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Paris, court city of the nineteenth century

Philip Mansel

Comment citer cet article :
Philip Mansel, "Paris, court city of the nineteenth century", dans The Court Historian, n° 11, July 2006. Article édité en ligne sur Cour de le 1er mai 2008 (

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Like a double agent working simultaneously for two sides, nineteenth-century Paris was both a revolutionary capital, and a court city. A court city is the principal residence of the monarch, where a large number of inhabitants serve the monarch, his family, administration and household, and political, cultural and economic life depend in part on the monarchy. Nineteenth-century Paris was a court city to such an extent that it contained the material for three courts – Bonaparte, Bourbon and Orleans – and functioned as a court city for Europe as well as France.
Due to the size of the monarch’s household – 3,000 in 1830 under Charles X - and of those of junior members of his dynasty, perhaps 10,000 people in Paris, out of a population of around 700,000, worked for the court. Despite the revolutions of 1830 and 1848, and frequent riots and insurrections, Paris normally contained more courtiers, and aspiring courtiers, than revolutionaries.

The principal documents proving nineteenth-century Paris’s role as a court city were its buildings, above all the Tuileries palace in the heart of Paris, connecting the two outstretched wings of the Louvre ; and the palace of Saint-Cloud outside the city, which was the court’s summer residence. Between 19 February 1800, when the First Consul took up residence in the Tuileries, and 4 September 1870, when his niece by marriage the Empress Eugenie fled it to escape a baying mob, these palaces had as much influence, both in France and abroad, as Versailles before 1789. If they had not been destroyed in 1870 and 1871, during the Franco-Prussian war and the Commune respectively, the French monarchies of the nineteenth century would be less forgotten today.

The number of other royal buildings and properties, known as the Domaine de la Couronne, scattered throughout Paris, also provided visual confirmation that it was a court city. They included the palaces of the Luxembourg, the Elysée, and the Palais Royal, residence of the Duc d’Orleans ; five royal theatres and opera houses, all containing lodges reserved for the court officials who ran them ; the ministries ; the royal factories making luxury goods for the court such as the Gobelins tapestry factory ; the royal museums such as the Louvre. The Palais Bourbon, which contained the Chamber of Deputies, showed that Paris remained the capital of Europe. Nothing could be more misleading than Niall Fergusson’s assertion that ‘Britain created the modern world’. [1]

Not only was French, rather than English, the language of the world until 1939, but the semi-circular shape of the French Chamber of Deputies in the Palais Bourbon, rather than the rectangular shape of the House of Commons in Westminster, was and still is the principal architectural model for other parliaments. Moreover the Charte of Louis XVIII, promulgated in the Palais Bourbon on 4 June 1814, rather than the English constitution, was the model for other

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European constitutions : the Bavarian of 1818, Belgian of 1831, Spanish of 1836, Piedmontese of 1848, Prussian of 1850, Austrian of 1860, Ottoman of 1876, and others. [2]

The supreme expression of Paris’s municipal identity, the Hotel de Ville, had in 1789 and 1792 been the seat of a revolutionary Commune. In the nineteenth century, however, it was, with the exception of a few revolutionary days, a bastion of monarchy. According to the nature of the regime in power, it was decorated with royal or imperial portraits. In 1814 in the Hotel de Ville the Conseil municipal issued a violent proclamation in favour of the Bourbons. To advertise its authority, the court paid regular ceremonial visits to the Hotel de Ville (as it had before 1789) to mark occasions such as a coronation, the birth of an heir or a victorious campaign. Such visits generally included a dinner, a ball and festivities for the crowds gathered outside. After the coronation visit of Charles X in June 1825, which included a state dinner, a concert by fifty harpists and a ball for 8,000 guests opened by the Duchesse de Berri, foreigners acknowledged, according to the Préfet de la Seine the Comte de Chabrol, that no other capital in Europe could have organised such a seductive celebration. [3]

The Hotel de Ville even contained a throne room, where on 31 July 1830 Louis Philippe Duc d’Orleans was proclaimed Lieutenant-general of the kingdom. Thus a cadet branch of the monarchy ended the brief independent Parisian government of 29-31 July which had defeated the troops of Charles X during the ‘trois journees’ of 27, 28 and 29 July. [4] Another monarchical victory over revolution would also be proclaimed at the Hotel de Ville. In a riposte to the proclamation there of the second republic on 24 February 1848, the magic number of 7,824, 189 votes in favour of establishing the Second Empire would be inscribed in gigantic figures on its façade in November 1852. [5]

Dress, as well as architecture, affirmed Paris’s role as a court city - as, in the days of the sans culottes, it had affirmed Paris’s role as a revolutionary capital. As early as 1801, when he was First Consul of the French Republic, Bonaparte imposed the habit habille, the court dress of Versailles, on men without official positions attending Sunday receptions in the Tuileries : others wore uniform. In april 1802 an Irish visitor wrote : ‘the etiquette of a court and court dress are strictly observed and everyone agrees that the splendour of the Tuileries is much greater than ever was the old Court of France.’ At the procession to Notre Dame on 18 april 1802, for the Te Deum in honour of the Concordat with the Pope, when Bonaparte’s footmen first appeared in the streets of Paris in their livery of green and gold, Parisians are said to have exclaimed : ‘ Ah voila encore la bourse et la livrée ! Oh comme c’est beau, comme ca fait plaisir, voila qui commence

