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film

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Let me justify an excursion to New York in this Victorian Paris blog. The movie, you are about to see, is neither Victorian nor French but it is history as you have never seen. So let’s make this exception to the blog content by showing images of slightly post-Edwardian America in a lively and unusually realistic version. They are worth your attention.
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In 1911, a team of Swedish filmmakers visited New York to bring back to the Old World images of daily life in America. Like all footages of the time, the speed and the visual quality allowed a lot of room for improvement. When we watch the early movies, we see black and white ghosts rather than people. Not with this film-restoration. It brings us a perfect image, with color and sound. Have a look at this realistic slice of history and watch it with awe.

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Related posts:

Americans in Paris and the Kissing Protocol

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In the old days, the month of February brought the unavoidable Lent: a period of penance, dietary restrictions, and prayers.  For those not familiar with religious traditions, Lent is a mobile Christian observance lasting for forty days. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday before Easter.

Austerity is not something human beings crave. Since forty days of gloom proved to be too much to ask, the religious authorities allowed a pause to let out the pent-up human foibles after twenty days of duration.

 

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The origin of Mid-Lent (Mi-Carême) is lost in the mists of time. According to several historians, the celebration was born in the Middle Ages. The essence of the feast was a mini carnival that embraced the spirit of joy, laughter, and derision to contrast with the period of austerity, severity, and penance of Lent. A parade of elaborate floats characterized this celebration.

 

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In France, the Mi-Carême was also the feast of laundresses, described in the post From Washerwoman to Queen of Paris, of charcoal dealers, and water carriers.

 

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The float of the Queen of Queens. Elected from among the laundry queens of every city district, a simple washerwoman enjoys her one-day fame

 

Celebrated on a large scale in Paris, the Mi-Carême disappeared from this city during the WWII years. It made a comeback under the name of Carnival of Women in 2009 and gives rise to a parade again every year.

 

Related post:

From Washerwoman to Queen of Paris

 

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Claude Monet: Women in the Garden, 1866

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How did they do it? The question occurs to many who see pictures of Victorian women in voluminous skirts. With up to twenty yards of fabric supported by a cage, the call of nature seems to be an insurmountable problem. In the post The French Art of Peeing without Getting Wet Feet published here,  we read about the history of public urinals that served men. Readers wondered, with reason, what provision was made for women. We can only guess that chamber pots were the solution. Other than that, the true manipulation remained a mystery until the Prior Attire came to the rescue. The Prior Attire is the Sixth Cavalry of fashion history. With the video they published on YouTube, we now know the secrets of the Victorian restroom:

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Related posts:

The French Art of Peeing without Getting Wet Feet

The Belle Epoque Lifestyle: Personal Hygiene

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The French culinary lifestyle—such as a family eating in a restaurant—surprised many mid-century travelers. In their home countries, eating in a public place made sense only when a person was away from her home and its safe food. This was a habit in France as well until the 1789 revolution. With the aristocrats guillotined or gone to exile, many skilled and creative cooks became unemployed. The only solution was to open public eateries. The well-to-do bourgeois tasted aristocratic cuisine and they liked it.  More than half a century later, when the following text was written, there were hundreds of restaurants in Paris. Eating out made more sense than staying at home. One saved on kitchen fuel, which was a considerable expense at the time, and one could choose from a variety of expertly cooked dishes.

James Jackson Jarves (1818-1888), the author of the text, visited Paris in the early 1850s and published his impressions in Parisian Sights and French Principles, seen through American spectacles (1852). His wit and the clarity of his style vividly portray the living condition in the mid-century Paris.

To see the French eat one should visit the restaurants of lesser magnitude and fame, particularly of a Sunday, where the rush to dinner, as no one dines that day under his own roof, is absolutely fearful to a lover of a quiet meal. Infants, dogs, and nurses, all have a seat that day, and the amount consumed would indicate considerable preparatory fasting. Eating and drinking, for the moment, become the only business of life. The preparations bespeak the seriousness of the operation.

