Charles X                                                                                Louis Philippe
                              coin detail                                                                                 coin detail

Paris and the Revolution of 1830
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In 1830, Paris was still a largely medieval city. It extended to the west to the Place de la Concorde, at the end of the Tuileries. The poor were concentrated in the east (as in London) along the Faubourg St. Antoine (now the 11e). The Arc d’Triomphe was incomplete and in the fields.

After the final defeat of Napoleon the Bourbon monarchy was restored. Louis XVI’s brother ruled first as Louis XVIII and he was succeeded in 1820 by yet another brother who ruled as Charles X. The interesting characteristic of the brothers, particularly Charles X, is the apparent lack of awareness, or of internalizing the consequences of, the revolution in 1789 that cost Louis XVI his life. This painting of Charles X is by Francis baron Gerard.* It shows a very imperious king, one out of touch with the times.

The restored Bourbons were fairly reactionary in their view of French politics and sought to rule as did Louis XIV. But it was no longer the case that “l’etat c'est moi.” France had gone through a revolution, a republic, decades of war and while the Bourbons were restored, they ruled as constitutional monarchs, much like the case in England. However, they did not realize this, especially Charles X.

By 1830 social stresses were high. From Horne (221): “In Paris there was once again soaring bread prices, wage cuts and unemployment; some 64,000 Parisians had no stable employment, signifying that they were dependent either on charity or crime.” France was in recession. An invasion of Algeria in May 1830, aimed at distracting the population from domestic problems, was unsuccessful in that task.

Furthermore, in 1830 France was experiencing a heightened tension between a newly elected Chamber of Deputies (committed to a constitutional form of government) and Charles, who saw their activism as a threat to the monarchy. In the face of this fear Charles staged a widely anticipated coup d’etat, asserting that the Chamber of Deputies was dissolved, freedom of the press was curtailed, the electoral law was reformed and an electoral college was called for September (Guizot 278).

This, not surprisingly, triggered an uprising in Paris. The Deputies refused to dissolve themselves and the army, called in to quell the uprising, began to withdraw from Paris. In Paris the barricades went up and “by the afternoon of the 29th (May 1830) the insurgents, bewildered by the completeness of their success, found themselves in control of the whole city.” (Horne 222) The king had lost control of the city and was unable to regain it. The Deputies issued a Declaration, written by Guizot (the author of this source) which said in part:

“France is free. Absolutism raised its flag and the heroic population of Paris put it down. Paris, when attacked, has by arms caused the triumph of the sacred cause … A power which had usurped our rights and disturbed our repose, was threatening both liberty and order; we resume possession of order and liberty…. We shall secure by law all the guarantees necessary to render liberty sure and lasting” (Guizot 287)

This painting by Eugene Delacroix, commonly called 'Liberty Leading the People,'** is perhaps the most famous one of the event. Delacroix painted himself into the revolutionary scene, as the man with the top hat to the left of liberty. This Romantic painting has tremedous energy -the figures are almost coming off the canvas at the viewer. They're so close the tricolor flag is already outside the bounds of the canvas. The original in in the Louvre.

Charles sought to regain the upper hand and appointed the duc of Orleans as lieutenant general of Paris. He also realized his time was up and sought to have his grandson recognized as king when he abdicated. This tack was not successful. Charles was forced to leave France, which he did “without danger and insult” on August 17.

Meanwhile in Paris the Chamber of Deputies met to reconstitute the government. After much discussion, on August 7 the throne was declared vacant and it was offered to the duc of Orleans, who was to rule as Louis Philippe. This painting of Louis Philippe is by Francois baron Gerald.*** Thus ended, finally, the Bourbon reign that started with Henry IV (of Navarre) in 1590.


Guizot, France, vol. VIII, pp 275-292.

Horne, Seven Ages of Paris

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