A great book… the life and times of Louis Bazalgette…

It’s strange how one thing leads to another… here is a chain of events…

  1. I went to a lecture on local history and learned that a hero of mine, Joseph Bazalgette not only visited Weston-super-Mare where I now live, but had an input into the local drainage and sewerage system which was being constructed at the time of his visit
  2. I was so thrilled by this that I wrote a blog about it
  3. I was further thrilled to be contacted by a direct descendent of Sir Joseph with some interesting links to where I could find out more
  4. the direct descendent of Joseph, Charles Bazalgette, had, I noticed, published a book about his more distant ancestor Louis Bazalgette who was tailor to the Prince Regent, who became George IV
  5. Although I have no particular interest in Regency England, I was intrigued to find out more about Joseph’s ancestor
  6. I bought Prinny’s Taylor: The Life and Times of Louis Bazalgette (1750-1830) by Charles Bazalgette
  7. I have become absolutely engrossed in this book!

Even if like me you have no interest in the period, or in the Prince Regent, or in fashion and tailoring, I really recommend you read this book – it’s a fantastic and all-encompassing exploration of the life of an immigrant from France at a time when fashion and the fashion industry was as big business and as influential as it is today.

This is what the blurb on Amazon says about the book:

THE PHANTOM TAILOR
The Prince of Wales, later George IV, is probably the most written-about of all British monarchs, and his excesses, his debts and the huge sums that he expended on his wardrobe are legendary. It is therefore strange that the man who was the Prince’s tailor for over thirty-two years, and his principal tailor for over half of that time, should have been named, and then only in passing, in just two other books.
The reason why Louis Bazalgette has been a shadowy figure until now is that the relationship between the two men was discreet and almost clandestine. This biography presents a detailed picture of an extraordinary man, of humble origins, whose influence on gentlemen’s tailoring, and upon the Prince himself, must have been far-reaching.
This fascinating story presents a new angle on Georgian and Regency life, as seen through the eyes of a little French tailor who by his own efforts became a very wealthy propertied merchant. There is also a great deal of information on gentlemen’s tailoring of the period, a subject sparsely covered in other publications, and we are regaled in detail with the clothes that were made for Prinny, when and where he wore them and how much they cost.

The story starts, as you might imagine with Louis’s life and family in France; what I particularly enjoyed about this background detail was the research which had been done to find exactly who was related to whom in the days when there were only parish church records and several people had the same given name. I am trying to puzzle out to tell my own family history and much of it is unknown so I found Charles reasoned speculations very interesting – and gave me some ideas on how I might approach telling my story.

Although there are many characters, the way the book is written makes it clear who they are – and there are helpful reminders. Some writers mention a name once and then use a nickname or only the forename, and it can become quite confusing – not in this case. Charles slips in extra little details so reading is not interrupted by having to look up footnotes or end notes, it’s all there in the text.

Louis the tailor moved from France to London, and eventually became tailor to the Prince Regent. These days the media is obsessed with fashion, celebrity and patronage; so it was then and Charles includes reports from the newspapers of the clothes worn by the court. However, it is not only what was observed at the receptions and balls in Brighton and London, we are given the background to the actual outfits – how they were made, what from, where the fabrics and accessories were fabricated and how they were accessed, and the eye-watering amount they cost.

I mention ‘how they were made’ – there are whole chapters on the processes of making clothes pre-industrialisation – how the young apprentices learned their different trades, the brutally hard labour they endured, the sometimes crippling effects of doing the work, sitting cross-legged on tables for hours and hours.

The sheer extravagance is as repulsive as it is today – comparing the prince who squandered money on more clothes than he could possibly wear, running up bills of thousands of pounds (in today’s money £1000 from then would be nearly £125000 now) leaving his creditors unpaid, flaunting his extravagance while the ordinary people were often struggling to find work or enough to eat or somewhere to live…

All through the accounts of the clothes Louis made and the business he did, is the story of his life; the death of his first wife, the birth (and sometimes deaths) of his children, his second wife who may not have loved her step-children as much as perhaps she should have, and where he lived, and how he lived…

Here is a link to where you can find out more about Louis:

https://prinnystaylor.wordpress.com/

…and here is a link to the book –

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01ATSWXFM/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

I hope you enjoy it as much as I am!

Here is a link to my books:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden