Between 1770 and 1789 hundreds of restaurants opened in Paris, and, by 1825, it was claimed there were some nine hundred of them in the city. The word restaurant was for many years specific to Paris. However, by the late 1700s, the word had come to represent any eatery and could include an inn, cookshop, or eating house. Despite this blurred and uncertain meaning, some of the best restaurants of the 1800s could be found in the heart of Paris at the Palais-Royal, once owned by Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans. Among these restaurants were three that were said to be excellent. They were the Trois Frères Provençaux, Véry’s, and Véfour’s. Continue reading
On the eve of the French Revolution, what had originally been a gunpowder factory and arsenal became the largest hospital and asylum in Europe. It was called Pitié-Salpêtrière. Professor of History Mark Micale noted that “this remarkable hybrid institution housed for over two centuries every imaginable form of social and medical ‘misfit’ from the lowliest sectors of Parisian life.” Because of it strange mixed population, the French writer Albert Camus once referred to it as a “frightful sewer.” Continue reading
The Princesse de Lamballe’s shell cottage, known in French as chaumière des coquillages, was built for her by the Duke of Penthièvre between 1779 and 1780. The Duke was her father-in-law and father to her dead husband, the Prince of Lamballe. The Prince had died of syphilis on 6 May 1768, and her father-in-law, who had lost his wife years earlier in 1754, insisted that the Princess come and mourn at his fine estate in Rambouillet, France.
Rambouillet’s close proximity to Paris and Versailles (about 30 miles southwest) allowed it to serve as an occasional seat of government. Moreover, it was a picturesque spot used by the Duke and the Princess to escape the formality and etiquette of Versailles. It was also the perfect spot to relax as Rambouillet’s forests were populated with game and thick with verdant green glens. Continue reading
After Napoleon’s loss at Waterloo, he was exiled to St. Helena where he resided at Longwood House. Longwood had originally been a farm that belonged to the East India company and then converted into the country residence of the Deputy-Governor. It became the residence of Napoleon from 10 December 1815 until his death on 5 May 1821.
Although inadequate, a new house was not begun until Napoleon had lived on St. Helena for about three years. Building of the new house began in October 1818, but Napoleon would never occupy it. A French atlas maker and author named Comte Las Cases wrote about Napoleon’s accommodations at Longwood House in late 1815. He provided this description: Continue reading
Because of health concerns, cemeteries were banned inside Paris beginning in 1786 when the Cimetière des Innocents closed. In the early nineteenth century, new cemeteries began to open and replace the closed ones. Among the new cemeteries were Montmarte Cemetery in the north, Père Lachaise Cemetery in the east, and Montparnasse Cemetery in the south.
Montparnasse Cemetery opened on 25 July 1824. It was created from three farms that initially consisted of 30 acres and was originally known as Le Cimetière du Sud (Southern Cemetery). Continue reading
Madame Élisabeth was the younger sister of King Louis XVI and sister-in-law to Marie Antoinette. In her youth, Madame Élisabeth spent many wonderful days at an estate called Montreuil. In 1783, the estate belonged to the Princess de Guémenée who served as governess to the King’s and Queen’s children between 1775 and 1782. But the Princess de Guémenée resigned and was forced to sell Montreuil because of her husband’s financial issues and bankruptcy. Without Madame Élisabeth’s knowledge, the King then bought the estate for her as a birthday present when she turned 19.
Marie Antoinette wanted to surprise Madame Élisabeth and suggested they drive out to see the estate one last time as news had leaked that it had been sold. Once there, Marie Antoinette surprised Madame Élisabeth by remarking, “Sister, you are in your own house. This is to be your Trianon.” However, the birthday gift came with one caveat: The King would not allow Madame Élisabeth to sleep over night at the estate until she turned 25, and, so, each day she traveled faithfully from Versailles to her little piece of heaven called Montreuil. Continue reading
The Château de Bagatelle, located in the Bois de Boulogne, initially existed as a small hunting lodge for the Maréchal d’Estrées and was designed for brief stays while hunting. Later, the daughter of Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Condé owned it. Her name was Louise Anne de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Charolais, and she occupied it for twenty years. When she died on 6 April 1758, she left it to her nephew, Louis-François-Joseph de Bourbon-Conti, who was the last Prince of Conti, and, in 1770, the Prince de Chimay became the owner. Continue reading
Petit Ranelagh or the French Ranelagh, sometimes called the Garden of the Ranelagh, has an interesting history. It began in 1773 with a barrier guard and a lodge keeper named Morison (also sometimes spelled Morisan). He had an inn in the Bois de Boulogne and obtained permission from the Prince de Soubise, who was the governor of the Château de la Muette, to erect a building in imitation of the one built by the first Earl of Ranelagh in London, which had been built on the banks of the Thames between 1688–89 and was called Ranelagh Gardens. Continue reading
Le Chat Noir or The Black Cat was the first cabaret in the modern sense and was established by an unsuccessful painter named Louis Rodolphe Salis. Salis’s father was a wine merchant in Chatellerault and wanted his son to be a tradesman. As Salis was unsuccessful in his chosen career, he began thinking about the maxims of his father and decided he needed to combine art and alcoholic beverages, thereby creating the idea of the modern cabaret. Salis’s idea was for patrons to sit at tables amid clouds of tobacco smoke, drink mugs of Bavarian beer, and enjoy a variety of stage acts, introduced by a master of ceremonies who interacted with the audience.
Le Chat Noir supposedly acquired its name in one of two ways. One claim was that its name came from the discovery of a dead rat under a divan. The second claim is that it was named after a picture which appeared in one of the exhibitions in Paris, which was bought or presented to the inn by the artist and described in the following way: “A black cat is represented standing on the shoulder of a woman, whose white skin and corsage are liberally displayed.” Continue reading
Fifteen-year-old King Louis XV married a pious woman by the name of Marie Leszczyńska in September 1725. She was the daughter of the deposed King of Poland and 21 at the time. After their marriage, similar to most French kings, Louis XV took several mistresses. Among the most famous of all his mistresses, was his maîtresse-en-titre (chief mistress) named Madame de Pompadour. She was a beautiful, educated, and intelligent woman whom he met at a masked ball in February 1745.
Some years later, the name Parc-aux-Cerfs, which literally means stag park, began to be whispered at Louis XV’s court. Parc-aux-Cerfs, also known as the King’s Birdcage, was alleged to be where the King’s “harem” lived. Parc-aux-Cerfs was in a quarter of Versailles called Parc-aux-Cerfs, and it also happened to be the same neighborhood where Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV’s favorite, settled after her physical relationship with him ended in 1752. Continue reading