” Anyway, this all just made people be like, “Yes, look at her. Princess Diana visiting the poor,” et cetera. She later clarified that she didn’t actually care if there was a king or a republic, but she knew that reciting “La Marseillaise,” kept the theatre and her making money during a chaotic time so she was happy to do it, although she did also say, she yearned for a king to take over the republic to save her from having to keep doing the “Marseillaise” for the rest of her life.

Allison: [bursts into laughter] I’m sorry, that’s so funny.

Ann: No, it’s great. She’s funny but she’s also pragmatic. This is like, she’s good.

Allison: “I’ll keep doing it but god damn, I’m tired.”

Ann: Anyway, so CL, her lover is Emperor Napoleon III. There was a gala, she was like, “Oh my god, yes, I’m going to retire the ‘Marseillaise.’” So, she came out during the gala with a flag and everyone’s like, “Is she going to do the thing?” But then she recited not the ‘Marseillaise,’ she recited something else and that kind of helped rebrand her and the new empire.

Allison: I love that she did a soft of a new bit.

Ann: So, Plon-Plon stayed on as one of the closest advisors to Napoleon III. Plon-Plon also, note, had a long-standing relationship with a courtesan, Cora Pearl, who is on my list of people to talk about another day, but I just wanted to say Lola Montez, Rachel, and Cora Pearl were all in the same circle and the tits-out energy of that is unsurpassed.

Anyway, so Napoleon III, CL brought the French state theatre under much stricter control and Rachel benefited greatly because just before this revolution had happened, she had been in these contract negotiations where she wanted more money and they were like, “No, we’re a union, we share it all.” And she’s like, “I’m Taylor Swift and I need more money.” And they’re like, “Mmm, but do you?” But anyway, then there was a revolution and then the theatres were taken over by her lover and he was like, “Guess what?”

Allison: “I’m the emperor now, she gets more money.”

Ann: Yeah. So, she had a voice in selecting the new theatre director and she negotiated a new contract in which she was required to perform only 48 times a year.

Allison: That still seems like a lot.

Ann: Yeah, I’m not sure how much it was before. Basically, she went from being a contract member to being a casual employee. So, I think she lost out on the pension, but this meant that she was able to go on longer, more profitable tours abroad. At one of these shows, one of her tours, she wrote in a letter to one of her lovers, “Was it I who aroused the public or the public who aroused me? I don’t know. All I know is we were both hot.”

Allison: [laughs] What a weird fucking thing to say.

Ann: Yeah. She’s amazing. Okay, so in her new post-the Marseillaise era, she pivoted, and she did. She soft-launched and then pivoted to a new era of performing contemporary dramas, not toga plays with hand gestures but like, saying lines that don’t rhyme. Her first such role was as Thisbé in Angelo by her rejected lover, Victor Hugo.

Allison: Did she reject Victor Hugo too?

Ann: Oh sorry, no, it was the other one, it was Alexandre Dumas. I confused the two.

Allison: I was going to say, I feel like Victor Hugo would have taken rejection really badly, he was a horny…

Ann: Yeah. I think there were rumours that they were lovers, and they probably were at this time.

Allison: They probably were. He would have loved that.

Ann: What’s one more at this point? Lover, for her, I mean.

Allison: What’s one more Victor Hugo, really.

Ann: So, her character in this was a Venetian courtesan and she wrote that this character could only be played by a woman such as herself, “Risen from miserable poverty to sleep on satin sheets.” Oh, her friend, Delphine/lover/also the lover of her husband, the Napoleon of the Press, when that person died… So, it was Delphine who wrote her the play where Rachel played Cleopatra, so Rachel sent her a wreath with a card that said, “To Delphine from Cleopatra.” There were also other rumoured female lovers like George Sand, famous pants-wearing person. So, the lovers were of all genders, apparently. Lovers’ Circle: Everyone Welcome.

Allison: Very inclusive union, yes.

Ann: Yeah, yeah. Anyway, so her style of having a circle of lovers led to people spreading wild stories about her sexual veracity, there was a rumour that she travelled with a bed in her carriage so she could fuck people while going from place to place.

Allison: I hope she did.

Ann: She grew up in a caravan that was also a house so like, that’s not that weird, really. Anyway, she was also known for getting her lovers to give her expensive gifts and then she gave them away or sold them.