A family enters, consisting of father, mother, maiden sister, two children under five years of age, and a dog. All the tables are filled. They turn to go out. The restaurateur rushes forward, intercepts their retreat, and promises a table toutsuite. He sees one party have called for their bills, hands them their change, and plumps the newcomers into their warm seats., with an array of broken bread, dirty glasses, and all the debris of the previous meal before them.

Once seated, with bonnets and hats hung up, they are considered as secure as fish fairly hooked. The garçon, with the dexterity and rapidity peculiarly his own, whisks away the soiled tablecloth and dishes, and in an instant has replaced them with snow-white linen and porcelain.

Now commences the tug of eating. Each member of the party, except for the dog who gravely occupies the chair, too well-bred to manifest impatience, plants a napkin under his or her chin, of the dimensions of a moderate-sized tablecloth. The females pin the extremities to each shoulder so that in front they have much the appearance of being in their shrouds. The menu card is studied, orders given, and content and pleasure reign. At these family feasts, children are literally crammed, indulged with wines and the delicacies called for by adult taste, their parents delighted in proportion to the quantity they consume.

Eating, under almost any circumstances, is to a looker-on a vulgar operation. In one of these restaurants, it is certainly an amusing one to a veteran traveler. whose sensibilities had long since their edges blunted. The French from early habit frequently make themselves very much at home at restaurants and cafes, spending their evenings at the latter, reading the journals, and playing chess and dominoes, paying the same by calling for a bottle of beer or a glass of brandy. I have myself seen a woman who had come in by herself, after finishing her repast, coolly throw herself back in a chair and proceed to take a comfortable digestive nap, apparently wholly oblivious to the existence and manifold trials of the race denominated unprotected females.

Related post:

Extreme Good Recycling  Warning: Do not read during or immediately after a meal!

Traveler’s Bonus:

The Cheapest Gourmet Restaurants in Paris

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When you lay bricks for eight years, you may end up with a house. Or a monument. Two weeks ago, when I decided to make my Victorian Paris blog posts into an e-book, I had no idea that I would end up with over four hundred pages of text and pictures. Yet here it is, and it is for sale at Amazon at a very reasonable price. Even though the blog is a labor of love, I wouldn’t mind getting recompense for feeding it and keeping it alive. Hence this book. There is still plenty to come in the next eight years and  I hope that you’ll stay with me for the ride.

Book description:

The Victorian Paris blog has informed and entertained readers since 2011. The illustrated posts collected in the book deal with every aspect of life in the French capital during the rise and fall of the Second Empire as well as the Belle Époque. Meet the movers and the shakers, discover the dark alleys of Paris where sin lured and gangs ruled, learn about the food (not always good). Follow the ordinary Parisian bourgeois in his daily routine and meet colorful Bohemian characters. Read what the wide-eyed British and American tourists thought of the city and its special inhabitants: the romantic grisettes, the predatory gigolettes,  the formidable Apaches, and other Parisian fauna. Americans began to visit Paris in the mid-century, when sea-travel became more comfortable and, after absorbing the inevitable culture shock, many fell in love with the city. They’ll tell you about it in this book.

E-book edition, 438 pages, 7.50 US       Buy here 

 

Table of Contents:

 

THE GUIDE TO GAY PAREE

(A Guide for the English and American Traveller in 1869 or How to see PARIS for 5 guineas)

How to get there

Arrival in Paris

Find a hotel

Restaurants and Cafés

Shopping

Entertainment

Sightseeing

Beware!

 

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE SECOND EMPIRE

Mark Twain o Napoleon III

The English Courtesan Who Made a French Emperor

Eugenie, the Tragic Empress

Loulou and the Zulus: The Life and Death of Napoleon IV

The Prince of Wales in Paris: “Please Adopt Me!”