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véritablement un peu à prendre couleur… Ah c’est bien c’est comme autrefois – enfin nous reconnaissons notre pays’. [6]

Thereafter all public buildings, and the public coaches which were the principal means of transport in France, were staffed by men wearing the livery colours of the monarch : green and gold under Napoleon I and Napoleon III ; blue, silver and red under Louis XVIII and Charles X ; red and silver under Louis-Philippe. Dress also confirms that Paris was the court city of Europe. It was partly in imitation of the civil uniforms of the French monarchy that Austria introduced them in 1814 and Britain in 1817. [7] Worth the couturier of the Empress Eugenie, dressed more crowned heads of Europe than had Rose Bertin, the couturiere of Marie Antoinette, or Le Roy the couturier of the Empress Josephine. [8]

Because military, urban and political history are artificially segregated, the role of armies in cities has been sidelined. Parts of nineteenth-century Paris looked like an armed camp, as full of dramatic uniforms as Berlin or Saint Petersburg. The principal barracks of the guard, whether imperial or royal, generally at least 25, 000 strong, was on the site of what is now the Musée d’Orsay, near the Tuileries palace. The daily changing of the guard, or its weekly review by Napoleon I in the court-yard of the Tuileries, were among the principal moments in the life of the city – like the changing of the guard in London today. Even under Louis Philippe, le roi bourgeois, although there was no royal guard, at least 40, 000 soldiers were stationed in Paris. [9] From 1814 until its dissolution in 1827, and throughout the reign of Louis-Philippe, the garde nationale de Paris, the bourgeoisie under arms, was on duty at the Tuileries palace. Officers dined with Louis-Philippe and his family. [10]

If architecture, dress and soldiers helped make Paris a court city, so did commerce. At least 500 shops, probably more, advertised their dependance on the monarchy by placing the words ‘de l’Empereur’, ‘du roi’, or of other members of the dynasty, with the relevant coat of arms, on their invoices, shop-signs and shop-fronts – as can still be seen on the shop-front of the former royal chocolatier Debauve et Gallais, rue des Saints Peres. [11] In the absence of the imperial court, Paris commerce was described as being in a state of ‘cold and languor’. ‘Hardly had Her Majesty the Empress arrived in the capital than it took on a new appearance’ wrote the Journal de l’Empire in 1807. [12] ‘In 1814 the conseil general des manufactures proclaimed to Louis XVI’s daughter the Duchesse d’Angouleme that ʽthe French people more than all others likes to find its models at the court of its kings’. [13] The harm done to Paris commerce by Louis-Philippe’s

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abolition of the Maison du roi was much criticised. Even under Louis-Philippe, however, the suspension of court balls in the winter of 1847-8 due to mourning for his sister Madame Adelaide, was thought to have contributed, by the lack of orders for guests’ new clothes, to the economic distress which helped spark the revolution of February 1848. [14] No parties, no monarchy.

Banking, as well as trade, dress and architecture, confirmed that Paris remained a court city. While the radical banker Laffitte encouraged the July revolution, his rival James de Rothschild, one of the richest men in Europe, lent money to Charles X and Louis-Philippe. His banking philosophy could have been resumed in the words of his brother Amschel, head of the Frankfurt branch of the Banque Rothschild, in 1816 : ‘a court is always a court and it always leads to something’. ‘The Louis XIV of the counting-house’, as his friend Heine called him, helped finance the allied invasion of France and Louis XVIII’s return in 1814 and enjoyed instant access both to Louis-Philippe and Napoleon III. His refusal to support Thiers in 1840 helped prevent the outbreak of war between France and Europe over the fate of the Ottoman Empire. [15] As Consul-general of Austria, James de Rothschild formed part of court society in Paris. His triple hotel on the rue Laffitte had a decorative scheme which explicitly compared his family to another dynasty of bankers turned sovereigns, the Medici and was furnished with pictures and furniture with a royal provenance, often purchased at the sales of the Duchesse de Berri. [16]

Manners and customs, as well as material culture, made Paris a court city. Parisians regularly attended court receptions in the state apartments after Sunday mass, in search of a nod from the monarch, a word with his ministers, and a place to hear news, meet friends and show loyalty to the regime. So many people went that the Tuileries was at least as crowded as Versailles before 1789. In 1814 it was said that ‘un gentilhomme qui ne se montre pas a la cour n’existe plus’. In 1827 Colonel de Castellane wrote ‘because it was Sunday I went to the chateau’ – as, in this period, the Tuileries palace was generally called. By 1830 the chapel and the salle des maréchaux, to which the public was admitted, and the salle du trône and the grand cabinet du roi, reserved for the most senior officials, were too small to contain those wishing to attending the court. [17] The architecture of the sixteenth century could not satisfy the appetite for court life of the nineteenth.

The main public garden in Paris, the Tuileries garden in front of the palace, was a public arena, like the Colosseum in imperial Rome, where by their cheers or silence, or the cockades they wore – white for the Bourbons, tricolour for the Bonapartes and the Orleans - Parisians could show their political sympathies – especially during the rapid regime changes of 1814-15. [18] Despite all that has been written about ‘les fetes républicaines’, the principal fetes of the nineteenth century, when food, drink and entertainments were offered to the

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population of Paris, were monarchical : the fetes of Saint Napoleon on 15 August, of Saint Louis on 25 August, Saint Charles on 6 November or Saint Philippe on 1 May ; and in addition, under the Restoration, the fetes of 3 may and 12 April, anniversaries of the reentry into Paris of Louis XVII1 and Charles X respectively.

