When first we meet Annette Vallon, she seems a frivolous young girl, more interested in parties and the admiration of others than the revolution that will soon spread chaos throughout France. But by 1820, while the aristocracy dances, disgruntled peasants join together in a massive revolt that will be discussed by Annette’s set long before reality strikes.
Always a bit of a rebel, Annette disdains the concept of an arranged marriage, unwilling to accept her mother’s imprecations to make a suitable match. It is much more to the girl’s liking to learn to hunt by her father’s side. Annette has begun redefining herself in society, a bold young woman with independent thoughts and much curiosity.
When she meets William Wordsworth at a fete in Paris, Annette is taken with the
English poet’s views on the coming revolution, his impassioned words about the people’s distress and the aristocracy’s denial of what must come to pass. The pair enjoy long walks, discussing politics and literature, Vallon correcting the
Briton’s flawed French. But when Annette returns to the Loire Valley, Wordsworth follows, although her mother adamantly forbids the couple to continue their association.
Unfortunately, the political situation grows more unstable, Annette personally witnessing the frightening power of a crowd pillaging local chateaus, stripping houses of luxuries the poor will never enjoy. Sympathizing with the people but fearful for her propertied friends, Annette agrees with Wordsworth that France is no longer safe for him, suspected of spying and treachery because he is a foreigner.
The face of the country changes under the National Assembly, each new faction struggling for ascendancy, the people’s interests confused with those who would rule in their name: “Louis’ lonely head was the prize of the century.” New faces gain the public’s confidence: Marat, Robespierre. At the same time, even loyal citizens are diligently monitored by Committees of Surveillance.
Annette must make her way without Wordsworth, their fate marked by loving correspondence over the following years. After her father’s death and a loss of family fortune, Annette is no longer the beneficiary of wealth or plenty. A new mother whose lover is far away, Vallon is a model citizen - and more.
Given the opportunity, a more mature Annette discovers unexpected opportunities to serve the best interests of innocents caught between the agendas of those who would seize power, many without homes, threatened with the guillotine: “In the name of freedom from tyranny, we have set up new tyrants who have less restraints on them than ever before.”
This once-spoiled woman becomes an inspiration, undertaking dangerous missions on behalf of the less fortunate, earning the honorific, “The Fearless Chouanne of Blois.” From her early love affair to the dangerous service of others, a spoiled girl becomes an impressive heroine, later painfully reunited with her poet-lover. The revolutionary ideal given new meaning, Annette Vallon is a champion of human rights who endures much in the formation by, of and for the people of France.