One of the American Express Company’s conducted city tours that you can take in Paris is known as the tour of Modern Paris. It is a morning tour and includes the Madeleine Church, Napoleon’s Tomb at the Invalides, the Eiffel Tower, the Arch of Triumph on the Etoile and the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur on top of the Montmartre Hill in that order. Besides a visit to Napoleon’s Tomb you will get two views of the Eiffel Tower-the first one from the end of the Champ-de-Mars and the second one from the terrace of the Palais de Chaillot at its other end. Although this tour does not stop at the Arch of Triumph long enough for you to examine this arch in detail, I would suggest that, in order to have more time for our walking tours, you make use of this tour in order to see these four widely separated sites. Because I would also like you to see the Eiffel Tower from close up, we will take a taxi to it tomorrow. I would, of course, also want you to take a more detailed look at the Arch, but that we could easily have done after we walked up to it when we walked up the Champs-Elysees a few days ago.
As I already mentioned when I described this avenue, Napoleon’s Arch of Triumph stands on a hill which was formerly known as the Colline du Roule. The top of it is,therefore, visible from nearly every point of Paris; and since the Eiffel Tower was not built until some fifty years later it must at one time have been pretty well the most conspicuous feature on the skyline of Paris west of the Place de la Concorde. When this arch was first projected in 1806, this entire section of Paris was still undeveloped and the street that led into the Champs-Elysees from the open country was flanked by two heavy block houses which served as customs houses and were known as the Barriere de Neuilly and also sometimes as the Barriere de ChampsElysees. For choosing this elevated location for the site of this famous arch, we must thank, not Napoleon, but his Minister of the Interior, Champigny, whereas for the happy thought of lowering the hill by thirty-three feet so that the arch would not stand too high when seen from the approaches of the Champs-Elys6es, we have to thank the architect Chalgrin.
The Arc de Triomphe de 1’Etoile, to give it the name which will at once distinguish it from its small brother, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, was decided upon by Napoleon in 1806 as a triumphal arch, not to himself, for his name does not appear on it anywhere, but to his armies. It is one hundred sixty-four feet high, one hundred forty-eight feet wide, and seventy-two feet thick, and was designed by Chalgrin who took the Arch of Constantine in Rome as his model. But as Constanntine’s Arch is only eighty feet high and sixty-nine feet wide, Chalgrin just about doubled the size of his. There are just enough ornamentations on this arch not to make it look unnecessarily encumbered. At the base of its two ends, both front and rear, there is a huge group of sculpture, of which Rude’s “The Departure,” which is also sometimes called “The Marseillaise,” is the most famous. Above each of these, there is a large, rectangular bas-relief, three of which depict some of Napoleon’s victories and one the funeral of Marceau, who was one of his generals. Above these again, there is a continuous frieze, with figures six feet high, depicting the departure of Napoleon’s armies on the one hand, and their victorious return on the other. However, as seen from the base, this frieze looks no larger than a thin, continuous ribbon of ornamentation. Around the entire top of the arch there are shields with the most important victories of the Revolution and of the Empire carved on them. But as I have already said, all this, with the exception of the four large groups at the base, is much too far above the ground to be studied in detail, but. certainly makes for a very impressive sight. I don’t know how far the top of the great arch is above the ground, but I estimate it to be over a hundred feet, which means that the Arc du Carrousel could easily fit underneath it with space to spare. It is simply stupendous.
When Napoleon brought his second wife, Maria Louise, to Paris in 1810, only part of this arch had been completed, the huge foundation alone having taken two years to complete. In order to impress the new Empress,, Chalgrin finished the entire arch out of wood and canvas, with all of its decorations painted on it roughly. This, at least gave the Parisians an idea what the arch was going to look like, for it was to be a long time before they were to see it completed. For when Napoleon was banished to Elba, work on it naturally came to a complete standstill and was not again taken up until eighteen years later and then under the reign of Louis-Philippe. It was Louis Philippe also who sneaked in the only one of the four large groups at its base which has nothing to do with war. This is the group called “Peace,” by Etex, at the base of the left-hand side of the arch as seen from the Avenue de la Grande Armee. The arch was not fully completed until 1836, and on December 15, 1840, in the midst of a snowstorm, the carriage which brought Napoleon’s body back to Paris passed underneath it on its way to his last resting place in the tomb which was to be prepared for him under the great dome of the Invalides.
There were, of course, a good many other great events which took place at this arch since. During the night of May 31 and June 1, 1885, Victor Hugo’s body lay there in state in the poor man’s coffin he had requested. He was buried in the Pantheon the next day, but about that I will tell you something when we get to the Pantheon. On July 14, 1919, the victorious Allied Armies passed underneath it; and on November 11, 1920, the remains of France’s Unknown Soldier, the Soldat Incomau, was interred under the great arch during a moving ceremony.
