Monday 17 August 2015

A Jewel in Paris

It's my pleasure to welcome Shannon Donnelly to the salon today for a tour around the Tuileries!


A Jewel in Paris

Lady Chance—the follow up book to Lady Scandal—comes out this August, and one setting plays a part in the story. The Tuileries Palace no longer stands, having been destroyed during the Paris Commune of 1871 when it was looted and burned. Since its destruction, the Louvre courtyard remains open—the Carrousel du Louvre (the name carrousel referring to an equine demonstration now commonly called military drill, which used to be held in these open areas).

The Tuileries Garden, or Jardin des Tuileries, still are in place. But in 1814, the Palais des Tuileris was a symbol for Louis XVIII’s return to power.

The structure had served as a royal palace since its construction in 1564. The original building was extended over the years until it closed off the western end of the Louvre courtyard. 

During the French Revolution, the palace had an unhappy time.

Louis XVI and his family had been forcibly removed from Versailles and brought to the Tuileries. For two years, they were kept as virtual prisoners, always under watch, and always with the threat of death in the air. The palace became a frightening place for the royals.

It was big enough a palace, however, that the National Assembly held its deliberations in the covered riding arena, the Salle du Manège, which ran along the north end of the Tuileries Gardens, west of the palace.

Escapes were planned for the royals, but Louis XVI hesitated. In 1791, he finally tried to leave, but he and his family were captured within a day and taken back to Paris.

On August 10 in 1792, the mood in Paris turned sour. The Terror was being born, and the people believed the king plotted with the Austrians and his Austrian wife against France. A "mob of terrifying aspect" broke into the Tuileries. The king’s Swiss Guard fought to defend him, and were brutally massacred. The royal family fled through the gardens and took refuge with the Legislative Assembly.

The dreaded Committee of Public Safety now met in the Pavillion de Flore. The pavilion had been built to extend the Grande Galerie, which formed the south face of the Palais du Louvre, and linked that palace to the Palais des Tuileries.

In the 1870’s, after the Tuileries lay in ruins awaiting a decision to rebuild or tear it down, Augustin Filon wrote in Recollections of the Empress Eugénie, of how the ruins recalled the palace as it must have been during the Reign of Terror:

At night a single lamp illumined this huge deserted hall, peopled with terrible memories. These I would often muse over as I stopped at the spot once occupied by the chair of the president, where Boissy d’Anglas had saluted the bleeding head of Feraud, and where Thuriot had listened impassively to the outburst of Robespierre at bay: ‘President of assassins, once more I ask your ear !’ I saw in imagination…the crowded tribunes; I fancied I could hear the shrieking clamour of the ‘tricotueses’ and the drums of the ‘sections’ hastening to the attack or to the rescue of the Assembly; and I would call up one or other of the acts of the mighty drama of which this sinister hall has been the scene.

In 1799, General Bonaparte came to power as First Consul. He was aware of the symbols of power and how to use them, and made the Palais des Tuileries—that palace of kings—the official residence of the First Consul. When he crowned himself emperor, he made the Tuileries an imperial palace, and in 1808 ordered the construction of the northern gallery, which connected the palace to the Louvre, where he stored much of the plunder he had brought to Paris. The Emperor had the Palais des Tuileries redecorated in the Neoclassical Empire style to make it a fit palace for his empire.

In 1814, Napoleon was out and the Bourbons returned—Louis XVIII made the Palais des Tuileries his royal residence in Paris. It was said that Marie-Louise, the only surviving child of Louis XVI, never got over her dislike of the palace—memories seemed to haunt her and the first time she returned, she fainted.

For a time, the place glittered with balls and entertainments. The Salon d'Apollon was used for informal dinners. For state balls, refreshments were set out in the Galerie de Diane and guests moved from there to the Salle de Maréchaux, which took up two floors of the central Pavillon de L'Horloge. The huge Salle de Spectacle was used for weddings or important fêtes to entertain visiting sovereigns.

On May 23, 1871 the palace’s history ended.

During the suppression of the Paris Commune, Jules Bergeret, the former chief military commander of the Commune, ordered the Tuileries—the symbol of royalty and suppression to be set ablaze. The fire lasted two days hours. Only the Pavillon de Flore, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and the foundations remained. The dome of the palace was blown up by explosives. Bergeret sent a note saying, 'The last vestiges of Royalty have just disappeared. I wish that the same may befall all the public buildings of Paris.’

The library and parts of the Louvre were also set on fire by Communards and destroyed. The Louvre itself was only barely saved. The ruins of the Tuileries stood for eleven years before the decision was made to tear them down—the symbol of French monarchy in Paris was gone, and along with it went hundreds of years of history.

