Including Important Events, Scientific Discoveries, The Lives of Significant Personalities, Cultural Milestones, and Sundry Oddities.
The following chronology of the 1780’s is excerpted from the complete complete Ghastly Age Timeline, to be part of the future Ghastly Companion. As the last decade of Ghastly Affair‘s Decadent Era, the 1780’s make a great starting time for new Ghastly Affair Sagas. Its a historical period filled with horrific disasters, shocking scandals, outrageous fashion, and stunning technological innovations. Then it ends with the outbreak of Revolution.
These are the events that will be discussed at salons, in coffee houses, and among the guests at parties. Presenters (or any Game Master) will find much to inspire them among the shocking and sometimes inexplicable occurrences.
The timeline is not only useful for historical gaming. If your game is set in an imaginary world inspired by the 18th century, use the Timeline to inspire the characteristics of your setting.
Because the history provided is intended to be used for Gothic role-playing, I have generally chosen to interpret controversial events in the most sensational way possible. Ghastly Affair assumes that the most lurid version of history is the correct one!
For certain events it is impossible or impractical to give exact dates. Nonetheless, such events have been included if they are noteworthy.
Note: In general, news travels no more than 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) per day. Therefore, if something happens in Paris, people in Rome won’t hear about it until at least 18 days later. News can sometimes travel up to 200 miles (322 kilometers) a day, however, if carried by homing pigeons.
Part II covers the years from 1785 to 1789.
The Year of the Rising Dark
- May 19: The noontime skies become as dark as evening over Great Britain’s New England colonies, currently in a state of rebellion. The darkness lasts until the morning of May 21.
- May 30: A basement wall adjoining Les Innocents cemetery in Paris breaks from the weight of an overcrowded mass grave, and decomposing corpses spill in.
- June 2: Anti-catholic demonstrations led by Lord George Gorden devolve into violent riots and widespread looting in London.
- June 3: Rioters in London attack Newgate Prison, the Clink, and Fleet Prison, freeing hundreds of prisoners. The Bank of England is also attacked.
- June 7: Soldiers puts down the riots in London. Almost 300 rioters are killed, and over 200 are wounded. Hundreds more are arrested.
- August 24: Official use of torture ended in France by royal decree.
- September: Renowned alchemist, healer and magician Count Alessandro Cagliostro (and his gorgeous wife Serafina) arrive in Strasbourg. Clients begin flocking to attend Caglisotro’s famous séances, where messages from the spirits are delivered by child mediums. Many return from the city with stories of miraculous cures. Cagliostro soon enjoys the patronage of Cardinal Prince Louis de Rohan, Bishop of Strasbourg. Cagliostro’s great rival for patients is Franz Mesmer in Paris.
- December 20: Great Britain declares war on the Dutch Republic over the Republic’s continued trade with France and the rebelling North American colonies.
- Luigi Galvani makes the legs of a dead frog move by application of metal. He attributes the effect to “animal electricity”.
The Year of Wonders
- January 1: The first arched iron bridge opens across the River Severn near Coalbrookdale in England.
- February: Polish dwarf musician Józef Boruwlaski arrives in Vienna, to begin a concert tour of Europe. He is 39 inches (89 centimeters) tall. He is often referred to as “Count” Boruwlaski.
- March 13: Sir William Herschel announces his discovery of a new planet (Uranus).
- October 19: British forces surrender to a combined American and French army at Yorktown in Virginia, ending British military operations on land in North American. Naval battles continue, however.
- Popular pornography depicts French Queen Marie-Antoinette as a nymphomaniac who is both cuckolding the king with his brother, and fond of lesbian sex (the so-called “German Vice”).
- James Watt patents a steam engine that can operate at 10 horsepower.
- Court de Gébelin publishes “Le Monde primitif”, where he states that the cards used for the game of Tarot actually embodied the secret wisdom of ancient Egypt.
- Richard Payne Knight publishes “A Discourse on the Worship of Priapus”, in which he discusses the prominence and symbolism of the human genitals in ancient religion.
The Wicked Year
- February: Sir Richard Worsley brings a suit for £20,000 against Captain George Bisset, on the grounds that Bisset stole his property by running off with Worsley’s wife, Lady Seymour Worsley (rumored to have 27 lovers). The resulting trial includes revelations that Sir Richard enjoyed watching his wife have sex with other men, and had been the one who wanted Bisset and Lady Worsley to become lovers in the first place.
- April 24: Announcement in London that the Irish giant Charles Byrne, who is over eight feet tall, can be seen in a room near Spring Gardens.
- May 5: Chemist and British Royal Society fellow James Price conducts his first public alchemical experiment, apparently using mysterious white and red powders to transform mercury into silver, and silver into gold. He conducts several more public demonstrations in his Guildford laboratory between May 5th and 25th.
- May 9: Anglo-Swiss painter Henry Fuseli exhibits his Gothic masterpiece “The Nightmare” at the Royal Academy of London. The painting is a sensation.
- May 17: Fearing an American-style revolt in Ireland, the British Parliament restores the independence of the Irish Parliament.
- June 13: Anna Göldi, the last person to be officially executed for witchcraft in Europe, is beheaded in Glarus, Switzerland.