Literature, as well as architecture, dress and trade, confirms that Paris was a court city. There was never such direct contact between the pen and the sword as in nineteenth-century Paris. Some of its greatest writers were also courtiers. Stendhal was a fervent Bonapartist, who worked in Napoleon’s household as an inspector of furniture, praised the ‘courage’ and ‘personal talents’ of Napoleon’s brothers, and shunned the Bourbon court after 1814. Eager to obtain repayment of a debt of 2 million livres to her father Necker (and so provide her daughter with a dowry large enough to enable her to marry the Duc de Broglie), the great liberal Madame de Stael wrote in favour of the Bourbons, and even of Louis XVIII’s unpopular minister the Comte de Blacas. Chateaubriand was not only a Romantic genius but also a courtier and pensioner of Charles X, whose entry into Paris on 12 April 1814 he accompanied on horse-back. [19] Until his death in 1848 he devoted much of his energy to writing pamphlets or making speeches in favour of the Bourbons.

In his poems another Bourbon pensioner, Victor Hugo, compared the Duchesse de Berry to the Virgin Mary and her son the Duc de Bordeaux to a previous Saviour of the World - Jesus Christ –extremes of flattery unknown to previous centuries. [20] After 1830 he became a courtier of Louis Philippe, assuring the king that France and his dynasty had the same heart and the same blood. His reward was to be nominated a peer of France, as Vicomte Hugo, in 1845. [21] Alexandre Dumas worked for a time as a librarian of Louis Philippe ; Michelet gave the King’s daughters history lessons ; Theophile Gautier became a librarian of Napoleon III’s cousin Princess Mathilde. [22] Despite protestations of dislike of court life, [23] Prosper Merimee became an intimate of the Empress Eugenie, a frequent guest at the court’s autumn ‘series’ at Compiegne, the director of its theatre and proof-reader for the Emperor. [24] Dynastic loyalty governed many pens. Tocqueville and Lamartine were both former legitimists who by their speeches in the Chamber of Deputies helped weaken the July monarchy. Balzac was a legitimist who sent books to the Comte de Chambord in exile with the dedication ‘de son fidèle sujet de Balzac’. [25]

The court’s need for glorification and commemoration affected painting as well as writing. The Maison du Roi and the Maison de l’Empereur played a central role in commissioning pictures and sculptures, as did individual royal

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collectors such as the Empress Josephine, the Duchesse de Berri, the Duc d’Orleans and Princesse Mathilde. David premier peintre de l’Empereur, Baron Gerard premier peintre du roi, Ingres and Delacroix, among others, derived part of their income and inspiration from the court. David painted the Coronation of Napoleon, Gerard that of Charles X, in addition to many flattering portraits of monarchs and senior officials. No works of art, however, affirm more strikingly Paris’s role as a court city than the elaborate gilded cradles offered by the municipality, in a tradition unique to Paris in the nineteenth century, to three successive heirs to the throne : the King of Rome in 1811, the Duc de Bordeaux in 1821 and the Prince Imperial in 1856.
Music in Paris also reflected its role as a court city. One of the first aspects of court life revived by Bonaparte, two years before he became Emperor, was Sunday mass in his own chapel, with music performed by his personal choir and orchestra. Directed by Paisiello, it was said to provide the best singing in Europe, and continued to do so under the Bourbons until the revolution of 1830. [26] Cherubini, Rossini, Liszt and Auber also worked for the court in Paris and wrote music on dynastic themes, such as Cherubini’s requiems for Louis XVI, or Rossini’s opera to celebrate Charles X’s coronation, Il Viaggio a Reims. Rossini had been lured from London to work in Paris by the offer of a salary of 40,000 francs a year, the post of Director of one of the royal theatres the Theatre Italien, and the title ‘Compositeur du roi et Inspecteur-général du chant’, with a special uniform, by Sosthenes de La Rochefoucauld, an aide de camp of Charles X who had been appointed Directeur-Général des Beaux-Arts in 1824. [27]

As he said in a speech before Charles X and the prize-winning artists at the closing ceremony of the Salon of 1824 in the Louvre, La Rochefoucauld intended to make the monarchy, as in the reign of Louis XIV, the main patron of the arts : in his opinion nothing contributed more to the glory of a reign. [28] He was the courtier Maecenas of Charles X, as Baron Denon, Director of the Musée Napoleon and the imperial court factories, who ‘knows the Emperor’s taste and the habits of the court’ [29], was of Napoleon I and the Comte de Nieuwerkerke, Directeur-general des musées impériaux in 1853, Surintendant des Beaux Arts from 1863 to 1870, of Napoleon III [30].

In addition to dress, trade and the arts, the monarchs’ power and personal interest made Paris a court city. Nineteenth-century monarchs could affect Paris, both by their influence on their ministers, and by their control of the Domaine de la Couronne which owned the Paris palaces and museums. None neglected their capital, as Louis XV and Louis XVI had been accused of doing. They were more successful in beautifying Paris than in staying on the throne.