As I already mentioned in connection with the Champs-Elysees, the upper part of this avenue was rather slow in developing, and when it was decided to build the Arch of Triumph at the end of it, there were only a few scattered houses around that area also. At that time only five avenues, and some of them probably were not even avenues, led into what today is the Etoile, and I hope I don’t have to tell you that an etoile is a star. The grand scheme of converging twelve avenues on this circle was not decided upon until 1854, and then by none other than by our friend Baron Haussmann. He added seven avenues to radiate from this circle and, for the sake of the inevitable French uniformity, all the buildings around it were designed in exactly the same style by the architect Hittorff. In order to get an idea of the magnitude of this undertaking, all you will have to do is to take a look at an aerial view of that part of Paris. This too, is stupendous.
In addition to the Champs-Elysees, which ends at the Etoile, the following avenues radiate from this circle: On the other side of the arch the Champs-Elysees continues as the Avenue de la Grande Armee. Of the ten remaining avenues, three of them are named after Napoleon’s most important victories. These are the Avenues Wagrarn, Friedland, and Jena. Five of them are named after his generals. These are the Avenues MacMahon, Hoche, K16her, Marceau, and Carnot. Another, the Avenue Foch, was formerly known as the Avenue de 1’Imperatrice (the Avenue of the Empress) and also as the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne. And another, the Avenue Victor Hugo, was formerly known as the Avenue d’Eylau, another of Napoleon’s famous victories. It was at number 124 Avenue Victor Hugo, then of course still known as the Avenue d’Eylau, that Victor Hugo died. As you will note from these names, every one of these avenues except the Champs-Elysees and the Avenue Victor Hugo, commemorate the glories of war.
The Avenue Kleber would ultimately lead us to the Place du Trocadkro and the Eiffel Tower, but it is a long walk. As you have already walked up the Champs-Elysees, as I assume you have, that would be tiring ourselves out unnecessarily. Since we are now at the Etoile, our next logical trip would be to visit Napoleon’s Tomb at the Invalides, taking in the Eiffel Tower at the same time. But since both of these are located on the Left Bank, and you may already have visited them on one of your conducted bus tours, I think this might be a very good place to take a quick look at some of the different governments that have ruled France since this arch was completed or, rather, started. A little bit of this later history will also come in very handy as we visit other parts of Paris later.
In the front of your Michelin Guide to Paris, you will find a chronological table of all the kings of France and the years during which they reigned. However, the inquisitive tourist might wish to know just a little bit more, especially about the kings who ruled France after Louis XVI was executed. Who, for instance, was Louis XVIII (1814-1824); who was Charles X (1824-1830); who was Louis-Philippe I (1830-1848); and what relation was Napoleon III (1852-1870) to Napoleon I? In order to answer these questions I would like to insert here just a few notes on each. We won’t have to mention the unfortunate Louis XVI because we left him on the Place de la Concorde a few days ago. I also won’t be able to tell you much about Louis XVII because he never got to the throne. He was the little boy, the son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, who disappeared from the Temple Prison under mysterious circumstances. Had he survived, he would have been Louis XVII. So, now, we come to Louis XVIII, who did survive in a way.
Louis XVIII was born Louis Stanislas Xavier, Comte de Provence, in 1755, and was the third son of the Dauphin Louis and Maria Josepha of Saxony. This made him the brother of Louis XVI, who also issued from the aforementioned marriage. After the disappearance of the little Dauphin, Louis Stanislas would have been the next in line for the throne. However, since the time was not propitious, he was forced to live most of his life in exile. But before Louis had a chance to become king, Napoleon I had himself proclaimed Emperor of the French. This was in 1804. Napoleon remained in this position until 1814, when the Allies entered Paris and the Emperor of the French was banished to Elba. Louis XVIII then went back to Paris with the permission of the Allies, and since Napoleon had been considered an usurper, the French, having become tired of the glory that had cost them so many lives, were only too pleased to make him their King. Louis XVIII was then already nearly sixty years of age. This is called the First Restoration. When Napoleon returned from Elba on March 20, 1815, poor Louis had to flee France again, but with Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo on June 18-19, 1815, he returned to Paris once more and this time he reigned until his death on September 16, 1824. Guizot, in summing up this period of French history says of him that “Among those sovereigns who had immediately preceded him, as well as those soon to succeed him on the throne, Louis XVIII was the only one to die peacefully in his palace.” And maybe that is something too. Unlike Napoleon III, Louis XVIII, having been rather fat, was not an energetic man. Since he was, among other things, also very fond of oysters, the Parisians, who were always fond of giving their rulers nicknames, had nicknamed him “Louis the Oyster” because oyster in French is huitre and so rhymed with the last part of his name Dix-huiticme.