This is another thing where people were like, she loved expensive things, she had a real eye for aesthetics. I think in a way, psychologically, from being really, really, really poor, she loved expensive stuff, she couldn’t get enough of it and that’s where people are like, “Because she’s Jewish,” but it’s like, no, because she likes the finer things in life, and she grew up poor.

Allison: She’s a dirtbag, it’s a separate issue here.

Ann: One of the things she had was a crown.

Allison: Yes, queen!

Ann: There were six jewels across the front, and it was like a ruby, then an amethyst, then something. It was like R-A-C-H-E-L like each of the jewels started with the letter…

Allison: She had like, a Thanos Infinity Gauntlet of a crown with her name on it?!

Ann: Yeah.

Allison: Bitch, yes! Dammit.

Ann: Yeah, yeah. Like, this story keeps getting better. She’s great, right? When you were like, “Okay, a Jewish person in 19th-century France, could you have imagined?”

Allison: This legend just having the best time, not letting anyone get to her, getting a crown monogrammed with her initials. Here for it.

Ann: Yeah. Oh my gosh. So, she also had upended the way people viewed these classical tragedies that she often performed. It used to be like, “This is a play by Molière,” or whatever but now it’s like, “It’s Rachel,” it became about her. It was female-centred, without changing the script she made it be about her and the female characters instead of about the famous man who wrote it.

Anyway, so she had been performing abroad for years by the 1850s. She’s like, 30 because her career began at age 15, if you will recall, and she was instantaneously the most famous, best actress ever. So, she was able to go further and for longer because she didn’t have to perform as much. So, in 1851, during one of her tours in London, (she went to London every year I think) Charlotte Brontë saw her perform. Are you familiar with the novel Villette by Charlotte Brontë?

Allison: I have not read it, to my shame, but is it about her?

Ann: Kinda. There’s a character in Villette who is an actress, whose name is Vashti, which is a Jewish name from the Bible and she describes, “This actress, she was so intense! It blew my mind.”

Allison: She was so intense!

Ann: I didn’t speak French! So anyway, this is part of Rachel shows up in this novel.

Okay, in 1853, she performed in Moscow and in 1855 she embarked on a tour of America.

Allison: Classic Lola Montez move.

Ann: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. Lola Montez, dead by now. Oh no, wait. I think Lola Montez might have been in America simultaneously. Anyway, here’s another example, when Rachel wrote letters about herself, she used the royal We when talking about herself. From America, she wrote, “What can I tell you about our triumphs? They continue to be as great as our gifts are.” I wrote “A humble queen.”

Allison: Humble queen, yes.

Ann: And she is! She’s the best actress ever and she knows it and I think that made some people uncomfortable that she wasn’t humble or whatever.

Anyway, so her lover, member of the lovers’ circle, Napoleon III, CL was the emperor, and she would still come hang out with him sometimes and the guards would be like, “Hey girl, that’s okay, go on in.” She’d still go by to fuck him every now and then. She taught his wife, Eugénie, how to curtsy properly, and then the Empress Eugénie requested Rachel perform the Mary, Queen of Scots play, and Rachel was like, “Mary annoys me, I’m going to do a different play.”

Allison: Damn.

Ann: And Eugénie was like, “Okay!”

Allison: “That’s fair. Go ahead.”

Ann: I mentioned she went to Moscow and doubling back because this is interesting, and I feel like this is something you know about.

So, 1853, she accepted an invitation by the tsar to visit Russia just as the Crimean War was about to start. Paris, a city that is sentient and a character in this story, the fifth girl in Sex and the City, Paris, Paris was mad at her for her disloyalty like, “How dare you, who are France, perform in not-France?” But she was greeted enthusiastically in Russia, they gave her jewels, furs, portraits and busts of herself.

Allison: Which is what this girl wanted!

Ann: Yeah, she would have loved, and she would have sold them.

Allison: I feel like she would have kept one bust of herself just for the dining room.

Ann: So, the shop started selling powders and pomades called Rachel.

Allison: Her own fragrance!

Ann: Rachel… Eau de Rachel. Anyway, as an example of her famous wit, some Russian soldiers were like, because there’s a war going on between France and Russia, they’re like, “We look forward to drinking champagne in France soon,” and she’s like, “Oh, well we don’t treat our prisoners that well actually. [sarcastic tone] Ha-ha-ha!” And France heard she said that and was like, “Hell yeah!”