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From the moment he seized power, Bonaparte was concerned, as his architect Pierre Fontaine noted with approval on 31 December 1799, with ‘l’embellissement de Paris’ – an interest which, as Fontaine’s diary shows, never waned. [31] He personally supervised the decoration of his palaces with his architects Percier and Fontaine, generally demanding ‘de la magnificence, de l’or’ [32]. Even on the morning after his return to Paris in 1815, he made time to see Fontaine. [33] He also stamped his personal and dynastic emblems, N’s and eagles, on public buildings (they were replaced by L’s and fleurs de lys under the Restoration). Street names as well as monarchs’ initials proclaimed the dynastic vocation of Paris. In this monarchical century the Place de la République was called the Place du Trône, the Rue de la Paix the Rue imperiale or royale : Montmartre itself was officially called Montnapoleon before 1814.

Indeed Napoleon I devoted part of the money he won from his conquests in Europe – the Domaine Extraordinaire – to improving Paris. In addition to the Colonne de la Grande Armée in the Place Vendôme and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, he began (and often inspected in person) the Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile ; the Ponts d’Austerlitz et d’Iéna, named after victories over Austria and Prussia ; the Bourse, the rue de Rivoli and the Temple de la Gloire (now the Madeleine). [34] Work also started on palaces for the King of Rome and the imperial archives, the University and new markets, prisons and slaughter-houses. [35] So much construction was in progress that Paris looked as if it had been taken by assault by architects.

After the entry of the allied armies and sovereigns into Paris on 31 March 1814, Paris remained Europe’s model for monarchical magnificence and luxury. Von Klenze a pupil of Percier who had had been court architect of King Jerome Napoleon in Kassel, became the principal architect of Munich under Ludwig I and of Saint Petersburg under Nicholas I ; palaces and museums, modelled on those in Paris, were his speciality. [36] The column Napoleon I erected on the Place Vendome was emulated, and in size surpassed, by columns erected to the glory of Nelson and the Duke of York in London, and of Alexander I in Saint Petersburg. [37]

An English visitor in 1814, Lady Burghersh, no admirer of Parisians themselves (’so vulgar, such mauvais ton’), was lost in wonder : ’As to the town of Paris, the beauty and magnificence of it surpassed anything I could form an idea of. All the Arcs de Triomphe, pillars etc which Buonaparte has erected are perfect’. [38]

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Another English visitor, Augustus Foster, said : ’It requires to recollect all Bonaparte’s tyranny not to regret him ; his works and improvements are so magnificent.’ [39] Soon after he assumed the regency in 1811, the Regent had boasted that he would ’eclipse Napoleon’. His architect John Nash visited Paris in 1814 and again in 1815. In the following fifteen years Carlton House Terrace was built on the model of the buildings on the Place de la Concorde, Regent Street, with interiors ’in the richest Parisian style imaginable’, on that of the Rue de Rivoli. Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace were filled, on George IV’s orders, with French furniture and china. [40]

Confirming its role as the court city of Europe, Paris provided both an architectural model for London, and a social alternative to the British court. In keeping with Louis XVIII’s desire to strengthen ties with Britain and attract foreign visitors, from 1814, on his orders, British visitors to Paris were admitted to the Tuileries ’in any manner and at any time that they present themselves.’ An incorrectly dressed Englishman was admitted to the royal chapel, while some correctly dressed Frenchmen were barred. One Englishwoman wrote : ’Nothing can exceed the handsome manner in which the whole Royal Family receive the English.’ [41] The Royal Family often spoke to them in English. At the festivities for the wedding of the Duc de Berri in June 1816, Cornelia Knight wrote : ’The King has given orders that all whose names are sent in by Sir Charles Stuart are to be accommodated’ [42] (with invitations). Perhaps because the Regent held no more than four Drawing-rooms a year in London due to ill health and love of privacy, in some years more British than French ladies were presented at the court of the Tuileries. [43]

Louis XVIII made a daily afternoon drive through Paris – partly in order to advertise his good health – partly to check on the mood in the street. In keeping with the Restoration’s use of Catholicism as a political instrument, his reign saw the construction of churches such as Notre Dame de Lorette, Saint Vincent de Paul and the chapelle expiatoire to commemorate Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. On his personal initiative Louis XVIII also erected the Chateau de Saint-Ouen, just outside the city, as a memorial to his Declaration there on 2 may 1814, promising France a liberal constitution. [44] New models of the statues of Henri IV on the Pont Neuf, Louis XIV in the Place des Victoires and Louis XIII in the place des Vosges, were erected to replace those demolished during the Terror. Unlike Louis XVIII, in 1826 Charles X yielded to the pleas of the Duchesse d’Angouleme to erect a massive statue of Louis XVI on the site of his execution

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on the Place Louis XV – a monument which, if completed, would have permanently culpabilised Paris for its role during the revolution. [45]

The month of September 1824, marking the death of Louis XVIII and accession of Charles X, saw the apogee of Paris’s history as a court city. Most Parisian of Bourbons, Louis XVIII, although skeleton thin, almost blind and barely audible, had insisted, against his doctors’ advice, on returning from Saint-Cloud to the Tuileries in time for the Fête de Saint Louis on 25 August 1824. To the Prefect of the Seine’s expression of the city’s congratulations, he replied : ’I am very touched by the sentiments expressed to me by my good city of Paris ; it knows all my love for it. I am truly convinced that when it celebrates my fete it does so from the bottom of its heart. ’ [46]

