The text of articles or lectures by Philip Mansel can be read on this site. Simply click on the titles below.

A new wave of dynasties - and their hangers-on - is taking over: How medieval-style courts are thriving across the world, The Spectator, May 2017

How a Swiss banker’s bungling led to the French Revolution, The Spectator, July 2016

The dark ages come to Aleppo, Los Angeles Times, February 2016

Louis XIV and his Mania for the Cult of Self, The Art Newspaper, September 2015

Bordelais, Bourbons et Britanniques en 1814 - Les Lys et La République: Henri, Comte de Chambord, 1820-1883, 2015, edited by Emmanuel de Waresquiel, pp. 25-42

English AND European

(Copyright Philip Mansel June 2015)

A group of historians, including David Abulafia, David Starkey and Robert Tombs, calling themselves ‘Historians for Britain’, has recently attacked what they see as ‘a distortion of the past by assuming that a sense of European identity has existed for centuries and by assuming a common purpose leading to the ultimate unification of Europe’. ‘The history of Europe’, writes Professor Abulafia, ‘is to a large extent a history of division not a history of unity’.

Hopefully, Historians for Britain will be equally concerned to rectify other recent distortions, for example the current fashion for the retrospective insularisation of English history and culture. Until recently England was among the most European of European countries. The many forces connecting England (and later Great Britain and the United Kingdom) to the rest of Europe have included Christianity (and more recently Protestantism); court culture and dynastic marriages - hence the accessions in 1689 of the Prince of Orange as William III, and in 1714 of the Elector of Hanover as George I; the widespread use in England of European languages such as Latin and French; travel, trade, and migration.

Events in England cannot be understood outside their European context. Henry VII, for example, was a French protégé, who had lived in France before 1485 and owed his victory at Bosworth, in part, to French soldiers and French money. Part of Anne Boleyn’s appeal for Henry VIII was her French upbringing; many of their letters to each other are in French.

The Glorious Revolution of 1688 was a European as well as an English, Scottish and Irish event. Its triumph was ensured by the invasion of a European army, containing English, Scottish, Dutch, German and Danish regiments, under a quintessential European, William III. He was Prince of Orange, Count of Nassau, and Stadholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel, as well as a son and husband of Stuart princesses.

Long before today, London was a European capital, attracting Huguenots (who with William III helped establish the Bank of England); German bankers (and the ‘Hanover office’ which from 1714 to 1837 ruled the Electorate from a few rooms in Saint James’s palace); and in the twentieth century intellectuals from central Europe, like Isaiah Berlin or Frederick Lindemann, who transformed English culture and science.

Conversely, as the large number of Anglican churches and cemeteries on the continent demonstrates, there were communities of English residents in other European cities, from Saint Petersburg to Lisbon – an asset possessed by no other European country. Their cultural, political and economic influence, both as British and local agents, has yet to be assessed. To take one example, SOE drew many of its agents from the large number of English people, living in France before 1940, who could pass as French.

No country has had more writers, from Gibbon to D. H. Lawrence, who preferred to live in other countries in Europe. No country has had more young men making the ‘Grand Tour’ to see the rest of Europe – often Paris and Vienna, often as well as Italy. It was English to love, travel and live in, Europe.

European unity was, before 1945, inconceivable. However, concern for what Canning called ‘the system of Europe’ (of which it was taken for granted that Britain formed part) always affected and often dominated British policy. Wars were undertaken by Britain ­ invariably with European allies ­ to safeguard ‘the liberty of Europe’, against attempts to impose hegemony by single countries, from the France of Louis XIV to the Germany of Wilhelm II and Hitler. Marlborough, Wellington and Churchill, like most British statesmen, can only be understood as European as well as British figures.

In the nineteenth century, as part of what was called ‘the Concert of Europe’, Britain cooperated with its European allies through regular and effective diplomatic congresses and conferences - for example the London Conference of Ambassadors which helped to secure the independence of Greece and Belgium in 1830-1. As Foreign Secretary Palmerston was both British and consciously European. He hoped to make London the centre of ‘the European system’. ‘In the name of all Europe’, he coerced the King of the Netherlands to acknowledge the independence of Belgium, and in 1835 committed Britain to the cause of constitutional monarchy in Spain and Portugal. The Royal Family also attempted, through the dynastic marriages of Victoria and Albert’s children, and Prince Albert’s cousins, to foster constitutional monarchy abroad, in Belgium, Portugal and Prussia.

1914 and 1939 demonstrate the strength of Britain’s commitment to Europe. English history, like English literature and architecture, cannot be understood in isolation from Europe. Europe is in our past, as well as our present and our future.

Power of the Court – History Today

Kaiser Wilhelm’s guide to ruining a country A review of Wilhelm II: Into the Abyss of War and Exile, 1900-1941, by John C.G. Röhl, translated by Sheila de Bellaigue and Roy Bridge. The anachro­nistic, racist and militaristic German monarch hastened his country’s self-destruction (The Spectator, August 2014)

Cities of the Levant: The past for the future? Asian Affairs July 2014 (Volume XLV Number II)

Cities have their own dynamism. Location, population, and wealth give them the power to defy or ignore a state. They are economic, social and cultural organisms whose inhabitants exploit, but also need each other, or they would not be living there. At times – particularly before the triumph of nationalism in 1914 - the city could ignore government decrees, the call of the minaret and the pulpit, or popular violence. Cities can outlast states and creeds, and have more impact. Alexandria outlasted the Ptolemies, Paris the monarchy which had made it capital of France.

If you approach history and identity through cities rather than states, nationalism is less dominant than it appears. Much of what is known as French culture is really Parisian culture, to which foreign Parisians, from German craftsmen and printers to Italian composers, made huge contributions. Most Czechs living in Vienna before 1918 became Viennese – as a glance at names in the phone book will show. Jobs were more important than nationalism.

Cities subvert clichés about nations and national character. Cities in the same country can differ more from each other than they do from foreign cities. Think how different Marseille is from Lille or Izmir from Konya. Think of the similarities between Marseille and Naples, or Izmir and Thessaloniki. This article discusses some of the least national cities of all; the cities of the Levant, particularly Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut.

The cities of the Levant have the same appeal, in the Middle East, as pre-1933 Berlin and pre-1938 Vienna in Europe, or pre-1959 Havana in the Caribbean. They symbolise the lost paradise, friendly to minorities, devoted to pleasure, which flourished before these cities were gutted by nationalism. For many of their former inhabitants scattered throughout the world, Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut had a similar effect to Berlin on Christopher Isherwood, in the years after he left in 1933: ‘always in the background was Berlin. It was calling me every night and its voice was the harsh, sexy voice of the gramophone records… Berlin had affected me like a party at the end of which I didn’t want to go home’.1

Eight characteristics distinguished these cities; geography; diplomacy; polyglottism; hybridity; trade; pleasure; modernity; and vulnerability. Levantine cities were not national but world cities. They were precursors of – and warnings to - today’s global cities.

1 Geography
The Levant means ‘where the sun rises’: the eastern Mediterranean. Levant is a geographical word, free from associations with race or religion. It is defined not by frontiers but by the sea. The great Levantine cities, Smyrna, Alexandria, Beirut - and many smaller ports like Salonica, Mersin, Jaffa - were ‘windows on the world’, ports more mixed and open than inland capitals like Ankara, Damascus and Cairo. Through sea travel and trade, Levantine cities were closer, both physically and mentally, to each other and to other Mediterranean ports, than to cities in their own hinterland. It was quicker and safer to travel by boat between ports than by road to the hinterland. In 1938 the great Egyptian writer Taha Hussein claimed that the future of Egyptian culture was Mediterranean: ‘there is no difference in mentality or culture between the peoples who live around the sea of the Roum and have been influenced by it.’2 Another characteristic of Levantine cities became their sense of distance from the hinterland – and the latter’s sense of exclusion.

2 Diplomacy
A western name for an eastern area, the Levant was also a dialogue – at the heart of what Gibbon called ‘the world’s debate’ between Christianity and Islam. In the Levant, as cities defied states and coasts turned their back on hinterlands, so deals came before ideals. Dialogue trumped conflict. The modern Levant was a product of one of the most successful alliances in history, for three and a half centuries after 1535, between France and the Ottoman empire, between the Caliph of the Muslims and the Most Christian King. Based on international strategy, on the shared hostility of the two monarchies to Spain and the House of Austria, the ‘union of the lily and the crescent’ (as the French ambassador Savary de Breves called it in 1604) soon acquired commercial and cultural momentum.

agreements between the Ottoman and foreign governments which allowed foreigners to live and trade, in the Ottoman Empire, for the most part under their own legal systems. (This is still a toxic issue today: Khomeini denounced the Shah in 1961 because American troops had been made exempt from Iranian law; American soldiers left Iraq in 2011 because the US government refuses to allow Americans to be subject to Iraqi law). As a result of the French-Ottoman alliance, French consuls were appointed to most Levantine cities. The Levant became a very near East, where, thanks to Ottoman order and alliances, trade and travel were relatively safe.

These were the ‘years of the consuls’. Magnificently costumed Janissaries guarded them from insult or attack. In Izmir in the 1670’s the great Ottoman writer Evliya Celebi was impressed by European consuls: ‘If someone hits an infidel, everyone immediately surrounds him and takes him and brings him to the consular judge or the infidels execute him. And at that time the Muslim people become invisible.so that at this time it seems a dark Frank place.’ To show equality of status, consuls refused to remove their hats in the presence of the local governor. At times the ports of the Levant became diarchies between foreign consuls and local officials. During wars between the Ottoman Empire and Venice in 1694, and Russia in 1770, consuls in Smyrna persuaded the commanders of the Venetian and Russian navies respectively, not to attack the city, in order to prevent reprisals by Muslims against local Christians. While the Ottoman Empire was at war, Smyrna remained peaceful.

Consuls acted both as servants of their own government and as local power-brokers and transmitters of technology and information. In the danse macabre of seduction and exploitation which has lasted to this day, outside interference was at least matched by local desire for more of it. In Beirut the el-Khazen family – still prominent in Lebanese politics today - used their position as French consuls or vice-consuls in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to strengthen their own power –base – and to urge the King of France to ‘liberate’ – in other words invade - the area.

In the nineteenth century the British consul in Beirut was visited by members of the Jumblatt dynasty (still hereditary leaders of the Druze community today), asking Britain to rule Lebanon ‘like India’. The Iranian consul in Beirut was a protector of the Lebanese Shia long before the Iranian revolution of 1978 and the rise of Hezbollah. Consuls’ despatches and books are also excellent sources, being less grandiose than ambassadors’, for example the books on Ottoman history and society by Paul Rycaut, Britihs consul in Smyrna in the 1660’s and 1670’s, on his life and travels by the seventeenth-century French consul the Chevalier d’Arvieux, and on nineteenth-century Lebanon by the British consul Charles Churchill.

Consuls developed into equivalents of modern international organisations like the IMF or NATO: interfering but useful. They brought efficient post offices and law courts – and sometimes troops and warships - to the Levant. In nineteenth century Alexandria consuls protected criminals of their own nationality from Egyptian courts, but also helped introduce quarantine and fight cholera. The British consul general in Alexandria played a vital part in the riots which triggered the British invasion of 1882. Thereafter until 1914 the principal British official in Egypt – the master of the country - was the consul general. Foreign consuls also dominated Beirut after the establishment of a semi-autonomous internationally guaranteed regime in Mount Lebanon in 1861.

Today, as protection from their own governments, businessmen in the Levant still aspire to become consuls for foreign governments.

3 Polyglottism
International languages for inter-communal communication, and the habit of speaking more than one language, were another characteristic of the Levant. Before the triumph of English, the Levant used two international languages. First was lingua franca, the simplified Italian ‘generalement entendue par toutes les cotes du Levant’, ‘qui a cours part tout le Levant entre les gens de Marine de la Mediterranee et les Marchands qui vont negocier au Levant et qui se fait entendre de toutes les nations’, as French travellers wrote. A business rather than a literary language, it was rarely written down. It was spoken by slaves and sailors; by the fishermen of Alexandria; by the Beys of Tunis and Tripoli; and by Cervantes, Rousseau and Byron, who learnt what he called ‘Levant Italian’ in Athens in 1810. The Gentleman’s Magazine wrote in 1837 of an Englishman in the Levant: ‘he has talked lingua franca till he has half-forgotten English’. Characteristic phrases are: ‘ven acqui’; ‘christiani star fourbi’: ‘come here’; ‘Christians are cunning’. Lingua franca was proof that the Levant was not a cultural ghetto. More Turks and Arabs learnt lingua franca, in order to talk to foreigners, than Europeans learnt Turkish or Arabic.

From 1840, thanks to the spread of schools and of steam and rail travel, French, then the world language from Buenos Aires to Saint Petersburg, became the second – or for many the first - language of the Levant. The language of science, as well as culture and diplomacy, it was spoken by pashas, viziers and sultans; by all rulers of Egypt from Said Pasha to King Farouk; by Mustafa Kemal the moderniser of Turkey, and by the poet from Smyrna, George Seferis; it was an official language of the Ottoman Foreign Office and the municipalities of Alexandria and Beirut. Young Turk revolutionaries learnt French in Paris, which they called a ‘star brighter than my dreams’. 5000 French words – alluring words like complot, metres, dansos, tirbison - entered the Turkish language. Another form of integration with the outside world.

As a result many Levantines were – and, as I have heard for myself in Izmir and Beirut, still are – polyglot, speaking several languages, often in the same sentence: combinations of French, Arabic, Turkish, Italian, Spanish, Greek or English. The Smouha family, who came from Baghdad via Manchester to Alexandria around 1900 (and now live near Geneva), called the ‘polyglot broth’ of French, Arabic and English which they spoke at home in Egypt ‘frarabish’.

4 Hybridity
Hybridity and multiple identities were another characteristic of the Levant. The Lebanese American historian William Haddad has written, ‘the nation state is the prison of the mind’. The Levant was a jail break. The Ottoman Empire enforced few of the restrictions and regulations of European governments– such as ‘purity of blood’ in Spain, or religious uniformity in France after the expulsion of the Huguenots in 1685. There were no ghettos. For three centuries Turks, Greeks, Armenians, Jews and Europeans lived and worked side by side in Smyrna and other Levantine cities. Travellers were attracted by the variety of races and costumes in these cities and the juxtaposition of mosques, churches and synagogues, which was both contrary to Muslim law and, then, inconceivable in European cities.

In Levantine cities, more than any others, no one group dominated demographically. In Smyrna and Beirut after 1700 populations were roughly half Christian and half Muslim. In Alexandria about a quarter Christian and Jewish, of many nationalities, and three quarters Muslim. In contrast to the conformity imposed by governments in Paris or even London, Smyrna, for example, enjoyed, according to the French travelling botanist Piton de Tournefort, ‘an entire freedom of religion’. As some still do, Muslims entered churches, even lighting candles – to hear the music or to gain divine protection, in addition to that implored in mosques. By 1700 it had fifty mosques, eight synagogues and seven churches (Catholic, Orthodox and Armenian). In many streets you felt you were in a Christian country. Turks called it ‘gavur izmir’ or infidel Izmir, as so many non-Muslims lived there. Its names mixed Asia and Europe. Izmir is the Turkish version of the Greek phrase ‘eis teen Smyrna’ or into Smyrna.

Two hundred years later, when the city had a Christian majority, Edith Wharton wrote of Smyrna: ‘Nothing in fact can be more curious than the mixture of Orientalism and European civilization which meets one at every turn in Smyrna. I could not get used to seeing the tramways blocked by trains of loaded camels, the voitures de place filled with veiled Turkish women and the savage-looking Turks and Albanians with weapons in their belts, side by side with fashionably dressed Levantines and Europeans’.

Houses were built in similar Ottoman-Levantine styles, often by teams of builders fanning out across the area from the mountains of Albania and Macedonia; later by Italian or Paris-trained architects. Palaces and houses like Ras el tine palace in Alexandria, or the Palais Sursock and the Maison Pharaoun in Beirut, blend styles and objects from different countries and centuries: European pictures, neo-Islamic wall decoration, Ottoman inscriptions. Throughout the region after 1850, the same red tiles from Marseille covered roofs.

While women’s lives remained based round the community, outside the home some men developed multiple identities: they were not ‘two solitudes’, with minimal contact, like French and English-speaking Canadians in pre-1970 Montreal3. In the seventeenth century Sabbatai Sevi, the ‘false Messiah’ of Smyrna, founded his own religion, with Christian and Muslim as well as Jewish elements. Donme, as his followers were called, are still an important element in Izmir and Istanbul. The Baltazzi family of bankers in Smyrna, like the city itself, were Greek, Ottoman and European. Polyglot Ottoman Governors of Smyrna, like Kiamil Pasha in 1891-1907, and Rahmi Bey in 1913-18, put the interests of the city before the orders of the government and preserved the city from the massacres of Armenians occurring elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire. Men of all religions could enjoy the same cafes and clubs – and in Salonica join the same trades union.

Living in Constantinople as well as Alexandria, often educated in Europe, the Mohammed Ali dynasty of Egypt, originating from Kavalla on the Aegean, were Ottoman, Egyptian and in some customs and attitudes European. Foreigners were more likely to be present in Mohammed Ali’s palace than pious Muslims. A French consul wrote that Mohammed Ali had bought most of the ulama; those opposed to his projects were exiled. Once one of the most fanatical provinces of the Ottoman Empire, under Mohammed Ali Egypt became one of its most tolerant. Jabarti complained that Christians, ‘the enemies of our religion’, had become ‘the companions and intimate friends of His Highness’, and even employed Muslims as servants.4 Thanks to him Alexandria developed the first modern square in the Middle East, between the Ottoman city on the peninsula and the ruins of the classical city inland. In 1813 it was described as a ‘large square near the sea … the Europeans come here to breathe the sea breezes’. By 1829 residence of the French, American and Swedish consuls, it was called the Place des Consuls, visible expression of their power and status. It was redesigned as a formal rectangle in the early 1830s by a political exile from the Papal States called Francesco Mancini with a surrounding area of straight wide streets. At Mohammed Ali’s express wish a Catholic cathedral and an Anglican church were built nearby. Large stone complexes known as okallas, contained court-yards, shops selling ‘all the productions of Europe, and, on the upper floors, apartments - in effect nineteenth century shopping malls. Round the Place des consuls, according to Mrs George Griffith in 1843, ‘Carriages of every description filled with smartly dressed ladies are to be seen driving about at all hours’.5

His great grandson King fouad who reigned from 1917 to 1936, having shuttled in his youth between Turin (where he was educated), Vienna (where he had served as Ottoman Military Attache), Paris and Constantinople, as well as Cairo and Alexandria, was a natural cosmopolitan. In the words of Sir Laurence Grafftey Smith, whose memoirs are a superb record of Alexandria, the King had ‘A taste for cosmopolitan company with a pro-Italian bias in matters of opera, investment and mistresses.’6 In the spirit of the Levant, he came to the throne in debt, but died a multi-millionaire.

King Fouad, as he became after the proclamation of the constitution in 1922, was both cosmopolitan and patriotic. He helped found Cairo University – importing Italian and French professors - and commissioned magnificent editions of foreign documents on nineteenth century Egypt, for which historians will always be grateful. He also founded the Arab Language Academy, modelled on the Academie francaise, to guard the purity of Arabic, and the Arab Music Academy, which established a system of notation.

In his reign Egyptian Jews enjoyed what Edward Timms has called ‘empowered marginality.’ They felt Egyptian and, if they thought of Zionism, regarded it as ‘very unchic’. A few years later a Zionist official reported of the 25,000 Jews living in Alexandria: ‘a decided animosity and antipathy to Zionist aims has sprung up. They look upon it as something that threatens their own peace and must be discouraged.’7

One of the richest merchants in Beirut, Alfred Sursock, often known as Farid, who died in 1924 was also an Ottoman diplomat, equally at home in Paris, Constantinople and Beirut, equally ready to serve France or the Ottoman Empire: he married an Italian. The late Rafik Hariri was a Saudi businessman with Saudi citizenship, and a friend and fund-raiser for President Chirac (who now lives in a Hariri flat in Paris), as well as Prime Minister of Lebanon. He had three identities, Lebanese, Saudi, French.

5 Trade
Levantine cities were not romantic. They were trading cities, linking the economies of Europe and Asia. Like Hong Kong or Dubai today, they were synonymous with business. Smyrna exported figs, raisins, opium and carpets; Alexandria cotton; Beirut emigrants to the Americas and Africa. People, not monuments, were their main attraction. Thackeray wrote that he liked Smyrna, because, having no monuments to visit, it produced no ‘fatigue of sublimity’. In all these cities the corniche, where the boats docked, was the principal meeting-place. The supreme expression of Smyrna’s role as a world city, trading from Boston to Jakarta, was, and is, the large stone quay facing the sea, known as the Kordon, three and a half kilometres long and twenty eight metres wide. Replacing the old wooden quay and jetties known as the marina, and a stone fort built by Mehmed the Conqueror, the Kordon, with jetties and break waters were built fifty metres out into the sea in 1867-76 by Dussaud freres. Its construction, financed by local Levantine and Greek businessmen, was the largest single urban project in the Ottoman Empire. Dussaud freres also worked on similar quays in other Mediterranean ports - Trieste, Marseille, Toulon, Algiers and Port Said.8

Smyrna owed its rebirth to trade. At the end of a long gulf on the west coast of Anatolia, where the Mediterranean projects furthest into the western-most point of Asia, the gulf of Izmir provides some of the finest anchorage on the coast, capable of receiving the largest ships. The timing of its rebirth was due to merchants’ desire to evade the Ottoman government’s web of customs dues and price restrictions. As early as 1574 Istanbul was suffering shortages because Ottoman ships, sailing from Egypt with provisions for the capital, unloaded them at Izmir – where they could avoid the imperial government’s artificially depressed prices.

The rise of Smyrna – like that of another world port, New York, at the same time - was also stimulated by the arrival of English and Dutch merchants. Principal hub of a vast network of inland trade routes, Smyrna became the city where Asia came shopping for Europe, and Europe for Asia. Jean Baptiste Tavernier wrote in 1634: ‘Smyrna is today for trade by both sea and land the most famous city of all the Levant and the most famous market for every merchandise going from Europe to Asia and from Asia to Europe’. From 5,000 in 1600, the population rose – more quickly than New York’s - to around 100,000 in 1700. it was known as ‘the eye of Asia’ or ‘the Paris of the Levant’. Trade, not history or culture, was the cause of the rise of the Greeks, by 1900, to numerical and commercial dominance in Smyrna.

Frenchmen called the Levant ‘our Indies’. Provence lived off the Levant trade. ‘The ports of the Levant, you know that they are what is richest and most populous! Smyrna, what wealth!’ said Tsar Alexander I to General Comte de Caulaincourt, Ambassador of Napoleon I, in 1808, when planning to divide the Ottoman Empire.

The Kordon was fed by the Smyrna to Aydin railway, the first in the Ottoman Empire – which Lord Statford de Redcliffe, at its inauguration in 1856, hoped would one day stretch to Calcutta. Connecting Smyrna to the world, the Kordon was called the Orient of Europe and the Europe of the Orient. Smyrna reflected a world process, the need for a large cosmopolitan port, attractive to foreigners, where a hinterland could trade with the outside world: similar ports with similar functions arose – or in some cases were deliberately created - in Saint Petersburg in 1703; Odessa in 1794; in Bombay in India, in Alexandria after Mohammed Ali came to power in 1805; more recently in Hong Kong (acquired by Britain in 1843); Shanghai (where a municipal council was created by foreigners in 1854); and Dubai – which rose a s a port trading with India and Iran.

Under Mohammed Ali and his successors Alexandria became a capitalist El Dorado, attracting a gold rush of Europeans and Syrians. In the cotton boom of the 1860’s capital could double every two years. The population rose from 5,000 in 1800 to 100,000 in 1850 and over 200,000 in 1882. It became the main port linking Egypt and Europe, with the largest stock exchange outside Europe and North America. By 1900 Alexandria was the third port of the Mediterranean in volume of traffic, after Genoa and Marseille. Continuing its astonishing growth rate, the population rose from 232,636 in 1882 to 444,617 in 1917. Foreigners formed between 20 and 25% of the population – and many Egyptians, from the royal family down, had foreign blood.9

Money ruled; the greatest poet of the Levant, the Greek Alexandrian Constantine Cavafy saw nations in economic terms. He told an English friend never to forget that Greece was a country which had lost its capital.