Allison: “She’s on our side again! We’re good!”

Ann: Anyway, she would later exploit her fame from that trip in a new play where she played Catherine the Great. Let’s see, so a person consistently described as her favourite sister, Rébecca, also an actress, died of tuberculosis and then one of Rachel’s lovers I haven’t mentioned, it’s a guy called Michel Levy, no Napoleon connection that I know about, but Michel Levy will come up in a minute. Anyway, Rébecca had also been an actress so they asked Samson, remember her old mentor, the head of the Théâtre Française, to speak at Rébecca’s funeral and he refused due to his grief. Rachel never forgave Samson for refusing even though Samson did actually wind up improv-ing a speech at the funeral.

Allison: “No, I couldn’t, I couldn’t possibly. Oh… Well, just this little something.”

Ann: So, Rachel’s tuberculosis progressed, “Newspapers around the world breathlessly reported on her illness.” How is Rachel? Rachel coughed today! In 1855 she caught a cold. So, she was in America, your country. Your area! The East Coast.

Allison: Not my area, but thanks.

Ann: Okay. I don’t know where Chicago is.

Allison: Not on the east coast.

Ann: Isn’t it?

Allison: No.

Ann: But like, you go to New York sometimes.

Allison: I fly on a plane.

Ann: Oh, you fly. Okay.

Allison: Yeah.

Ann: [laughs] I thought you just drove.

Allison: [laughs] No.

Ann: Anyway, so she caught a cold on an unheated train between Boston and New York.

Allison: Oh, that’s a terrible place to be. Oof.

Ann: And then she had a cough. Okay, I’m saying she had tuberculosis, blah, blah, blah. But she was like, Satine in Moulin Rouge, she was like, “I don’t have tuberculosis. Don’t say I have tuberculosis. I just have a cough, that’s all, just a cough.” So, she’s in the US, the tour not going well, she’s caught a chill on this train and then she wrote a letter, she’s like, “When you hear me cough, you’d almost think, ‘Oh, she has tuberculosis,’ but don’t worry, I don’t. Just a cough because the train was cold. Not tuberculosis at all. Don’t worry about it.” Anyway, upon doctor’s advice, what’s his name from Tombstone? Val Kilmer?

Allison: Doc Holliday.

Ann: Doc Holliday. So, in the movie Tombstone, which we’ve discussed in Vulgarpiece Theatre, Doc Holliday goes to Arizona because the air is more dry and hot. The doctors told her the same thing, so she went to Cuba and then to Egypt to try and… Because that’s good for people with tuberculosis, I guess.

Allison: And if you want to cosplay Cleopatra a bit more.

Ann: She did! She wrote a letter to one of her sons where she was like, “I’m writing to you. Once I played Cleopatra and now, I’m on the same river where she once was. Maybe there are grains of sand in this letter that she once touched.”

Anyway, she returned to France, and she is actively dying, she stayed in a villa in southern France where she wrote farewell letters to her sons, her family members, and her lovers.

Allison: That must have taken forever.

Ann: She had a lot of lovers. Colleagues, other actors. “She wrote a will circumventing French law to leave more money to her sons than she was allowed to do legally.” And then, I’m so sorry to say, Rachel died, January 4, 1858, of tuberculosis, aged 36. Three years later, Lola Montez died also of tuberculosis.

Allison: God damn.

Ann: Tuberculosis.

Allison: What a time, what a time.

Ann: Yeah. But the world couldn’t live with just one of them, you know? Lola and Rachel. Okay, so her funeral was a huge deal.

Allison: I bet it fucking was.

Ann: Oh, she got a state funeral. So, she died in the south of France and then her body was processed to Paris, stopped in Marseille for the Grand Rabbi to oversee a funeral in the train station where the actors of the Grand Theatre of Lyon, remember she started off there, attended to pay homage. “Then the remains were taken to her old flat in Paris where a huge crowd stood waiting, some climbed the trees to be able to see the coffin. The coffin proceeded behind 11 guardsmen on horseback followed by 30 on foot.” Behind the hearse walked Grand Rabbi Isidore of Paris, some members of Rachel’s family, and representing all of the lovers, one of her most faithfully devoted lovers, Michel Levy.