So silent was the crowd waiting in the garden outside the palace during the King’s last days that courtiers inside were not aware of its presence unless they looked out of the window. [47] The King finally died on 16 September at 4 am – the only French monarch after Louis XV to die on the throne. As many as forty thousand Parisians in one day, according to one newspaper, filed past to pay their respects to the dead King lying in state in the throne room. ’Never for any event has such a crowd been seen’, wrote a former chamberlain of Napoleon. A young liberal journalist, Adolphe Thiers, who would mastermind the suppression of the Paris Commune in 1871, noted : ’The entire population of Paris is wearing mourning... all week the Tuileries has been besieged with people wanting to see the Throne-room’. [48] On 23 September, as church bells tolled throughout the city, and artillery fired ceremonial salutes, the King’s funeral cortege proceeded through the streets of Paris to his burial at Saint Denis. The Comte de Rumigny noted : ’All the windows were packed and the streets crowded. Outside the city on the road to Saint Denis there was an even greater crowd.’

On 27 September the new king Charles X rode into his capital on horse-back. At the entrance to the Champs Elysees, he was presented with the keys of the city by the corps municipal. The Prefect of the Seine, the Comte de Chabrol said : ’Proud to possess its new king, Paris can aspire to become the queen of cities by its magnificence, as its people wants to be the first of all by its fidelity, its devotion and its love’. [49] Deliberately taking a long route through the city, down the rue du Faubourg Saint Honore, the boulevards and the rue Saint Denis to Notre Dame for a Te Deum, then back along the quais to the Tuileries, escorted by his household and, at his special invitation, all the senior army officers in Paris, despite a steady drizzle Charles X was received with enthusiasm by ’every class of the People’. [50]

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The contradictions arising from Paris’s role as both court city and revolutionary capital were symbolised by the Palais Royal, and its long rectangle of shops, cafes and brothels running north towards the Bourse. A nursery of revolution in 1789-92, after 1800 it became a pleasure-centre, attracting vistors from all over the world. It was called ‘the Paris of Paris’, ‘the rendez vous of Europe’, ‘the culminating point of the universe’. One end of the rectangle contained the palace itself, residence of the Ducs d’Orleans, cousins of the Kings of France. After 1814 Louis Philippe duc d’Orleans, held a rival, liberal court there to that of the Tuileries : he also redecorated and extended his apartments on the first floor. [51]

Showing his determination to assert his rank as First Prince of the Blood, and perhaps to marry a daughter to the heir to the Two Sicilies, in the Palais-Royal on 29 May 1830 Louis Philippe gave a ball for two Kings, Charles X of France and Francis I of the Two Sicilies. Paris demonstrated its role as a court city by the 3,000 guests dancing on the first floor and, even more, by the number of spectators, almost as well dressed as the guests themselves, who packed the windows of houses overlooking the entrance to the palace. Even if they could not belong to court society, many Parisians wanted to look as if they did.

Down in the garden on the other side of the palace, however, Paris had resumed its role as a revolutionary capital. Members of a crowd estimated by Fontaine at 100,000 shouted up at the dancers on the first floor ‘a bas les aristocrates ! down with embroidered coats !’ Narcisse de Salvandy made the celebrated comment to Louis Philippe : ‘it is a very Neapolitan fete, Monseigneur, we are dancing on a volcano.’
Two months later on 26 and 27 July the volcano erupted. The first riots of the July revolution, against the absolutist coup of Charles X, broke out in the garden and streets of the Palais Royal. However it contined to function as a royal palace. In the galerie des batailles on the first floor on 7 august Louis-Philippe accepted the deputies’ offer of the throne of France. [52]

At the start of his reign he abolished the maison du roi, even the celebrated orchestra which had attracted so many visitors to Sunday mass in the Tuileries chapel. He sang the marseillaise so often with the crowds in the garden and court-yards of the Palais Royal that he lost his voice. His reign was punctuated by riots, insurrections and so many assassination attempts that the King complained that he was the only species of animal for which there was no closed season. [53]

Dress reveals, however, that Paris soon reverted to its role as a court city. The triple forces of commerce, the court tradition and fear of ridicule were stronger than revolutionary revulsion. At first at the Palais Royal everyone visiting the King had worn the frac. His valets were dressed out of livery, prompting him to mistake one of them for a deputy, and ask which department of France he

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represented in the Chamber. [54] Even before Louis Philippe moved to the Tuileries in October 1831, however, men had begun to pay their court to him in uniform. At the New Year reception of 1835 men in fracs seemed isolated among thousands of uniforms. At the celebrations of the marriage of the Duc d’Orleans in 1837 at Fontainebleau, only one man wore a frac : the banker Laffitte. [55] Paris had a court again.

Even under the Citizen King the Tuileries was more impressive than Buckingham Palace under Queen Victoria. After one ball in which the entire first floor of the Tuileries was used, Charles Greville wrote : ’the long line of light gleaming through the whole length of the Palace is striking as it is approached and the interior with the whole suite of apartments brilliantly illuminated and glittering from one end to the other with diamonds and feathers and uniforms, and dancing in all the several rooms, made a magnificent display. The supper in the theatre was the finest thing I ever saw...the whole thing as beautiful and magnificent as possible and making all our fetes look pitiful and mean after it.’ [56] The Tuileries continued to act as a substitute court for the British : so many came that French journalists complained that an English accent opened all doors at the Tuileries. [57] The first evening Disraeli spent ’in the domesticity of a court’ was at the Tuileries under Louis-Philippe. [58]