Beirut in 1826 had been described as a republic of merchants, living according to its own laws, independent of the government in Damascus. Its rise was due not only to the dynamism of local merchants but also, like that of Smyrna and Alexandria, to the arrival (from Saida after 1799) of foreign merchants and consuls (the oldest firm in Beirut, the British shipping agent Henry Heald and Co, still going strong today, was established there in 1837). They were attracted by the climate, the proximity to Mount Lebanon, and by the balance between Muslims and Christians in the population. By 1841 according to the American traveller A.A. Paton, Beirut was ‘a Levantine Scala, a bastard a mongrel’. Its population also rose astronomically, from 6,000 in 1800 to 130,000 in 1900.

6 Pleasure
As well as trade, the cities of the Levant were also, for some, synonymous with pleasure. The Christian women of Izmir, according to one visitor, provided ‘the most admirable collection of charming feminine faces I have ever seen’. Evliya Celebi wrote of the gavur ‘beloveds’ [dilbers] that ‘when young Muslim men see their sweet-smelling and dishevelled locks their minds become ruined and confused’. Later visitors were equally enthusiastic: Combining the grace of Italians, the vivacity of Greeks, and the ‘stately tournure’ of Ottomans, they possessed ‘almost irresistible fascination’. Sitting out in the evening in the Rue des Rose, they displayed lips like coral, eyes like fire and ‘looks which pierce your brain’.

Carnival was celebrated at Smyrna with such frenzies of drinking and dancing that Turks thought the revellers mad. European consuls tried to stop Turks frequenting the taverns of the Frank quarter, where they could enjoy ‘the most absolute freedom…to commit every kind of outrage’. Smyrna was not a paradise reserved for foreigners and Greeks. Despite appearances to the contrary, it was not a colonial city. In his memoirs the Turkish writer Naci Gündem wrote that it was the Kordon that made Smyrna Smyrna. From sunset until midnight it was like ‘a fairy-tale country’, with ‘a magic atmosphere which made the most sombre and depressed souls end by laughing’. If Smyrna is the eye of Asia’, it was said, ‘the quay is the pupil of the eye’. Norman Douglas called Smyrna in 1885 ‘the most enjoyable place on earth’.

Ports bring music as well as freedom. As Havana created rumba, New Orleans jazz, and Buenos Aires tango, -so Smyrna created its own sound, called Smyrnaika or rebetiko. It was the music of rebels, particularly appreciated by the qabadays (Turkish) or dais (Greek), the toughs who, as in other Mediterranean ports, worked, gambled and fought with each other. Rebetiko songs mixed western polyphony and eastern monophony and described the sufferings of the poor and prisoners, the torments of love, or the pleasures of hashish.

Won’t you tell, won’t you tell me
Where hashish is sold?
The dervishes sell it
In the upper districts.

Women were coquettes or tyrants:
‘Your black eyes that gaze at me.
My dear, lower them, because they are killing me.’

You stay up all night at the cafes chantant, drinking beer, Oh!
And the rest of us you are treating as green caviare.

Part of the Cordon in Smyrna was lined by cafes with orchestras. A Papazoglu, a musician in one of the cafes, remembered; ‘we had to know a song or two from each nationality to please the customers: We played Jewish and Armenian and Arab music. We were citizens of the world, you see.’

The golden age of Alexandria was the twenty years period between 1936 and 1956. Tensions shown by the independence riots in 1919-21 decreased after a new treaty of friendship with Britain in 1936, gave Egypt greater independence, and a time table for evacuation of British forces from Cairo and Alexandria to the canal-zone and the removal of British advisers from Egyptian ministries. In 1937, after 400 years, the hated capitulations, - denounced as ‘a form of slavery and reaction from whose evils the Egyptians form the Pasha to the fellah suffer’ - were finally abolished. The consular courts also closed in 1948. Egyptian law henceforth reigned supreme in Egypt.10

The great novelist Neguib Mahfouz, like many Cairenes spent the summer in Alexandria. He noted the change. Before 1936, he remembered, Egyptians had regarded Alexandria ‘as a European city where Italian, French, Greek or English were heard far more often than Arabic. The city was beautiful and so clean that one could have eaten off the street’s… But all that was for the foreigners. We could only observe from the outside… until the Treaty of 1936 which subjected foreigners to the same law as Egyptians. …When the Capitulations were abolished, foreigners in Alexandria were forced to change their attitude. They no longer owned the country; we Egyptians were no longer second class citizens. They realised they and we would be appearing before the same magistrates so we began to feel more at ease. The characteristics of European life were still very present; but once the capitulations were abolished they became accessible to us as well. ’Egyptians no longer felt outsiders. He went to Greek restaurants like Athineos, famous for its classical orchestra and thes dansant: ‘in short Alexandria was a European city but belonged to us - Egyptians.’11 He remembered Alexandria as a city where ‘popular joy shone everywhere’.12

The women of Alexandria, ‘modern to the tips of their delicate little feet’ with ‘a furious desire to break with every prejudice, to taste every sensation’ were, according to Fernand Leprette, one of its main attractions. They are the principal subject of Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet. Cavafy, the poet of Alexandria, preferred men. He wrote that in a room above a ‘suspect taverna’, ‘on that humble bed I had love’s body, had those intoxicating lips’.

As early as the seventeenth century, according to the French consul the Chevalier d’Arvieux, Beirut was distinguished from rival ports like Sidon and Tripoli by love of drinking and singing: ‘all the citizens of Beirut, whatever their religion, live well together. They are polite, visit each other and arrange parties of pleasure. Even the people is not as wicked as in Sidon’.13 Everyone who knew it before 1975 has the same phrase: ‘the best years of my life’; ‘it was paradise’. It was and is the capital of modern Arab music with singers like and Fairouz and Nancy Ajram. Some popular songs celebrate Beirut itself, ‘the lady of the world’, ‘our only star’, betrayed by the violence of its inhabitants.

7 Modernity
Levantine cities were so modern and so cosmopolitan that, to visitors from the hinterland, Smyrna sometimes seemed like a foreign country. Alexandria resembled a European city moored off the coast of Egypt. Beirut was ‘the Paris of the Middle East’.

Schools and universities, as well as businesses, made them modern. Modern Turkey was born not in Anatolia or Istanbul, but in the Levantine port of Salonica, birthplace of Mustafa Kemal and the least Muslim large city in the Ottoman Empire. The Young Turk revolution broke out there in 1908, helped by the protection of foreign consuls and of nearby foreign states. Some of the best schools and newspapers in Istanbul today are continuations of schools and newspapers founded in Salonica, which moved to Istanbul after the former became Greek in 1912.

‘Smyrna illuminates like a beacon all the other provinces of the Ottoman Empire’, wrote the Austrian consul-general Charles de Scherzer. Latife Hanim, wife of Mustafa Kemal, the first Turkish woman to be unveiled in public, was educated at a French school in Smyrna. She came from the Ushakligil family of merchants, another of whom, the writer Halid Ziya, appreciated Smyrna precisely because it contained foreigners and foreign schools.

Smyrna had the Ottoman Empire’s first botanical collections (of the English consul William Sherard at Sevdiyekoy), newspaper, American school, railway, electricity, cinema and football club: Bournabat Football and Rugby Cub, established by English merchants in 1894, fourteen years before the foundation of the legendary Galatasaray team in 1908. Alexandria had the country’s first theatres (Arabic and Italian), feminist newspaper, bourse and brewery and in Cavafy the first publicly published homosexual poet, outside France, since the ancient world.

Smyrna, Beirut and Alexandria’s foreign schools, run by the Mission Israelite Universelle, Jesuits, the Order of Notre Dame de Sion, the Freres des Ecoles Chretiennes, and many others, gave pupils the intellectual weapons, including language skills, with which to fight the cultural imperialism they represented. They were attended by Muslims and Jews as well as Christians.

Like other Levantine schools Victoria College in Alexandria, founded in 1906, was not simply a vehicle of cultural imperialism. Early pupils included both supporters and opponents of the British presence in Egypt and the Middle East: Rallis, Rolos and Barkers; but also the sons of Mahmoud Sami al–Barudi, prime minister of Arabi Pasha in 1882; George Antonius, Syrian author of The Arab Awakening (1938) the first account in English of Arab nationalism from an Arab point of view, and an eloquent defence of Palestinians’ right to their own country; and Mohammed Farghaly, from a great Alexandrian trading family. Known as ‘the cotton king’, he would be the youngest person and first Egyptian to preside over the city’s key economic institution, the Cotton exchange.

The importance of the Syrian Protestant College, later the American University of Beirut in fostering Arab nationalism and the literary renaissance since 1866 is well known. Beirut also had French speaking schools run by Franciscans and Lazarists and the famous Jesuit university of Saint Joseph.
In Beirut before 1975 wrote Edward Said ‘Everything seemed possible, every idea, every identity. ‘For Mai Ghoussoub, ‘Beirut exuded optimism and the most disadvantaged believed in its promises. ‘After 1952, as Egyptian businesses were nationalised, Beirut became the financial capital of the Middle East. President Chamoun told Theo Larsson ‘everything is permitted in Beirut, except poverty and that is never forgiven’. It was so tolerant that, despite two Arab-Israeli wars, before 1967 the number of Jews increased.

In part because other Arab cities were run by police states, Beirut became for Arabs a synonym of freedom. It was the first city in the region where a Muslim woman unveiled – Anbara Salam in 1927. ‘Beirut is total and absolute freedom’, writes Zeena al Khalil. As it has been since Nasser stifled Cairo, it remains the Arab world’s academic and publishing centre, with more and freer publishers, magazines and newspapers than any other city. It is also again becoming a tourist and financial centre. One Hezbollah leader calls it ‘a lung through which Iran breathes.’

After Rafik Hariri’s murder in 2005, Beirut witnessed a foretaste of the Arab spring of 2011, the first mass pro-democracy demonstrations against an Arab dictatorship – in this case the Syrian government, which dominated the country.

8 Vulnerability
Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut were also cities on the edge; race and religious hate, looting and burning, were ready to erupt. Like London during the riots of August 2011, they show how quickly cities can become jungles. Some see them as urban Titanics, doomed to disaster.

On 11 July 1882 for example British warships opened fire on Alexandria. That day and the next the main sounds in Alexandria were the crackle and roar of flames, the crash of falling buildings, and howling dogs.14 Alexandria turned, in the words of a British consular assistant A. Hulme Beaman, into ‘a dantesque Inferno, alight almost from end to end, the flames running riot from street to street without any attempt being made to check them being made, with wild figures here and there pillaging and looting and ghastly corpses swollen to gigantic proportions lying charred and naked in the roadways.’15 The only object untouched was the statue of Mohammed Ali, who seemed to survey the ruins with disgust.

One problem was that none of these mixed cities had a strong, autonomous administration, or armed forces of their own to protect them. By 1800 New York had overtaken Smyrna as an international port in part because, from the 1650’s, it had its own city council, and Smyrna did not. Municipalities were founded in Smyrna and Beirut in 1868 and in Alexandria in 1892, before other cities in the region. Nevertheless they were weak and divided. From the start the Alexandria municipality was multi-national, with limits on the number of members from each nationality, and there were complaints that some members did not know Arabic. Internal municipal documents were always in French, public ones in French and Arabic.16

Beirut city council was always divided along confessional lines, with equal numbers of Muslims and Christians, since its foundation in 1832 by Mahmud Nami an Egyptian Circassian educated in France.

Hybridity, which had suited most Ottoman governors, and the Mohammed Ali dynasty in Egypt, dismayed the nationalists of the twentieth century. As a sign of the times, in 1909 Tel Aviv was founded in opposition to the neighbouring Levantine port of Jaffa, as a mono-faith Jewish city without ‘goys’: The first Israeli Prime Minister Ben Gurion later denounced ‘the spirit of the Levant which ruins individuals and societies’.

In addition to inspiring resentment of their mixed character, Levantine cities reflected economic tensions between ports and hinterlands. In the mountains surrounding Smyrna, Salonica and Beirut bandits were eager to kidnaps rich merchants’ children for the sake of a substantial ransom. In Smyrna the mainly Turkish and Jewish poor were kept in outlying districts. The city was divided into two municipalities, so that richer districts did not have to subsidise poorer ones. The governor in person in the 1890’s would stop men from the hinterland, arriving in traditional dress and baggy trousers, from entering the smart districts of the city centre.

Daily co-existence in work and pleasure did not prevent periodic eruptions of nationalism. Smyrna was said to enjoy ten years of massacre, followed by thirty years of merriment. There were riots between Greeks and Turks in 1770, 1797 and 1821 – a long peace marked by the visits of two Ottoman Sultans, in 1850 and 1863 – then cataclysm after its conquest by the Turkish army in September 1922.
Smyrna had survived the First World War without massacres or deportations thanks to the governor Rahmi Bey, and its own trading spirit. British merchants made uniforms for the Turkish army, on the grounds that it was better to keep markets for your country than to fight for it.

The Greek occupation of 1919-22 changed everything. Consuls had organised a relatively peaceful transfer of power from Turkey to Greece in Crete after 1898 and Salonica in 1912, but could not do so, from Greece to Turkey, in Smyrna in 1922.

Soon after the Turkish army re-entered the city in 9 September 1922 a fire was deliberately started in the centre of the city. Soon the corniche was a wall of fire two miles long and a hundred feet high: the glow from the flames could be seen the other side of the Aegean on Mount Athos. Turkish and Jewish quarters were spared, most of Greek and Armenian Smyrna was burnt: while British French and Italian battleships watched, the corniche became a killing-field with ‘such frantic screaming of sheer terror as can be heard miles away’, according to George Ward Price, a journalist on HMS Iron Duke. The world failed to protect a world city. Those who had not been murdered or deported were taken by ships organised by American missionaries and foreign powers to Athens, Salonica, Alexandria or Beirut. By November no Greeks or Armenians remained. Nationalism had defeated Smyrna’s combination of diplomacy, hybridity, commerce, modernity and pleasure. It is not, as Ben Gurion complained, the spirit of the Levant which ‘ruins individuals and societies’. On the contrary. All nationalism corrupts, absolute nationalism corrupts absolutely. Smyrna had experienced the first city death of the twentieth century.

The Turkish commander Mustafa Kemal meanwhile was drinking raki and champagne on a hill above the city in the villa of the richest Turkish merchant of the city Muammar Bey Ushakligil. “let it burn let it crash down” he said to his host’s daughter Latife Hanim, whom he was courting: words she subsequently verified with one of his ADC’s. Kemal found the city marble and left it ashes. The equestrian state of himself which he ordered to be erected where the Grand Hotel Kraemer Palace once stood is still there - a symbol of both the horrors and the achievements of the twentieth century.

Relations between Greeks and Jews in Smyrna had not been good. On 8 January 1923, however, a Jewish teacher called E Benaroya wrote this Levantine lament: ‘Life in Smyrna has become worse than that we experienced in Morocco before the French occupation, a dull life, monotonous, without any material or moral distraction. Theatres, cinemas, cafes, the clubs where newspapers from the entire world were available, where we found every kind of instructive and agreeable distraction, all have disappeared, annihilated by the fire…we live here like hermits, inflicted by every possible and imaginable kind of interdiction, impossible customs tariffs, in brief charged with expiating we longer know what sins of humanity. ‘Blackened heaps of stone and weed-choked rubble, the haunt of wandering goats, continued to disfigure the heart of Izmir into the 1950s. For a time the city was de-modernised. Smyrniots fled to London, Paris, Athens, Alexandria or Beirut.

Smyrna had experienced an early and brutal form of the sectarianisation or ethnic cleansing imposed by other national states and sectarian leaders, in the twentieth century, on other mixed cities. The list is depressing: Salonica was hellenised after 1912; Odessa and Saint Petersburg russianised after 1917; Treiste italianised after 1918; Istanbul turkified after 1923; Vienna germanised after 1938; Prague czechified after 1945; Shanghai sinified after 1948; Alexandria egyptianised after 1956; Nicosia hellenised or turkified after 1960; Sarajevo divided into Bosniak, Serb and Croatian zones after 1993. A similar process is happening, as I speak, in formerly cosmopolitan and peaceful Aleppo, once distinguished, travellers noticed, by lack of tensions between its communities.17 Some see the process as inevitable. Others blame states and sects, which resent the diversity and freedoms of cities.

In 1942 Alexandria – which had witnessed riots in 1882, 1907 and 1919-21 - had withstood the trauma of approaching Axis armies, only sixty miles away. Egyptians saw their families to safety in the Delta then resumed working in the British naval and military bases. Boats supplying allied forces throughout the Mediterranean left every four minutes. There was less panic than in the Russian capital Moscow at the approach of Axis armies in 1941. After the French-British-Israeli invasion of 1956, however, Nasser, although himself born and educated in Alexandria, encouraged Alexandrians of European origin to leave. There are almost no Greeks left. Now Alexandria is more Islamic than Cairo, with a strong Salafi influence. Once called the ‘Queen of the Mediterranean’, it has become the capital of the Nile delta.

During fifteen years of civil war after 1975, Beirut switched from the pursuit of profit and pleasure to murder. The army was weakened by sectarianism. People might be killed because of the religion on their identity card. Weeds burst through the asphalt on the main square. The ‘green line ‘dividing mainly Muslim west Beirut from mainly Christian east Beirut was literally a green line of rampant vegetation. Today, again, Beirut is threatened by the spill-over from the Syrian catastrophe and the weakness of the Lebanese army and police. In a recent survey of 18-25 year olds by the American University, one in three say they hate the young of other communities, and would refuse to marry them; all want to leave.

9 The Past for the Future?
In the Levant, as in Europe, cities have been as important as states or classes in shaping people and events. In our new global age geography is biting back at history. Cities again defy states.

Cosmopolitanism reappears in new forms in different cities – or in the same cities. Like Vienna and Berlin, Odessa and St Petersburg, Istanbul and Shanghai, Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut are now trying to revive their pre-1914 cosmopolitan identities as cities welcoming to foreigners.
‘The city will always pursue you’, wrote Cavafy.

‘You will walk
the same streets, grow old in the same neighbourhoods
will turn grey in these same houses.
You will always end up in this city.’

Or as Maria Iliou said in her 2012 film Smyrna the Destruction of a Cosmopolitan City 1900-1922: ‘Cosmopolitan cities never cease to exist even if they travel elsewhere. You carry Smyrna wherever you are… Smyrna is a notion’.

The long Levantine farewell is over. Istanbul itself, almost entirely Turkish by 1975 after the expulsion of almost all its Greeks, is again, as it was before 1914, a global business city. For the first time since it was banned in 1943, it allows carnival revellers to wind through the streets near Madame Despina: ‘the only public carnival in the Muslim world’.

Izmir and the coasts of Turkey are bastions of the secular CHP party against the increasingly dictatorial Islamist government of Turkey. The Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan calls it ‘Gavur Izmir’ or infidel Izmir. In other cities the muezzin is deafening; in central Izmir almost inaudible – at least for the moment. At a conference on Levantines organised by the Izmir Chamber of Commerce in October 2010, I was told by Ekrem Dermirtas: ‘Every day we feel the pressure…I fear for my daughter’s future’; but also ‘Izmir is the city of tolerance…We make every effort at the Chamber of Commerce to preserve this [Levantine] culture. …I want to live life as a Levantine’. A Levant United football club has been formed, a Levantine web site established and a Levantine cook-book published. Exhibitions on its cosmopolitan past were recently held, in Athens, London and Izmir itself.

Further east in Turkey, Mersin, another once predominantly Christian port (eight churches, five mosques, one synagogue before 1922), also wants to reassert its cosmopolitan identity. A dynamic free port, less Islamic than Istanbul, in 2011 it was twinned with Alexandria.

By its continued hybridity, multilingualism, modernity and vulnerability and by the continued importance of foreign powers in its internal affairs – shown by the choice of an international tribunal to investigate the murder of Hariri - Beirut is the last great Levantine city with the fragrance of freedom. The weight of the state is less oppressive than in London or New York. It has thirty-seven universities, most of them foreign. There is still a major French newspaper, L’Orient Le Jour, and many Lebanese write in French and speak it at home. Indeed Beirut is becoming more international. It has received Syrian, Armenian, Iraqi and Palestinian refugees. Émigrés from Egypt, Syria and Iraq have helped the business boom. India and the Philippines now contribute thousands of workers. In the global economy, this mixed character, rather than being a weakness, may be an asset. The Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in 2010, ‘Parity will stay for ever’. Beirut shines in comparison with Aleppo, Damascus and Baghdad. Tourists and some inhabitants admire its ‘ferocious edge’, its ability to combine wildly different visions of life. A balance of power and numbers between communities makes it an experimental laboratory for the future of the Middle East.18

The Levant is no longer limited to the eastern Mediterranean. In two ways today’s global cities, London, Paris, New York, and Dubai, are new Levantine cities. First they have welcomed thousands from Smyrna, Beirut and Alexandria themselves. They include Mohammed al Fayed, Alain de Botton, Omar Sharif and Sir Ronald Cohen founder of AIPAX, from Alexandria; Alec Issigonis (the designer of the Mini) and Edouard Balladur, from Smyrna; the many Beirutis who have settled in Paris, such as the poet Adonis, and the Hariri family. ‘As the spaces for diversity [and career opportunities for educated liberals] in the Middle East shrink, they open up in London and other Western cities’ writes Sami Zubaida, himself a Jewish refugee from Baghdad, another former Ottoman mixed city. Businesses, churches, restaurants and galleries show what London has gained at the expense of the Levant.19

Second, London, Paris, New York, Hong Kong and other global cities, are repeating the patterns of the past. Like Levantine cities, they are increasingly different from their hinterlands. They too act as educators, liberators and modernisers. They too put deals before ideals; contain mosques, churches and synagogues, and international institutions; are devoted to trade, pleasure and hybridity, and use international languages. New York is headquarters of the United Nations. Paris signs and announcements are often in French, Spanish and English.

London after 1945 appeared to be a dying city Now it is transformed into Babylondon, where 350 languages are spoken (probably more than in New York where the estimate is 170). The Prime Minister boasts that is is ‘the most diverse city in the world’. As President Obama – himself from a multiethnic and multicultural background - said in London in 2012 of the US and UK, ‘Our patchwork heritage is an enormous strength.’ According to the latest figures the population of 8.2 million is 45% white British; 18% Asian; 13% black; 13% European; 9% other foreign. Despite competition from new York, it is often described as ‘the new capital of the world’, ‘the undisputed capital of the world’– ‘A first rate city with a second rate state attached.’ London now has law courts for Russians who, like people in the Levant, consider foreign courts cheaper and less corrupt than their own. The Mayor Boris Johnson – like many ambitious mayors in other global cities - wants the city to control its own stamp duty, business rates and council tax and even visas: he calls it ‘a political giant but a fiscal infant’.21

These new Levantine cities also have hybrid inhabitants, as Levantine cities once did. Nedim Gursel a French-speaking author from Turkey thinks of himself as living in ‘Paristanbul’. Amin Maalouf from Lebanon also lives in Paris and writes in French. His Des identites meurtrieres, published in Paris in 1998, with its attack on nationalism and call for trilingualism, is a Levantine manifesto. Hanif Kureishi, whose father came from Pakistan, calls London, where he writes, ‘a semi-independent city no longer part of Britain’.22 We are all Levantines now.

Thanks to its creative freedom, broad perspectives, and relatively independent university, legal system and business standards, Hong Kong – which presents itself as ‘where China meets the world’ and remains a ‘special administrative region’ - is becoming increasingly different from its Chinese hinterland. An oasis of academic freedom, and a world leader in education (like two other East Asian ports, Shanghai and Singapore), it is also learning to value its colonial past.23 A former British colony has given greater freedom, and dignity, to its inhabitants than the Chinese national state. The colonial era flag is sometimes flown at anti-Peking protests.24

Dubai – where locally born people from at most 10% of the population - is not only one of the largest and most efficient ports in the world, and a regional financial centre, but thanks in part to the Art Dubai fair founded in 2006, is also acquiring a role as a centre of artistic freedom. Showing Levantine cities’ characteristics of hybridity, modernity and freedom, Dubai has become a city where inhabitants of other gulf states can ‘air taboos’: ‘a safe place for unsafe ideas’. ‘The only debate on politics we have here is under the umbrella of art’, says Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi.25

As we approach the ‘universal cosmopolitan existence’ prophesied by Kant in 1784, hopefully our global cities will be less vulnerable than their Levantine predecessors. All depends on the state. If global cities continue to be supported by states, if armies and police forces protect rather than attacking or ignoring the inhabitants, the future belongs to mixed cities with the energy and freedom of cosmopolitanism, rather than to inland capitals dominated by their ‘military-industrial complex’: to Beirut not Damascus; Istanbul not Ankara; Dubai not Riyadh; Hong Kong not Beijing; New York not Washington. States are dinosaurs: cities are the future.

