Capability Brown of France: unsung Corstorphine gardener
During Book Week Scotland (18-24th November) the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh will be exploring the life of Thomas Blaikie (1750-1838), dubbed the "Capability Brown of France", through his diaries and related papers recently donated to the RBGE Library by his family.
From humble beginnings in Corstorphine, Thomas was commissioned by physician-botanists John Fothergill and William Pitcairn to record and collect rare species in the Alps. On his travels, he met the great Voltaire and travelled with alpinist Michel-Gabriel Paccard. In 1778 Blaikie was employed by the Comte d'Artois, younger brother of Louis XVI, later to become Charles X. He designed and oversaw the plantings at the gardens of the royal playground Chateau de Bagatelle. He also created a garden for renowned opera singer Sophie Arnould. In 1780 the Duc de Chartres, later to become the Duc d'Orléans then Philippe Égalité, commissioned him to design sites including the Winter Garden at the Parc Monceau.
So, how did a working-class gardener from Edinburgh end up rubbing shoulders with the French nobility? “The archives gifted by Blaikie’s family reveal a characterful Scot, full of charm but nevertheless unafraid to speak his mind.” said Head of Library Services, Lorna Mitchell. “He obviously charmed Marie-Antoinette as she presented him with a bust of herself that remains with the family to this day."
In the Book Week Scotland event on Sunday 24th November, Dr Sarah Easterby-Smith, Senior Lecturer in Modern History and Co-Director of the Centre for French History and Culture at the University of Andrews, will explore Blaikie's diaries within the broader historical and political contexts as well as the wider context of diary-writing in the 18th century.
Similar news stories
Thu 21st Jan 2021
Monkeying around is no joke in tackling the climate emergency
Wed 19th Feb 2020
The Botanics at Platform 5
Thu 30th Jan 2020
Why we all need to: Think Plastic - materials and making
Fri 20th Dec 2019
Food values can aid community well-being in 2020 and beyond
Browse through our diverse range of formal and informal education programmes for people of all ages and at all levels
Books at the Botanics
RBGE publications include a range of titles with books on botany and botanical taxonomy, gardening and horticulture, art and history, children’s books and Guidebooks for all of our Gardens.
Knowledge Exchange links the research community with others.
Searchable Resource Centres
View our selection of searchable resource centres.
Check our latest news and connect with our experts
Find the ideal venue for your corporate event
Your dream wedding
The perfect setting to host your truly unique wedding.
Find out how you can support our work at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.