If you visit Monticello – the stately Virginia home of Thomas Jefferson - you’ll learn lots of things about our third president. You’ll learn he preferred being there to anywhere else in the world, that Monticello means “little mountain” in Italian, and that hundreds of free and enslaved people once lived on the premises. You’ll also learn that Jefferson was a major Francophile.
The tour guide doesn’t actually all him a Francophile, and that word isn’t listed in the official brochure, but how else do you describe someone who filled his home with art, objects, and ideas from France? Jefferson spent roughly six years in Paris, first as trade commissioner and then as minister, during which time he no doubt worked to build Franco-American ties, but also spent time collecting a ton of French stuff. Dishes, books, paintings, even the wallpaper in one of his guest bedrooms all made their way from France to Virginia. A painting of Lafayette hangs in the parlor, and his personal chef stayed with him on the Champs-Élysées so he could train with the best Parisian chefs of the time.
Jefferson has always been one of my favorite Founding Fathers. He was an inspirational writer, had a tirelessly curious mind, has what I consider to be the most beautiful memorial in Washington, D.C., and, well, I think he looks rather handsome in riding boots. His taste for all things French only makes him that much cooler.