I would like to conclude with the prophetic words of a historian of ancient Gaul and Bordeaux, Camille Jullian. Here the nineteenth century speaks to the twenty-first, across the horrors of the twentieth. Bordeaux shared many characteristics of Levantine cities including powerful foreign merchants, love of pleasure, difference from the hinterland and a preference for trade over patriotism, clearly expressed on 12 March 1814 when it rose against Napoleon and welcomed an Anglo-Portuguese army as liberators. In his great history of Bordeaux, published in 1899, Jullian wrote: ‘today in face of an absolute and monotonous State, in face of even colder and more despotic international ideas, the municipal spirit can become, in the same way as family life and love of the soil, the safeguard of human liberty and dignity’.26 We should not only cultivate our gardens. We should also cultivate our cities.

Philip Mansel is a historian of France and the Middle East. His latest book is Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean (John Murray UK 2010, Yale US and Everest Turkey 2011, Oceanida Greece 2012), a history of Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut. Previous books include Constantinople City of the World’s Desire (1995) and Paris between Empires (2001). He is a founding Trustee of the Levantine Heritage Foundation, which collects documents and images, and organises conferences, about the wider Levant (www.levantineheritage.com), and editor of The Court Historian, international journal of the Society for Court Studies (www.courtstudies.org). In 2012 he won the London Library Life in Literature award. He is currently writing a life of Louis XIV.

1 Down there on a Visit, 1962, p. 72 return to main text
2 Mohamed Afifi, La Mediterranee egyptienne, 2000, p. 3 return to main text
3 Daniel A Bell and Avner de-Shalit, The Spirit of Cities, Princeton 2011, p 58 return to main text
4 Philip Mansel, Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean, 2010, pp. 64-5. return to main text
5 Mansel, Levant , pp. 68-9. return to main text
6 Laurence Grafftey-Smith, Bright Levant. An autobiography, 1970, p 46 return to main text
7 Gudrun Kramer, The Jews in Modern Egypt 1914-1952, 1989, p194. These sentiments have been repeated to me in interviews by Molly Tuby and Solomon Greene. return to main text
8 Sibell Zandi Sayek, Ottoman Izmir, 2012, p 225 return to main text
9 Robert Ilbert, Alexandrie 1830-1930, 2 vols Cairo 1996, I, 361 return to main text
10 Nathan J. Brown, The Precarious Life and Slow Death of the Mixed Courts of Egypt’, International Journal of Middle Easter History, 25, 1993, p 46 return to main text
11 Mediterraneans, 1996, pp. 128-9, interview of 1996 return to main text
12 Daniel Rondeau, Alexandrie, 1997, p. 29 return to main text
13 Mansel, Levant, p 91 return to main text
14 Charles Royle, The Egyptian Campaigns 1882-1885, 1900 ed. pp. 95-7. return to main text
15 A. Hulme-Beaman, Twenty Years in the Near East (London, 1898), p. 46. return to main text
16 Ilbert, Alexandrie, I, 469n return to main text
17 see Philip Mansel, Aleppo: from World City to Battle-field, forthcoming. return to main text
18 Mansel, Levant, pp 355-6 return to main text
19 Sami Zubaida, Middle Eastern Jews in London’, The Middle East in London, June 2013, p. 20 return to main text
20 Evening Standard, 11 December 2012, p 10 return to main text
21 Evening Standard, 15 May 2013, p 5 return to main text
22 International Herald Tribune 29 September 2013, p. 7 return to main text
23 Tom Phillips, ‘Why Shanghai is so special’, Telegraph 5 December 2013, p 27 return to main text
24 International Herald Tribune, 6 December 2012, 22 April 2013 return to main text
25 Financial Times, 23 March 2013, p 15 return to main text
26 Camille Jullian, Histoire de Bordeaux, 2 vols 1899, II, 78 return to main text

‘We are all Levantines now’ – Le Monde diplomatique English edition 16 April 2012

The Future Belongs to Open Cities

We are all Levantines now

The Levant, with its eastern Mediterranean trading cities that flourished thanks to the Franco-Ottoman alliance, was an economic and diplomatic experiment that pioneered a way of life all the world now understands

The Levant means “where the sun rises”: the eastern Mediterranean. Levant is a geographical word, free of associations with race or religion, defined not by nationality but by the sea. The great Levantine cities of Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut were windows on the world, ports more open and cosmopolitan than inland cities like Ankara, Damascus and Cairo. From the beginning Levantine cities were international. They shared defining characteristics: geography, diplomacy, language, hybridity, trade, pleasure, modernity and vulnerability. All are present in today’s global cities.

Take diplomacy: the Levant is a dialogue — at the heart of what Gibbon called “the world’s debate” between Christianity and Islam. In the Levant dialogue trumped conflict, deals came before ideals. The modern Levant was a product of one of the most successful alliances in history, for three and a half centuries after 1535, between France and the Ottoman empire, between the Caliph of the Muslims and the Most Christian King. It was based on the shared hostility of the two monarchies to Spain and the House of Austria, but soon acquired commercial and cultural momentum. Frenchmen called the Levant “our Indies”. Provence lived off the Levant trade.

With the alliance came the capitulations: agreements between the Ottoman and foreign governments which allowed foreigners to live and trade in the Ottoman empire, for the most part under their own legal systems. As a result of the French-Ottoman alliance, French consuls were appointed to most Levantine cities. The Levant was a very near East where, thanks to Ottoman law and order, travel was relatively safe. These were the years of the consuls, and the ports of the Levant became diarchies between foreign consuls and local officials. Many locals preferred to use the consuls’ law courts since they were less corrupt. In 1694 and 1770, consuls in Smyrna (today’s Izmir) persuaded the commanders of the Venetian and Russian navies not to attack the city, to prevent reprisals by Muslims against local Christians.

Smyrna around 1900
Antony Wynn

Consuls acted both as servants of their own government and as local powerbrokers and transmitters of technology and information. In the danse macrabre of seduction and exploitation which has lasted to this day, outside interference was matched by local desire for more of it. In Beirut the al-Khazen family — still prominent in Lebanese politics — used their position as French consuls or vice-consuls in the late 17th and 18th centuries to strengthen their own powerbase — and to urge the king of France to “liberate” the area. In the 19th century the British consul in Beirut was visited by members of the Jumblatt dynasty (still hereditary leaders of the Druze community), asking Britain to rule Lebanon “like India”. The Iranian consul in Beirut was a protector of the local Shia long before the Iranian revolution of 1978.

The consuls were the equivalents of international organisations like Unesco, the IMF or Nato — annoying but effective. In 19th century Alexandria, consuls protected criminals of their own nationality, but also helped introduce quarantine and fight cholera. Consuls organised a peaceful transfer of power from Turkey to Greece in Salonika in 1912, but failed to do the reverse in Smyrna in 1922. (Today, as protection from their own governments, businessmen in the Levant still aspire to become consuls.)

A common language

Language was another form of integration. Before the triumph of English, the Levant had used Lingua Franca, the simplified Italian understood by all the nationalities who went to do business in the region: a business rather than a literary language, rarely written down. It was spoken by slaves, merchants and sailors; by the Beys of Tunis and Tripoli; and by Cervantes, Rousseau and Byron. The Gentleman’s Magazine wrote in 1837 of an Englishman in the Levant: “He has talked Lingua Franca till he has half forgotten English.” Lingua Franca showed the inhabitants’ desire to communicate with the outside world; they did not live in a cultural ghetto.

From 1840, with the spread of schools and growth of steam and rail travel, French — then the world language — replaced Lingua Franca. Pashas, viziers and sultans all spoke it, as did all the rulers of Egypt until King Farouk; Mustafa Kemal the moderniser of Turkey; the poet from Smyrna, George Seferis. It was an official language of the municipalities of Alexandria and Beirut. Young Turk revolutionaries learnt French in Paris (which they called a “star brighter than my dreams”). French words entered Turkish. Many Levantines were — and still are — polyglot, speaking several languages, often in the same sentence: French, Arabic, Turkish, Italian, Spanish, Greek or English. The Smouha family, who came to Alexandria from Baghdad via Manchester, called the “polyglot broth” of French, Arabic and English that they spoke in Egypt “frarabish”.

‘An entire freedom of religion’

The Lebanese American historian William Haddad wrote: “The nation state is the prison of the mind.” The Levant was a jailbreak. The Ottoman empire enforced few of the restrictions of European governments, and there were no ghettos. Travellers were astonished and attracted by the variety of races and costumes in these cities and the juxtaposition of mosques, churches and synagogues, inconceivable in European cities before 1970.

Smyrna enjoyed, according to the French botanist Piton de Tournefort, “an entire freedom of religion”. As some still do, Muslims entered churches to hear the music or gain divine protection. By 1700 Smyrna had 50 mosques, eight synagogues and seven churches (Catholic, Orthodox and Armenian). In many streets you felt you were in a Christian country.

Houses were built in Ottoman-Levantine styles, often by builders from Albania and Macedonia. Later, Italian or Paris-trained architects were summoned. Palaces and houses like the Ras Al Tine palace in Alexandria, or Palais Sursock and Maison Pharaoun in Beirut, blended styles from different countries and centuries. After 1850, red tiles from Marseilles covered roofs throughout the region.

This hybridity affected architecture and public lives more than private lives. Religious authorities controlled marriages and encouraged people to live near their place of worship. Only after 1940, in Alexandria and Beirut, did marriages between different religions and races begin. In Smyrna they were rare.

Outside the home some men developed multiple identities: in the 17th century Sabbatai Sevi, the “false Messiah” of Smyrna, founded his own religion, with Christian and Muslim as well as Jewish elements. Donme, as his followers were called, are still an important element in Izmir and Istanbul. The Mohammed Ali dynasty of Egypt, living in Constantinople as well as Alexandria, were Ottoman, Egyptian and in some attitudes European. Alfred Sursock, who died in 1924, was both an Ottoman diplomat and a Beirut businessman, equally at home in Paris, Constantinople and Beirut. Levantine cities were so cosmopolitan that, to visitors from their hinterlands, Smyrna seemed to be a foreign country and Alexandria a European city moored off the coast of Egypt, while Beirut was the Paris of the Middle East.

Deals, music, modernity

Levantine cities were trading cities, integrated into the economic systems of Europe and Asia. Like Hong Kong or Dubai today, they were synonymous with enterprise. Smyrna exported figs and raisins; Alexandria cotton; Beirut emigrants to the Americas and Africa. People and business, not monuments, were their main attraction. Thackeray wrote that he liked Smyrna because, having no monuments to visit, it produced no “fatigue of sublimity”.

Ports bring music as well as freedom, and Smyrna created its own sound, Smyrnaika or rebetiko. It was the music of rebels, particularly appreciated by the qabadays (Turkish) or dais (Greek) — the toughs who worked, gambled and fought with each other. Rebetiko songs mixed western polyphony and eastern monophony and described the sufferings of the poor, the torments of love or the pleasures of hashish. As early as the 17th century, according to the French consul, the Chevalier d’Arvieux, Beirut was distinguished from neighbouring ports by “parties of pleasure”. It still is. Beirut has become the capital of Arab night life.

Levantine cities also brought education and modernity. Modern Turkey was born in the Levantine port of Salonika, birthplace of Mustafa Kemal. The Young Turk revolution broke out there in 1908, helped by the protection of foreign consuls and the proximity of foreign states. Latife Hanim, the wife of Mustafa Kemal and the first Turkish woman to be unveiled in public, was educated at a French school in Smyrna.

In our new global age, geography is biting back at history. Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut are now trying to revive their cosmopolitan identities. Istanbul, by the 1970s entirely Turkish, is now a global business city again, the shopping centre of the Balkans and Black Sea. The Arab Spring shows the desire of people in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia to reconnect with the outside world and their Mediterranean past — break out of the prison of the nation state.

Today’s global cities — London, Paris, New York, Dubai — are new Levantine cities. (They have welcomed thousands of immigrants from Smyrna, Beirut and Alexandria.) Global cities share the same international character: increasingly different from their hinterlands, they act as educators, liberators and modernisers. Three hundred and fifty languages are spoken in London, and English is the new lingua franca.

The future belongs to cities with the energy and freedom of cosmopolitanism, rather than to inland capitals dominated by their military-industrial complex: to Beirut not Damascus; Dubai not Riyadh; New York not Washington. States are dinosaurs: cities are the future. The New York Times of 7 January 2012 called China “a thin political union composed of semi-autonomous cities.” We are all Levantines now.

Published in Le Monde Diplomatique English edition, April 2012

The Rise and Fall of Royal Alexandria: From Mohammed Ali to Farouk
The original footnoted version of this article appeared in December 2012 in The Court Historian, 17,2

In 1806, with a population of 6,000, Alexandria appeared to Chateaubriand to be ‘the saddest and most deserted place in the world’. By 1849 it had become a cosmopolitan court city of 100,000 people. The reason for the transformation was Mohammed Ali Pasha’s desire to create a modern monarchy.

Like Alexandria’s founder Alexander the Great, Mohammed Ali came from Macedonia. He was born in 1770, son of a Turkish tobacco merchant, in the port of Kavalla in what is now northern Greece. He came to Egypt with an Ottoman army in 1801, to expel the French ‘expedition d’Egypte’. By 1805, helped by Egyptians’ yearning for law and order, he had forced the Ottoman government to make him governor of Egypt. By 1811, having massacred the detested military elite of Mamelukes, he had done what other Ottoman officials were hoping to do in other provinces of the Ottoman Empire: he had established his own government. By 1819, or earlier, he was called, not vali or governor of Egypt, but His Highness the Viceroy.

Far more than Bonaparte, who left neither men, ideas nor institutions, Mohammed Ali was the founder of modern Egypt. In 1812 the French consul his friend Bernardino Drovetti remarked that he had ‘gigantic ideas’ and ‘eagerly seizes every opportunity to shake the yoke of prejudices’. After 1809, Mohammed Ali was the first non-Christian ruler to send regular consignments of young men to be educated in Europe. On the initiative of Drovetti, a system of quarantine, to prevent the spread of plague, was introduced in Alexandria in 1817 – twenty years before the rest of the Ottoman Empire. Mohammed Ali’s remark in 1825, when permitting Christians to ring church bells in Egypt - that, among so many religions, it would be a misfortune if one was not correct – shows an open mind.

Mohammed Ali was also a merchant. The great Egyptian chronicler a-Jabarti wrote with distaste that ‘the Pasha’, tried to raise money ‘by all methods … He wants his slightest desires to be executed without any comment’: he thought only of taking other men’s profits. Mohammed Ali began to visit Alexandria often in order to sell directly to foreign merchants the wheat, rice and other vegetables which he had requisitioned from Egyptians, in exchange for gold, tin, iron, textiles and other European goods - which he then sold on to Egyptian merchants at prices fixed by himself. The English traveller James Saint John found that, among foreigners, ‘every look, word or smile of the Pasha is subjected to an arithmetical calculation to ascertain its value in piastres’. Some found that the Pasha ‘is not always very attentive to his engagements’.

By 1811 Mohammed Ali was believed to be the richest pasha in the empire, and refused to obey orders from the ottoman government which went against his own interests. .By 1817 the port of Alexandria presented, in the words of an English traveller called Robert Richardson, ‘an active scene of ships building, vessels loading and taking in their cargoes, with heaps of grain and bales of goods piled up along the shore.’ Egypt’s other ports, Damietta and Rosetta lost importance.

In 1811 Mohammed Ali spent six weeks in Alexandria, in 1812 two months, in 1818 four months. By 1822 he was said to be spending all the time there: that year the consuls-general moved their offices from Cairo to Alexandria. More Mediterranean, and much cooler, than its inland Muslim rival Cairo, Alexandria became Egypt’s unofficial capital, a synonym for its government as ‘London’ and ‘Paris’ were for the British and French governments. It was particularly popular in the summer months, as an escape from the heat of Cairo. The two cities became a diarchy, each complementing the other, like Petropolis and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

In 1818-21, under the direction of the French engineer Pascal Coste, a seventy-five kilometre long canal was dug between Alexandria and the western branch of the Nile. Workers’ death rates were appalling. The canal, still in use today, improved Alexandria’s supply of drinking water, and enabled cultivation to spread in the surrounding country side: Alexandria was freed from the constraints hindering its growth for the last two hundred years. Mohammed Ali revolutionised the landscape of Egypt, introducing pineapples, bananas, mangoes, figs, vines, orange groves. In the four years after his introduction in 1820 of long-crop Jumel cotton, cotton production rose from 944 to 228,078 hundredweight. Until the 1970’s cotton would be the basis of Alexandria’s economy.

Another improvement was public health. After 1825, with the help of a French chief medical officer Clot Bey, Mohammed Ali instituted an early form of state health control, with rural clinics and quarantine applied with brutal efficiency – to improve the quality of his soldiers - long before the rest of the Ottoman Empire.

Alexandria became a court city a well as a commercial port. Mohammed Ali built a palace on the western edge of the peninsula on which Alexandria was built, called Ras el-tine (the cape of figs) in 1811-17. It was in traditional Ottoman style, in wood and plaster, with wide, projecting eaves, and protruding rectangular windows, probably designed by craftsmen from the mountains of Macedonia. There were two sections: a harem, like a walled convent; and a divan or office and reception building. Soon, however, reflecting the influence of an architect from Livorno called Pietro Avoscani, the palace began to look more European. Portraits of Mohammed Ali’s own family and European monarchs were hung on the walls, French furniture placed in the rooms.

In Ras-el-tine the pasha kept open house. He liked foreign visitors such as Disraeli, Marshal Marmont, or the painter Horace Vernet who brought him news from Europe or Alexandria. An English naval officer called Charles Napier found that he was ‘fond of gossiping and said to be informed of everything that is either said or done in Alexandria.’ Occasionally he discussed his methods of government: ‘You must be aware of how many opposing interests I have to consult, how many prejudices to surmount, how delicate is the affair! I can find very few to understand me and do my bidding. I have been almost alone for the greater part of my life.’

Foreigners were more likely to be present in the palace than pious Muslims. One popular Alexandria preacher, Sheikh Ibrahim denounced innovations in his sermons: when he claimed (incorrectly) that meat butchered by Christians and Jews could not be halal, he was temporarily exiled. A rebellion by a shaykh who called himself the Mahdi, and Mohammed Ali an infidel, was crushed. A French consul wrote that Mohammed Ali had bought most of the ulama; those opposed to his projects were exiled. Once one of the most fanatical provinces of the Ottoman Empire, under Mohammed Ali Egypt became one of its most tolerant. Jabarti complained that Christians, ‘the enemies of our religion’, had become ‘the companions and intimate friends of His Highness’, and even employed Muslims as servants.

Mohammed Ali’s desire for a modern navy was another reason for his move to Alexandria. A naval school was established by Ras el-tine in 1826. Its 1,200 pupils would include Mohammed Ali’s own son Said. The Director of the port of Alexandria, Besson Bey, with another French officer called Koenig, were in charge of Said’s education and ensured that he spoke good French. Another French officer, Louis de Cerisy, began to supervise the construction of a new arsenal, between Ras el-tine palace and the city. Employing as many as 5,000, the arsenal was as international as the palace: ‘French, English, Italians, Maltese, Arabs, Turks, Armenians, Copts , Arabs of the desert all work together and understand each other as best they can’.

Mohammed Ali spent much of the day in the arsenal, or watching it through a telescope from a special wooden bath house, jutting into the sea from the garden of Ras el-tin, whence he bathed in the sea. For Mohammed Ali’s move to Alexandria had personal, as well as political and commercial, motives. Like George III at the same time, he had doctors who told him to take sea baths for his health. From the start Alexandria was a recreational, as well as a naval and commercial, court city. It is still Egypt’s most popular summer resort.

Alexandria became a boom city, like two other international ‘windows on the west’ to which it was sometimes compared, Saint Petersburg and Odessa. After 1825 wrote the Russian consul, every day ‘we see some fresh innovation in the European style destined for the improvement of the city or for public utility.’ In 1834 Mohammed Ali set up the Commissione di Ornato or Board of Works to supervise the construction of roads and buildings, and, as the city expanded, to allot land to those he favoured. The first President was the first Greek consul Michael Tossizza, a Vlach merchant from Kavalla and founder of the Greek hospital. He built the Palais Tossizza, later the Bourse, at the head of the Place des Consuls.

Alexandria was becoming Greek again – for the first time since it surrendered to an Arab army in 642. Greeks’ success was partly due to language. Mohammed Ali never learnt Arabic. Until the 1860’s Turkish not Arabic was the first language of the court and government in Egypt. Since immigrants like Tossizza came from areas of the Ottoman empire with large Turkish populations, they probably knew Turkish better than most Egyptians.

Alexandria became part of the world economy. In 1839, at £2,825,880 p.a., the value of trade going through Alexandria alone was equivalent to the value of all trade going through the whole of Egypt ten years earlier. The number of European firms established in Alexandria (such as the Barkers and Peels, who would remain until the Suez war of 1956) rose from 23 in 1822 to 69 in 1837. In 1844 the Comte d’Estourmel arriving from Cairo, seeing people in the ‘broad airy streets’ of the modern part of Alexandria, wearing European clothes and speaking European languages, felt that he was back in Europe.

Alexandria developed the first modern square in the Middle East, between the Ottoman city on the peninsula and the ruins of the classical city inland. In 1813 it was described as a ‘large square near the sea … the Europeans come here to breathe the sea breezes’. By 1829 residence of the French, American and Swedish consuls, it was called the Place des Consuls, visible expression of their power and status. It was redesigned as a formal rectangle in the early 1830s by a political exile from the Papal States called Francesco Mancini with a surrounding area of straight wide streets. Large stone complexes known as okallas, contained court-yards, shops selling ‘all the productions of Europe, and, on the upper floors, apartments - in effect nineteenth century shopping malls. Round the Place des consuls, according to Mrs George Griffith in 1843, ‘Carriages of every description filled with smartly dressed ladies are to be seen driving about at all hours’.

As the city expanded, it began to be surrounded by another city, of workers’ huts among the classical ruins. The huts were single rooms six feet high, covered in white plaster, which reminded Florence Nightingale of an army of white ants. James Saint John called them ‘inferior in comfort and appearance to dog kennels or pig sties’, even to ‘the cabins of the Irish’. Their inhabitants’ poverty seemed to have gone ‘beyond the limits of the possible’.

Mohammed Ali used Alexandria as a base from which to attack the Ottoman empire. In 1822, in a letter to his nephew Ahmed Pasha Yeghen, he had denounced it as ‘feeble and rampant with problems because of its viziers’ obsession with ceremonies and tradition.’ The Sultan was in the hands of ulama, too bigoted to employ Franks in positions of authority. Using his modern navy and army in 1831 and 1832 Mohammed Ali conquered Syria; his armies almost reached Constantinople.

In 1839 -1840 Alexandria was the focus of European diplomacy. Egypt’s ally France wanted Mohammed Ali to keep control of Syria. Britain, Austria and the Ottoman empire demanded its return to Ottoman rule. Europe trembled on the brink of general war. Palmerston wrote to the British consul in Alexandria of ‘the importance which His Majesty’s Government attaches to the maintenance of the integrity of the Turkish empire as an object of European interest’. Mohammed Ali began to fortify Alexandria. A national guard drilled on the Place des Consuls. Rival French and British naval squadrons cruised among the islands of the Aegean.

In October and November however, Mohammed Ali lost Syria to a combined British, Ottoman and Austrian attack, helped by a Maronite uprising. On 22 November 1840 Commodore Charles Napier, moored his ship HMS Powerful in Alexandria harbour. On 26 November he had an audience with Mohammed Ali. When asked for his credentials, he replied that ‘the double-shotted guns of the Powerful, with the squadron under his command to back him, his honour as an Englishman, and the knowledge he had of the desire of the four Great Powers for peace, were all the credentials he possessed.’ He advised the Pasha to accept the terms offered by the Porte. Otherwise Alexandria might be bombarded ‘and His Highness, who has now the opportunity of founding a dynasty, may sink into a simple Pasha.’

Mohammed Ali yielded to superior force. Boghos Bey his foreign minister replied that ‘in no case has His Highness intended to place himself in opposition to the will of the great powers of Europe’. After much renegotiation, an imperial decree dated 1 June 1841 arrived from Constantinople in Alexandria. Mohammed Ali was made hereditary governor; his family would reign in Egypt until King Farouk’s departure from Ras el-tin on 26 July 1952. Egypt and the Ottoman Empire, however, would share the same flag, coinage and uniforms, and follow the same internal laws and international agreements. The Pasha of Egypt’s army was to be limited to 18,000 and no ships of the line were to be built without the Sultan’s permission. In other words Mohammed Ali would no longer have the means to invade other Ottoman provinces. Europe had, yet again, intervened to save the Ottoman Empire. Mohammed Ali’s dynastic ambition, however, had started Egypt on its long march to independence.