With the disappearance of the palace, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel—built between 1806 and 1808 to serve as an entrance of honor at the Tuileries—became the dominant feature of the Place du Carrousel. The gardens of the palace, opened to the public by the French Revolution, remained.

Oddly, the furniture and paintings from the palace survived the fire. They had been removed for safe keeping in 1870 at the start of the Franco-Prussian War, and remain in storage. France talks of rebuilding the Tuileries, so that these treasures could be again put on display, and the Louvre could expand its displays. So perhaps the palace will again be, as  Charles de Gaulle once said, "a jewel of the center of Paris."


In the evening Jules took her to the Palais des Tuileries for the fireworks, and dancing in the palace. They had forgone the events of Notre-Dame—King Louis’ arrival and his speeches. Diana was a little sorry to have missed it. The last she had seen of the cathedral it had been turned into wine storage by the revolutionaries. And Madam Blanchard’s balloon ascension from the Pont Neuf might have been amusing, although nothing would ever convince Diana to go up in any such contraption. These days, standing on a chair left her dizzy and needing to grab the nearest solid object.

But Jules insisted on rest before the evening. “We are both past the age of being able to dance attendance all day and waltz most of the night.”
She wanted to argue the point, but in truth she had no objection to a nap before dressing for dinner. They traveled by river for part of the way, avoiding the camps of various armies, and Jules pointed out illuminations hung in the pattern of the sun rising—a new day dawning for France—and to imitate bunches of lilies or to offer various inscriptions. Jules read them to her. “To the glory of the Russian army, to Prussian valor, to English magnanimity. And here is death at rest on a tomb.”

“A rather grim image for a celebration.”

He glanced at her. “A good reminder that life can be short. But tonight you meet the new king.”

On shore again, it was but a short stroll to the Palais des Tuileries. By taking to water, Jules had avoided the crush of carriages that lined the formal paths of the Jardin du Carrousel and the army camp. The wait seemed long wait to arrive before the palace steps.

Lit by flambeaux and lanterns, the ornate stone of the palace looked fit for a fairy tale. Diana leaned back to gawk like a girl in her first season. Jules presented their invitation and, along with a flow of guests, they stepped into the grand hall.

All of Paris seemed to be here, milling about in the Salle des Maréchaux—eighteen marshals’ portraits hung high on the walls. Diana glanced up from the crowd and to the portraits of Bonaparte’s marshals. The Bourbons had not got around to replacing them, or perhaps they wanted and needed the marshals to keep the army’s support and so permitted the portraits to remain. What odd alliances were being made.

She moved forward with Jules’ hand upon the small of her back, a reassuring pressure. Tapestries worked in gold, and gilt upon the statues, dazzled the eye. A large silver statue of a woman dominated the center of the hall. “Peace,” Jules said, leaning closer to Diana. “Given by the citizens of Paris to their emperor.”

“Too bad he did not take such a hint,” she told him. She followed him into the yet another crowded assembly room.

The heat hit her first in a wave. Hundreds of candles dazzled the eye and the close-packed assembly added to the warmth. Everyone who was anyone in Paris would be here tonight. Louis XVIII obviously wanted to make a grand impression. Diamonds glittered upon the ladies like fallen stars. Uniforms dotted the crowd with bright splashes of red, blue and green. Gold braid and medals gleamed. The noise of so many voices seemed more like a grumbling beast. Snapping open her fan, Diana plied it and clung to Jules’ arm.

He took a wandering path through the crowd, using polite bows and a scattering of smiles to part the way. Talk flowed with gossip and speculation, worse natter than anything in London. Would Louis keep to his vow to uphold a constitutional rule? Would his supporters allow such a thing? Would the army insight another revolution? Was the dauphin really still alive but in hiding? Would he return to take the throne from his uncle? Would hemlines continue to go up and necklines further down? How long would foreign armies occupy Paris?
Leaning close to Jules, Diana asked, “Just how much power does the new king hold?”

Jules kept a thin smile in place. “Honestly? Bordeaux, Vendee, Lyon are all held to be royalist, but make up only a small part of France. Louis for now has the backing of Europe—but already the pretenders arrive to stake confusing claims to the throne.”

“But the dauphin—the young prince—did he not die almost two decades ago?”

“That is what most say. But under odd circumstances. Many still hold that the boy escaped. That a peasant his age took his place in the Temple, and that boy died. Still, no claim has been proven. So Louis XVIII takes the throne, and the complaints begin. Those who had their lands taken by the Revolution want their chateaus and titles returned. Those whom Bonaparte ennobled see their lands being given back to other countries and grumble. But Louie will need the support of the majority, and he wants his Bourbon cousins in power—he is not pleased for Prussia to keep the German principalities.”