The story is a little different about his successor. Since Louis XVIII left no issue, he was succeeded by his brother who became Charles X and reigned for only six years, or until 1830. Unfortunately, whereas Louis XVIII’s policy had been rather liberal and moderate, Charley had different ideas altogether. When he was a young man, he had been living a riotous and dissipated life, and when he became King he wanted to rule absolutely. His idea of Kingship is perhaps best expressed by a remark of his that he “would rather chop wood than be King under the conditions of the King of England.” He was chased out of France during the short revolution in 1830 and fled to, of all places-England. He died there six years later at the age of seventy-nine.
And now, we come to Louis-Phillippe 1830-1848), the King who completed Napoleon’s Arch of Triumph. Louis-Philippe was the son of none other than our Philippe-Egalite, the Duke of Orleans, he who said that his shoes would come off easier afterwards as he stood on the scaffold. Philippe-Egalite also would have liked to be king, but he had his head chopped off instead. However, his son made it. Like his father, he had always been, or pretended to be, in favor of the Revolution. After Charles had to flee to England, the people felt that here, at last, they had a “Citizen King” and joyfully placed him at the head of the state. For a while Louis-Philippe lived in middleclass disguise. He lived at the Palais-Royal, which had been the home of his father, went about on foot, carrying an umbrella, and did just about everything to appear like “one of us.” In fact, he went to such extremes of humility that the French nicknamed him Le roi des epiciers et des ynay’ons, which means “the King of the grocers and the masons.” He might have lasted a great deal longerthough he lasted for eighteen years-had his Bourbon blood not gradually got the better of him and made him more and more absolute. And when he moved from the Palais-Royal into the Tuileries, which were then still standing, the Parisians decided that it was time to call it quits. In 1848. the Parisians rose up against him, and he and his Queen, Maria Amelia, had to sneak out of the Tuileries in disguise and flee to England where they arrived as a Mr. and Mrs. Smith, “unprovided with anything but the clothes they wore.” However, I am pretty certain that he did not have his meals in the Soho section. He died there on August 26, 1850. So much for Louis-Philippe.
After Louis-Phillippe’s flight, France became a Republic once more-the Second-with none other than Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, who was the third son of Louis Bonaparte, a brother of Napoleon I, as its first President. However, the Second Republic only lasted for four years, and on December 2, 1852, Charles Louis Napoleon had himself proclaimed Napoleon III by a coup d’6tat and France became an Empire once more. This period is called the Second Empire, and was, as I shall relate later, a very brilliant one for Paris, though it ended iii a horrible disaster. After the terrible defeat at Sedan on September 2, 1870, Napoleon III also went to live in England. He died there on January 9, 1873. Well, now, you might ask me what became of Napoleon II, and that is an easy one. He was the son, the only son-Napoleon had by Maria Louise-remember, he divorced the Empress Josephine because she bore him no children. This son is also sometimes known as the King of Rome and also as l’ Aiglon-the eaglet-his father having been the eagle. Had his father’s empire not collapsed three years after he was born, he might, some day, have become Napoleon II.
Although, as I mentioned before, France suffered a terrible defeat under Napoleon III’s political leadership, Paris owes him a great deal, for it was during his reign that Baron Haussmann, his Prefect, made Paris what it is today. It was Baron Haussman who cut through most of the great traffic arteries you find in Paris today, his own atnounting to no less than twenty-two. The Boulevards de Sebastopol, Saint Michel, Malesherbes, Saint Germain, and all the so-called outer boulevards are all the work of Baron Haussmann. He also cut through the Rue de 1’Opera and extended the Rue de Rivoli, started by Napoleon I, to within a few blocks of the Place de la Bastille. As I already mentioned, he also laid out the Etoile and practically rebuilt the Cite, the island on which NotreDame stands.
But these are only a few of the public works that were completed under Napoleon III’s reign. To him we also owe the bridges of Solferino, the Pont-au-Change and the Pont Saint-Michel, as well as the two separate additions to the Louvre I already mentioned. In addition to these major projects, we are told that during these fruitful years of city planning, eight hundred kilometes of water mains, four hundred twenty kilometers of new sewers and thirty-two thousand new gas-lit lanterns were added to the City of Paris. It was also during his reign that four hundred thousand new trees were set out in the Bois de Boulogne. This park was practically wrecked during the Allied occupation of 1815, and everything you see there now, including the two lakes, is the work of Baron Haussmann and his collaborators.
Well, I am afraid that in this article I have told you more about history than I have told you about Napoleon’s :Arch of Triumph but if I wanted to tell you all there is to be told about this tremendous monument and its ornamentations-for in addition to the east to west arch there is also a much smaller north to south arch-I would have to write a small book. So when you stand in front of it, just remember that the height of this tremendous monument is equivalent to a sixteen or eighteen-story apartment building in our country, and that is some monument.
Tomorrow, I am going to take you to the Eiffel Tower by taxi because I feel that no one can get an idea of the tremendous base of this tower unless one stands right in front of it, and you cannot do that on a conducted tour. And if you wish, you may also have your lunch there tomorrow in one of its two restaurants. I’ll meet you again tomorrow at our usual rendezvous.