In the 1840’s Alexandria continued to expand. Bayle Saint John, who arrived there in 1846, found ‘a perfect rage for building in Alexandria’. Entire quarters had been added ‘as if by magic…everywhere else almost the bricklayers and masons are at work’. The population had risen from 60,000 in 1840 (of whom about 12,000 were soldiers and 8,000 sailors) to 104,189 in 1848, the first year that a proper census was conducted. When Mohammed Ali died there in 1849, he inspired such regret that, the British consul reported, his funeral procession was followed by ‘all the chief Muslim officers, all the consular body and all the principal merchants and inhabitants… Moreover we as Europeans ought in justice to his memory to remember that during many years while a Christian could not walk about Aleppo or Damascus or any other town under the immediate government of the sultan safe from injury or insult, the English Traveller, the Sportman or the Naturalist might wander unarmed about the valley of the Nile and its adjacent deserts with as much safety to his person and property as at midday at Hyde Park.’

Thanks to Mohammed Ali, the city of Alexandria would be as effective as a modernising force in Egypt as government decrees. However, ‘the key to Egypt’, as Alexandria was called, might also act as a Trojan horse. Its role as a summer court city put the Egyptian ruler within range of foreign warships’ guns. Palmerston threatened Mohammed Ali with a bombardment or blockade of the city, in 1833, 1838 and 1840. Flaubert predicted during his visit in 1850, that, given its ambition to control the route to India, Britain was bound to become mistress of Egypt: ‘remember my prediction’.

Mohammed Ali was succeeded by his grandson Abbas, who preferred Cairo – in particular the suburb he created there called Abbasiya. After his untimely death in 1854, the French and British consuls helped to secure the succession of the eldest male of the dynasty, his uncle Said Pasha, rather than Abbas’s son Ilhami. In the words of the British consul, Said ‘is 38 years of age, speaks… French and English with fluency, has always affected the society of Europeans’. Like Mohammed Ali, he preferred Alexandria to Cairo.

Under Said the Egyptian government became, in the words of one of its officials Nubar pasha, ‘a regime of laissez-aller and complete lack of self respect.’ Said was the victim of his own character, as well as Europeans’ financial and technical skills. Since he invariably yielded to pressing demands, his reign saw government contracts produce ‘incredible’ profits, and Alexandria business-men make equally incredible fortunes and law-suits. Consuls often supported their nationals’ claims on the Egyptian government, and shared the profits. During an audience at Ras el-tin, a consul-general shivered by an open window. Said pasha said ‘Cover yourself, cover yourself; if you catch cold, your government will ask me for an indemnity.

Said’s most important contract was for the creation of the Suez Canal. It was signed in Alexandria with his old friend Ferdinand de Lesseps. De Lesseps had first met Said in 1831 when serving as French vice-consul in Alexandria – where he had also found, in the consulate archives, plans for a Suez Canal drawn up during the French occupation in 1798-9. The friendship had been reinforced by de Lesseps’s secret presents of food, when Mohammed Ali had been trying to force Said to lose weight.

On the day he returned to Alexandria, 7 November 1854, De Lesseps was received by Said. On 30 November a convention was signed. By the time the canal was opened by de Lesseps’s cousin the Empress Eugenie in November 1869, the Compagnie universelle de Suez had charged so much money, and used so much forced Egyptian labour, that it had helped ruin both the Egyptian treasury, and many Egyptian lives None of Said’s predecessors, nor any Ottoman Sultan, would have agreed to the construction of the canal. They knew that, once it had become the main British route to India, it would tempt the British government to occupy Egypt.

In the nine years of Said’s reign the number of Europeans in Alexandria quadrupled. By 1864 there were 50 to 60,000, a quarter to a third of the population: 15, 000 Greeks, 15,000 Italians, 10,000 French, the rest mainly Maltese and Syrians from the Ottoman Empire.

His successor Ismail Pasha won the title of Khedive – confirming his semi-sovereign status under the Ottoman Sultan – in 1867. Alexandria’s modernising role was confirmed by the unveiling of an equestrian statue of Mohammed Ali – the first public statue in a Muslim country - in the middle of the Places des Consuls in 1873. Ismail Pasha’s extravagance, however, ensured that lost control of Egyptian finances to European bankers. Their programme of reforms and austerity – putting interest payments to foreign creditors before salary payments to Egyptian soldiers and officials - increased Egyptian unrest. In 1879, prompted by the French and British governments, the Ottoman Sultan forced Ismail to abdicate in favour of his son Tewfik. He sailed into exile from the quay by Ras el-tin palace on 30 June 1879.

The British government began to plan intervention. A Liberal government came to power in 1880. Sir Charles Dilke, the new under-secretary of state at the Foreign Office - protesting his government’s respect for ‘the liberties of the Egyptian people’ - was determined to show British voters that Liberals could be as imperialistic as Tories.

The Prime Minister Mr. Gladstone had a personal incentive for intervening, as he realised when adding up his fortune in December 1881. He had an exceptionally large holding in Egyptian government bonds: £40,567 or 37% of his entire portfolio. Sixty-five other MP’s also had investments in Egypt. Thanks in part to the British occupation of Egypt, these investments would prove more profitable than many British stocks. The need to ‘protect the Suez canal’ was another factor influencing British policy. Strategy, ‘the market’ and domestic politics drove Britain to occupy Egypt. The fate of the Khedive, and of Europeans in Alexandria, would be a pretext.

On 20 May 1882 British and French gun boats anchored off Alexandria. Their orders were to communicate with the consuls- general, support the Khedive and land a force if the safety of Europeans required it. For the Khedive Europe was a friend - for most Egyptians an enemy. Many wanted a written constitution to replace khedivial absolutism.

On 13 June, as he did every year, the Khedive Tewfik arrived in Alexandria for the summer, accompanied by the foreign consuls-general and Egyptian ministers including the Minister of War, a popular hero called Urabi Pasha. Fighting between Egyptians and Europeans broke out. Most Europeans fled. On 11 July British warships opened fire on the city. That day and the next the main sounds in Alexandria were the crackle and roar of flames, the crash of falling buildings, and howling dogs. The last Egyptian troops left around 1 pm on 12 July.

Alexandria turned, in the words of a British consular assistant A. Hulme Beaman, into ‘a dantesque Inferno, alight almost from end to end, the flames running riot from street to street without any attempt being made to check them being made, with wild figures here and there pillaging and looting and ghastly corpses swollen to gigantic proportions lying charred and naked in the roadways.’ The only object untouched was the statue of Mohammed Ali, who seemed to survey the ruins with disgust.

The commander of the British fleet, Admiral Sir Beauchamp Seymour was too nervous to let troops land. Therefore the city was abandoned to looters. ‘So far as any repressive action on the mob is concerned, I fear our expedition must be regarded as a failure’, reported the British consul Charles Cookson on 14 July.

That evening, however, 400 British sailors and marines landed with a Gatling gun, and entered the city. As more ships arrived, more sailors and marines landed, including – in a gesture showing international support for British imperialism - Germans, Americans and Greeks, to guard their consulates and help ‘restore order’. They were joined after 17 July by soldiers from the British garrison in Cyprus.

The geography of the Khedive’s palaces helped determine events. Resolved to remain on shore, rather than take refuge with the Royal Navy, on 10 July the Khedive had left Ras el-tin for the palace of his cousin Mustafa Fazil in Ramleh, to the east of the city, with his ministers. For the next few days, while British ships bombarded Alexandria, his household was ‘completely beside themselves with fear’; but on 12 July loyal Bedouin arrived to strengthen his guard. The Khedive ‘himself showed the most complete self-possession and calm’. Egyptian troops left on 12 July, to follow Urabi to Cairo. The Khedive wanted to ‘if possible to get within reach of the fleet’: in other word he allied himself with Britain against most Egyptians. On 13 July remaining officers affirmed their loyalty and were rewarded with decorations. The account by Gerald Portal continues: ‘At about 4 o’clock His Highness arrived at the Ras el-tine palace, having been met on the road by Sir A. Colvin and Mr Cartwright, while at the foot of the staircase he was received by Admiral Sir Beauchamp Seymour’. Britain provided protection for the Khedive; the Khedive provided legitimisation for the British occupation of his country.

By 20 July there were about 3,800 British soldiers, sailors and marines in Alexandria. It became the base from which the British army conquered Egypt. Europeans and Egyptians began to return. More British forces arrived under General Sir Garnet Wolseley who, in a private letter to his wife on 10 September 1882, denounced ‘That silly and criminal bombardment of Alexandria which Lord Northbrook and the Admiralty concocted’. Two days later he defeated Urabi at Tel el-Kabir. British forces would not finally leave Egypt until after the attack on the Suez Canal in 1956.

Tewfik’s son Abbas Hilmi succeeded him in 1892, at the age of eighteen. The real rulers of the country were the British consul-general and the British commander-in- chief of the Egyptian army. Every June, however, Abbas Hilmi would enter Alexandria in state, escorted by cavalry. His arrival would be celebrated by a ball in his honour given by the merchants of the city – most of whom then left to spend the summer in Europe. For them, the Khedive Ismail’s boast about Egypt being part of Europe was true. When visiting the municipality, Abbas Hilmi expressed (probably in French) his belief in Alexandria’s cosmopolitanism: ‘in my good city of Alexandria I want there to be neither foreigners nor natives, but only Alexandrians, rivalling and emulating each other for the progress of their city.’ He married an Austrian countess and in his own household employed Turkish, Arabic and English secretariats.

The Khedive built himself yet another palace, call ed Montazah – ‘the path’ - on a pine-covered promontory to the east of the city. A monstrosity reminiscent of one of King Ludwig II’s castles in Bavaria, the vast columned Haremlik building, extended in the 1920’s, is surmounted by ‘Florentine’ campaniles with views of Alexandria. Inside the decoration and furniture is in the gilt ‘Louis Farouk’ style preferred by the House of Mohammed Ali.

Suspected of being pro-Geman, Abbas Hilmi was deposed by the British government in 1914. In 1917 his uncle Fouad, son of the Khedive Ismail, was Britain’s choice as Sultan of Egypt – thanks in part to his friend Ronald Storrs, Oriental Secretary at the British Residency. Other princes, out of loyalty to the Khedive or the Ottoman Empire, refused the throne. A former playboy, Fouad spoke with a ‘high spasmodic bark’: a bullet had remained stuck in his throat after his brother-in-law had shot him during a quarrel over his first wife’s money. At times the bark sounded like a gun being fired.

Having shuttled in his youth between Turin (where he was educated), Vienna (where he had served as Ottoman Military Attache), Paris and Constantinople, as well as Cairo and Alexandria, even more than most of his family he was a natural cosmopolitan. King Fouad I, as he became after the proclamation of the constitution in 1922, had also acquired a taste for grandeur and cultural patronage. He helped found the Universite Fouad Ier in Cairo – importing Italian and French professors - and commissioned magnificent editions of foreign documents on nineteenth century Egypt, for which historians will always be grateful. He also founded the Arab Language Academy, modelled on the Academie Française, to guard the purity of Arabic, and the Arab Music Academy, which established a system of notation.

In Alexandria, King Fouad commissioned the transformation of Ras el-tin palace, and the creation of a throne room in ‘Islamic Baroque’, by the architect of the royal palaces, his friend Ernesto Verrucci Bey. Verrucci Bey was also the architect of the neo-baroque arcade erected on the corniche around a statue of the Khedive Ismail by Pietro Canonica, inscribed in Italian and Arabic ‘a Ismail il magnifico, la communita italiana’ and unveiled in 1938.

King Fouad became a major political force, able to keep the Egyptian national hero Saad Zaghloul out of office for most of his reign. In Alexandria he held a monthly levee, which British naval officers were required to attend: the king, ‘most affable and civil’, spoke to them in French. To diplomats, bankers and politicians, he gave what the British diplomat David Kelly called ‘astonishing’ audiences, analysing men and events with embarrassing frankness, complaining of the limits placed on his power by the new - in his opinion far too democratic - 1922 constitution, based on that of Belgium. Egyptians ‘were completely unsuited for parliamentary government on those lines ... why had we not left him to run the country as he well knew how to do, if we would only cease interfering?’

Sir Richard Vaux, president of the Cours mixtes in Alexandria, found King Fouad ‘the ablest man in his own dominions…[with] an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the men and affairs of his country… A prodigious worker, he easily mastered the details of administration and it is safe to say that his ministers were in truth his ministers and not his masters.’ Another official praised the King’s ‘perception of world affairs, common sense judgements and humane interest in all aspects of contemporary Egyptian life.’ His friends included two wealthy Egyptian ladies from prominent Jewish families, Madame Rolo and Mme Cattaui Pasha, chief lady in waiting to the Queen. Like most Egyptian Jews at the time, they felt Egyptian and, if they thought of Zionism, regarded it as ‘very unchic’. A few years later a Zionist official reported of the 25,000 Jews living in Alexandria: ‘a decided animosity and antipathy to Zionist aims has sprung up. They look upon it as something that threatens their own peace and must be discouraged.’

The Egyptian government and the foreign embassies continued to move to Alexandria every summer. The British residency required a special train, which was saluted as it slid past the stations along the route by bowing mayors, and soldiers and police standing to attention. As in other court cities, shops displayed signs advertising their role as suppliers ‘by appointment’ to the monarch or a member of his family.

In 1936, King Fouad died. The arrivals of his son King Farouk in Alexandria harbour, in May 1936, returning from his education in England, and in July 1937, after a holiday in Europe, were government-organised popular triumphs. In 1936 showered with rose petals, he drove from the harbour to the train station in an open Rolls Royce. In 1937, crowds of girl guides, boy scouts, school children and workers and religious students shouted ‘Long live Farouk!’, ‘Long live the king of the Nile!’ Handsome, well-intentioned and, unlike his father, fluent in Arabic, he was admired as ‘Farouk the Pious’, and regularly went to mosque in public.

His marriage in 1938 made him even more popular. Both he and his bride Farida Zulficar were only seventeen. She came from Alexandria’s modernising Muslim elite, educated at the Catholic school of Notre Dame de Sion. King Farouk liked Alexandria. It would be his idea to revive the Egyptian navy, with head quarters in Alexandria, and ships bought from Britain. In 1940, during celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of the Alexandria municipality, Ahmed Kamel Pasha, the Director-General, expressed the official view of the city’s future. It was assured not only by ‘this spirit of confraternity and solidarity between the Egyptian and foreign elements’ - and the municipality’s ‘particular benevolence for the working class and the poor’ - but also by ‘the High solicitude of His Majesty the King …who has made of our beautiful city not only the second capital of the Kingdom but also His Residence of predilection’; his first child, a daughter, was born there. The local newspaper La Reforme, founded in 1895, also prophesied the ‘finest destiny’ for Alexandria as a cross roads of east and west, ‘a furnace of different races, religions and customs … under the aegis of His Majesty King Farouk’.

In the Second World War, even when German and Italian armies were only sixty miles away, Alexandria remained relatively calm. The Egyptian government showed its confidence by starting a university. It was called the Universite Farouk Ier – as Cairo University was the Universite Fouad Ier - and opened by the King in person on 8 February 1943. He was still handsome and popular: people were disappointed that he drove through the streets, decorated with triumphal arches, in a closed rather than an open car. The event was commemorated by a gold medal, which can be seen today in the National Museum in the Villa Bassili on the rue Fouad, former residence of a dynasty of wood and cotton merchants. Revealing the adulation surrounding the young King, its Arabic inscription reads ‘King Farouk’s university – Alexander the Great who established Alexandria – and King Farouk the first is the King 1361/1943’.On one side are superimposed effigies of Alexander the Great and King Farouk, as equals.

Alexandria appeared stable enough to assume a new role, as a refuge for exiled royalty. Already Alexandria had sheltered the Greek royal family and government fleeing the German invasion in 1941. Exiled Ottoman princes living in Alexandria since 1924 were joined by Crown Prince Paul and Crown Princess Frederica of the Hellenes and their children in 1944-6. In 1946 ex-King Victor Emanuel of Italy and his grandson ex-King Simeon of Bulgaria, and ex-king Zog of Albania, came at King Farouk’s invitation, with their relations and servants.

For a time Alexandria was capital of ‘free Albania’, a base from which expeditions were sent to try to liberate it from Communism. The self-made king, Zog I, lived in a regal villa in Ramleh, in greater state than the head of the ancient House of Savoy, Victor Emanuel III. The latter lived with his wife in a small villa in a new area called Smouha City: a marshy district which had been drained and laid out as a garden city, with its own sports club and race course, by a Jewish friend of King Fouad from Baghdad, called Joseph Smouha. When Victor Emanuel was buried at Saint Catherine’s church in 1948, the funeral procession was organised by King Farouk.

Alexandria retained the appearance of a royal capital. On 11 February 1945, to celebrate the King’s birthday, a relay race was run from Rase el-tin palace to Abdine palace in Cairo, followed by a military review. On other years palaces, offices and villas, and ships in the harbour, were illuminated. ‘The whole town’ came to the corniche to watch the firework display, as the King was driven past cheering crowds in a procession of red Rolls Royces from Montazah to Ras el-tin: red was the colour reserved for palace cars. From 1945 the director general of the municipality was a trusted servant of the King, the chief architect of the royal palaces, Mustafa Fahmy Pasha.

However Farouk had begun his transformation from handsome young hero into obese buffoon. There were two triggers: a head-on car crash in November 1943, and long and painful recuperation; and the failure of his marriage to Queen Farida. Addicted to gambling and women, he became an embarrassment, then a scandal, to many Egyptians. In 1943 Noel Coward, like many other British friends, had found him charming and courteous, ‘a big fine-looking young man’. Sholto Douglas called him well informed and well read and ‘unquestionably very popular’. A year later an English officer was shocked by the King’s ‘ravenous appetite’ and the ‘marked coarseness’ in his conversation; his entourage – including his favourite servant/companion Antonio Pulli – was ‘very third class’. He began to frequent night-clubs and parties. Mary de Zogheb noted after a party at Alice Zervudachi’s on 6 September 1944:‘King Farouk came late, goes often to parties’.

After 1948 King Farouk was further weakened by Egypt’s defeat in the first Arab-Israeli war, a sense of personal impotence, and accusations of corruption. Like most rich Alexandrians, he resumed the pre-war habit of summering in Europe. Egyptians resented, even more than their own monarch, the vast British bases still in the Canal zone. On 25 January 1952 British troops killed fifty Egyptian auxiliary policemen during fighting in Ismailia. The next day – Black Saturday - Cairo – but not Alexandria – erupted. In the words of Naguib Mahfouz, ‘concealed anger, suppressed despair, unreleased tension, all the things people had been nursing inside them had suddenly burst their bottle, exploding like a hurricane of demons.’

From Alexandria on 3 April 1952, Colonel Sir Edward Peel MC of Peel and Company, which had been in the city over a hundred years, tried to instil sense in the British government. He wrote ‘security and British interests in the Middle east are being jeopardized for an unattainable objective - a secure base on the canal’. That year five Prime Ministers came and went in as many months: by the summer Ahmad Abboud Pasha, the richest man in Egypt, was said to be paying the King to appoint the Prime Minister of his choice. The American ambassador Jefferson Caffery reported a feeling of ‘impending revolution’. ‘The factors of instability in Egypt outbalance by far the factors of stability’. The failure of negotiations for a complete British withdrawal of all military personnel from the Canal Zone was the single most important factor of instability. The King felt time was running out and warned the American ambassador: ‘you will all be sorry if I get turned out.’

In 1952, as in 1882, the diarchy between Cairo and Alexandria, and the location of the royal palaces, helped determine events. As usual the King went by special royal train to Alexandria for the summer. As usual the beaches were packed with Cairenes, including government ministers. The King was aware of opposition in the officer corps and for once did not plan to go to Europe that summer. It was a race for time between him and the ‘Free Officers’ led by Nasser. One Prime Minister Hussain Sirry failed to get the king to give orders to arrest the officers. The King thought he could control the army by suspending the Officers’ Club board of directors, and appointing a new government under the reformist Neguib el-Hilali – arranged in Alexandria by Hafez Afifi the King’s chef de cabinet – with the King’s brother-in-law Ismail Shirin as Minister of War. At 4 pm on 22 July the new cabinet was sworn in by the King in the throne room of Ras el-tin. At 9pm the King finally ordered the arrest of the ‘Free Officers’.

He was too late. That night, warned of the King’s move, the Free Officers’ units had occupied key installations in Cairo; palaces, ministries, Farouk airport and army HQ. Casualties were limited to two soldiers defending the last. From Cairo at 7 am on the morning of 23 July came a radio announcement by colonel el-Sadat: ‘People of Egypt the country has just passed the most troubled period of its history.’ Appealing for calm, he blamed the defeat of 1948 on ‘the agents of dissolution’. There was no mention of revolution or republic.

Foreign diplomats and Egyptian politicians were caught off guard. The CIA and MI6, however, were not. They considered the Free Officers more likely than the King to be a barrier against communism and had been encouraging them since May 1952, or earlier. The British Prime Minister Antony Eden later said: ‘I had frequently indicated to our Embassy that British forces would not intervene to keep King Farouk on his throne.’ This policy was confirmed to Neguib in person by John Hamilton of the British Embassy. In 1882 the monarchy had been a useful instrument of control for Britain. In 1952 it was not.

On 23 July there were phone calls and messengers between Alexandria and Cairo. At 2 am the Minister of the Interior Mortada el-Maraghy, intelligent and energetic, spoke to the officers’ figure-head leader, the popular general Neguib: ‘I appeal to you as a soldier and as a patriot to put a stop to this affair.’ Aly Maher the King’s former chef de cabinet and Prime Minister, known as ‘the fox’, was imposed by the army as a new Prime Minister; he and Farouk had a meeting on 24 July. The King’s detested advisers Pulli Bey, his valet Mohammed Hassan, two pashas of Lebanese origin Elias Andraos and Karim Thabet and six others were dismissed.

It soon became clear that the Free Officers wanted more than a change of ministry. The King prepared to leave. He had often enjoyed driving himself very fast through Alexandria in a red car. On his last drive through his favourite city, from Montazah to Ras el-tin – where his royal yacht Mahroussa was moored - early on the morning of 25 July, King Farouk was driven by a chauffeur in a black car, to try to escape notice. His second wife Queen Narriman, his son and their nanny sat behind. A photograph shows him sitting by the nervous chauffeur, shielding his face. He was followed by another car containing his daughters by his first wife. By 7 am on 25 July the palaces were surrounded by tanks, and buzzed by aircraft, sent from Cairo.

The same day Neguib and Colonel Sadat flew to Alexandria from Cairo. Temporary head quarters were established in Mustafa Pasha Barracks – the palace where Tewfik had taken refuge in 1882. They had discussions with Ali Maher at Wizara, the government’s summer office in the rue d’Aboukir in Bulkeley. Crowds cheered. Farouk may have wanted to leave Egypt on the evening of 25 July but had to wait for the Mahroussa batteries to be recharged. This historic royal yacht, built in Britain in 1865, (and recently refitted at government expense), which had opened the Suez canal in 1869 and already carried the Khedive Ismail into exile in 1879, was now preparing to carry another descendant of Mohammed Ali. The destination was the same: Naples.

On 26 July at 9.20am the officers’ ultimatum demanding the King’s abdication and exile was presented to Ali Maher. He too had believed that the officers – as they had first proclaimed – wanted only to expel the King’s cronies, not the King. When told the news, Ali Maher went ‘pale as death’ according to Sadat. The fox had been out-foxed. The ultimatum – by ‘the army representing the power of the People’ - accused the King of responsibility for ‘shameful fortunes’; violations of the constitution; contempt for the will of the people: complete anarchy - ‘no citizen now feels his life, his dignity or his goods in security’; defeat in the Palestine war; and ‘traffic in defective arms and munitions’.

On 26 July Montazah surrendered. The Sudanese guards at Ras el-tin put up a token resistance. Six were wounded, probably by mistake. Compared to the bloodbaths in other cities in the twentieth century, it was a civilised coup. Nasser is reported to have said: ‘let us spare Farouk and send him into exile. History will sentence him to death.’ Neguib boasted – describing his military coup, incorrectly, as a ‘revolution’ - ‘few if any revolutions I think have accomplished more with the loss of fewer lives.’