Like Napoleon I and Louis XVIII, Louis-Philippe was a constant presence in the streets of Paris. An English Parisian called Mrs Gore wrote : ’At all hours, from daybreak till sunset, Louis Philippe may be met, sometimes on horseback, sometimes in a private equipage, accompanied by his architect or a single aide de camp or even alone, nimbly inspecting the progress of the public works in the most remote quarters of the town.’ Detailed inspection of building works was his favourite way to relax and forget the ‘injures atroces’ to which he was daily subjected. [59]

His successor Napoleon III not only held the most brilliant court in Europe [60], but also transformed Paris into its most modern capital - the largest and quickest peace-time transformation of a capital in the history of Europe. His Prefect, Baron Haussmann, known as ‘the Atilla of expropriation’, had the right to work directly with the Emperor and planned to make Paris ‘the imperial Rome of our time’. On the walls of his study in the Tuileries Napoleon III kept a map of Paris marked in his own hands with plans for new streets. The putrid tangles of ancient streets around the Halles and the Ile de la Cite were replaced by new boulevards (Malesherbes, de Sebastopol, de Magenta, the rue de Rennes, the Avenue de

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l’Opera and so on) designed, it was said, with all the subtlety and intelligence of a cannon ball. They had a political as well as an architectural purpose. They were intended to bring not only light, water, and traffic to the heart of Paris, but also, since they were broad and straight, to facilitate troop movements in case of riots. [61]

In part because of its role as a court city, Paris became the paradigm of town planning, from Cairo to Buenos Aires. As part of the modernisation of the Ottoman Empire, in the 1850’s and 1860’s Paris-trained architects erected palaces in Constantinople for the Ottoman Sultan, in Cairo and Alexandria for the Khedive of Egypt. Squares, boulevards, an opera house and public statues appeared in Cairo on the orders of the Paris-educated Khedive Ismail. The Parisianisation of Cairo culminated in his entertainments for the Empress Eugenie, when she came to open the Suez Canal in 1869. [62]

Such were the attractions of Paris under Napoleon III, that it was said that the reason why his cousin Prince Napoleon, who resided in the Palais Royal, would not become Grand Duke of Tuscany or the King of the Two Sicilies, after the flight of those monarchs in 1859 and 1860, was that nothing would induce him to leave Paris. [63] So many crowned heads visited Paris that Merimee wrote that they were treating the Tuileries palace as a railway station. [64] Even Queen Victoria, on her state visit in August 1855, was impressed : ’Everything is so truly regal, so large, so grand, so comprehensive it makes me jealous that our great country and particularly our great metropolis should have nothing of the same kind to show !’ [65] By 1857 the second wing linking the Louvre and the Tuileries, along the rue de Rivoli, balancing the wing built 230 years earlier along the Seine, had been finished. A statue of Napoleon III as protector of the arts can still be seen above an entrance to the Louvre. 1867 was another apogee of Paris as a court city, when Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie received the Emperors of Russia and Austria, the King of Prussia and the Ottoman Sultan himself, come to admire the Universal Exhibition. The King of Prussia asked for a map of Paris to serve as a model for Berlin ; [66] the Emperor Francis Joseph was overwhelmed, he wrote to his wife, by ‘the conquering beauty of it all.’ [67]

With all these forces pushing Paris into the role of a court city - architecture, dress, trade, manners and customs, the arts, above all the monarchs themselves – why, alone of great nineteenth-century capitals, did Paris not remain one ?

There are four reasons. First, by their own excesses, the monarchs destroyed themselves, as the Emperors of Russia and Austria and the German Kaiser would do in the twentieth century. Napoleon I destroyed himself by his appetite for

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conquest ; Charles X by his appetite for Catholic absolutism and an ill-prepared coup d’etat ; Louis Philippe by his refusal to reform or dismiss Guizot and by his sudden flight when the military situation could still have been salvaged. ‘Ils se sont perdus et ont perdu la royaute en France’, wrote Merimee – and the King’s courageous younger sons Aumale and Joinville, then in Algeria, would have agreed. [68] Napoleon III destroyed himself by an ill-prepared war against Prussia, when no French interests were at stake, and his monarchy had been given new life by a successful plebiscite.

One common factor behind these acts of self-destruction was French, and especially Parisian, nationalism and desire for European hegemony. One reason why Napoleon I refused to make peace in 1814 was his fear of public reaction to the cession of Antwerp and the left bank of the Rhine – territories he had inherited from the Directory. Louis XVIII was dethroned in 1815 above all by popular desire for revanche, the French conviction, similar to that of Germans after 1918, that in 1814 they had not been defeated but betrayed, shown by the look of ‘blasted glory, of withered pride and lurking revenge’ on the faces of French soldiers in Paris. [69] Even after twenty-two years of war, and the loss of a million French lives, half France wanted to start fighting Europe again.

In 1830 Charles X lost his throne in part because his best troops were in Algeria ; he was trying to appeal to French nationalism by conquering a new French Empire in Africa. In 1831 Louis Philippe began to lose popularity by refusing to accept the throne of Belgium for his son, and, even more, by refusing to help a rising in Poland. War would have made him popular, as his eldest son the Duc d’Orleans knew when he said that the more hostile Europe was to Louis-Philippe the more popular he would be in France, and ’I would rather be killed on the Rhine than in the Paris gutter.’ [70] The principal reason, however, for Louis-Philippe’s refusal to extend the franchise in France was his fear that, given French bellicosity, it would lead to wars in Europe. In 1870 Napoleon III was almost compelled to declare war on Prussia by what Gautier called the ‘delirious enthusiasm, universal joy’ of Parisians at the prospect of fighting France’s rival for hegemony in Europe. It was the most popular war of his reign. Anyone who dared speak out for peace would have been ripped to death on the boulevards. [71] It is nationalism, and the military defeats and revolutions it helped to provoke, which destroyed Paris as a court city.