Allison: Aww. They sent the union rep to the funeral.

Ann: That’s the thing! He’s the main lover, he’s like the shop steward of the lovers.

Allison: So sweet.

Ann: I just love that he was walking behind on behalf of all the lovers, which is where I think of Spanish Jackie from Our Flag Means Death.

Allison: Yes.

Ann: “Behind them walked members of the Comédie-Française, then the personnel of the theatre, then representatives of the government,” they’re all walking, “then 600 carriages and 30 to 40,000 people on foot. By the time they reached the cemetery, there were over 100,000 mourners present.” This is what I want for all of the people I talk about on this podcast, this. When it’s like, we don’t know where her bones are, we don’t know where she’s buried. No. I want this. One of her pallbearers was Alexandre Dumas.

Allison: The guy who she said, “I will not sleep with you?”

Ann: Yeah! He said, “Even I was like, why did you ask me,” and then was like, “Because I’m me!” Or something like that. [Allison laughs] “But each pallbearer represented a different artistic muse.” And he was there to represent literature. “She had died without making amends with her teacher, mentor Samson,” remember because he said he wouldn’t speak at her sister’s funeral. He was the head of the Comédie-Française and because she died angry, there was no eulogy given at her funeral on behalf of the Comédie-Française because he was not allowed to because she was mad at him. There were three eulogies, one was given by the Grand Rabbi Isidore who praised her commitment to Judaism, which reminds me that when she was in Egypt, I guess some people came up to her on the train and they’re like, “Want to convert to be Christian?” and she’s like, “Get me off this train!”

Anyway, so Rachel is buried in a beautiful tomb that says just, “Rachel.” And I’ll put a picture on Instagram, but I sent it to you Allison. I just laugh, it says literally, R-A-C-H-E-L. That’s it.

Allison: It’s amazing.

Ann: So, she’s buried in the Jewish section of Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, which is near where there was a street named after her, Avenue Rachel. Her portrait hangs in a very prominent place at the Théâtre Française, which is still a place, I guess. Her parents outlived her, living the rest of their lives on the estate Rachel had bought them in the village of Montmorency. So, her son by Count Walewski, her son, Napoleon’s grandson, went on to have a career as a diplomat. Her other son by the Darnley guy served in the Navy. So, they both did fine for themselves. And I mean, honestly, when someone dies of tuberculosis it’s like, “The end.”

Allison: Boop, okay.

Ann: Sorry, but quite a funeral. So, it’s time to score this icon.

Allison: [dramatic tone] Rachel.

Ann: [dramatic tone] Rachel. I mean, she gets bonus points for having no surname because… [chuckles]

Allison: Yes. Hundred percent.

Ann: Actually first, was there anyone supporting performance, Jewelled Tortoise Award? I think the lovers communally.

Allison: Yeah? I mean, they knew their place and they stayed in it, and I respect that for them, but I really feel like Rachel would be offended by giving anyone a supporting performance award. [laughs]

Ann: You’re right, you’re right. People came to see her.

Allison: “No, no, no. There was one performance, and it was moi. It was me.”

Ann: “You are absolutely correct.” So, Rachel, Scandaliciousness.

Allison: I think this is her highest score, surely. Right?

Ann: Yeah. I think so many… It’s hard because the culture around her seemed cool with her having all these lovers. Would they have been that cool about anyone or was it just because she was Rachel and she represented France and drama that they were cool with it?

Allison: I think she was just so dramatic that they were like, “This is fine.”

Ann: Yeah. I do feel like I want to give her a really high score for Scandaliciousness because of the Circle of Lovers. Getting two new lovers who were both cousins…

Allison: While you’re pregnant.

Ann: While you’re pregnant in another country and then one of them becomes the emperor and then…

Allison: And then you kneel down with a flag and the entire country of France goes into a riot. Yeah. By the way, final, final tally of Napoleon-adjacent lovers was six.

Ann: Six. [laughs]

Allison: Six.

Ann: That, to me, feels scandalicious as well. Two sons out of wedlock, which is not… For the morals of the day, I don’t know, Queen Victoria was like, “That’s cool, girl.” She was cool so people weren’t like, “Herman, my pills!” Because she was… Anyway, I’m giving her a 10 for Scandaliciousness because I love her and that is what she gets.

Allison: I support it.