Ras el-tin, the first expression of the Mohammed Ali dynasty’s love of Alexandria, now witnessed its expulsion. When he presented the ultimatum to the King at 10.42 am, Ali Maher, who knew him well, said ‘I am sorry Your Majesty.’ The guards in the palace wanted to fight or kill any Free Officers who entered. The King ordered them not to. His last gamble was to offer to make Neguib a Field Marshal. The offer was refused. At noon in the marble hall, coughing and shuffling his feet, the King signed his abdication in favour of his one year old son Ahmed Fouad; his hand was shaking so much that he signed twice. Most of the royal collections, including his personal collections of books, stamps and coins, were in Cairo. Nevertheless a large number of trunks were loaded on the yacht. To his amazement the one person he asked to accompany him into exile – Pulli Bey, whom he had known since he was a boy – refused; the King was abandoned by his sycophants.

Sixteen years earlier King Farouk had arrived in Alexandria, showered with rose petals. Now he left, bloated and despised. Egyptians’ principal reaction was surprise at the speed and ease of his overthrow. At 5.45 the King descended the staircase to the landing stage then by launch to the boat.

The American ambassador Jefferson Caffery was present – perhaps to show American approval, or to ensure lack of bloodshed. As Farouk and Narriman, carrying their son in her arms, passed the royal guards, the royal anthem was played and the royal standard lowered for the last time. Then, according to Neguib, ‘the palace servants in accordance with Egyptian custom set up a wail of lament that could be heard a quarter of a mile away.’ It was punctuated by the rhythmic booming of a twenty-one gun salute.

At 6 General Neguib came on board the Mahroussa to say goodbye to the ex-King. Both were, by Neguib’s account, close to tears. He reminded Farouk that he had been the only officer to resign in 1942, in protest at a British intervention to force him to change his ministry: ‘it was you, effendim, who forced us to do what we have done.’

‘I know, you’ve done what I always intended to do myself ‘replied the King, who wanted to appear less foolish than he felt. Other versions of his reply are, ‘I should have done the same thing myself if you hadn’t’ – perhaps meaning that he had planned to leave Egypt, after ensuring his son’s succession. Another version is ‘what you did to me, I was going to do to you’ – he would have arrested the officers if they had not expelled him.

They saluted and shook hands. The conversation continued:
- Your task will be difficult. It isn’t easy, you know, to govern Egypt.
‘Such were Farouk’s last words. I felt sorry for him as we disembarked. Farouk I knew would fail as an exile even as he had failed as a King. But he was such an unhappy man in every way that I could take no pleasure in his destitution, necessary though it was.’

The Mahroussa sailed for Naples – ‘it was a good departure’, remembers Vice-Admiral Rushdi, who was on an escort ship and like most officers in the Egyptian navy loved its protector King Farouk. Every ship in the harbour hoisted its flags in farewell.

For King Farouk, as for other Alexandrians, leaving Egypt was not difficult. He merely exchanged one Mediterranean city for another. For Alexandria, however, his departure was a sign that its transformation from cosmopolitan court city to capital of the Nile delta, as it now is, had begun. The coup was a victory of Cairo over Alexandria. The new regime stopped the habit of senior government officials moving to Alexandria for the summer. Whatever the King’s failings, he represented a monarchy which was cosmopolitan, multilingual and favourable to minorities. Whatever the Free Officers’ ideals, they were nationalists and militarists. Within two months of their coup, political parties and newspapers were closed; opponents of the new regime arrested; strikers hanged. Egypt would not begin to enjoy civilian rule again until 2012.

Was Salonica a Levantine City?
Talk given at the Thessaloniki Conference of November 2012 commemorating 100 years since the arrival of the Greek Army

The Levant means ‘where the sun rises’: the eastern Mediterranean. Levant is a geographical word, free from associations with race or religion. It is defined not by frontiers but by the sea. Levantine cities like Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut shared the following characteristics: geography; diplomacy; language; hybridity; commerce; modernity; finally vulnerability. In the nineteenth century Salonica was one of them.

1. Diplomacy

The modern Levant was a product of diplomacy, not conquest. It flourished after 1535 as a result of one of the most successful alliances in history, between the Ottoman Empire and France, between the Caliph of the Muslims and the Most Christian King. It was based on international strategy, on their shared hostility to Spain and the House of Austria.

With the alliance came the capitulations: agreements between the Ottoman and foreign governments which allowed foreigners to live and trade, in the Ottoman Empire, for the most part, under their own legal systems. (This is still a toxic issue today: American soldiers left Iraq in 2011 not to please Iraqi or American opinion, but because the US government refuses to allow American soldiers to be subject to foreign, in this case Iraqi, law). As a result of the French-Ottoman alliance, French consuls – later joined by those of the Netherlands, England and other countries - were appointed to most Levantine ports.

These were the ‘years of the consuls’, to paraphrase the title of Ivo Andric’s 1945 novel about nineteenth-century Bosnia, The Days of the Consuls. Janissaries guarded them from insult or attack. To show equality of status, they often refused to remove their hats in the presence of the local governor. The ports of the Levant became, at times, diarchies between foreign consuls and local officials. Many locals preferred the consuls’ law courts, since they were often more convenient, and less corrupt, than their own. Consuls could be peace-makers. In 1694, and 1770 consuls in Smyrna persuaded the commanders of the Venetian and Russian navies respectively, not to attack the city, in order to prevent reprisals by Muslims against local Christians.

Soon the French-Ottoman alliance acquired commercial and cultural momentum. Consuls acted both as servants of their own government and as local power-brokers and transmitters of technology and information. In the danse macrabre of mutual manipulation which has lasted to this day, outside interference was at least matched by local desire for more of it. Consuls were equivalents of modern international organisations like the World Bank, the IMF or NATO: unpopular but effective. In nineteenth century Alexandria consuls protected criminals of their own nationality from Egyptian courts, but also helped introduce quarantine and fight cholera. They also brought foreign post offices to the ports of the Levant.

The British consul-general played a vital role in the riots in Alexandria which precipitated the British invasion in 1882. He was subsequently the senior British official in Egypt, which he helped to rule for Britain. Consuls played a similar role in Beirut after the French invasion of 1860, helping to run the internationally guaranteed regime in Mount Lebanon, as they did in Crete after 1898. As the power of the Ottoman Empire declined, consuls could facilitate the transfer of Ottoman sovereignty and territory to foreign empires or local nation states.

Salonica after 1800 also had its ‘years of the consuls’. They formed the aristocracy of the town, one of them recalled. A square was called Place des Consuls. As in Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut, they were power-brokers. May 1876 was a time of rising tension in the city, owing to a Christian family’s opposition to the desire of their daughter Itchko to convert to Islam to marry a Muslim called Hairullah. Her family appealed to the main non-Muslim source of authority - the consuls. The French consul-general, and the German vice-consul, a local millionaire called Mr Abbott, entered a mosque during Friday prayers, without protection. In front of the vali himself they were murdered.

In reprisal the great powers sent battle-ships to train their guns on the city. On 16 May around fifty Muslims, many of whom had nothing to do with the murder, were hanged on the quay by the White Tower, watched by officials, consuls, a vast crowd, and British sailors in full dress. As had already happened during a similar public punishment after a brawl between a Frenchman and an Egyptian in Alexandria in 1863, Ottoman authorities had been forced to advertise to the local population their humiliation by foreign powers. The scene was watched by the French sailor Julien Viaud, who published his drawings of it in Le monde illustré (17 June 1876) and, writing under the name Pierre Loti, described it in the opening pages of the novel which made him famous, Aziyade (1879).

Consuls were again crucial in Salonica in 1912. In the first Balkan war, the Ottoman armies had been defeated by those of Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro. To protect Salonica and its inhabitants, and ensure a peaceful transition from Ottoman to Greek rule, the municipal council and the foreign consuls seized the initiative: with the Ottoman governor, they decided that, while the Ottoman army would withdraw, the Ottoman police and gendarmes would remain in the city. On 5 November they told the Ottoman commander not to fight near Salonica, on 7 November the foreign consuls went to Greek army headquarters to negotiate the Greeks’ entry into the city. Negotiations were in French. To avoid what he called ‘unnecessary bloodshed’, Hasan Tahsin Pasha, the Ottoman commander agreed with the consuls not to defend Salonica; moreover he knew the Greek army was stronger than his own.

On 8 November Salonica was encircled by Greek and Bulgarian forces. Hasan Tahsin Pasha decided to surrender to the Greeks – in part to stop Bulgarians entering Solon, as they called the city, which some considered rightfully Bulgarian. The surrender took place ‘in a relaxed and friendly manner’. On 9 November Greek forces reached the outskirts of Salonica. Ottoman forces handed over their rifles. 26,000 Ottoman soldiers marched into captivity. On 10 November 1912, led by Crown Prince Constantine, Greek troops entered the city. Greeks sang their national anthem, and trampled on the fezzes they had previously worn. Blue and white Greek flags covered the city. At a thanksgiving service the archbishop cried ‘Hosannah to the glorious descendants of the fighters of Marathon and Salamis, to the valiant liberators of our beloved fatherland! ... The golden rays of liberty must illuminate all the corners of the unredeemed nation’ – in other words Constantinople, Smyrna and beyond. Greek newspapers were printed in blue and white and ended articles with the cry ‘To the city! To Constantinople!’

Consuls had helped ensure a transfer of sovereignty in Salonica, from Turkey to Greece, far less lethal than that which would occur ten years later in Smyrna, without their intervention, from Greece to Turkey.

2. Language

International languages for inter-community communication were another characteristic of the Levant. Before the triumph of English, the Levant used two international languages. First was lingua franca, the simplified Italian ‘generalement entendue par toutes les cotes du Levant’, ‘qui a cours part tout le Levant entre les gens de Marine de la Mediterranee et les Marchands qui vont negocier au Levant et qui se fait entendre de toutes les nations’, as French travellers wrote. A business rather than a literary language, it was rarely written down. It was spoken by slaves and sailors; by the Beys of Tunis and Tripoli; and by Byron, who learnt what he called ‘Levant Italian’ in Athens in 1810. The Gentleman’s Magazine wrote in 1837 of an Englishman in the Levant: ‘he has talked lingua franca till he has half forgotten English’. Lingua franca was proof of the accessibility of the Levant to the outside world. It was not a cultural ghetto.

From 1840, thanks to the spread of schools and of steam and rail travel, French, then the world language from Buenos Aires to Saint Petersburg, became the second language of the Levant. The language of science, as well as culture and diplomacy, it was spoken by pashas, viziers and sultans; by Mustafa Kemal and by the poet from Smyrna, George Seferis; and as an official language of the municipalities of Alexandria and Beirut. Young Turk revolutionaries learnt French in Paris, which they called a ‘star brighter than my dreams’. 5000 French words – like complot, metres, dansös - entered the Turkish language. Another form of integration with the outside world.

Salonica also shared these polyglot habits. Most inhabitants spoke some words of Spanish, known in the city as Ladino or Judezmo, the language of Salonica Jews, owing to their numerical and commercial predominance in the city. The Ottoman Sultan Abdulmecid spoke French to Salonica’s Jewish and Levantine notables on his visit in 1859. Although many regretted the subtlety of Ladino, French was so popular in Salonica that all modern schools of whatever religion, even some German schools, taught it. A French language newspaper called the Journal de Salonique, (‘publication bi-hebdomadaire, Politique, Commerciale et Litteraire’) was founded in 1895; soon it had a circulation of about 1,000.

Vidal Nahoum, father of the philosopher Edgar Morin, was born Jewish in Salonica in 1894. Through education in a French (Alliance Israelite Universelle) school he became culturally French, even before becoming physically and legally so, after his emigration from Salonica to France in 1917. Like many other Frenchmen from Salonica, such as the Carasso and Modiano families, although he retained a nostalgia for the Ottoman Empire and his native city, he did not feel ‘dépayse’ in France. His son wrote: ‘la France c’est pour lui la Poésie faite Nation … Le prestige du francais est lié à celui de la patrie de la liberté, au mythe de Paris … l’essor des idées laiques a favorisé la gallomanie laquelle amplifie en retour l’essor des idées laiques.’

3. Hybridity

Hybridity and multiple identities were another characteristic of the Levant. The Lebanese American historian William Haddad has written, ‘the nation state is the prison of the mind’. The Levant was a jail break. The Ottoman Empire enforced few of the restrictions and regulations of European governments. There were no ghettos. Travellers were attracted by the variety of races and costumes in these cities and the juxtaposition of mosques, churches and synagogues, inconceivable in European cities before 1970.

In Levantine cities no one group dominated demographically. In Smyrna and Beirut populations were roughly half Christian and half Muslim; in Alexandria approximately three quarters Muslim and one quarter Christian and Jewish. In Salonica in 1850 the population had been about 70,000; by 1906 it had risen to 114,683, of whom 47,017 were Jewish, 33, 756 Greek and 29,665 Muslim (of whom half may have been dönme, of Jewish origin).

Outside the home some men developed multiple identities: in the seventeenth century Sabbatai Sevi, the ‘false Messiah’ of Smyrna, founded his own religion, with Christian and Muslim as well as Jewish elements, and made many converts in Salonica. Dönme, as his followers were called, are still an important element in Izmir and Istanbul. There are three distinct groups: those who believe in Sevi, and his eventual return to earth as the Messiah; those who remain officially Jewish, but secretly believe in Sevi; and those who converted to Islam, but retained certain Jewish practices.

Mustafa Kemal, a Muslim, born in Salonica in 1881, son of an official probably with Macedonian blood, after going to a traditional Koranic school, switched, against his mother’s advice, to the Fevziye school, much frequented by dönme. Then he enrolled in a military school in order to join the army. Many attribute his zeal for reforms, in part, to his Salonica background, on the edge of the Ottoman Empire, exposed to other cultures. At military college in Constantinople, he was at first known as Selanikli Mustafa. I have been assured by elderly gentlemen in Istanbul that he knew, although he rarely used, Ladino.

In public, at places of work or relaxation, from the Cercle de Salonique founded for wealthy businessmen in 1873 to the cafes, taverns and ‘musicos’ of the port, (and in the Federacyon labour union founded after 1908) the male population worked and played side by side. The official journal of the province of Salonica was in four languages: Ottoman, Greek, Bulgarian and Judeo-Spanish. Some chose not only employees, but also wet-nurses and spouses, from other religions. Christians and Muslims visited each other’s houses and made pilgrimages to the tombs of each other's holy men. Christians continued to pray in a section of the church of Saint Demetrius, although it had been turned into a mosque.

Daily coexistence did not, however, exclude eruptions of nationalism – as terrorist attacks in Macedonia, and the Balkan wars, would show. Hybridity affected public lives more than private lives. Religious authorities generally restricted marriages to people of your own community and encouraged people to live near their place of worship. Postcards in Salonica used dress to emphasise national differences: they showed Greek peasant women bedecked in gold coins; Macedonians with thick leggings, white tunics and embroidered aprons; Albanians in massive sheep-skin cloaks; Turks in suits and a fez. The inscription always mentioned the race of the person portrayed. Jobs in the city were traditionally distributed by ethnicity. Grocers and waiters were Greek, yoghurt-sellers Albanian, clothes-sellers Jewish, tram-conductors Turkish, shoeshine-boys gypsies. A French visitor called Canudo admired Salonica as ‘a true crossroads of races …you think you find there the power of life itself, growling, boiling, a human whirlpool in the centre of an ocean of European, African and Asiatic activity.’

4. Trade

Levantine cities were not romantic. They were trading cities, integrated into the economic systems of Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Many were boom cities, which experienced rapid rises in population. Principal hub of a vast network of inland trade routes, Smyrna became the city where Asia came shopping for Europe, and Europe for Asia. From 5,000 in 1600, the population rose to around 100,000 in 1700.

Alexandria became a capitalist El Dorado, attracting a gold rush of Europeans and Syrians in the nineteenth century. In the cotton boom of the 1860’s capital could double every two years. The population rose from 5,000 in 1800 to 100,000 in 1850 and 232,000 in 1882. It became the port linking the economies of Egypt and Europe, with the largest stock exchange outside Europe and North America.

Beirut in 1826 had been described as a republic of merchants, living according to its own law. Its rise was due not only to local merchants but also, like that of Smyrna and Alexandria, to the arrival of foreign merchants and consuls. By 1841 according to the American traveller A.A. Paton, it was ‘a Levantine scala, a bastard, a mongrel’. Its population rose from 6,000 in 1800 to around 130,000 in 1900.

Salonica was also a trading city. Jews formed around half the population of the ‘Madre de Israel’, as they called Salonica. Therefore until 1923 most shops in the city closed on the Sabbath and other Jewish holidays.

Salonica also became a boom town after 1860. Entrepreneurs from the Allatini, de Botton and Modiano families – often with links with the Mediterranean port of Livorno - helped bring Salonica, in a few years, out of the middle ages into the nineteenth century. Brick, soap and beer factories were opened. Dr. Moise Allatini, Salonica’s greatest moderniser, (whose family founded the famous Allatini flour mill) founded the first French language school in 1858. He offered help and medical care to all, whatever their religion. The city walls were demolished in 1866 and new boulevards created; French or Austrian style villas, such as the Villa Kapandji, appeared by the shores of the Aegean.

One of the main commercial streets, as in Smyrna and Alexandria, was called Rue des Franques The quay was constructed in the 1870’s, at the same time as Smyrna’s; streets were slowly paved, drains finally installed. Railway links to Vienna in 1888 and Istanbul in 1896 opened up the hinterland. In 1888 the Banque de Salonique was founded with French and Austrian money. European fashions began to replace traditional dress.

Another characteristic of Levantine cities was their sense of distance from the hinterland. In an age when sea transport was more important than today, and usually quicker and safer than rail or road, their role as ports facilitated their emergence as commercial and cultural centres. Regular boat services made it easier to travel to other ports than to the hinterland. The corniche, where the boats docked, was the principal meeting-place in Levantine ports.

To many visitors Alexandria seemed part of Europe; Beirut to be the Paris of the Middle East; Smyrna to be a different country from Constantinople, as Halid Ziya author of Kirk Yıl remembered. Similarly many of Salonica’s inhabitants rarely left the city. The mountains of Macedonia were ravaged by comitacis, chetniks and cetes – brigands who used nationalism (Greek, Albanian, Macedonian, Bulgarian or Turkish) as an excuse for pillage and murder: Trains were held up, villages burnt, ‘traitors’ shot.

5. Modernity

Levantine cities also brought education and modernity. ‘Smyrna illuminates like a beacon all the other provinces of the Ottoman Empire’, wrote the Austrian consul-general Charles de Scherzer. It had the Ottoman Empire’s first botanical collections, newspaper, American school, railway, electricity, cinema and football club: Bournabat Football and Rugby Cub, established by English merchants in 1894, fourteen years before the foundation of the legendary Galatasaray team in 1908. Alexandria had the country’s first theatres (Arabic and Italian), feminist newspaper, and brewery and in Cavafy the first publicly published homosexual poet since the ancient world.

Smyrna, Beirut and Alexandria attracted dynamic foreign schools, run by the Mission Israelite Universelle, Jesuits, the Order of Notre Dame de Sion, the Freres des ecoles chretiennes, and many others. Like the American University and Universite Saint Joseph in Beirut, they gave pupils the intellectual weapons, including language skills, with which to fight the cultural imperialism they represented. They were attended by Muslims and Jews as well as Christians.

All these characteristics were also present in Salonica. As postcards at the 2012 exhibition at the Villa Kapandji showed, the city contained German, French, Italian, Jewish, Greek and Serbian schools. Modern Turkey was born not in Anatolia or Istanbul, but in Salonica, birthplace of Mustafa Kemal (and of the great Communist poet Nazım Hikmet). Turks took advantage in Salonica of ‘a measure of freedom unparalleled anywhere else in the empire’, due to a combination of geography and demography. The liberal character of the least Muslim large city in the Empire (Muslims comprised at most 30% of the population), combined with the proximity of the largest army corps in the Ottoman empire, based eighty miles away in Monastir (now Bitola), made Salonica an incubator and accelerator of political change more effective than Constantinople or Smyrna. Some of the best schools in Istanbul today are continuations of schools founded in Salonica which moved, with staff, pupils and charitable foundation, in 1912. The famous Istanbul newspaper Cumhuriyet is successor of the Salonica newspaper Rumeli. The publishers of the Salonica newspaper Yeni Asir (‘New Century’), moved it to Izmir where it is published to this day.

More than other Levantine cities, Salonica became a city of revolutions. The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation was founded in 1893 in Salonica. Believing in ‘Macedonia for the Macedonians’ (though some wanted it to be part of greater Bulgaria, since the two nationalisms were at that time closely linked), it soon developed its own shadow law-courts, armed forces and taxes, like a state within a state. Fanatically anti-Greek, it terrorised villages, most of which would have preferred to remain neutral. On 29 April 1903 in Salonica the office of the Ottoman Bank and the surrounding cafes, as well as a French boat in the harbour, were blown up by Bulgarians, led by a teacher called Delchev, hoping to shake Macedonia out of its lethargy and force European intervention. In reprisal Bulgarians – recognisable by their dress - were killed in the street, until the governor Fehmi Pasha came to restore order in person, despite a bomb thrown at his carriage.

Another organisation of revolutionaries opposed to the Sultan, called the Committee of Union and Progress, was established in Salonica in 1904. Its nucleus was two young officers, Enver and Cemal, and Talaat bey, a telegraph employee. Like IMRO, the CUP also created a state within the state. The army was infiltrated; even the Inspector-General Huseyin Hilmi himself was sympathetic. Like many others from Macedonia, the CUP had the ultra-nationalism of the frontier. Niyazi was of Albanian origin. Enver had a Christian Turk or Gagauz, Talaat a Pomak or converted Bulgarian, background; Cemal came from the island of Mytilene in the Aegean; Cavid, head of the Salonica school of arts and crafts, was a dönme. Dr Nazim, born in Salonica, had studied in Paris. All were united in hatred of what Enver’s uncle Halil called ‘the imbecile rule of the palace’ – which, moreover, failed to pay the troops on time.

The presence of foreign consuls in Salonica favoured revolutions. The CUP communicated with political exiles in Paris, and smuggled in subversive men and books, using Greek consuls and foreign post offices as well as their own networks. In Salonica they planned revolution in the cafés near the White Tower or at the Café Cristal Salonica was a political as well as a racial time- bomb.

In July 1908, fearing investigation by the Sultan’s police, the CUP officers staged a military coup in Monastir. As more soldiers joined, or refused to suppress the coup, the movement turned into a constitutional revolution. On 24 July the Sultan capitulated and announced that elections to the Ottoman parliament would be held in the autumn. In front of the Salonica konak Huseyin Hilmi read out the Sultan’s decree. Three times he called for cheers for the sultan; each time he was greeted by silence. On the main square, Enver Bey, the handsome young leader of the revolution, proclaimed: ‘we are no longer Turks, Greeks or Bulgarians but brothers. Long live the fatherland! – the nation! – liberty!’ Speeches, ovations, flag-waving processions – one led by a virgin dressed in white, to symbolise the purity of the Ottoman constitution – succeeded each other.

In the following days, the city appeared to be politically united. Bristling with cartridges, pistols, and daggers, brigands laid down their arms (or rather those too old to be useful) and proclaimed their love of Liberty, Fraternity and Justice, from the balconies of the Olympos Palace Hotel and the Cercle de Salonique. Their photographs were sold by Salonica studios as postcards of ‘brigand bands’ or ‘bandit chiefs’, titled ‘Hassan Cavus’, ‘Livanos’, or ‘Paulos with his companion’. As in Constantinople imams, priests and rabbis embraced each other. The number of murders in Macedonia fell from 1768 in 1907 to 291 in 1909.

The whole city seemed to be wearing cockades or ‘liberty ribbons’ in the white and red colours of the Young Turk revolution: white to show that Turkey must be pure – red to show willingness to shed blood to make it so. Until 1912 the ruling revolutionary party the Committee of Union and Progress held its congresses and published its newspaper Yeni felsefe (new philosophy) in Salonica. Everything was discussed: the organisation of labour; women’s rights; the settlement of Bosnian Muslims in Macedonia; and the reform of the Turkish language. A group of Young Turk writers called Genç Kalemler - young pens - was formed there, including the Turkish nationalist Tekinalp (born Moise Cohen) in 1911.

The Young Turk revolution was an international event. Salonica was hailed as the holy city of the revolution, ‘le berceau de la liberte ottomane’. Olympos square was renamed Place de la Liberte; there were plans to rename Salonica itself ‘the kaaba of Liberty’. Few Muslims considered it might soon be lost to the empire. The ancient family of Evrenoszade, which had helped conquer the Balkans for the Ottomans in the early fifteenth century, decided to restore its ancestors’ tombs, in what is now Giannitsa (Greece) forty kilometres west of Salonica, in 1908, as if they would be there for another five hundred years.