What Mark Twain Got Wrong

The Bloodbath of the Paris Commune

The Truth About La Marseillaise

How Germany Was Born in France

Paris of the 1870’s: Rising from the Ashes

 

THE PEOPLE OF PARIS

The Upper Class

The Middle Class

The Working Class

La Grisette

The Sad story of Two Grisettes

The Noon Girl: La Midinette

The Parisian Clochard: Misery Made Romantic

From Washerwoman to a Queen of Paris

 

LIFESTYLE AND MANNERS

Parisian Lifestyle: Sensual Ease and Contentment

French-Watching in 1850: Feeding Time at a Popular Restaurant

Old When Young and Young When Old

The Pilgrims and the Sinners: Sunday in Paris

Bois de Boulogne: The Rendezvous of Wealth and Opulence

Polite Parisians: Really?

The Love of Dogs

Mending Their Manners

Quiet Demoiselles and Proud Servants

Clever and Bizarre Local Items

The Last Duel in Paris

 

FAMILY MATTERS

The French Family Ties

The Marriage Market

Without a Dowry: The Business of Marriage

The Dead of Paris

 

HOUSING AND LIVING CONDITIONS

Parisians at Home and the Secrets d’Alcôve

Living Vertically: Parisian Housing in 1850

Feared and Despised: The Parisian Concierge

Jacques Takes a Bath

The Belle Epoque Lifestyle: Personal Hygiene

Paris in Winter: Not to be Desired

The Worst Season in Paris

 

PARIS DOWNSTAIRS: THE SERVANTS

La Soubrette

The Wet-Nurse

La Femme de Ménage

The Upper Servants

 

FOOD AND DRINK

La Cuisine and the Liver Crisis

Food and Drink Orgy: Le Club des Grands Estomachs

Food: Not so Good

The Scarcity of Water

French Bread, French Teeth

Extreme Food Recycling

The French Art of Drinking Without Getting Drunk

The Belle Époque Catering Extravaganza

 

PUBLIC WORKS AND SERVICES

The Government of Paris: A Success Story

The Government of Paris Will Sell Your Crinoline

Parisian Foundlings

Poor and Helpless in 19th Century Paris

Paris Morgue in Emile Zola’s Words

Paris Mail: Look for the Blue Light

Crinolines and Imperials: The Public Transport

The French Art of Peeing Without Getting Wet Feet

The Eiffel Tower Story

 

CRIME AND JUSTICE

The Gangs of Paris: Les Apaches

1890s Terror in Paris

Order in the Street

The Policeman’s Work is Never Done

Slumming It in Paris

Saint-Lazare: Women in Prison

Murder Most Horrible: The Bloody Trunk Case

 

PROSTITUTION

The Opera of Paris: We Procure Our Ballerinas to Wealthy Men

The Fortifications Whore

La Gigolette

The Impostor

The Jolie Madame

The Clandestine

The Belle Époque Hooters

Degrees of Prostitution

 

FASHION

A Short Guide to the Ups and Downs of 19th Century Fashion

The Fashion Empire of Charles Worth

About Corsets

The Hoop Crinoline: Living in a Cage

The Hoop Crinoline: Dying for Fashion

Sports Events and Men’s Fashion

 

ART AND LITERATURE

Jean Béraud: The Most Parisian of the Paris Painters

The Art of Crafty: The Spectacle of Paris Streets

James Tissot and the Women of Paris

Paris Markets in Victor Gilbert’s Paintings

The Goncourts: Gossip Inc.

Disdéri’s Photo Studio: Kings, Queens, and Pretty Legs

La Castiglione: The Too Much Countess

 

ENTERTAINMENT

The Inescapable Sarah Bernhardt

Louise and Jeanne: The Antipodes of Moulin Rouge

 

SEE OTHER BOOKS BY THE AUTHOR IN THE SIDEBAR >>>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A previous post described the random free spectacles of the Paris streets. The largest and most ostentatious free show had a steady schedule. Every day, between 2:00 and 4:00 PM, the wealthy shamelessly exposed their luxury to each other, and to the unwashed masses, in the Bois de Boulogne parade.