Ann: Scheminess, asterisk, not in an antisemitic way.

Allison: I think medium-to-high for her here too, right? Because she was like, “I am going to position myself to be in the right place at the right time so that my unique, weird-ass self can become the most famous woman in this city. I went from used clothes pedlar getting caught by a dog to state funeral with 100,000 mourners.” Pretty good.

Ann: Yeah! And also, the way that she was like, “I’m going to sell this guitar…” She’s always finding, she’s like, “I can’t tour enough with this contract so I’m going to make a new contract.” She always had an angle in an admirable way.

Allison: “I can’t get enough money out of this contract, let me make the emperor my lover. Maybe that will help.”

Ann: I feel like she was always coming up with some sort of scheme in the most admirable, dogged way. If I compare her to Kim Kardashian in a positive manner, it’s that same thing where it’s just like…

Allison: Yeah. You’re building the empire.

Ann: Where you’re like, “Okay, I can monetize this, I can monetize this. Rachel face powder, Rachel perfume.” And it all paid off. And then she schemed to leave her sons more of an estate than she was legally allowed to. She was always scheming in an impressive way. I don’t know if it’s just because it’s the festive holidays but I’m just like, 10. [laughs]

Allison: Do it.

Ann: 10.

Allison: I think those are her two categories I feel comfortable giving her points for.

Ann: Yeah. Significance. Now, here, it’s always tricky. Her significance at the time was major, that funeral shows how significant she was; she saved classical French repertoire, or whatever. I don’t know… I don’t know. She has a street named after her, she was so famous in her time, and…

Allison: Whatever we gave Lola Montez for Significance, I feel like Rachel has the same kind of significance which is, what a legend at the time.

Ann: Yeah, and then… It’s a funny category. I’m just trying to find my list of what scores people have so I can see what we gave her.

Allison: Probably not breakouts though, right?

Ann: Yeah. Significance is kind of there to give people points who don’t have points anywhere else, you know? How significant can a person be who is an actress in France? Lola Montez, we gave a 4 for Significance. That must have been a real conversation.

Allison: Lola Montez… I almost said Lola Montez never fucked an emperor but JK, yes, she did. [laughs]

Ann: She did. [laughs] I will give her also a 4 because I think the similarities between the two of them are so extreme. The Sexism Bonus: that’s interesting, let me see. She had a lot stacked against her: woman, Jewish, actress, poor, skinny. That was another thing I didn’t even talk about but the beauty…

Allison: Bag of bones, yeah.

Ann: The beauty standard at the time was not bag of bones and that’s what she was bringing to the party.

Allison: And she said, “Guess what else I’m bringing to the party? Intensité!”

Ann: [laughs] Have you watched, there’s this show on Netflix called Bodies that is a murder…

Allison: I have not.

Ann: Okay, it’s a murder mystery show so, of course, I watched it. One of the actresses in it, I was watching it while I was researching this and she’s an actress called Shira Haas, she was also in another thing. Anyway, she’s a Jewish actress. I was watching her, and I was like, Jewish actress and she’s so small. They exacerbate it for dramatic purposes, but I was googling and I was like, what is this person’s height? It’s 5-foot-2, which is not that short but I’m like, “Wait. Bag of bones? Jewish actress?… Rachel?”

Allison: Rachel!

Ann: She was really good and intense in it. I don’t know that sexism got in Rachel’s way whatsoever, frankly.

Allison: I think Rachel looked at sexism and said, “How can I monetize this?” And then did monetize it.

Ann: Basically. We gave Lola Montez a 3 in Sexism and Rachel… That’s the thing, there were these things and would have been challenges that did get in her way, but they didn’t because…

Allison: Yeah. Because she was just so determined to do it.

Ann: Yeah. So, I don’t think sexism got in her way, which is good! Bad for a score but good…

Allison: Yeah, happy for her.

Ann: Good for a person. I don’t know, I feel like 2 or a 3, or something?

Allison: I feel like sexism got in her way less than it did for Lola Montez. [laughs]

Ann: It did.

Allison: It was just like, “Everyone loves me. I’m beloved national icon, Rachel.”

Ann: Yeah. Truly, there was never like… She was pregnant but that didn’t get in her way.

Allison: She had lovers, and everyone was like, “That’s great. Love that for you.”