On 13 April 1909 there was an attempt at counter-revolution in Constantinople by troops faithful to the Sultan and horrified by the Committee’s alleged irreligion. In Constantinople many supported the Sultan. Salonica, however, remained true to revolution. 30,000 demonstrators in Liberty square promised to protect the constitution. The ‘operation Army’ under Shevket Pasha, Enver and Mustafa Kemal, with volunteers from Albanian, Greek, and Bulgarian brigand bands, advanced by train to Constantinople. To win popular support they had to promise to protect the Sultan. Instead on 23 April the troops surrounded Yıldız palace and deposed him. He was sent, again by train, to exile in Salonica, where he lived under house arrest in the Villa Allatini. He was replaced by a younger, more liberal brother, who reigned as Mehmed V.

6. Vulnerability

Salonica also shared the vulnerability of other Levantine cities. A riot or a change of regime could change it overnight. After the entry of the Greek army and the king of the Hellenes on 29 October 1912, Salonica was the first major city to be de-levantinised, before Smyrna or Alexandria. The Mausoleum of Galerius, which had first been transformed from a Roman temple into a church, then after 1430 into a mosque, in 1912, like many other mosques, became a church again. Shop and street signs henceforth had to be in Greek. People talking French in the streets were sometimes assaulted for doing so – already in Constantinople since 1908 Greek diplomats had been trying to persuade local Greeks to leave French schools, stop speaking French and hellenise their shop signs.

The assassination of King George of the Hellenes in Salonica on 13 March 1913 led to ‘reprisals’ against Muslims and Jews, often by Greek policemen and soldiers. Many died. After the Bulgarian school was attacked, and fighting broke out between Greek and Bulgarian soldiers on 1 June 1913, Bulgarians fled the city. Although they kept some privileges such as exemption from military service, and the right to keep accounts in Spanish, many Jews regarded the Greek ‘liberation’ as worse than Ottoman rule. Many left for France. Identity was not immutable. Many Salonicans preferred, when possible, to abandon their old identity, emigrate and become American or French. An unknown number, whether Jewish, Muslim, Dönme, Slav or Albanian, changed religion and language and became officially Greek and Orthodox (as, for self-protection, Czechs in Vienna became Austrian, Slavs in Trieste Italian, or the people of Strasbourg switched identity four times between France and Germany in 1871-1945).

Thousands of embittered Muslim refugees fleeing Bulgarian terrorism in the country side – descendants of Christian converts to Islam, as well as Turks – as well as Salonica Muslims, including Mustafa Kemal’s mother, moved to Constantinople or Izmir. Perhaps as many as 150,000 Muslim refugees arrived in the Aydin vilayet alone in 1912-14. Beginning with Mustafa Kemal himself, Balkan refugees, living proof of Turkey’s European roots, would provide much of the driving-force behind its modernisation.

British and Austrian proposals for Salonica and the surrounding area to become an autonomous, neutral city or province, like Tangier or Mount Lebanon, protected by international guarantees and an internationally officered gendarmerie (as Macedonia had possessed since 1903) were supported mainly by Jews. Joseph Nehamia, author of Salonique la ville convoitée (1913), believed Salonica should be a new Venice, ‘the threshold of central Europe’, the great port between Germany and Suez. Few others, however, put their city before their nationality.

Once the commercial dynamo of Turkey in Europe, Salonica sank to being the second city of Greece, cut off from its former hinterland by the newly imposed frontiers of Albania, Serbia and Bulgaria. The creation of nation states weakened its trade, its hybridity, its multilingualism, and the power of the consuls.

Again benefiting from its geographical distance from the capital, however, Salonica again played a role as revolutionary capital in 1916-17. The revolution was led by Venizelos against King Constantine in Athens, as in 1908-9 it had been led by the CUP against Abdulhamid in Constantinople. As a result the city experienced a last international incarnation, as headquarters of the allied Armee d’Orient. Its streets filled with troops from Annam, India, Senegal, Serbia and Russia, as well as France and Britain. Levantine ports, being accessible to foreign navies, were easy to occupy, as Beirut (in 1860) and Alexandria (in 1882) had already discovered.

In conclusion Salonica between 1850 and 1918 shows the political as well as the cultural and commercial independence of cities. Geography, demography, trade and diplomacy can empower them to play an independent role, often against the orders of their state and its capital. Through the flight or transfer of its Muslims, and above all the destruction of its Jews by Germans in the Second World War, the history of Salonica also shows, that as one Salonican who emigrated to America, Leon Sciacky, wrote, civilisation was but a thin crust, a layer so tenuous that one dared not trust it.

Smyrne, deux mille sept cents ans d’une histoire tourmentée – Le Monde Diplomatique, 2008

Rares sont les villes autant chargées d’histoire qu’Izmir, l’ex-Smyrne. Histoire d’une cité, fondée par les Grecs, qui périclitera au fil des attaques et des pillages. Histoire, ensuite, d’un florissant commerce maritime largement aux mains des étrangers, l’Asie venant y acheter les marchandises européennes, et réciproquement. Histoire cosmopolite où, sous les Ottomans, musulmans, chrétiens et juifs coexistent souvent pacifiquement. Mais histoire, aussi, de massacres et de contre-massacres…

Asiatique et européenne, grecque et turque, chrétienne et musulmane, Izmir est une cité inclassable. Son nom a des origines mixtes. Tout comme Istanbul vient du grec eis teen polis – « vers la ville » –, Izmir signifie eis teen Smyrna, « vers Smyrne ».

Fondée selon la légende par des colons grecs au VIIe siècle av. J.-C., Smyrne est devenue l’une des cités grecques les plus illustres d’Anatolie, berceau des mathématiques et un des lieux de naissance présumés du poète Homère. Sous l’Empire romain, la plus grande et la plus romanisée des villes d’Asie mineure, dotée de nombreux temples et d’un vaste théâtre antique, était qualifiée de « joie de l’Asie et joyau de l’Empire ». Elle abritait également une des premières églises, fondée par saint Paul lui-même durant son voyage en Asie mineure en 53-56 ap. J.-C.

La ville connut ensuite une période de pillages et de déclin. Attaquée successivement par les Seldjoukides (1082), les Génois (1261), les chevaliers de Saint-Jean-de-Jérusalem (1344), Timur Lang (Tamerlan) (1402), Venise (1472), elle devint, après le XVe siècle, une petite ville marchande de l’Empire ottoman, desservant toute la région voisine. En 1580, Izmir comptait environ deux mille habitants.

Elle doit sa renaissance à sa situation géographique, nichée au bout d’un long golfe, sur la côte ouest de l’Anatolie, à l’endroit où la Méditerranée fait une avancée dans l’extrémité occidentale de l’Asie. A Izmir s’unissent l’Asie et l’Europe. Le golfe dispose des meilleurs mouillages de la côte : il peut accueillir les plus gros navires. Après 1600, Izmir vécut un second âge d’or et devint la « perle du Levant » et l’« œil de l’Asie ».

Ce sont les marchands qui firent sa réputation. Le nouvel essor de la ville s’explique par leur désir d’échapper aux droits de douane et au contrôle des prix imposés par le gouvernement ottoman. Dès 1574, Istanbul souffrit même de pénuries dues au fait que les bateaux ottomans transportant d’Egypte les provisions destinées à la capitale déchargeaient leurs marchandises à Izmir, où ils bénéficiaient de prix plus avantageux que ceux pratiqués dans les postes de pesage officiels de l’Empire.

Le port le plus célébré de l’Empire par le nombre de bateaux

Comme aujourd’hui, les spécialités d’Izmir étaient principalement le coton et les figues – l’agro-industrie. Parvenues à maturité dans les vallées ensoleillées d’Anatolie, les figues étaient (et sont encore) séchées, empaquetées et exportées vers Istanbul et toute l’Europe. Dès le début, le commerce extérieur d’Izmir était aux mains des étrangers. En 1621, sur son chemin vers Jérusalem, Louis Deshayes de Courmenin affirmait que Turcs, Grecs et Juifs habitaient dans les terres, dans des quartiers séparés, tandis que les marchands étrangers avaient leur résidence sur le front de mer et « viv[ai]ent dans une grande liberté ».

L’arrivée de consuls étrangers confirma le statut international de la ville. Ainsi, dès 1630, elle comptait des consuls vénitien, hollandais, anglais et français. Protégé par une garde personnelle de janissaires, le consul français menait une vie de roi, ouvrant ses portes à tous les visiteurs venus de son pays. Il se chargeait également d’opérations complexes et lucratives, comme le rachat d’esclaves turcs capturés par les chevaliers de l’ordre de Malte.

Dans les années 1670, le grand écrivain ottoman Evliya Çelebi s’émut de la grande richesse des Francs (nom générique donné aux Européens) et de la puissance des consuls : « Les bateaux des Francs accostent si souvent que la moitié d’Izmir ressemble au Frengistan [Europe]. Si quelqu’un frappe un infidèle, tout le monde se précipite aussitôt autour de lui, et soit il est déféré devant un juge du consulat, soit il est exécuté par les infidèles. A partir de ce moment-là, les musulmans deviennent presque invisibles, de sorte que la ville ressemble à une sombre ville franque. »

Pour Çelebi, Izmir était le port le plus célébré de l’Empire à cause du grand nombre de bateaux qui y chargeaient et déchargeaient leurs marchandises. Quand des flottes étrangères arrivaient de Marseille, Amsterdam ou Londres, des milliers de petites embarcations se lançaient à leur assaut, avides de court-circuiter les intermédiaires. Elles échangeaient leurs marchandises (soie, poil de chameau, opium, gomme, raisins et figues) contre des produits manufacturés en Europe : vêtements, étain et accessoires domestiques tels que miroirs, assiettes, aiguilles et couteaux. La cité portuaire était le lieu où l’Asie venait acquérir des marchandises européennes et vice versa.

Elle servait en fait de plate-forme pour un vaste réseau de voies terrestres et maritimes. Chameaux et mules constituaient les principaux moyens de transport : certaines caravanes provenant d’Alep ou de Perse pouvaient compter jusqu’à mille cinq cents chameaux. Les rues y étaient si étroites que les passants devaient se mettre à l’écart pour les laisser passer ou s’agenouiller afin de décharger les marchandises. Même la rue principale du quartier franc – la rue Franque, qui serpentait le long de la côte – était « sale, étroite et mal pavée », avec un ruisseau infect au milieu. Il n’y avait ni grandes avenues ni grandes places.

Dès le début, Izmir fut une ville d’églises, de synagogues et de mosquées. A la différence de l’Europe, soumise à un conformisme religieux hystérique, il y régnait ce que les Européens, surpris, qualifiaient de « liberté de religion totale », comme dans beaucoup d’autres villes du Levant. En 1700, la ville comptait dix-neuf mosquées, trois églises catholiques latines, deux églises grecques orthodoxes, deux églises arméniennes et huit synagogues. Dans la rue Franque, on pouvait se croire dans une ville chrétienne. Certains marchands européens, qui n’avaient jamais appris le turc, opéraient leurs échanges en italien, exclusivement grâce à des intermédiaires juifs.

Izmir était une cité du plaisir autant que du profit. Ses tavernes étaient réputées, spécialement pendant le carnaval. On y dansait « à la française », « à la turque » ou « à la grecque » avec tant de frénésie que certains Turcs croyaient voir des fous. Mariant la grâce des Italiennes, la vivacité des femmes grecques, et la majestueuse tournure des Ottomanes, les femmes de la cité étaient connues pour exercer une fascination quasi irrésistible.

Tremblements de terre, épidémies de peste, incendies et massacres

La renommée sulfureuse d’Izmir qui inspira à l’écrivain Nicolas de Chamfort sa comédie Le Marchand de Smyrne (1770), portrait d’un riche marchand turc désireux de monter un opéra dans la ville en raison de son penchant pour les chanteurs plus que par attrait pour leur musique.

La population de la ville était passée de cinq mille habitants en 1600 à trente mille ou quarante mille en 1650, et environ cent mille en 1700. Elle était composée peut-être de sept Turcs pour deux Grecs, un Arménien et un Juif. Au XVIIIe siècle, la France dominait le commerce et les relations extérieurs de l’Empire ottoman. Entre 1748 et 1789, un bateau sur quatre quittant Marseille se dirigeait vers Izmir. C’était le port étranger le plus important pour le commerce français, le plus vaste et le plus riche de l’Empire. « Smyrne, quelle richesse ! », avait dit le tsar Alexandre Ier de Russie à Arnaud de Caulaincourt, l’ambassadeur de Napoléon Ier, le 12 mars 1808, alors qu’ils planifiaient le partage de l’Empire ottoman.

Les voyageurs considéraient la ville comme un paradis du commerce et du carnaval. Mais ce fut aussi la cité des tremblements de terre, des épidémies de peste, des incendies et des massacres, si fréquents que seules la capacité des habitants à rebondir et l’insuffisance des ports concurrents pouvaient expliquer que la population continuât à y gagner sa vie. Ainsi des épidémies de peste sévirent pendant tout le XVIIIe siècle. Celle de 1739-1742, par exemple, emporta un cinquième de la population, celle de 1759-1765 presque la moitié, celle de 1812-1815 quarante-cinq mille vies. Izmir fut également ravagée par des tremblements de terre en 1688 et en 1788 (le second fit peut-être quinze mille victimes). Et des incendies dévastèrent la ville en 1742, 1752 et 1763.

D’autres catastrophes furent l’œuvre de l’homme. Sous ses apparences joyeuses, la ville était un volcan prêt à exploser. Le grand orientaliste français Antoine Galland, qui s’y rendit en 1673, attribua la paix relative entre les communautés à la rigueur des lois ottomanes : au fond de leur cœur, pourtant, les chrétiens des différentes sectes, tout autant que les musulmans et les juifs, se vouaient une haine mortelle, d’autant plus virulente qu’ils prétendaient le contraire. En 1770, 1797 et 1821, la ville connut trois périodes de terreur de la part de groupes ou de soldats musulmans, répondant à des agressions perpétrées par des chrétiens – une victoire navale de la Russie en mer Egée, un meurtre et la guerre d’indépendance grecque. Ces troubles causèrent des milliers de morts dans la population chrétienne et soulignèrent la fragilité des cités levantines.

Cependant, grâce à sa géographie et à son commerce prospère, Izmir a toujours réussi à se réinventer. Au cours de son pèlerinage vers Jérusalem en 1806, François René de Chateaubriand compara la cité à un « autre Paris », « une espèce d’oasis civilisée, une Palmyre au milieu des déserts et de la barbarie ». Des hommes d’affaires appartenant aux familles Guys, Pagy et Giraud, dont les ancêtres s’installèrent à Izmir au XVIIIe siècle, vivent encore dans la ville, même si certains d’entre eux se considèrent comme « les derniers des Mohicans ».

« Les âmes les plus fâchées avec la vie finissaient par rire »

A la même époque, Izmir devint progressivement une grande ville grecque, reposant sur ce pilier que représentait le commerce dans l’Empire ottoman. Les marchands grecs de la ville s’enrichirent suffisamment pour y fonder des écoles modernes et des entreprises. Même après la proclamation de l’indépendance grecque, en 1830, des milliers de Grecs continuèrent à travailler à Izmir, préférant « grogner sous le joug turc » – et gagner des revenus décents – que vivre indépendants... et pauvres. En 1840 (ou, selon certains, en 1870), pour la première fois depuis le XIVe siècle, le nombre de résidents grecs d’Izmir dépassa celui des Turcs : cinquante-cinq mille Grecs pour quarante-cinq mille Turcs (et treize mille Juifs, douze mille francs et cinq mille Arméniens). Smyrne était bien gavur Izmir (« Izmir l’infidèle »), comme la nommaient les Turcs. Pour les Grecs, c’était la Smyrne aux parfums suaves.

Au XIXe siècle, quand la ville devint plus riche et s’étendit davantage, elle commença à se considérer comme le phare de l’Empire ottoman. Contre l’avis des Britanniques, un nouveau port et un grand quai furent construits par la compagnie française Dussaud Frères entre 1869 et 1875 : un projet d’une ampleur unique dans l’histoire de l’Empire ottoman. Bientôt, sur le Cordon, comme on l’appelait, s’élevèrent des entrepôts, des bureaux et des hôtels de luxe, des cafés et des théâtres, dont le Café de Paris, le Sporting Club, l’hôtel Kraemer et l’hôtel des Deux-Augustes. Le colonel Playfair écrivit en 1881 : « Les quais récemment construits en maçonnerie massive de soixante pieds de large et de quatre kilomètres de long sont la promenade favorite du soir et jusque tard dans la nuit. Les nombreux cafés, richement illuminés, attirent des foules bigarrées de promeneurs tandis que des accents de musiques orientales et européennes se font entendre de tous les côtés. » Les cafés d’Izmir proposaient des musiques turques, arabes, arméniennes et européennes pour satisfaire leurs diverses clientèles.

Pour l’auteur turc N. Gundem, le Cordon avait « un air magique qui faisait que les âmes les plus obscures et les plus fâchées avec la vie finissaient par rire ». On trouvait dans la cité le premier journal local de l’Empire ottoman, les premières écoles américaines, les premières courses de chevaux, la première ligne ferroviaire, la première équipe de football, la première voiture à moteur et le premier cinéma. Les vieilles cartes postales témoignent de l’activité frénétique du port. Les magasins de la rue Franque, le Bon Marché et le Petit Louvre, étaient si intéressants que les jeunes mariées stambouliotes venaient y acheter leurs trousseaux.

Les Turcs s’enrichissaient aussi grâce au commerce d’Izmir. Ainsi la famille Ushakizade, dont un membre, l’écrivain Halid Ziya, devint le secrétaire principal du sultan. Ou encore Muammar Bey, nommé maire en 1911, qui vécut dans une très élégante villa de style français du quartier de Geuz-Tope. Sa demeure est devenue un musée : sa fille Latife Hanım épousera Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Dans nulle autre ville au monde, se rappela le consul américain George Horton, « l’Orient et l’Occident ne se mêlaient physiquement de manière aussi spectaculaire qu’à Smyrne ».

Cependant, à l’instar de nombreuses autres cités au XXe siècle, la ville portait en elle les germes de sa propre destruction. Son histoire illustre le caractère nocif du nationalisme et le potentiel sans limites de la sauvagerie humaine. Alors qu’ils prospéraient et se multipliaient, certains Grecs d’Izmir éprouvèrent le désir croissant de saper les fondements de l’Empire ottoman. En 1897, ils furent nombreux à s’enrôler dans l’armée grecque, qui livrait une guerre contre leur propre pays, l’Empire ottoman. Ils furent à l’origine de nombreuses émeutes antijuives, à la suite de rumeurs de « meurtre rituel » sur un enfant grec. En 1872, le gouverneur dut déployer un cordon de police autour du quartier juif pour le protéger des bandes grecques qui avaient déjà assassiné plusieurs habitants.

En règle générale, l’Empire dirigeait d’une main de velours. Parfois, lors des célébrations du 14 juillet, les consuls français se targuaient du fait qu’Izmir était une ville française : il est vrai qu’on y voyait tant de drapeaux tricolores et qu’on y entendait tant d’orchestres jouant La Marseillaise ou d’autres airs français... Parmi les grandes familles françaises protégées figuraient les Balladur, qui ne partirent qu’en 1935 : Edouard y est né en 1929.

Le 10 septembre 1922, Atatürk en personne fit son entrée à Izmir

Néanmoins, après la défaite turque dans les guerres des Balkans en 1912-1913 et l’installation de milliers de Turcs des Balkans en Anatolie, les tensions nationales se ravivèrent. Le déclin de gavur Izmir commença avec l’arrivée sous protection britannique, le 15 mai 1919, de bateaux transportant treize mille soldats grecs. Jouant avec les nations, David Lloyd George croyait à « un nouvel empire grec en Orient, favorable à la Grande-Bretagne ». Le premier ministre grec Elefthérios Venizélos, tout comme la majorité des Grecs, en était convaincu – il le déclara à Paris le 17 mai de la même année : « La Grèce ne peut avoir un avenir réel qu’à partir du moment où elle s’étend de part et d’autre de la mer Egée. »

Après l’arrivée des troupes grecques, les quais devinrent le théâtre de massacres et d’humiliations pour des centaines de soldats turcs. Chaque communauté pensait d’abord à ses propres intérêts nationaux, et non à l’avenir de la ville. L’occupation de la cité et l’avancée des forces grecques à l’intérieur de l’Anatolie fut le meilleur agent recruteur du grand héros national turc Atatürk. Ce dernier débarqua à Samsun le 19 mai, quatre jours après l’arrivée des Grecs à Izmir. Sans cela, déclara-t-il plus tard, les Turcs auraient continué à dormir.

En 1920, les Grecs ont officiellement pris en main l’administration de la cité et de la province avoisinante, bien que cette dernière fût en majorité turque. Une glorieuse période semblait commencer. Parmi les vingt-sept journaux publiés à Izmir en 1919, onze étaient en grec, sept en turc, cinq en hébreu ou en judéo-espagnol, cinq en arménien et cinq en français. Cette même année, sept mille bateaux transitèrent dans le port. La ville comptait dorénavant quinze cinémas, cinq cent treize cafés, deux cent vingt-six tavernes, quarante-trois bars à bière et huit salles de bal. Mais un rapport des services secrets britanniques, établi à la fin de l’année 1919, reconnaissait que « l’hostilité fondamentale entre les deux races (...) a été considérablement intensifiée par la simple présence des Grecs [comme occupants] ».

En août 1922, l’armée grecque, arrivée à moins de cent kilomètres d’Ankara, fut battue par Atatürk. Divisés, démoralisés et avides de rentrer chez eux, les soldats grecs commirent des actes de brutalité et de bestialité. Des soldats incendièrent et pillèrent des villes et des villages turcs comme Manisa et Aydın, tuant de nombreux habitants. A Izmir, toutefois, la vie avait continué normalement. On débarquait la récolte de figues sur le quai. Au Sporting Club, une troupe italienne de passage jouait Rigoletto et La Traviata...

Les nouvelles de la défaite grecque remplirent d’effroi la ville. Les riches commencèrent à partir. Le 8 septembre, les autorités et l’armée grecques embarquèrent avec leurs archives, abandonnant le peuple qu’elles étaient venues « libérer ». Le 9 septembre, les forces d’Atatürk pénétrèrent dans la ville, parfaitement alignées, comme certaines photographies le montrent.

Le jour suivant, Atatürk en personne fit son entrée dans la cité. Il prit un verre au célèbre hôtel Kraemer, visita la préfecture de Konak pour s’entretenir avec Nurettin Pacha, qu’il avait nommé aux commandes de la ville, puis se retira dans une villa de Karsıyaka, de l’autre côté de la baie. Des Turcs se livrèrent à des pillages et à des tueries dans le quartier arménien, à proximité duquel un incendie se déclara le 13 septembre. Des soldats turcs, réguliers et irréguliers, l’avaient peut-être encouragé, voire déclenché. Les autorités en rendirent responsables les Arméniens ou les Grecs.

La brigade de pompiers essuya des tirs pendant qu’elle combattait les flammes. Un vent contraire souffla, et le feu continua à se propager dans la ville. Très rapidement, les entrepôts, les hôtels et les bureaux alignés le long du quai, dont le Sporting Club et l’hôtel Kraemer, s’embrasèrent, donnant naissance à une colonne de feu de vingt pieds de haut et de quatre kilomètres de long.

Comme lors des précédents massacres de 1797 et 1821, les chrétiens se précipitèrent sur le quai. Et ce fut un véritable massacre. La plupart des Arméniens et beaucoup de Grecs d’Izmir furent tués. Les hurlements des réfugiés et les tirs incessants de pistolets et de fusils ne réussirent toutefois pas à couvrir le grondement des flammes et l’effondrement des bâtiments. La Grande-Bretagne, les Etats-Unis, la France et l’Italie avaient déjà évacué leurs ressortissants. Pour finir, contraints parfois par leur équipage horrifié, les bateaux de guerre étrangers amarrés dans le port accueillirent des réfugiés qui ne s’étaient pas noyés en tentant de les rejoindre.

Durant tout le mois de septembre, environ deux cent vingt et un mille réfugiés furent évacués du Cordon. En l’espace d’un mois, la ville changea de caractère. Inspectant la ville en flammes de la villa des Ushakizade à Geuz-Tope, où il faisait la cour à la jeune Latife Hanım, 24 ans, et célébrait sa victoire, Atatürk dit, selon son biographe Andrew Mango : « Laissez-la brûler. Laissez-la s’effondrer. » Gavur Izmir la cosmopolite avait vécu...

