Emilie Loisset, the brilliant 19th century horsewoman who died crushed by her horse – Liberation

Every Saturday with RetroNews, the BNF press site, a look back at a sports story as told by the press of the time.

“Emilie Loisset, a pretty person, had the spirit to give up the classic costume of the Amazon, which she replaced by a kind of most graceful bohemian costume. We have never seen anything stronger in equestrian matters than the exercises of this young woman ”, written the evening courier of April 27, 1878, on the occasion of the re-entry of the Summer Circus. The latter, built in 1841 at the foot of the Champs-Elysées, as well as its winter counterpart, which completed it in the 11th arrondissement from 1852, constitute high places of Parisian cultural life. The two rotunda buildings were designed by the architect Jacques Hittorff. Their particularity: there is no stage, only a round track that the artists can invest. A perfect setting for the squires, real stars at the time. Balzac declared that “The rider, in the fullness of his means, is superior to all the glories of song, dance, dramatic art…” Certainly, Emilie Loisset comes out of this category, as summarized the evening courier : she is “A new star in the Parisian firmament: the diva of the merry-go-round”.

“The rider, in the fullness of her means, is superior to all the glories of song, dance, dramatic art …”


Emilie Loisset completes a line of famous circus artists founded by her grandfather Jean-Baptiste Loisset. Her mother is also a rider, as is her aunt. Her uncle François, circus director, is the husband of Caroline Loyo, a famous rider also called the diva. Finally, Emilie performs her first public performances with her sister, Clotilde.

In 1881, Emilie Loisset again opened the Cirque d’été. His show enchants the spectators and the journalist of the event, in an issue dated May 15, seems as much seduced by the rider as he is admired of her mastery: “It’s that Emilie Loisset is not only a very pretty person, with her beautiful eyes, her superb teeth, her matt white skin and her hourglass figure. To its charms it still adds – rare merit – an in-depth knowledge of the horse. “ And the author of the article to insist: “It therefore appeals to sportsmen as well as to lovers of delicious faces. To be honest, it is a recipe. “ Bankable, it looks like today. She loves the spectators, as evidenced by “The circle of admirers who surrounded the rider begging a smile or a banal greeting”. That evening, Emilie Loisset also made the public shiver with fear when her horse mount almost unseated her. “Trembling with anger, she brought the bridle back with such energy that the horse, this time, jumped.”

What does a horsewoman offer to her audience? Twirls, jumps, equine dance in a way. High school exercises, that is to say the art of dressage, which is today one of the disciplines of sport riding. Of “True equestrian conjurers”, according to Ernest Molier, famous circus director of the time. An exercise all the more complicated as the riders do not ride astride their horse but in an Amazon (both legs on the same side of the animal). In his blog “The 400 asses”, our columnist Agnès Giard, evokes a paradoxical technique “Aimed at reducing the efficiency of a person, in order to keep him in a state of inferiority or danger. Horse riding, for example, handicaps women. From the 1830s, certain high school riders in France made this handicap their asset. They appropriate the mastery of an art hitherto reserved for officers ”. That is to say, written Agnès Giard citing an article by Catherine Tourre-Malen, published in the journal French ethnology, art “Learned horse riding, also known as high school or academic. Based on different tunes (changes of foot, piaffe, passage, pirouette, press, shoulder in …) and jumps (cabriole, pesade, levade, croupade …), this riding perfected since the 16th century in equestrian academies, by men and for men, was still perceived in the nineteenth century as one of the best lessons to prepare for command ”, writes the researcher.

The riders are not only stars who perform in major European capitals. The nobility run after them to pass the ring on their written finger the illustrated universe of September 6, 1879. The Loisset sisters’ rating is at the highest:“Did the kings formerly marry shepherdesses ? A certain fact is that today we see princes marrying squires of the Summer Circus. As proof, the marriage of the Prince of Reuss with Mlle Clotilde Loisset. [] But that’s not all – and this Loisset family is positively happy. Now another prince, the Prince of Hatzfeld, having fallen in love with the charms of the noble bride’s sister, has also just offered her his hand. Miss Emilie Loisset will be Princess of Hatzfeld Hop ! hop ! The century is moving at a breakneck pace. ”

Extraordinary women in Retrosports

Emilie Loisset tragically died in April 1882, run over by her horse during a rehearsal at the Cirque d’Hiver, a few days after her return from Berlin where she had performed. Lantern of April 20 recounts the drama through the menu: “The rider took off and came full speed ahead on the obstacle at the entrance to the track. Here the horse failed; a few vigorous strokes of the whip exasperated him ; he turned around and set off at a triple gallop towards the stable ; the iron door stopped short and the rear train slid. Emilie Loisset picked up the horse, which swayed, swayed in the air for a second, and fell to the side, burying the squire beneath her. [] The fork in the saddle had bruised her without any apparent injury : not a single drop of blood ; but Emilie Loisset cried : “I’m broken, I’m going to die !”»

“In her private life, she was really a very charming young woman, very modest, very free in American style but also holding the most daring in check with I do not know what perfume of honesty.”

Le Figaro of April 18, 1882

“The death of this young woman has thrown a certain emotion in the special world we call All-Paris, written the Figaro April 18. The daily returns to the circumstances of the death, explaining that the accident occurred during the rehearsal of an exercise imposed by its popularity. “A triumphant return to the rider’s track, recalled by the public and arriving at full speed from the stable, jumps an obstacle at the entrance and comes to greet the spectators. For this exercise, specifies the newspaper, she had saddled, I think about it, a bay horse, very heavy and very difficult ? [] M. Franconi [directeur du Cirque d’hiver, ndlr], on several occasions, had advised Emilie to give up riding this beast. But very brave, she didn’t listen to anyone ; on the contrary, danger was an additional attraction for her. “

Gallic of April 19 looks back at a disturbing episode, four years before the drama. “” One evening, at the Champs-Elysées circus, Mr. de C… was presented to Emilie Loisset. “—Will you allow one of your most sincere admirers,” he said, “to give you a warning? ? […] Well watch your hand : it will kill you. [] I have been watching you for a long time, miss ; you are the most charming and skillful rider that I know. but you have in your hand a feverishness, an impatience, a nervous agitation which will play you, one evening, a very bad trick. ” […] “- Well, my friend, she said cheerfully, we will talk about your prophecy again in twenty years.””


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