 

 

Before becoming the favorite place of all social Paris in the 19th century, the Bois de Boulogne had a history. Originally, the forest extended on the plains and hillsides of the right bank of the Seine. A landmark of brigands and vagabonds, the ancient forest was also the favorite place of royal hunts. At the end of Napoleon I’s regime, it was devastated by the occupying troops who encamped there. Although in poor condition and crossed by narrow roads of bad quality, it became nevertheless, around 1830, the rendezvous of all Paris society.


In 1852, the State yielded the wood to the city of Paris with the charge of its development and maintenance. Emperor Napoleon III had envisioned the creation of a large landscaped park similar to Hyde Park. The project was entrusted to the engineer J.J. Alphand who created two lakes, the largest of which measures 19 hectares. Various amenities: large alleys, the racecourse of Longchamp (opened in 1858), the Garden of Acclimatization, and several restaurants completed the whole landscape.

 

Riding in the Daumont style
Riding in the Daumont Style


During the Second Empire (1852-1870), the equestrian rendezvous of the Bois de Boulogne was rated as a meeting of the supreme social chic. The chroniclers of the time tell us of its splendor:

“At the height of luxury was the attelage à la Grand Daumont, with its postilions in livery— of sober or bright colors according to the tastes of the masters—the footmen behind the hood, arms crossed, the two men in a row on horses of the same dress as the four draft horses. Then there came the eighth-spring, the queen of the passenger carriages. There was also the elegant half-Daumont of a duke with horses very close and absolutely under the whip of the gentleman-coachman who drove almost standing. The tandem cabriolet was another fantasy designed to bring out the talent of the gentleman-coachman. Then came a cute cart dragged by two pretty ponies under the hand of the elegant lady who also wanted to show that she could hold the reins.  All aristocratic, luxurious and worldly Paris was there, struggling with elegance and sumptuousness … “

 

 

Romance, or the carnal desire, also played its part. The poet Beaudelaire best describes the mood:


“Sometimes a horseman gallops gracefully beside an open carriage, and his horse appears, by his bows, to salute in his own way. The carriage carries away, in an alley streaked with light and shade, the beauties lying as in a boat, indolent, vaguely listening to the gallantries fall into their ears and indulging themselves lazily in the wind of the promenade. The fur and muslin rise to their chins and overflow like a wave over the door. The servants are stiff, perpendicular, inert, and all alike; it is always the monotonous and featureless effigy of punctual, disciplined servility … “

Cora Pearl

On the side of the great courtesans, luxury was no less brilliant. The famous Madame Musard had a half-Daumont, whose postilions were dressed in violet livery and mounted black horses of admirable beauty. Cora Pearl had set up her stable and was leading it with an authority that made the gossips tell that she must have been brought up by a groom. Adele Courtois, Caroline Letessier, the Barucci, famous for the baccarat affair, all had their car driven to the Daumont, and their livery could compete with those of the oldest houses of the Faubourg Saint-Germain.

Empress Eugenie

Lady Harriet, the courtesan who financed the emperor while he was waiting for his crown, approached by her colors the imperial livery. Madame Lejeune had the audacity to do better. She took the imperial colors outright. One day, her Daumont went out, preceded by two scouts in green and gold, with a hunter on horseback at the left door and two carriage boys following also on horseback. As she had a certain resemblance to the Empress, all the sergeants of the town who saw the arrival of this crew on the Place de la Concorde, rushed forward, made room for them, and finally raised the chains of the Arc de Triomphe, so that the sovereign could pass. She went in this style to the entrance of the Bois. This adventure made a big noise. As a consequence, it was expressly forbidden to employ a livery which, even approximately, recalled that of the Emperor.

This luxury only grew from year to year. It was at its peak in 1867 at the time of the World Exposition. With the fall of the Empire, the splendor would gradually fade: the walks in the Bois and participation in the various events took a different look.