Ann: It truly, being a woman was not really an obstacle to her. Frankly, she succeeded so well I don’t want to say that nothing was an obstacle to her but there was no obstacle she did not overcome except tuberculosis.

So, that gives her, higher than usual for an episode you’re on… [Allison laughs] 26. And that’s amazing. Just a sec. Rachel, I’m just writing in her name, easy to type, one word. 26 is one of the most common scores on Vulgar History. The Allison neighbourhood [laughs] is like 23.

Allison: For newcomers to the podcast, every episode I’m on, the person we talk about scores the same score.

Ann: Yeah. So, Empress Elisabeth of Russia, 23. Lola Montez, 23. Catalina de Erauso, 23.5. That’s the Allison neighbourhood.

Allison: I hit a 23 pretty regularly. So, 26!

Ann: 26, Rachel, she pulled it out. 26… So many people have a 26. I’m just thinking of other people. Marie de Guise has a 26, for instance. It’s just where she belongs, I think. She’s around some really strong tits-out contenders, and a bit higher than the others.

Anyway, Allison, thank you so much. I was a ridiculous person for ever imagining this would take less than this amount of time that it took.

Allison: We always talk a big game about how long these episodes will take and every time we are incorrect.

Ann: I cut out so much information about the lovers. I had separate Google Docs per lover and I’m just like, “No! We have to focus on Rachel.”

Allison: “We don’t have time!”

Ann: “That’s the After Show-type content, Ann.” Anyway, Allison, so quickly, this episode is coming out the first week of December. I think a great gift anyone can give anyone would be a copy of your book Let the Dead Bury the Dead.

Allison: Yes, it’s great for gift-giving. It’s rectangular and very easy to wrap.

Ann: Absolutely. And where can people keep up with you in this diaspora of social media? You know what, you have a website and there are links on your website to where you are, right?

Allison: Go to my website which is AllisonEpstein.com. There are helpful tabs and links to all the things that I’m doing and all the places that I am.

Ann: And I feel like especially when I record episodes a couple of weeks in advance, I’m like, two weeks from now, what social…?

Allison: Where will we be? I don’t know.

Ann: What’s even happening?

Allison: I will be on my website, and you can find me.

Ann: And you will be hibernating after your book tour and…

Allison: Yes. I am not going anywhere. As much as I can I am not doing anything, it’ll be great.

Ann: Fabulous. Wonderful. Thank you so much for joining me, I truly could not have done this without you. There are too many Louises. It’s a lot. But Rachel. Overall, what are your thoughts on Rachel?

Allison: What a legend, I wish I could have met her. She would have had no interest in meeting me because I’m not cool enough but I feel like I would have liked to watch her walk down the street.

Ann: With intensité!

Allison: With intensité.

Ann: On a rendez-vous with her lovers. [laughs] I love the lovers, there are so many great details, but the lovers’ union is a great detail.

Allison: Yes, that’s amazing. I love it.

Ann: Anyway, thank you so much!

Allison: Thanks! Bye.


So, I wanted to let you know for the next little bit what you’re going to be hearing in the Vulgar History podcast, which is going to be some episodes “(Ann’s Version).” What this means is that I’m going to be taking a few weeks off just to rest up and recuperate and whatever and while I’m doing that, I want to be able to give you new episodes or just something to listen to. What it’s going to be is revisiting some of the older episodes. Our faithful editor, Christina, has been editing to improve the sound quality, e.g., remove my mouth noises, try and make the audio better for these earlier episodes. So, we’re going to be releasing those, one a week, with bonus new intros and extros with some information just catching you up with facts and information I learned after. The episodes first aired in 2019 and then also for some of these, we’re going to be rescoring the people because scoring in the first season, I’m the first to admit, is really chaotic because I didn’t know what to compare people against. Now that we have so many people, some of these are scores I’d like to revisit. So anyway, those are little treats for you, so there’s always going to be something new for you in the feed.

In the new year, in 2024, I’m going to be back with new episodes that are going to be a combination of a few more reruns “(Ann’s Version)” some guests coming on, authors talking about their books, and some episodes that are just me telling you a story. And because I’m working on the coming up next year’s new season that I’m really excited about, it’s going to be a big project, it’s going to be on the scale of the internationale season in terms of countries and places and I need to do a lot of reading about stuff I didn’t know about, but I also really know it’s important to have episodes every week. So, that’s how I figured out a way to do that. So, that’s what’s coming up. Anyway, just know you’ll always get something in this feed every week.