Le journaliste turc Falih Rifki Atay, venu interviewer Atatürk, affirma : « Bien que l’incendie de la ville fût une perte cruelle, Izmir la musulmane ne perdit rien de la joie de la victoire. » Les rues étaient pavoisées de drapeaux turcs. Il écrivit plus tard : « Pourquoi avons-nous brûlé Izmir ? Avions-nous peur de ne jamais être débarrassés des minorités, si ses résidences, ses hôtels et ses restaurants de bord de mer étaient restés en place ? (...) Cela ne découlait pas d’une simple pulsion de destruction. Il y avait aussi un sentiment d’infériorité. Il semblait que tous les endroits ressemblant à l’Europe étaient voués à rester chrétiens et étrangers et à nous être refusés. » Pourtant, avant 1919, le gouvernement ottoman et la population musulmane avaient largement profité d’Izmir l’infidèle tout en la protégeant.

Il y avait aussi la peur. L’armée grecque avait presque remporté la victoire. Il fallait éliminer pour toujours le problème des minorités. Après le 15 octobre 1919, les milliers de Grecs et d’Arméniens restés à Izmir furent contraints aux travaux forcés, théoriquement pour reconstruire les villages détruits par l’armée grecque : la plupart d’entre eux ne réapparurent jamais.

Les réfugiés grecs d’Izmir emportèrent avec eux à Nea Smyrni – la « nouvelle Smyrne », nom de la banlieue d’Athènes où ils s’installèrent – et ailleurs des opinions radicales qui permirent de renverser la monarchie et de fonder le Parti communiste grec ; et aussi l’obsédante musique de rembétiko anatolienne, d’inspiration soufie, leur savoir-faire de commerçants et de nombreux souvenirs d’un paradis perdu.

Pendant plusieurs années, le centre-ville resta un tas de ruines et de décombres. Cependant, seules quatorze mille maisons sur quarante-trois mille furent détruites. Le commerce revint progressivement à la normale grâce au soutien du gouvernement. En 1925, le président de la chambre de commerce d’Izmir indiqua que, depuis la libération, des hommes d’affaires turcs avaient créé cinquante-quatre boutiques. Une foire commerciale ouvrit ses portes en 1932, dans le parc de la culture installé sur l’ancien quartier grec d’Izmir.

On réaménagea le centre-ville de façon plus spacieuse, en partie grâce au grand urbaniste français Henri Prost, et les rues furent rebaptisées. Avec une population de plus de trois millions d’habitants, Izmir a retrouvé sa prospérité et sa modernité. Le célèbre Cordon et ses nombreux cafés ressemblent davantage à d’autres villes méditerranéennes, ou grecques, qu’à des cités turques de l’intérieur des terres. La ville est l’une des rares à avoir voté contre l’actuel gouvernement postislamiste et pour le Parti républicain du peuple (CHP), héritier du mouvement laïque et modernisateur d’Atatürk. Toute personne qui s’y rend aujourd’hui ne peut ignorer qu’Izmir est redevenue la grande cité turque et européenne qu’elle a été pendant quatre cents ans.

Published in Le Monde Diplomatique, March 2008

Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb
Introduction to a new edition of Chateaubriand’s Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb, published by Penguin in January 2014

Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb combines the autobiography of a great Romantic with the history of a great revolution. The result is a masterpiece.

François-René de Chateaubriand was born in 1768 and grew up in a large turreted château called Combourg, in north-east Brittany, between Rennes and Saint-Malo. His father’s passion to improve the family fortunes encouraged him to engage in the slave trade, among others. Chateaubriand himself considered that noble birth gave him a passion for liberty. He served as an officer in the French army, was presented at Versailles, travelled in 1791 for six months in America, emigrated in 1792, and fought in the Armée des Princes against the French republic. Between 1793 and 1800 he lived in London, where, in 1797, he published his first book, Essai historique, politique et moral sur les révolutions.

When Chateaubriand returned to Paris in 1800, he was, as he wrote, ‘English in manner, in taste and up to a certain point in thoughts’. Other French émigrés who were half-English in attitude, and wrote brilliant memoirs (which deserve republication), include Madame de La Tour du Pin and Madame de Boigne. Chateaubriand contributed to the popularity of English Romantic literature in France, wrote on the Stuarts and helped translate Milton. For him the sight of thousands of ships moored in the port of London surpassed ‘all images of power’.

He soon became one of the most famous writers in Europe, with a string of best-selling works, which contributed to the Catholic revival: Le Génie du christianisme (1802: begun in London, finished in Paris); Les Martyrs (1809), about Christian martyrs under the Roman Empire; Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem et de Jérusalem à Paris (1811), about his pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Royalism, as well as Catholicism, shaped his life. He resigned from government service in 1804, when Bonaparte kidnapped and executed an exiled Bourbon prince, the Duc d’Enghien. His best-selling pamphlet attacking Napoleon I, De Buonaparte et des Bourbons, contributed to the restoration of the Bourbons in 1814. Thereafter, he was one of the leading protagonists in the attempt to establish a constitutional monarchy in France – under the brothers of Louis XVI, Louis XVIII (1814–24) and Charles X (1814–24) – as a political journalist; a peer of France; ambassador to Berlin (1821) and London (1822); Minister of Foreign Affairs (1823–4); and ambassador again, to Rome (1828–9).

Chateaubriand was liberal as well as royalist. He resigned in 1829 on receiving news of Charles X’s appointment of Jules de Polignac as President of the Council, because of his ‘fatal and unpopular name . . . in revolutions a name has more effect than an army’ (Polignac was the reactionary son of a favourite of Marie Antoinette). On 7 August 1830, after Parisians fighting in the July Revolution had overthrown Charles X and placed his cousin, Louis-Philippe, on the throne, Chateaubriand made a speech in the Chamber of Peers, calling himself a ‘useless Cassandra’: ‘all I have left to do is to seat myself on the debris which I have so many times predicted. I acknowledge that misfortune has every kind of power, except that of releasing me from my oaths of loyalty.’ Leaving these memoirs to be published after his death – hence the title ‘d’outre-tombe’ – he died in Paris in 1848.

Memoirs From Beyond the Tomb is part of the flood of memoirs – over 1,000 in all – in which, after the event, Frenchmen and -women tried to make sense of the Revolution and the Empire. It is distinguished from the others by the originality of its construction and the seduction of its style. Chateaubriand includes physical details of the events and people he witnessed, such as the smile on the face of Marie Antoinette, the sheets used by his wife as white royalist flags in 1814, or the appearance and manners of Louis XVIII.

In addition, more than other autobiographers, he supports his own narrative with excerpts from others. He includes extracts from the official account of the trial of the Duc d’Enghien; from the diary of his servant Julien during their journey in the Levant in 1806; and letters from friends and diplomatic despatches from his time as ambassador and minister. A poet with a sense of history, he also includes quotations from the Bible, from the Greek and Latin classics, and, for comparison with contemporary revolutions, from a sixteenth-century chronicle of the wars of religion by Pierre de l’Estoile. Thus readers enjoy a constant change of perspective, and narrator, which enlivens and authenticates the memoirs. Even Chateaubriand’s own perspective changes, both in time and space, in the course of his memoirs: some parts were written outside Paris in 1811, others in London in 1821 or Prague in 1833.

Another change in tone occurs when Chateaubriand breaks his narrative to provide detailed portraits of, among others, the famous beauty Madame Récamier, who became his muse, although not his mistress; and Napoleon, whose genius he admired but whose despotism he detested. He saw that the Empire led to exile for the Bonapartes and diminution for France. Bringing a second European invasion and poisoning French politics, the Hundred Days – during which Chateaubriand served as Louis XVIII’s Minister of the Interior in exile in Ghent – was Napoleon’s ‘unredeemable crime and capital error’. France never recovered the place it had held in Europe before 1789, due to the hecatombs caused by the wars of the revolution and the Empire, and its failure to keep its ‘natural frontiers’ of the Rhine.

Memoirs From Beyond the Tomb is distinguished by its royalism. Chateaubriand was royalist by birth, by conviction and by revulsion. In July 1789 he had seen paraded on pikes the heads of some of the revolution’s earlier victims: two royal officials called Foulon and Bertier (whose murders, like almost all others, went unpunished). He never varied in his feelings of disgust and fear – which were more widely shared than is generally realized. He claims that, after the restoration of order by Bonaparte in 1799, the people of Paris shunned those who had participated in massacres. He could have said of French revolutionaries what Ivan Bunin would say of Russian ones a hundred years later: ‘what a bunch of criminals!’ When Lamartine wrote a defence of the Girondins, Chateaubriand commented: ‘he is gilding the guillotine’.

His political creed was: ‘legitimate, constitutional monarchy has always seemed to me the gentlest and surest path to complete liberty’. Helping to give him a critical distance from his own epoch, royalism defined his life. He spent part of his old age looking after aged priests and other victims of the revolution, with his unloved wife, in the Infirmerie Marie-Thérèse, which she had founded and named after the daughter of Louis XVI (today it is still a home for retired priests). After 1830 he visited the exiled Bourbons in Prague, London and Venice, wrote pamphlets in their favour, and received financial help from them.

His royalism did not, however, blind him to their faults. He admired Louis XVIII’s ‘veritable empire’; he was ‘king everywhere, as God is God everywhere’. Yet he also half despised the king, who, despite his promise to die in the defence of his constitution, bolted from Paris on 19 March 1815, a few hours before the arrival of Napoleon. Opposing Louis XVIII’s liberal ministries in 1816–20, he supported the reactionary policies of the Comte d’Artois, the future Charles X; but he also admitted that some of this king’s decisions were ‘enough to make one despair of the race’. The July Revolution was the fault of the king, who had issued ordonnances restricting the freedoms granted by Louis XVIII, not that of the institutions of France. Similarly, the revolution of 1789, in Chateaubriand’s opinion, was due to the weakness of Louis XVI.

Chateaubriand detested Talleyrand, in part because of Talleyrand’s revolutionary past as an apostate bishop who supported the execution of the Duc d’Enghien. Hence his celebrated description – confirmed by the recently published memoirs of another eye-witness, the Marquis de La Maisonfort – of seeing Talleyrand and Fouché (a mass murderer who had become Minister of Police). They are on their way to an audience with Louis XVIII at Saint-Denis in July 1815, as the king returns to Paris after the allied victory at Waterloo:

‘Suddenly a door is opened: vice leaning on the arm of crime silently enters, M. de Talleyrand supported by M. Fouché; the infernal vision passes slowly before me, enters the King’s study and disappears. Fouché had come to swear allegiance and fidelity to his lord. The loyal regicide on his knees put the hands which condemned Louis XVI’s head to fall between the hands of the brother of the martyr king. The apostate bishop stood surety for the oath.’

Chateaubriand proves that, in France, royalists could be at least as liberal and dynamic as revolutionaries. He was the best-selling author of his day, and had a world view, thinking that France should help install liberal Bourbon monarchies in Spain’s former colonies in South America. He warned the daughter of Louis XVI of the instability of thrones, and the unreliability of using guards and gendarmes to protect them from ideas. He deplored ‘the too great disproportion of fortunes and conditions’, and predicted ‘the old European order is expiring; society is dying’. Christianity, in his opinion, was the future of the world.

Memoirs From Beyond the Tomb is a case for the defence – of himself and the Bourbons. Eager to present himself as an innocent victim, he does not admit the driving ambition which made him such a successful writer and politician – and a ruthless negotiator with publishers. As his magnificent correspondence, now being published, makes clear, in his eagerness for office he would write to different female admirers on the same day, often using similar phrases: to Madame Récamier, Madame de Montcalm, Madame de Pisieux, the Duchesse de Duras. In his memoirs he writes at length about Madame Récamier, but does not mention more carnal mistresses, such as Madame Lafont or Hortense Allart.

This pious Catholic does, however, admit: ‘I do not possess evangelical perfection’ – he refused to turn the other cheek, and demanded revenge, even or especially on fellow royalists. The book is full of embittered asides. Marriage is called ‘the high road to all misfortunes’. Money is ‘the source of freedom. With you one is young, beautiful, adored’. ‘Is life anything but a lie?’

Many of his contemporaries loathed him. Charles X’s adviser, the Duc de Blacas, called him ‘capable of everything except of repairing the harm he has done’ – in reference to his support of liberals duing their campaign, against the royalist government of 1827, for freedom of the press. For Baron d’Eckstein and others, Chateaubriand, devoured by love of ‘the great chimaera’ success, and ‘the demon of publicity’, was one of the unhappiest men he knew (Balzac also found him ‘bien maussade, bien chagrin’ at Madame Récamier’s). We know Chateaubriand’s views of the Bourbons; unfortunately, due to the dispersion of their archives, we know little of their attitude to him. The French public, while loving his books, smiled at his pretensions to be a great national leader.

Even if Chateaubriand could arouse smiles or envy, if Charles X had followed his advice, in an age when the press was, as Chateaubrinad wrote, ‘social electricity’ – and political dynamite – he could have protected the throne better than Polignac and Jean-Baptiste de Villèle. The interdependence of rulers and writers (Louis XIV and Racine, Louis XV and Voltaire, de Gaulle and Malraux) is a characteristic of French history and one of the themes of Memoirs From beyond the Tomb.

As Chateaubriand minimizes his ambition and success, so he does that of his class. Far from ‘the last hour’ sounding for the French nobility, as he wrote, the nineteenth century was one of its golden ages. It was more ambitious after than before the revolution, since it had family fortunes and properties to restore. It provided France with prime ministers, marshals and geniuses, such as Chateaubriand himself (and Lamartine, de Tocqueville, de Vigny, de Maupassant, among many others). A French noble, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, would re-found the Olympics in 1896. Today the château of Combourg, where Chateaubriand spent his isolated youth, is still owned by descendants of his brother. And Chateaubriand’s work is still taught, in French schools, as a model of literary style.

Courts in Exile: Bourbons, Bonapartes and Orléans in London, from George III to Edward VII
A chapter in A History of the French in London: Liberty, Equality, Opportunity, edited by Debra Kelly and Martyn Cornick and published by the Institute of Historical Research in July 2013

The history of French royal exiles in London confirms the exceptional intimacy of the bonds between London and Paris. French princes repeatedly chose to reside in London, rather than Brussels, Vienna or Rome. Far from being ‘natural and necessary enemies’, as Jeremy Black complained in a 1990 book, or the Channel being, in the words of David Starkey, ‘wider than the Atlantic’, from the late eighteenth century until 1919 French and British elites, and London and Paris in particular, were ‘inextricably entangled’. There was an ‘Anglo-French moment’, almost as important as the ‘Anglo-Dutch moment’ in the seventeenth century.

London and Paris were the only cities in western Europe which shared proximity, a wealthy and cultivated nobility and commercial class, and status as royal capitals. They were bound to attract each other. Each became the natural model for, alternative to and refuge from, the other. London provided the fascination of a parliamentary monarchy, a dynamic economy and a less rigorous (until the 1880’s) censorship; Paris had the arts. France, the historian of English Francophilia Robin Eagles has written, was ‘everywhere’ in England, in food, manners, dress, entertainment and, especially, language. French was the second language of educated England, as of educated Europe. Members of his cabinet had addressed George I in French. Horace Walpole, Gibbon and Beckford (and later Swinburne and Wilde) wrote in French as well as English.

London had long been a cultural province of France. The shuttle between the two capitals, interrupted by the Reformation, had resumed with the arrival in London in 1625 of Henrietta Maria and her enormous household and unpopular Catholic chapel in Somerset House. The Queen’s mother Marie de Medicis in 1638-41, the political intriguer the Duchesse de Chevreuse in 1638-9 and the Queen’s illegitimate half-brother the Duc de Vendome in 1641-3 also took refuge in London from Richelieu’s regime in Paris. The double horror of two Catholic, proselytising French royal households in London helped turn opinion aginst Charles I. see hibbard in 1991 volume.

Thirty years later the Comte de Gramont enjoyed London and the court of Charles II so much that he could hardly believe he had left France. Other Frenchmen, such as the writer Saint-Evremond in 1661, and Voltaire in 1726-1728, also moved to London. By 1780 it was increasingly attractive to French people. It was the largest, richest and most modern city in Europe; it provided relative freedom; the journey took only thirty hours.

Part I – Philippe Égalité: The Search for Pleasure

Pleasure and freedom attracted the first French prince to live in London. Louis Philippe Joseph d’Orléans, duc de Chartres was so Anglophile that in 1779, although France and Britain were fighting the War of American Independence, he had imported an English orphan called Nancy Syms (later known as ‘la belle Pamela’, wife of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, leader of the Irish rebellion of 1798) to Paris to help teach his children English. As the war ended, he looked for what he called, in a letter to his agent Nathaniel Forth, ‘a pied à terre which I want to have in London where I can arrive from Paris whenever it suits me and where I will not have to render an account of my conduct to anybody.’ In 1782 he rented 35 Portland Place for 350 louis a year: London was the only city outside France in which a French prince had a residence.

Soon he was visiting London as easily as if he was arriving at one of his country estates, sometimes for as little as two weeks: choosing women ‘selon les fantaisies du moment’ [according to the whims of the moment], going to the races, visiting Brighton. He often dined with the Prince of Wales, a Francophile who employed French cooks and craftsmen at Carlton House, of whom Chartres’s grandson would write ‘I have never heard a foreigner speak such good French’. Chartres was an ‘enlightened’ prince, who admired the House of Commons and considered, like many Frenchmen, that the British government represented ‘the will of all’ – a view more revealing of his opposition to French absolutism than of his grasp of British politics. London was popular with a growing number of Frenchmen, including visitors such as the duc de Fitzjames, the Marquis de Conflans, and the Comte d’ Avaray; Marat (who worked there as a doctor and writer in 1765-76); and Calonne, Louis XVI’s finance minister, who took refuge there in August 1787, after his dismissal from office in April, to avoid prosecution in France.

Chartres seemed as much at home at Brook’s as Charles James Fox. He soon acquired in London the same reputation as in Paris. In 1783 the Prince of Wales, no prude, called him ‘a great beast’ and complained of the round of entertainments caused by the Duke’s ‘large party of French, both men and women’. His face was so red that it was said he should have been called the Duke of Burgundy. Nevertheless in 1785 the prince commissioned his portrait for Carlton House, from Sir Joshua Reynolds.

‘Philippe Égalité’, as the Duc d’Orléans (his title since his father’s death in 1785) was often called, returned to London for the last time in October 1789-July 1790. After his flagrant support for the revolutions of July and October 1789, the French government sent him on an official mission, as it wanted him out of Paris. The French ambassador, the Comte de La Luzerne, reported to the Foreign Minister: ‘the conduct of the Duc d’Orléans is as feeble in London as in Paris. Wine, horses, women, gambling and Madame de Buffon [his principal mistress] appear to be his sole occupations’. He was said to be drunk every night. He was executed in Paris in 1793, devoured by the revolution he had encouraged. Nevertheless some of his possessions continued to move to London. The Orléans collection of pictures, the finest private collection in Europe, which he had sold to pay his debts, was re-sold in London between 1793 and 1799: thanks to the French revolution, the centre of the European art market had moved to the capital of Great Britain.

Part II – The Comte d’Artois and the Bourbons: Royal Refugees

Pleasure had first attracted Orléans to London; seventeen years later politics brought his cousin, Louis XVI’s reactionary youngest brother the Comte d’Artois. The expansion of the French Republic after 1794 alarmed the British government more than the reign of terror after 1792. It began to believe in the restoration of the Bourbons as the best guarantee of the peace of Europe, and was rich enough to grant them and other French emigres pensions. There was a geopolitical motive. The Bourbons were prepared to give up French conquests, including the key strategic area of southern Netherlands and the great port of Antwerp, possession of which by France – as by Germany in 1914-18 – was believed to threaten British security.

In August 1799 the Comte d’Artois arrived from Edinburgh – having made an arrangement with the creditors who had confined him to the protected precinct of Holyrood House – for consultations with the British government. The foreign secretary Lord Grenville, anti-Bourbon in 1793, by 1799 believed: ‘Europe can never be restored to tranquillity but by the restoration of the monarchy in France’. Pitt himself declared in Parliament in January 1800: ‘The restoration of the French monarchy... I consider as a most desirable object because I think it would afford the strongest and best security to this country and to Europe’ – although it was never a sine qua non of peace.

Artois settled at 46 Baker Street with a small household and a pension of £6,000 a year. In London he rediscovered friends whom he had known at Versailles before 1789. The Whig leaders the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, for example, held a breakfast in his honour at their villa at Chiswick on 7 July 1800. The Duke’s mistress Lady Elizabeth Foster wrote in her diary:

I was very much struck with his manner and deportment. He neither seeks nor avoids talking on public affairs and even of the misfortunes of his family and country, but when he does, it is with feeling for the past, patience and firmness in the present moment, some hope for the future, without violence or resentment against the present rulers of France. It is impossible to see him and not to feel both interest and admiration for him. The Duke attended him to his carriage and marked his civility to the exiled Prince beyond what he had done to the Prince of Wales.’

Other English friends whom Artois visited included the Duke of Portland, Lady Salisbury and Lady Harrington. Madame de Boigne, one of many émigrés who spoke and felt both French and English, disapproved of Artois’ politics but found his manners, at Lady Harrington’s, so noble that, beside him, the Prince of Wales seemed to be his caricature.

In accordance with his royal rank, and his official status as a British protégé, until his return to France in 1814 Artois held a regular lever in his residence, (he moved from 46 Baker Street to 76 South Audley Street in 1805) for émigrés and English friends. He attended the small French Catholic chapel in Marylebone at what was then called Little King Street (later Carton street, demolished in 1978), one of eight French Catholic chapels established in London. Built by émigrés themselves, it had been consecrated by the Archbishop of Aix, assisted by sixteen bishops, on 15 March 1799.

In London Artois – despite appearing to English friends to be a ‘dear, good-natured man’ – also plotted against Bonaparte. Even after most émigrés returned to France during the peace of Amiens in 1802, some remained in London and provided him with a pool of followers. From London he helped organise assassination attempts on Bonaparte by Cadoudal, the Polignac brothers and others, in 1800-2 and 1803-4. Later he received and corresponded with the Foreign Secretary Canning and his successor the Marquess Wellesley. Although no French Bourbon was allowed by the British government to fight in the Peninsular War, on 1 September 1808 Canning wrote: ‘I am at Your Royal Highness’s disposal, either tomorrow or Saturday, at any hour tomorrow and at any hour from twelve to five on Saturday which may best suit Your Royal Highness’s convenience.’

London remained the capital of French royalist propaganda, as it would be of Gaullist propaganda in 1940-4. Works first published in London, such as Journal de ce qui s’est passé a la tour du Temple pendant la captivite de Louis XVI (1798) by Jean-Baptiste Clery, and Dernieres Annees du regne et de la vie de Louis XVI (1806) by Francois Hue, went through many editions, both in French and English. The list of over 1,200 subscribers to the first edition of Clery’s book , printed in French in London, was headed by THE KING, THE QUEEN (so printed) and sixteen members of the British royal family. Newspapers such as the Courrier de Londres (1776-1826), the Courrier d’Angleterre (1805-1815), and L’Ambigu (1802-18), written by royalists like Montlosier, Malouet, Peltier and others, were also published in London, and distributed in Europe. The coteries of émigré writers and conspirators in London were sometimes called ‘la république de Manchester’, owing to their many disputes, and residence near Manchester Square. The principal émigré publisher and book-seller, with an office in Soho Square, was a fomer Benedictine called A.B. Dulau: he helped inspire Chateaubriand to write Le Génie du Christianisme. London also contained at least two émigré painters, who painted the Bourbons and their followers in exile: Henri Pierre Danloux, who returned to Paris in 1801; and Francois Huet Villiers, who became ‘Miniature-Painter to Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York’ in 1804, and stayed in London until his death in 1813.

The lure of British pensions, and Britain’s safety from French invasions, soon drew more Bourbons to London. Artois’ second son the Duc de Berri arrived in 1802, after the dissolution in Russia of the army commanded by his cousin the Prince de Condé, in which he had been serving. He too led a London life, living beside his father in Thayer Street and in Brompton Grove (now Ovington Square) with a mistress called Amy Brown, buying prints and pictures, drawing pictures of himself in a carriage escorted by liveried footmen. His two illegitimate daughters by Amy Brown were baptised at the French chapel. He later called England, echoing Philippe Égalité twenty years earlier, ‘that good country where one can think at one’s ease and where I have been so happy’.

In 1802 the Prince de Condé himself also arrived in London, where his son the Duc de Bourbon had been living since 1796. Having early removed his fortune from France, he was able to live surrounded by French servants, in the Baroque mansion of Wanstead (now demolished) in Essex. ‘His household is maintained and organised marvellously, it is still the household of a prince: it has dignity’, wrote a royalist, Madame de Lage, in 1804.