 

During the siege of Paris, part of the food of fish and game came from the Bois. More destructive authorization was given to the trade of timber dealers to exploit the Bois de Boulogne. The devastation increased during the battles between Versailles and the Communards. After the war, the southern part, the most devastated, was transformed into the racecourse of Auteuil. From 1872, social life resumed and we could see again the parades of carriages crossing the Bois for the Grand Prix de Longchamp.

 

 

After the Great War ended in 1918, this activity declined. The prodigal nobility of the nineteenth and early twentieth century no longer existed. Only the profiteers of war, the new rich, held the high ground and the automobile had taken over. An époque ended.

Related posts:

The English Courtesan that Made a French Emperor

The Guide to Gay Paree 1868: Sightseeing

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The colorful Belle Epoque posters make the joy of collectors. Not only are they highly decorative and amusing in their occasional naïveté but they also inform us about the changing lifestyle. New alimentary products appear, such as chemical taste enhancers and food substitutes. Maggi, powdered milk, and margarine became regular ingredients of people’s diet. Chocolat, previously only served as drink, acquired the solid form of tablets as we know them today. Biscuits were produced industrially.

 

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“The French Sardine Says Hello!” Food talked to people before the advertising industry discovered that humanizing animals we eat was not a good idea.

 

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Sausages that “One Eats with Pleasure and Without Fatigue”. A prodigious pig (cochon prodigue) indeed! An animal that happily slices itself for the consumer’s delight would probably turn off today’s viewers. The Belle Epoque folk were made of a tougher stock.

 

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Seen only in greasy spoons today, a bottle of Maggi was a novelty worthy of a bourgeois table.

 

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A bowlful of chemically enhanced soup before the bedtime was a sign of good parenting

 

 

margarine

This margarine obtained gold medals in Amsterdam {1883) and Le Havre (1887)

 

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Be it cheese, beer, champagne or herb liquor, monks were trusted to produce quality food and drink

 

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In this boy’s mind, solid chocolate is better than solid gold

 

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Biscuits to be served with champagne. A beautiful poster by Alphonse Mucha, 1896

 

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A boy in a typical school uniform is enjoying sweet biscuits

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Cookies could start a romance (1896)

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“No arms, no chocolate”. This bizarre advertising depicts a well-known French saying. One could think that this cruelty hides a wisdom of some sort; that it can be interpreted as “no effort, no reward.” That is not so. This replica is passed on in popular language and is serving to highlight the absurdity of a ban or to make fun of someone faced with a physical impossibility:

“Mom, can I have chocolate?”
“There’s some in the closet. Go serve yourself.”
“But Mom, I can’t, you know I don’t have arms.”
“No arms, no chocolate!”
Obviously, it makes some sense to the French.

 

Related post:

The Belle Epoque Lifestyle: Personal Hygiene

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The second video, made for the American tourist, is from the 1920s. Explore the boulevards and their café culture. Gain valuable knowledge, such as the way of serving caviar and pancakes. 😉

 

 

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An attack on a police wagon. Criminal gangs were the scourge of Paris

It was never easy to police Paris. The Parisians, instead of being glad for the help and protection, have always despised their policemen.  The contempt has been profound and general. It could be that the Parisians, more than most, don’t want to be told how to behave. A strike, a riot, a revolution, have been their tools of political and social change across the 19th century and well beyond. To say that policing during the Belle Epoque  (1870 – 1914) was a martyrdom would be a slight exaggeration but it was a very hard job on a tiny pay. The police staff was recruited mostly from the army and the discipline in the police corps was just as hard, if not harder. The recruits had to have a virginal criminal record. According to the 1880s tariff, the policeman earned 4 francs and 75 cents for an eleven and a half-hour day. In comparison, a maid-of-all-work touched one franc a day.  For that pitiful wage, the men had to risk their lives in many wild scenarios that are nowadays shared among different rescue services. In 1884, for example, the statistics show one killed policeman and 144 injured ones.