Paris itself was the third factor. Whereas the Emperor of Austria and King of Prussia left their capitals in times of war or revolution, Paris was so dominant in France that monarchs rejected the possibility of leaving it to save their monarchy – as Henri III and Louis XIV had done. As Tocqueville wrote : ‘qui règne a Paris commande à la France’ [72]. Against the advice of his President du Conseil the Prince de Talleyrand, horrified by

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the prospect of the King returning ‘dans les fourgons de l’etranger’, at the end of the Hundred Days Louis XVIII refused to establish his court in Compiegne or Lyon and insisted on going straight to Paris. Charles X, saddened by what he considered the ingratitude and inconstancy of Paris, had considered leaving it before the revolution of July 1830. [73] But he refused to stay in Saint Cloud or retreat to Blois or Tours after the defeat of his troops by Parisians in July 1830. When, after a disastrous review on the morning of 28 February 1848, Louis Philippe realised he could no longer trust his ‘comrades’ in the Paris national guard, he abdicated and fled the country – although, outside Paris, much of it still supported him. [74] ‘No monarch had the courage to retire to Versailles like Thiers in 1871, encircle and conquer Paris – and inflict such slaughter that it has never risen again. The dominance of Paris also diminished the need for a court. By 1870 the Paris bourgeoisie had become so numerous and so rich that the market could fulfil the commercial and patronage role of the court. The Impressionists did not need Princess Mathilde.

The fourth factor which worked against dynastic survival was biological contingency. If the Duc de Bordeaux had not been born in 1820, and Louis-Philippe had succeeded as legitimate king, the Bourbon monarchy might have survived. If Louis-Philippe’s heir the Duc d’Orleans had not died in a carriage accident in 1842, he might have helped his father defeat the revolution of 1848. If Napoleon III had not been weakened by illness in 1870 – who knows if Paris, like Vienna and Berlin, would not have remained a court city.

Today, after all, the role of the President of the Republic and his advisers in the politics and architecture of Paris – the grands projets advertising the septennats of Pompidou and Mitterand - suggests that, beneath the republican facade, Paris has again reverted to its role as a court city. As a Parisian journalist called Alphonse Karr wrote, when the Comédie francaise resumed performances after the revolution of 1848, ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’. [75]


[1Niall Fergusson, Empire : how Britain created the modern world, 2004, passim.

[2The Austrian constitution of 1860, for example, had an article XIV, like the French charte of 1814, permitting the monarch to rule by decree : Alan Palmer Twilight of the Habsburgs. The Life and Times of the Emperor Francis Joseph, 2001 ed., pp. 163, 340. Conversely, the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 had greater immediate impact than those of 1789 and 1792. Only in the nineteenth century could it be said ‘when Paris sneezes, Europe catches cold’.

[3Comte de Chabrol de Volvic, Souvenirs inédits, 2002, pp. 20, 51, 59, 67.

[4Philip Mansel, Paris between Empires, 2001, p. 259.

[5Ibid, p. 422.

[6Philip Mansel, The Court of France 1789-1830, 1990, p. 50 ; Anne Plumptre, A Narrative of a Three Years Residence in France, 3 vols, 1810, I, pp. 124-5.

[7Philip Mansel, Dressed to Rule : Royal and Court Costume from Louis XIV to Elizabeth II, 2005, pp. 98, 100.

[8Ibid p. 122.

[9P. Mansel, Paris…, pp. 100-1, 398.

[10Ibid, p. 293.

[11Ibid, p. 31.

[12Jean Tulard, Nouvelle Histoire de Paris. Le Consulat et l’Empire, 1970, p. 30.

[13P. Mansel, The Court of France…, p. 196.

[14P. Mansel, Paris…, p. 397.

[15Ibid, pp. 186-8, 363-4.

[16Ibid, p. 353.

[17P. Mansel, The Court of France…, pp. 90, 196, 134-5.

[18P. Mansel, Paris…, pp. 33-5, 74, 87, 89.

[19Ibid, p. 32.

[20Bernard Degout, ‘Victor Hugo et la Duchesse de Berry’ in Marie-Caroline de Berry. Naples, Paris, Graz. Itinéraire d’une princesse romantique, 2002, pp. 110-123.

[21P. Mansel, Paris…, pp. 380, 393.

[22Ibid, pp. 205, 311.

[23See e. g. P. Mérimée, Correspondance générale, 16 vols, Paris-Toulouse, 1941-61, 2e série, IV, p. 317, to A. Panizzi, 2 July 1861.

[24Ibid, V, pp. 513-537, letters from Compiegne, November 1863.

[25P. Mansel, Paris…, p. 303.

[26Edward Bellasis, Cherubini. Memorials illustrative of his life, 1874, p. 133.

[27Rossini a Paris, Musee Carnavalet 1992, passim and pp. 41, 56-64, 69-72, 85.