“And England? What—other than peace—shall we want?”

“A very good question, but not one for this evening. Come and make your curtsy to Louie of France.”

She did so, and found the king too old and filled with gout to do more than sit in his chair and smile at her. Louis XVIII, she knew, had once appointed himself Regent of France from outside France’s borders. Meaning he had long had his eyes upon the throne. His advisors hovered close—close to power, she thought—including his younger brother, the charming comte d’Artois, and Prince Talleyrand, who had kept the power and title he had gained under Bonaparte. L’homme girouette some called him—the weathervane. He’d been one of those who’d send his king to his death, he’d been at the heart of Napoleon’s empire, and now he’d managed to retain a place close to the Bourbons.

A shiver chased down her back. If the dauphin were to be revealed, how would a boy survive these men? Oh, but that poor child would be a man himself by now, and one forever changed by his terrible experiences.

She dropped to the floor in a deep curtsy to the king, and decided she would not care to play cards with him or any of these smiling gentlemen. She would not trust them to keep the play fair. Fortunately, all that was required of her was to smile and remark on silly things.

Jules whisked her away up the stairs to yet another room. An orchestra had struck up and the vast ballroom here held space enough to dance. She did not lack for partners, but when she spotted Taliaris at last, she nudged Jules, pointed with her fan and told him, “You must give me a formal introduction. My informal one does not seem to have taken.”

He opened his mouth to offer a comment—a protest perhaps. But he pressed his lips closed and shook his head. “A direct assault? I hope you know what you are about.”

She tapped his arm with her fan. “I leave subtlety to you.”

Taking her across the room, Jules stopped before Taliaris. “Major, my cousin who is known to you already demands I make her formally known. Do I…?” With a wave of his hand, he let the words drift.

Taliaris cocked an eyebrow. His mouth pulled down. Diana put on a bright smile. “Let us not clutter the night with any more details. I believe a waltz is about to start, for was that not the tempo struck just now by the orchestra? Major, I find myself lacking a partner.”

She held out her hand. It was brazen of her, but she was a widow and not some miss who must hang back and pretend coy simplicity.

Short of churlish behavior, the major could do nothing other than offer his arm and lead her out. He did so. She glanced up at him to see what sort of mood this forcing of his hand had given him. “Well?” she asked as they faced each other and waited for the musicians to strike up the first notes.

“Well, what, milady?”

“Well, what do you think of this night? Of your new king? Of my gown? Or what of the fine weather we had today, and the balloon that went up? Pick a topic and we shall have civilized discourse.”

The musicians struck up and the dance began, the steps a mix of patterned country dance and waltz steps. Diana caught her breath as Taliaris slipped his hand around her waist. He twirled her about. The dazzling room spun into nothing more than light and gold. His hand moved away, back to her gloved hand. He pulled her into the next set of patterned steps. “I have no civilized talk. I thought we settled that.”

“No, you had nothing fit for morning. It is night now. Entirely different topics may be brought up under the closeness of dark. Which is why I told Jules he must introduce us. Yet again.”

“I do hope we are now utterly done with being made known to each other.”

“Oh, I have far more to know of you, my dear Giles.”


Shannon Donnelly’s writing has won numerous awards, including a nomination for Romance Writer’s of America’s RITA award, the Grand Prize in the "Minute Maid Sensational Romance Writer" contest, judged by Nora Roberts, and others. Her writing has repeatedly earned 4½ Star Top Pick reviews from Romantic Times magazine, as well as praise from Booklist and other reviewers, who note: "simply superb"..."wonderfully uplifting"....and "beautifully written."
In addition to her Regency romances, she is the author of the Mackenzie Solomon, Demon/Warders Urban Fantasy series, Burn Baby Burn and Riding in on a Burning Tire, and the SF/Paranormal, Edge Walkers. Her work has been on the top seller list of and includes the Historical romances, The Cardros Ruby and Paths of Desire

She is the author of several young adult horror stories, and has also written computer games and offers editing and writing workshops. She lives in New Mexico with two horses, two donkeys, two dogs, and the one love of her life. Shannon can be found online at,, and twitter/sdwriter.

This post copyright © Shannon Donnelly, 2015.

You can find out more about the glittering Bourbon court in Life in the Georgian Court, now available to order worldwide!

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Unknown said...

Thanks so much for having me as a guest blogger on A Covent Garden Gilfurt's Guide to Life.


Catherine Curzon said...

A pleasure!