Madam Clicquot and her great granddaughter, Anne, the future Duchesse d’ Uzès, ca. 1855.
Unless one has studied history, a remark regarding someone’s life and accomplishments may fail to convey the significance of an act, and such is certainly the case with The Duchesse d’ Uzès (1847-1933). The following account dates from 1898.
Motorcycles are now the thing in Paris, and the policemen are so much occupied just now in looking after the snorting vehicles that human delinquents may expect to be left in peace for some time to come.
The Duchesse d’ Uzès passed her examination as a motorcycle driver in the presence of a community of engineers. She managed her machinery with admirable dexterity and self-possession for a distance of about 25 miles. Her examination has been followed by other society women, amongst others, we may mention the Princess de Montaglione. – The International. Vol. 5. Sept. 1898.
The same year the Duchesse d’ Uzès also passed an examination for a license to drive an automobile and at 51 years of age drove straight into the history books as the first European woman to obtain a drivers license. She made headlines again soon after when she became the first to receive a speeding ticket.
The Duchesse d’ Uzès took her examiners who were a State engineer and two experts appointed by the prefect of police, on her car through the Bois de Boulogue and around Paris. She drove at the regulation maximum of speed, which is 16 kilometers, or about 11 miles an hour. According to those who are supposed to know, auto-mobilism is now fast supplanting the bicycle craze, and in a few years the horseless vehicle will replace the ordinary cab in the Paris streets. – Bay of Plenty Times. Vol. XXIV, I 3721. 11 July, 1898.
She was an author, a sculptress, an avid hunter and outdoorswoman, and seems to have mastered anything that caught her interest. Perhaps she inherited her determination from her great grandmother, Madam Clicquot, (1777-1866) who, with her father’s help, became a very successful businesswoman when her husband died unexpectedly at a young age. Madam Clicquot was then 27 years old.
Madam Clicquot’s husband left her three businesses, banking, wool trading, and wine making. She sold the first two and launched a successful campaign to improve champagne and see it sold on the international market. The wine was called Veuve Clicquot after the French term for widow. She invented a system to improve the quality of champagne and was so successful at improving and marketing the wine that she has been referred to as the first businesswoman of the modern era.
The Duchesse d’ Uzès was very wealthy and had the means to indulge in whatever fancies caught her attention. She lived an active and exciting life right up until her death of pneumonia in 1933.