I’ll tell you some other things that I like to tell you which are, you can find me on Instagram @VulgarHistoryPod. There’s merch available, you know, holiday festive gift-giving season is here, Hanukkah starts tomorrow. So, you can get merch at VulgarHistory.com/Store or if you’re outside the US for shipping, VulgarHistory.Redbubble.com, has better shipping. You can also gift somebody a gift of a Patreon subscription, why not? You can support the podcast on Patreon at Patreon.com/AnnFosterWriter where for $1 a month you get early, ad-free access to all episodes and for $5 or more a month you get early, ad-free access to the episodes, as well as bonus episodes. Vulgarpiece Theatre as well as So This Asshole, you also get the After Show, lots of things. And I have promised that when I get to 500 followers on Patreon I will do a So This Asshole episode on my personal nemesis, John Knox. Transcripts of recent episodes are available at VulgarHistory.com, thank you to Aveline Malek from The Wordary for providing these transcripts.

Also, my gift guide is on the website. So, if you’re looking for Vulgar History-coded things to give people, if you go to @ VulgarHistoryPod on Instagram in my Highlights, I have the gift guide, which has links to all these great small businesses where you can get stuff like Lola Montez dolls, make your own “catte” embroidery like Mary, Queen of Scots famously had. If you want to get the B hanging, or a different letter, like Anne Boleyn’s necklace. I’m just curating stuff from small businesses because I always like to support small independent businesses at this time of year and also included in the gift guide is a list of recommended books that I’ve put together, not ones I’ve talked about on this podcast but those ones, I also have a list of those if you want a gift because I recommend all those books. Other books I have listed in the gift guide, as well as if you want to get a Cameo from me, if you need a last-minute Hanukkah gift and you want a gift of a video of me, I’m on Cameo now so you can do that as well.

Also, always a good gift is jewellery from Common Era Jewellery, which is a 100% women-owned business using 100% recycled gold. They make their gold pieces made to order which means there is no waste when you place an order, they make the item so there’s not a lot sitting around unused. Their designs are all inspired by classical mythology so you know Rachel would be on board. Actually, you can get several pieces from Common Era that are of characters portrayed by Rachel: Cleopatra is there, I feel like Rachel might have probably played Agrippina at some point but also, people from mythology like Clytemnestra, Phèdre, Medusa, very Rachel-coded actually. Their pieces are available in solid gold as well as in more affordable gold vermeil. Including more recently, they have the Anne Boleyn pendant available in gold vermeil. Vulgar History listeners can always get 15% off all items from Common Era by going to CommonEra.com/Vulgar or using code VULGAR at checkout.

And yeah, you know, there’s going to be episodes. I’m not going anywhere, I’m just going to be hibernating, basically. But until next time everybody, happy festive holiday season and keep your pants on. Oh! Also, there’s new merch designed by Karyn Moynihan from Double Love podcast that says “Tits the Season.” So, if you want to get festive holiday merch literally, you can get that at Vulgar History.com/Shop. Anyway, pants on, tits out for the holidays and I’ll be back again next week! Au revoir.

Vulgar History is hosted, written, and researched by Ann Foster and edited by Cristina Lumague.

Transcribed by Aveline Malek at TheWordary.com


[Links from Show Notes]

Tragic Muse: Rachel of the Comédie-Francaise by Rachel H. Brownstein




As mentioned in the episode, here are images of Rachel’s tomb.

And here is Wikimedia Commons’s page of images of Rachel, almost entirely in various togas, her signature look.

Learn more about ALLISON and their books at allisonepstein.com

Subscribe to Allison’s Substack at rapscallison.substack.com

Get 15% off all the gorgeous jewellery and accessories (many pieces are also of roles that Rachel played!) at common.era.com/vulgar or go to commonera.com and use code VULGAR at checkout

Get Vulgar History merch at vulgarhistory.com/store (best for US shipping) and vulgarhistory.redbubble.com (better for international shipping)

Support Vulgar History on Patreon


Vulgar History is an affiliate of Bookshop.org, which means that a small percentage of any books you click through and purchase will come back to Vulgar History as a commission. Use this link to shop there and support Vulgar History.