[28PFL Fontaine, Journal, 2 vols, 1987, II, p. 679, 15 January 1825.

[29Philip Mansel, The Eagle in Splendour : Napoleon I and his Court, 1987, pp. 57, 270 ; cf. Dominique-Vivant Denon, l’oeil de Napoleon, Musee du Louvre 1999-2000, passim.

[30Le Comte de Nieuwerkerke. Art et pouvoir sous Napoleon III, Compiegne 2000, passim.

[31P. Fontaine, Journal, I, p. 7, 31 December 1799, p. 165, 28 July 1807, p. 190, 10 February 1808.

[32E.g. ibid I, 35, 4 october 1801 ‘le Premier Consul s’occupe beaucoup de la décoration des appartements des Tuileries’ ; I, 185, 4 January 1808. ‘L’Empereur a parcouru a sa manière accoutumée le château des Tuileries pour prendre connaissance des travaux qui ont été faits pendant son absence’ ; I, 204, 23 March 1808.

[33Ibid I, p. 449, 21 March 1815.

[34Ibid, I, p. 152, 29 April 1807, I, p. 189, 2 February 1808.

[35Ibid, I, p. 325, 22 March 1812, p. 351, 3 March 1813, and drawings on p. 337. Marie-Louise Biver, Le Paris de Napoléon, pp. 338-9 ; Louis Bergeron, Paris. Genèse d’un Paysage, 1989, p. 198. Similar projects were started in Napoleon’s other capital, Milan, capital of the Kingdom of Italy : see Alain Pillepich, Milan, capitale napoléonienne, 1800-1814, 2001, passim.

[36Winfried Nerdinger, ed., Leo von Klenze. Architekt zwischen Kunst und Hof 1784-1864, Munich 2000, passim.

[37See e.g. Auguste Ricard de Montferrand, Plans et détails du monument consacré a la mémoire de l’empereur Alexandre Ier, 1836, passim.

[38Burghersh, pp. 229, 231, letter of 13 April 1814.

[39Private archives, Journal of Elizabeth Duchess of Devonshire, 6 May 1814.

[40J. Mordaunt Crook, ‘Metropolitan Improvements : John Nash and the Picturesque’, in Celina Fox ed. London World City 1800-1840, 1992, p. 79.

[41P. Mansel, Court of France…, p. 106 ; The Jerningham Letters, 2 vols, 1900, II, p. 95, letter of Lady Jerningham, 21 November 1816.

[42Cornelia Knight, Autobiography, 2 vols, 1860, II, p. 104, 14 june 1816.

[43Archives Nationales Paris, O3 199, presentation registers.

[44P. Mansel, Paris…, pp.192-4.

[45Comte de Chabrol de Volvic, Souvenirs…, p. 73.

[46Mathieu Couty, « Les derniers jours de Louis XVIII », Revue de la Société d’Histoire de la Restauration, V, 1991, p. 11.

[47NLS. Mss 6228 f. 2, Stuart to Canning, 11 September 1824 ; Barante, III, p. 220 Decazes to Barante, 15 September 1824.

[48M. Couty, Les dernières jours…, pp. 14-15 ; Mansel, Paris…, p. 197.

[49P. Mansel, Paris…, p. 197-8.

[50NLS Mss 6228 f.211, Stuart to Canning, 28 september 1824.

[51P. Mansel, Paris… , pp. 223, 293.

[52Ibid, pp. 235, 263 ; Fontaine II, p. 836, 31 May 1830.

[53P. Mansel, Paris…, pp. 266-7, 288.

[54Ibid, p. 328.

[55Ibid, p 334.

[56Charles Greville, Memoirs, 8 vols 1938, III, pp. 342-3, 27 January, 2 Febuary 1837 ; cf. Fontaine, II, p. 960, 31 January 1833.

[57P. Mansel, Paris…, p. 357.

[58Jane Ridley, The Young Disraeli 1804-46, 1995, p. 270-1.

[59P. Mansel, Paris…, p. 368.

[60Louis Girard, ‘La cour de Napoleon III’ in Karl Ferdinand Werner ed. Hof, Kultur und Politik im 19. Jahrhundert, Bonn 1985, pp. 155-165.

[61Colin Jones, Paris, 2004, p. 366.

[62Max Rodenbeck, Cairo the City Victorious, 1998, p. 168 ; Samir W. Rifaat, Cairo the Glory Years ; who built what, when why and for whom, Alexandria 2003, pp. 18, 143-4, 267.

[63Nassau William Senior, Conversations with Distinguished Persons during the Second Empire, 2 vols, 1880, I, p. 37, 10 September 1860, II, p. 37, 15 March 1862.

[64P. Mérimée, Correspondance générale, deuxieme serie, II, p. 297, to Edward Childe, 7 may 1857.

[65Queen Victoria, Leaves from a Journal, 1961, p. 98, 22 August 1855.

[66P. Mansel, Paris…, p. 427.

[67Alan Palmer, Twilight of the Habsburgs, p. 162.

[68Ibid, p. 404.

[69P. Mansel, Paris…, p. 22.

[70Ibid, p. 363.

[71P. Mansel, Paris…, p. 428.

[72Ibid, p. 407.

[73Ibid, p. 82 ; Comte de Chabrol de Volvic, Souvenirs…, p. 106.

[74P. Mansel, Paris…, pp. 260, 403.

[75P. Mansel, Paris…, p. 413.