Louis obviously had connections. Among these was Guillaume Gaubert, who lived just up the street from Louis at No 12 South Molton Street, and who was a witness at his wedding in 1779. Gaubert was in charge of upholstery and furniture at Carlton House, but this post did not begin until 1783, after Louis began to work for the Prince, so he presumably did not have great influence before then, being employed by the Duke of Portland.
A marvellous anecdote gives us the probable answer to how Louis found his way into the Prince’s favour. It was printed in several American publications, The Eclectic Magazine, the San Francisco Bulletin and the Pennsylvania Patriot, in 1874, the source being ‘Dr. Robert Chambers’ Scrapbook’. This was probably the Robert Chambers, who, with his brother William, was mainly famous for the Cyclopedia and Dictionary, but who also published many books of anecdotes, which made useful magazine stories.
“A FORTUNE MADE BY A WAISTCOAT.
Some people have a fancy for fine waistcoats. This taste was more common in my young days than it is now. Stirring public events were apt to be celebrated by patterns on waistcoats to meet the popular fancy. I remember that the capture of Mauritius, at the close of 1810, was followed by a fashion for wearing waistcoats speckled over with small figures shaped like that island, and called Isle of France waistcoats. George, Prince of Wales, while Regent, was noted for his affection for this rich variety of waistcoats, and thereby hangs a tale. His Royal Highness had an immense desire for a waistcoat of a particular kind, for which he could discover only a small piece of stuff insufficient in dimensions. It was a French material, and could not be matched in England. The war was raging, and to procure the requisite quantity of stuff from Paris was declared to be impracticable. At this juncture one of the Prince’s attendants interposed. He said he knew a Frenchman, M. Bazalgette, carrying on business in one of the obscure streets of London, who, he was certain, would undertake to proceed to Paris and bring away what was wanted. This obliging tailor was forthwith commissioned to do his best to procure the requisite material. Finding that a chance had occurred for distinguishing himself and laying the foundation of his fortune, the Frenchman resolved to make the attempt. It was a hazardous affair, for there was no regular communication with the coast of France, unless for letters under a cartel. Yet, Bazalgette was not daunted. If only he could land safely in a boat, all would be right. This, with some difficulty and manoevering, he effected. As a pretended refugee back to his own country, he was allowed to land and proceed to Paris. Joyfully he was able to procure the quantity of material required for the Prince Regent’s waistcoat; and not less joyfully did he manage to return to London with the precious piece of stuff wrapped round his person. The waistcoat was made, and so was the tailor’s fortune and that of his family.”
Far from occurring when the Prince was Regent, it would presumably have happened around 1778-9, since after that Louis was established as the Prince’s tailor and would not have had to be pointed out by ‘an attendant’.
The American War of Independence had begun in 1775, and France and Spain seized the opportunity also to declare war on England in 1778. It therefore fits that the ‘war was raging’ at the time this incident took place. It is amusing that they could only find ‘a small piece of stuff, insufficient in dimensions’, considering the Prince’s tendency to portliness. A cartel is defined as ‘an unarmed ship employed in the exchange of prisoners, or in carrying propositions to an enemy; a ship bearing a flag of truce and privileged from capture’. So Louis’ use of such a vessel for this purpose would have been dangerous and too open to scrutiny. Therefore the need to use a small boat and to travel clandestinely, at least on his return journey, was essential.