Let’s have a look at a policeman’s day and the variety of crimes committed in that era:

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Strikes of all sorts are still part of the urban life in Paris

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The Belle Epoque Paris faced the threat of various anarchist bomb-throwers. Bombs exploded in the National Assembly, in police stations, in cafés, or simply in the street. Premature explosions also happened, as in this picture

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The public, accustomed to the explosion of anarchists’ bombs, reacts to a malfunctioning motorcar

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Police had to deal with the raging crowd when a hated criminal was transported. Here they protect Jeanne Weber, a serial child killer

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Arrestation of the Sirène de Reuilly. Marie-Thérèse de Gordoue, or simply Gourdon in real life, was a successful courtesan and the head of a large crime organization

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Criminal gang members, suspected of snitching, were separated from their noses during a surgery without anesthesia

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Shopkeepers, working alone, were often victims of robbery and murder

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The Bois de Boulogne on the outskirts of the city continues to this day to be the playground of vice and crime. From time to time, the authorities ordered a thorough cleanup.

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A police raid in a “hôtel de passe”. These establishments rented rooms on the hour. Considered immoral, they were often visited by the police. Men went scot-free but women caught in the raid were transported to the police depot, and from there to the Saint-Lazare female prison

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Escapes and roof chases kept the policemen in good physical condition

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The police operated at various height levels. A pickpocket plucked from a tree

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At the commissariat, a thief surrenders a watch he had swallowed

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Family drama: The father is not dead yet but the fierce competition among the siblings is already in a full swing

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A police commissaire is seriously injured in a Paris riot

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Another victim of duty, an undercover police officer is shot in front of the Moulin Rouge

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Acts of bravery and dedication abounded despite the public contempt for policemen

Related posts:

The Gangs of Paris: Les Apaches

Murder Most Horrible: The Bloody Trunk Case

Saint-Lazare: Women in Prison

1890’s Terror in Paris: History Repeating Itself

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It takes a lot of effort to become an emperor. First, you have to believe in yourself and your star, which is easy when you are a nephew of the Great Corsican and the heir to his fallen throne. But you also need an endless persistence: the strength to overcome failure, to dust yourself off after a hard fall, and to pursue your goal with renewed energy. Next, you need a lack of moral scruples, the ability to handle people and, finally, a serious heap of money. Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte checked off every item on this list except for the last one.

louis napoleon president

Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte

When we meet Louis-Napoleon in London, he is an errant prince with a busy past. He had staged two attempts at seizing power in France, was exiled to America for the first one, and imprisoned for life for the second attempt. He has recently escaped from a fortress, where he was supposed to rot, and now he is in London with only his name for a capital. He is thirty-eight years old.

What would you do at this stage of your life had you had these experiences? You and I would be glad to be alive and free, and we would be cured of our mad ambitions. Louis-Napoleon, on the contrary, was incurable and more than able to function in dire circumstances.

Although many unsavory rumors were later fabricated by his enemies, there is sufficient evidence that the prince behaved extremely badly during his American exile, where he was sent with the provision of fifteen thousand gold francs. Indeed, King Louis-Philippe, who then reigned in France, chose to reduce Louis-Napoleon’s first attempt at a coup d’état to a childish prank and he put some hush money into the youth’s pocket. After all, the Bonapartist feeling in France was still strong, and a political trial could rock the boat.

Louis-Napoleon, still in his twenties, managed to squander the money on New York’s whores. After being thrown out of three brothels for misbehaving and out of his hotel for “forgetting” to pay, he lodged with a prostitute and proceeded to live out of her earnings. If the woman’s clients complained about the price, Loulou was there to change their opinion with his fists. He thus ended in detention for assault and robbery. A good lawyer managed to set him free. The same lawyer, after Louis-Napoleon’s ascension to the throne, complained in a newspaper interview that he had never been paid for his effort.

Despite all that, one must not form an image of a lazy and brutal sex-addict. Louis-Napoleon had many intellectual qualities that later helped him in governing a nation. He was attentive and curious, pragmatic, and always willing to learn. During his imprisonment in the fortress of Ham, after the second botched coup d’état, he kept busy producing socio-economic pamphlets filled with progressive ideas that he realized later in life. He also managed to father two male children with the local washerwoman.