- Lady Elizabeth Foster, separated from her husband, joins the household of the Duke of Devonshire and his wife, the ultra-fashionable Georgiana. The three live as a ménage à trois for the next 25 years.
- “La Grande Taverne de Londres”, the first restaurant with a menu and individual tables, opens in Paris.
- Reconstruction of Newgate Prison in London is completed. The facade is deliberately designed to inspire dread.
The Year of Disasters
- February 5: An earthquake strikes Calabria. Earthquakes occur again on February 6th, February 7th , March 1st , and March 28th.
- April 8: The Crimean Khanate is annexed by the Russian Empire, putting an end to slave raids by the Crimean Taters.
- April 8: Earthquakes in Comorn, Hungary.
- May 7: Earthquakes in Portugal.
- May 12 – 31: Earthquakes again in Hungary.
- June: Irish giant Charles Byrne dies in London. Surgeon John Hunter steal’s Byrne’s body, boils the flesh from the bones, and puts the skeleton on display.
- June 3: First public flight of an unmanned hot air balloon, at Annonay, France.
- June 8: Volcanic eruptions of the Laki fissure begin in Iceland, and continue sporadically until February of 1784. One quarter of the population of Iceland eventually dies from poisoning and famine. More than half of all livestock in Iceland perish.
- June 17 : Thick, toxic haze spreads to Prague. The cloud covers Berlin by June 18, Paris by June 20, and Great Britain by June 23. The haze cause exposed people to choke, and damages plants.
- June 23: Temperatures plummet in Great Britain, with crop-killing frost.
- June 28: The sun appears red from the thick haze over Paris.
- July to August: Severe thunderstorms with numerous lightning strikes across Europe. Storms occur in Bohemia and Hungary on July 4, in Poland on July 6, in Orleans France on August 3, and across England and the Netherlands on August 30.
- July 20: Haze begins to lift from Great Britain.
- July 23: Severe thunderstorms with hail in France and Switzerland wrecks crops.
- August 2: Heat wave across England.
- August 3: Alchemist James Price commits suicide by drinking prussic acid in front of witness who believed they were about to see another demonstration of his alleged ability to transform mercury into precious metals.
- August 18: Between 8:15 and 8:30 PM a bright meteor is seen passing over eastern Scotland, England, France, and Italy before exploding into several pieces over Rome.
- September 3: Treaty of Paris formally ends the American Revolution.
- November 21: First flight of a hot air balloon with human passengers, over Paris. Famous Venetian libertine Giacomo Casanova (currently 58) is in Paris to witness the flight of the balloons, and meets with American inventor and statesman Benjamin Franklin.
- December 1: First flight of a manned hydrogen balloon, from Paris.
- December 14: Thick fog in Amsterdam, leading to many fatal accidents from people falling into canals.
- Count Caglisotro moves to the village of Riehen, outside Basel in Switzerland.
- The City of London moves the site of public executions from Tyburn to Newgate Prison.
- The “Hameau de la Reine” (Queen’s Hamlet), a collection of gardens and faux peasant cottages where Marie-Antoinette and her friends can play at being simple shepherdesses and farm girls, is constructed at Versailles. Outrage grows as the exorbitant cost of the construction becomes known.
- A minor scandal erupts in France over painter Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun’s portrait of Queen Marie-Antoinette en chemise. The sheer muslin dress depicted in the portrait is considered inappropriate for the Queen of France, and a threat to the French textile industry.
The Hungering Year
- Severely cold and snowy winter across Europe all winter.
- February 27: Marquis de Sade, imprisoned since 1777, is transferred to the Bastille prison in Paris.
- February 27: The mysterious diplomat, alchemist, and violinist Count Saint-Germain reportedly dies in his laboratory tower at Louisenlund, in the Duchy of Schleswig. Many of his former patrons are puzzled, because they were under the impression that he was immortal.
- Spring: Severe floods in the German states of the Holy Roman Empire.
- Summer: Con-woman Jeanne de la Motte begins a scheme to obtain the necklace commissioned by Louis XV for Madame du Barry in 1772. Claiming to be a Countess and intimate of Marie-Antoinette, she convinces her lover, Cardinal Prince Louis de Rohan into buying the necklace as a gift, that she will deliver to the Queen on the Cardinal’s behalf. Since the Cardinal is out of favor at court and wants to gain the Queen’s friendship, he agrees.
- August: French King Louis XVI appoints a commission to investigate Franz Mesmer’s theory of “animal magnetism”. The commission includes ambassador Benjamin Franklin, chemist Antoine Lavoisier, and surgeon Joseph-Ignace Guillotin (who will eventually lend his name to the method by which Louis is executed). The verdict is that “animal magnetism” exists only in the mind of those who experience the phenomenon.
- August 11. In the Grove of Venus at Versailles, Cardinal de Rohan meets with a veiled figure that he believes to be Queen Marie-Antoinette. The woman gives him a rose as an apparent token of affection. In reality, the woman is Nicole d’Oliva (also known as Madame Leguay), an actress and prostitute hired by Jeanne de la Motte.
- September: Drought begins in France.
- Autumn: Poor harvests across Europe. Mass starvation.
- December 24: Count Cagliostro founds the Egyptian Rite of Freemasonry, in Lyon France.