Bastille Day

July 14, 2009

Today is Bastille Day, the French national holiday which commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789 and marks theAHOHMLace_028_pg29_JeanBaptisteColbert beginning of the French Revolution. During the uprising the people made it clear that King Louis XVI’s power was no longer absolute.

It was during the reign of his predecessor, King Louis XIV in the 17th century, that lace came to the political and economic forefront. According to Mary Sharp in her book Point and Pillow Lace, “great jealousy and annoyance had long been felt by the various ministers of the large sum of money spent yearly on importing Venetian and other Italian laces; laces then thought an indispensable part of the dress of the Court.” 

To rectify this situation the government prohibited the use of foreign lace and King Louis XIV’s finance minister, Jean Baptist Colbert, founded a lace factory in the Alencon region. According to A History of Handmade Lace by Mrs. F. Nevill Jackson, Colbert selected some of the best workers of Italy to staff his factory. The craftsmen were able to imitate almost to perfection the Venetian lace “thus saving  for France the large sums (of money) disbursed by the lace wearers” to other countries.

While this lace is known as Alencon lace, the finance minister obtained a spot in needlework history because it also came to be known as Colbert Lace.

Note: The accompanying photograph of Jean Baptist Colbert is courtesy of  A History of Handmade Lace.


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