Women were not only his strongest interest, they were also the vehicles of his political ideas. Whether they fell in love with his legendary name and title, his romantic charisma, or with the man himself, is difficult to say but Louis-Napoleon never lacked a sweetheart willing to sacrifice herself for his political success. In London, after his escape from prison, that post was filled with Miss Harriet Howard.

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Miss Harriet Howard

The daughter of a Brighton shoemaker, Harriet, then aged twenty-three, was a beautiful and refined courtesan, who had amassed a fortune, which she laid at Louis-Napoleon’s feet. Being supported by a woman was nothing new for the prince.  Harriet dumped her current rich keeper for him and begun to earn a fat income from attracting clients to a gambling club.  For good measure, she also took in Louis-Napoleon’s two small sons whom he had to leave behind in France.

Thanks to Harriet’s industry, Louis-Napoleon was able to lead a comfortable life. Again, he kept busy writing. This time, he was correcting his manuscript The History and the Future of Artillery and producing a study on an economically profitable canal in Nicaragua. He also kept current on the news from France.  On February 26, 1848, he learned that there was a revolution in Paris.

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The 1848 revolution painted by Alphonse de Lamartine

There had been nothing drastically wrong with King Louis-Philippe’s government but, since the First Revolution, the French people became accustomed to uprising for real or imagined wrongs. This time, some clumsy government actions and a couple of moral scandals resulted in a riot which accidentally turned into a revolution. Not knowing what was wrong, and therefore unable to do something about it, Louis-Philippe gave up and, while the revolutionary mob was ransacking the royal palace of Tuileries, he bought a boat ticket for England.

Crossing the Channel in the opposite direction was Prince Louis-Napoleon with Harriet’s fortune. He would need it to finance his candidacy in the first electoral campaign in the French history. This time, everything went well for the prince. His name worked magic, and his innovative social and economic ideas spoke for him. He was elected to be the first president of the Second Republic. He would also be the last one. At the end of his four-year mandate, he would stage his third and successful coup d’état to put the imperial crown on his head under the name of Napoleon III. The Second Empire would last for eighteen prosperous years.  Until the next revolution . . .

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Napoleon III (same man, improved wardrobe)

And Miss Harriet Howard in all this? After having financed an enormous electoral campaign, Harriet was often seen in the Prince-President’s company but she was never invited to the Elysée Palace where the official business took place. The post of the First Lady was occupied by Louis-Napoleon’s cousin, Princess Mathilde. Still, Harriet kept hoping that her day would come when her lover would carry the imperial crown. Four years later, when no invitation came from the Tuileries Palace, the seat of the newly-formed imperial court, Harriet decided that she would wait no longer. She went there uninvited. It was the first, and the last time she appeared publicly in the emperor’s presence.

What happened next would have happened anyway but Harriet’s initiative did speed up the process.  The next day, her dear Loulou came to visit her, which was not unusual as they maintained a warm relationship, but this time he offered her an official mission to England. He provided her with a list of persons whom she should visit to establish a good relationship between England and France. Thrilled to be named a goodwill ambassador, Harriet accepted to leave at once. When she and her escort reached the seashore, bad weather prevented them from boarding their ship. While waiting for the weather to clear, Harriet purchased a newspaper where she read the announcement of the emperor’s engagement to Eugenie de Montijo. She returned to Paris at once.

Back home, she found her apartment in disorder, with the upholstery slashed open and her desk taken apart. All compromising correspondence was missing. In the end, Harriet fared better than the unpaid New York lawyer. She received a hereditary title, becoming the Countess de Beauregard, and retired to her country chateau of the same name. At her request, she continued to care for the washerwoman’s little boys.

chateau

Harriet’s château

Related posts:

Eugenie, the Tragic Empress

Loulou and the Zulus: The Life and Death of Napoleon IV

Mark Twain on Napoleon III

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