Heads You Lose

Journey Through Time: Heads You Lose – France 1790’s

Inventions of the Time
The guillotine is invented as a result of the 1789 revolution. Also known as ‘the Terror’- it was considered a more humane method of execution than the axe which was often blunt and required more than one decent chop.

30,000 people were to be executed using the device during the French Revolution including a large number of the nobility and including Louis XVI himself.

Food of the time

A menu for the rich

DishLayman’s translationActual translation
Soupe de PoissonsSoup with poison in itFish soup
Oeufs en CocotteBig Hairy Oafs on coconutsEggs in Cream and Butter
Main Course
Salade frisee aux lardonsFrizy salad with tons of
lard piled on top
Endive salad with diced fried bacon
EscargotsThis car goes (Citreon)Snails
Side Orders
Les PommesEnglishmen – boiled, mashed or
in their jackets
Les FritesFried GermansChips
Pains au chocolatStomach cramps through too
much chocolate
Chocolate croissant like rolls
Ile FlottanteFloating dead eelMeringues floating in creamy custard sauce


Peasants eat very little. Escargots if one is lucky enough to see an unlikely snail ferreting around the slum, minding its own business looking for the odd leaf or two to chew on.

Frogs legs –only for rural peasants -tend to be a bit chewy and tricky to catch – definitely easier to catch once the legs have been removed. Unfortunately neither is exactly a three-course meal. The menu is more likely to be bread and unhygienic water.

One report has it that while the peasants starved, a close friend of Louis XVI regularly bathed in a bathtub of strawberries. Jam anybody?
No wonder the peasants decided to have a revolution.

Fashion of the Time
Before the revolution to be called a ‘sans culotte’ – a man without breeches – was considered an insult. During the revolution men began to think it was quite an honour and started saying to themselves “Yes we have no breeches but we’re proud of what we’ve got. Breeches are the rich man’s trouser – A man should be entitled to wear the trouser of his choice and if he doesn’t want to wear any at all – so be it.”

Thankfully the men did decide to wear some trousers – they weren’t quite that proud. Once they all revolted, instead of wearing breeches, they wore simple trousers held up by braces and short jackets called carmagnoles. They also wore scarves around their necks and, of course:

LIBERTY CAPS – little red caps which can be craftily recreated by putting a Manchester United football sock or set of red pantyhose on your head. (Actually the sock may be more successful, with the pantyhose on you may be more likely to look like a sunburnt version of Mickey Mouse). Anyway these hats were the symbol of the revolution.

Women also became “Sans culotte’ –breeches-less and instead they wore skirts. Wearing both would certainly be bothersome and time consuming in the mornings.

Sans culottes dropped all polite behaviour – they were rebels with a cause and were pretty ferocious. If a member of the aristocracy was walking down the street it is quite likely that he would quake in his boots. He may furtively remove his breeches so that he could say, ” You will see that I have no breeches. I have nothing to hide. Viva la France.”

Other favourite sayings of the time

“Freedom, Equality, Fraternity”
“Long live the revolution”
“Off with their heads”
“Drop your daks, put on your hats”