London’s role as capital of French royalism was confirmed by the process of reconciliation between Artois and the sons of Philippe Égalité, Louis Philippe, Duc d’Orléans, and his brothers the Duc de Montpensier and the Comte de Beaujolais, who after 1789 had been Jacobins and after 1792 republicans. They had arrived in England in January 1800. Artois insisted that Orléans’ letter offering ‘the homage of our fidelity and our devotion’ to the head of the family, the exiled Louis XVIII, and expressing regret for ‘culpable measures into which I was seduced’, dated 13 February 1800, be at once shown not only to senior émigrés but also to the Russian ambassador and British ministers. Only after Orléans had written his submission to Louis XVIII did he receive a British pension, the honour of presentation to George III and Queen Charlotte, and the opportunity to meet, at dinner in Artois’ house, Lord Grenville and the Austrian, Russian and Neapolitan ambassadors. The Bourbons held the keys to Europe.

In June 1800 Orléans and his brothers rented Highshot House in Twickenham (now destroyed) – thus beginning their family’s long love-affair with this London suburb, which lasted until the death there of Orléans’s descendant ex-king Manuel of Portugal in 1932. London, a British pension, and the exaltation of the struggle against the French Republic and Empire, weakened the boundaries of nationality. Far from being a patriot who refused to fight against his fatherland, as he later claimed, in London Louis-Philippe became half-British, and wholly counter-revolutionary. He called France ‘a nation rotten internally and externally’; its government was a ‘disgusting edifice’. He constantly proclaimed in letters to Canning his desire to fight for England against France: ‘no one has more at heart than I the health and prosperity of England’. Until after the Hundred Days he would send copies of his letters to Louis XVIII to the British Foreign Secretary.

Finally Louis XVIII himself arrived from Russia in England in November 1807. His motives were: poverty; fear of Alexander I’s pro-Napoleonic policies after the Treaty of Tilsit; and desire for direct discussions with the British government and control over Artois and the French royalists in London. He wrote to Canning that ‘the salvation of Europe’ should come from the ‘union of George III and Louis XVIII’ and to Wellesley that the interests of France and England were ‘inseparable’.

Orléans, however, considered him ‘beyond all bearing’ for not following the instructions of the British government to go to Edinburgh. In his turn Louis XVIII condemned Orléans for being ‘tout à fait anglais’ [totally English]. The following year, partly owing to such disputes, Orléans left for Sicily. Louis XVIII was obliged to live, first at Gosfield in Essex, then at Hartwell near Aylesbury. He failed to obtain formal recognition as king of France, the right to live in or near London, or the chance to meet British ministers. British governments did not want to compromise the possibility of making peace with Napoleon. He was, however, awarded a pension of £16,000 a year. (In 1811 French royalists, including refugees from uprisings in Toulon and Corsica, were receiving a total of £154,752 a year from the British government, of which £45,500 went to members of the Bourbon dynasty.)

Funerals advertised London’s role as capital of French royalism. Requiem masses were held in the French chapel for Condé’s grandson the Duc d’Enghien, kidnapped and shot on Bonaparte’s orders in 1804 (partly in retaliation for the assassination attempts organised from London by Artois); and in 1807 for Louis-Philippe’s brother the Duc de Montpensier, and for the last confessor of Louis XVI the Abbé Edgeworth. On 26 November 1810 the exiled ‘Queen of France’ Marie-Josephine of Savoy, who had been living with her husband at Hartwell, was buried in the Henry VII chapel in Westminster Abbey (where Montpensier had been buried three years earlier). There was a five-hour service in the French chapel. The funeral oration (printed by R. Juigne and sold by Bernard Dulau at his shop in Soho Square) was preached by the Abbé de Bouvens: Oraison funèbre de la très haute, très puissante et très excellente princesse, Marie-Josephine-Louise de Savoie, Reine de France et de Navarre. The service was attended by eleven French bishops and four ambassadors: of Spain, Portugal, Sardinia and Sicily.

The procession taking the coffin from the French chapel to Westminster Abbey revealed the Bourbons’ popularity in London. It consisted of the hearse, drawn by six horses; two carriages for the Queen’s household; chevaliers de Saint Louis and soldiers of the French royal gardes-du-corps on foot; ‘four mourning coaches’ containing the French princes; and ten coaches for ‘the Foreign Nobility and ambassadors’. As a sign of respect the procession was followed by the state coaches of the Prince of Wales and all his brothers; of the marquess of Buckingham and marquess Wellesley; of the Prime Minister Spencer Perceval ‘and all the ministers’; and of ‘several English noblemen and gentlemen’. In the Abbey the choirs of the Chapel Royal, the Abbey and Saint Paul’s Cathedral sang hymns. 300 émigrés attended the service. Despite the cold and rain ‘the populace without were very numerous’.

Until the end of the nineteenth century one factor connecting all French royal exiles was, as this French royal funeral in a British royal chapel confirms, the friendship of the British royal family. Already in 1808 the Prince of Wales had visited Louis XVIII at Wanstead house in Essex, gone down on one knee and sworn ‘to restore him to the throne of his ancestors.’ This was his personal policy, which he never abandoned.

Seven months after the Queen’s funeral, on 19 June 1811 Louis XVIII and his family were the guests of honour at the fete for 3000 in Carlton House by which the prince inaugurated his Regency. Louis XVIII had not only broken the ban on visiting London, he was given a military escort to go from South Audley Street, where he was staying, to Carlton House. The new Regent welcomed him, in a room hung with fleurs de lys tapestries and a portrait of Louis XV, with the words – dynamite for an exile –, ‘Ici Votre Majesté est roi de France’ [here, Your Majesty is king of France]. The British government addressed him as ‘M. le comte de l’Isle’; at court, however, he maintained his royal rank.

As the presence of ALL the ministers’ and ALL the princes’ carriages at the funeral in 1810 showed, the Bourbons remained a British project. In 1811 Lord Fitzwilliam dedicated to Louis XVIII a pamphlet, in French, comparing Protestantism and Catholicism, saying ‘it suffices not that your Majesty should be restored to France – it is necessary that France should be restored to your Majesty.’ Napoleon’s defeat in Russia increased the Bourbons’ chances. In London on 19 December 1812 and in early 1813, at secret meetings unknown to British historians , Louis XVIII’s principal adviser the Comte de Blacas promised the Foreign Secretary Lord Castlereagh that the king would support ‘the present order of things’. (The meetings were kept secret to prevent denunciations of war-mongering by the government’s enemies in Parliament, and the alienation of Britain’s allies Russia, Prussia and Austria). Louis XVIII had already begun to moderate his counter-revolutionary policies in 1800-1805; but the British government pushed him further in this direction.

Declarations were the king’s principal means of influencing French opinion and in the declaration of Hartwell of 1 March 1813, written with Castlereagh’s help, he repeated the moderation of his 1805 declaration. It promised union, happiness, peace and ‘repose’; the maintenance of ‘le Code dit Napoleon’ except in matters of religion, and of ‘administrative and judicial bodies’ and guaranteed ‘the freedom of the people’. Thereafter the British government and its agents abroad – without telling Britain’s allies – provided the king with the financial means to print the Declaration and to have it distributed by what Blacas called ‘devoted servants who can inform the French of the king’s intentions and the king of the dispositions of the interior.’

The entente cordiale between Britain and France began in London. Already in August 1813 the British government suggested a Bourbon restoration. As allied armies approached France’s frontiers, and agents arrived with news of royalist activity, Artois had several meetings with Liverpool. According to his ‘most secret’ memorandum of 4 January, Liverpool ‘urged the advantage of delay’. He demanded an ‘actual rising’ or the allies’ consent. For oncce in his life relying on public opinion, Artois threatened to appeal to ‘the whole world’, if the British government would not give him and his sons passports to leave the country. Honour obliged them to answer ‘the wishes of the French People’. At first Liverpool refused. On 17 January, however, due either to royal pressure, or to the course of the campaign in France, Liverpool accompanied the Regent to call on Artois in South Audley Street. On 22 January he and his sons Angoulême (who had been living at Hartwell with his uncle) and Berri set sail for the continent with British passports. They too, like Louis XVIII, had become more moderate on British soil.

On 25 January 1814, breaking British constitutional proprieties in the presence of Lord Liverpool (in order to demonstrate his ministers’ approval), the Regent summoned Count Lieven, the Russian ambassador, to Carlton House. The Regent informed him that peace with Napoleon – which Britain’s allies were still considering – would only be a breathing- space. His entire life was ‘a series of bad faith, atrocity and ambition’. In the interests of European peace a restoration of the Bourbons, in whom the Regent personally took ‘a strong interest’, should be proposed to the French nation.

On this issue public opinion agreed with the Regent: it was called ‘insane’ and ‘nearly unanimous’ in its opposition to peace with Napoleon. The Bourbons’ popularity came from their association with peace. On 24 March the royalist agent the Comte de La Barthe, arriving with news of the declaration of the city of Bordeaux in favour of the Bourbons on 12 March 1814 – sparked by the arrival of the Duc d’Angoulême and British and Portuguese troops – was escorted by a crowd to 10 Downing Street with shouts of: ‘Bourbons for ever! God bless the Bourbons! No peace with Boney, with the invader!’

London’s enthusiasm for the Bourbons reached its zenith in April. On 7 April Louis XVIII was proclaimed in Paris. On 12 April the Comte d’Artois made his official entry into the city; the only foreigners with him, as a sign of gratitude for British hospitality, were Lord Castlereagh and his mission. In one moment, according to the Marquis de La Maisonfort, author of a best-selling pro-Bourbon pamphlet printed in London, Tableau de l’Europe (1813), England was covered in white cockades; even the hackney coachmen in London wore them. A popular tune was called ‘The White Cockade’.

At three p.m. on 20 April, after an attack of gout had immobilised him at Hartwell, Louis XVIII received a triumphant welcome in London. Sitting with the Duchesse d’Angoulême, the Prince de Conde and the Regent in the Regent’s State Coach, followed by a procession of carriages of British and French court officials, they were escorted from Stanmore, where the Regent had gone to welcome the King, by the Royal Horse Guards, volunteers and nobles on horseback. All the British troops and noblemen wore French white cockades. ‘One mass of carriages’, filled with spectators, stretched from Kilburn down Edgware Road and Park Lane to Piccadilly. They had been waiting four hours before the king arrived about 4 pm. White flags flew from every roof. Roofs, balconies and windows were filled with spectators. As the procession reached Grillon’s Hotel, 7 Albemarle Street, the crowd cheered; ladies waved handkerchiefs. Louis XVIII entered the hotel on the Regent’s arm.

In the hotel ball room, in the presence of 150 French and English nobles, all the foreign ambassadors, and the British cabinet, the Regent offered his congratulations, in French: ‘the triumph and joy with which Your Majesty will be received in your own capital can scarcely exceed the joy and satisfaction with which Your Majesty’s restoration to the throne of his ancestors had been received in the capital of the whole British empire … May your Majesty long reign in peace, happiness and honour!’

Louis XVIII expressed his ‘gratitude and delight’ and admiration for Britain: ‘May its greatness and happiness be eternal!’ Then, assisted by the Prince de Condé and the Duc de Bourbon, he invested the Regent with his own Cross of the Order of the Holy Spirit, taken from his breast.

For the next two days the charm offensive continued. Clearly the king and the Regent were trying to inaugurate an era of peace between the two nations. At individual presentations, according to the writer Fanny Burney (wife of the émigré Chevalier d’Arblay) ‘the English, by express command of his Majesty, had always the preference and always took place of the French’. At a special chapter in Carlton House on 21 April Louis XVIII was invested by the Regent with the Order of the Garter. The Corporation of the City of London, after offering its congratulations, expressed the hope that France and England would remain so ‘indissolubly allied by the relations of amity and concord as to ensure and perpetuate to both, and to Europe at large , uninterrupted Peace and Repose’. Louis XVIII replied in English: ‘neither myself nor my Family will ever forget the Asylum afforded us, nor the Stand which has been made against Tyranny by England, whose powerful aid has enabled my people to speak freely their sentiments of loyalty’. In a speech after dinner at Carlton House on 22 April 1814, he attributed ‘the restoration of our house on the throne of its ancestors’, after divine providence, ‘to the counsels of Your Royal Highness, to this glorious country and to the steadfastness of its inhabitants.’ On 23 April, having bidden a last farewell to the Regent after dinner on board the royal yacht The Royal Sovereign, he sailed for France from Dover, with a loan of £100,000 from the British government to pay for his journey – preceded or followed by most of the remaining French in London. Lord Liverpool commented, on Louis XVIII’s reception in London: ‘ I never saw so much enthusiasm in my life on any occasion.’

The Bourbons left London physically, but not mentally. From the moment the king returned to Paris, British visitors could count on a warm welcome at court. Louis XVIII also blew them kisses in the street. Anglophilia became a factor in French politics. Reports of the king’s pro-British speeches in London, and frequent consultations in Paris with the British ambassador the Duke of Wellington, lost him some of his initial popularity. Nevertheless, both Louis XVIII and Charles X (as Artois became on his brother’s death in 1824) practised a pro-British foreign policy, remarkable in a country which had been fighting Britain for the last twenty years. At Navarino in 1827 the French and British navies cooperated for the first time since the reign of Louis XIV. A club dedicated to union between the two nations, called the Cercle de l’Union, was founded in Paris in 1828, under royal patronage, on the model of London clubs.

Even after the restoration of their dynasty in Paris, however, London continued to attract some French princes. While ‘all the world’ was said to be in Paris, in 1815-17 Orléans rented a house later known as Orléans House, in ‘dear old Twick’, to show his disapproval of Louis XVIII’s ultra-royalist ministry in Paris. Since he had recovered his fortune in France, it was grander than Highshot House, with a garden on the Thames. His wife, Marie-Amélie of Naples, found London’s lack of monuments made it more like a large village than one of the first cities in Europe, but praised what she called the tranquillity of Twickenham, ‘far from the world and its intrigues’. In reality her husband continued his own intrigues, printing Extrait de mon journal du mois de mars 1815, à Twickenham de l’imprimerie de G. White, which defends his own conduct and condemns Louis XVIII’s. Seven months after the king had appointed a more moderate ministry, on 9 April 1817, the Orléans left, needing ten carriages to convey themselves and their households back to Paris.

The son of the Prince de Condé, the Duc de Bourbon, ‘enslaved’ by his English mistress Sophie Dawes, refused his father’s pleas to return to Paris and stayed in London until Condé’s death in 1818. Orléans and Bourbon were not exiles, but French princes who, for political or personal reasons, preferred (like Philippe Égalité in 1782-90) London to Paris.

After he ascended the throne in 1830, Louis-Philippe continued his cousins’ Anglophile policies. It was said that an English accent was enough to ensure a welcome at court. He continued to consult the British ambassador on policy. His refusal to go to war against Britain in 1840 lost him popularity in France and may have contributed to his overthrow in 1848.

Part III – Louis-Napoleon and the Bonapartes: Imperial Pretenders

Some Bonapartes, like their enemies the Bourbons, also became Londoners and Anglophiles in this period. Despite their leadership of France’s war against Britain in 1803-14, and 1815, the Bonapartes in London show a pattern of liberty, fraternity, opportunity – and love affairs – similar to the Bourbons and Orléans. London weakened national boundaries for Louis-Napoléon as well as Louis XVIII and Louis-Philippe.

Joseph Bonaparte, Lucien Bonaparte and Achille Murat arrived in London in 1831, sensing the weakness of the July Monarchy in France. The first two stayed until 1837 and sometimes attended the French chapel (which in 1823 the French ambassador Prince Jules de Polignac had raised to the status of a royal chapel under the Grand Aumônier de France). Louis-Napoléon, the future Napoleon III, came in 1831 and returned in 1838. After 1838 his uncles and father lived as exiles in Florence or Rome, far from the public gaze. In London, a convenient observation post for France, and a symbol of modernity, Louis Napoleon lived as a dynastic pretender. He felt safer there than in his previous residence, Switzerland, which had expelled him at the request of the French government in 1837. He entertained notables like Disraeli and Bulwer Lytton in a house he leased in Carlton House Terrace, and went to see French plays performed at the Saint James’s theatre. He admired the moral and material conquests of England and planned to unite France and England through their interests.

At the same time he was planning a Bonaparte restoration. His political programme, and determination to reduce pauperism, were outlined in his own Des idées napoléoniennes (1839) and in Lettres de Londres (1840), written by his follower Persigny: a propaganda work which stresses his ideas , the ‘seductive distinction’ of his manners, and the number of his British friends. It was with rifles and uniforms bought in London that he sailed in 1840 to launch a doomed coup at Boulogne. Thus London was a spring-board for Bonapartist plots in 1838-40, as it had been for royalist plots in 1799-1814.

In 1843-4 London was also used as a political base by the legitimist pretender the Comte de Chambord, grandson of Charles X (the former Comte d’Artois). Renting a house in Belgrave Square, he then toured the factories of the Midlands as well as a large number of sympathetic country-houses. About 2,000 French royalists, including the aged Chateaubriand, came to acclaim him in London and hear him promise to defend ‘les libertés nationales’.

Louis-Napoléon lived in London again, after his escape from prison in France, in 1846-8. He visited the Anglo-French salon of Lady Blessington and Count d’Orsay in Kensington Gore, went to parties and country-houses, joined the Army and Navy Club and acted as a Special Constable during Chartist scares in 1848. It was from London that he left for Paris on 24 September 1848, partly financed by Miss Howard, a beautiful English courtesan with whom he had been living in Berkeley Street. He took with him plans for modernising Paris, in part inspired by his years in London.

After the proclamation of the Empire in 1852, his Anglophilia helped create the Crimean alliance which united Britain and France in war against Russia in 1854-6. His state visit to London and Windsor during that war, in April 1855, was a triumph, with more ovations than Louis XVIII had received in April 1814. In a speech in English to the Corporation of London in the Guildhall on 19 April, asserting the ‘sentiments of sympathy and esteem’ which he retained since his exile in London, Napoleon III said he represented ‘a nation whose interests are today everywhere identical with your own (immense cheering)… England and France are naturally united on all the great questions of politics and of human progress which agitate the world … I see in the moral as in the political world for our two nations but one course and one end’ (loud cheers). When they went to the opera, Queen Victoria wrote in her journal: ‘never did I see such crowds at night, all in the highest good humour … cheering and pressing near the carriage.

In March 1871 he returned to England in very different circumstances, after six months as a prisoner following defeat in the Franco-Prussian war. He insisted on living in England, rather than Switzerland or Italy, because of its freedom. Despite relative poverty, the grandest of all French exiled courts in England gathered around him at Camden Place in Chislehurst (then in Kent, now in south-east London), where the Empress Eugénie and their son the Prince Imperial had been residing since September 1870. It included his Grand Chamberlain the Duc de Bassano, his cousins the Duc and Duchesse de Mouchy and the ex-minister Eugène Rouher (who founded a Bonapartist newspaper, La Situation, in London), as well as ADCs, chamberlains and about 25 servants.

Queen Victoria had come to like him for his ‘constant kindness’, and for being a ‘faithful ally’. She visited Chislehurst several times: ‘the poor Empress looked so lovely in her simple black’, she wrote in her diary. There were other English and French visitors after Sunday mass. In 1872 there was a New Year reception. From Chislehurst the Emperor directed the Bonapartist party and press in France until his death in January 1873. During the lying-in-state there was a ‘great and pressing crowd at the gates’. His funeral at Saint Mary’s Church on 15 January, was a Franco-British occasion, attended by about 30,000 people, from both countries, including Senators, Marshals Canrobert and Leboeuf, workers, members of the Bonaparte dynasty and the Prince of Wales. The British Lord Chamberlain Lord Sydney and the French Grand Chamberlain Duc de Bassano were both in attendance. The Prince Imperial was ‘vociferously cheered along the line of route’, by cries of ‘Vive l’Empéreur!’ ‘Vive Napoleon IV!’ ‘Vive la France’ and ‘Vive l’Angleterre!’ For The Graphic it was proof that ‘imperialism is still a living creed’: ‘tout peut se rétablir’ [everything can be re-established].

The Prince Imperial – ‘Napoleon IV’ – held rallies at Chislehurst, on Saint Napoleon’s Day, 15 August, and on his eighteenth birthday on 16 March 1874. Thousands came. Chislehurst briefly resembled a suburb of Paris. He studied at King’s College London and the Royal Military Academy Woolwich and made speeches praising ‘the friendship which now united England and France’.

Anglophilia, however, helped to kill him. Driven by accusations that his father had been a coward, and by a desire for military fame, he volunteered for the British army, writing ‘I could not be satisfied to remain aloof from the fatigues and perils of that army in which I have so many comrades.’ He was killed on 20 June 1879 in the first Zulu War.

His funeral at Chislehurst on 12 July was the last ceremony of the Second Empire. The Bonaparte family, ‘the great officers of the Imperial Crown’ and many other court officials were in attendance. Many British came, because of his popularity and his tragic death fighting in the British army. Queen Victoria herself came – an honour she extended to few of her own subjects – as did senior army officers, 200 cadets of the Royal Artillery, the Prince of Wales and the Crown Prince of Sweden. 32 special trains ran, bringing about 30,000 people in all, according to the Illustrated London News. In her letter of condolence the Queen told the Empress that her son was ‘loved and respected by all’. His heirs, his cousins Prince Napoleon and Prince Victor Napoleon, were not. Bonapartism as a political force was finished.

Two monuments to the last Napoleons survive in England. One is St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough, a grandiose domed basilica in’flamboyant’ French neo-gothic, decorated with Bonaparte bees and eagles and housing the tombs of Napoleon III, his wife and son. The basilica and adjoining monastery were erected by Gabriel Destailleur on the orders of the Empress Eugénie beside Farnborough Hill, her residence from 1883. The Abbey’s construction had been the motive for her move from Chislehurst, where she lacked space and local support: proximity to Windsor must have been another attraction. Until her own funeral there in 1920, in the presence of George V and Queen Mary, and the King and Queen of Spain, she made Farnborough Abbey a living museum of the First and Second Empires, filled with Napoleonic portraits, sculpture and memorabilia. Her household was French, but her servants (around 30 in all) mainly English. Annual memorial masses in honour of Napoleon I, Napoleon III, the Empress and their son are said there by the Benedictine monks to this day. The second monument is the memorial effigy of the Prince Imperial, erected at the suggestion of Queen Victoria in Saint George’s Chapel, Windsor. Another sign, like Montpensier’s tomb in Westminster Abbey, of the friendship between the French and British monarchies.

Part IV – The House of Orléans: Permanent Exiles

After 1789-90, 1800-08 and 1815-17, London was again residence of the Orléans, from 1848 to 1871 and 1886 to 1906. Four Coburg-Orléans marriages – a shared programme of constitutional monarchy embodied in the Quadruple alliance of 1834 – and exchanges of visits in the 1840’s – had made the Orléans and the British royal family cousins, allies and friends. Naturally Louis-Philippe and his family chose England as their refuge after the revolution of 1848 in France. As ‘Comte de Neuilly’, he asked the Queen for the hospitality he had once enjoyed as Duc d’Orléans.

The Queen lent Louis Philippe and his wife Claremont House in Surrey, the large Palladian mansion which had been bought for Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold on their marriage in 1816. Visits between the two royal families were frequent. Soon Claremont, like Hartwell during the residence of Louis XVIII, was full from the cellars to the attic. The king’s youngest son the Duc d’Aumale described the Orléans as ‘fort calmes, fort tristes, fort pauvres’ [very calm, very sad, and very poor]. Although the king gave up hope of return to France, saying that all respect had died there, he was visited by many French politicians including the Duc de Broglie, Guizot and Salvandy. There were painful discussions with his sons over the revolution of 1848. They blamed it on their father’s refusal to reform. He complained: ‘Qu’ai je fait pour être si dépopularisé?’ [What have I done to become so unpopular?] On 20 July 1850 he attended the first communion of his grandson and heir the Comte de Paris, in the French royal chapel in London. He died on 26 August. His funeral, organised by his aides de camp and family at the Catholic church of Saint Charles Borromeo Weybridge, was attended by about 200 people including the ambassadors of Portugal, Naples, Spain and Brazil, and some of his favourite artists like Eugène Lami and Ary Scheffer.

Thereafter the widowed Queen Marie-Amélie continued to live at Claremont, a guest of the Queen, with members of her family; they founded the Claremont Harriers for hunting. Devoted courtiers such as Raoul de Montmorency, Anatole de Montesquieu, and Comtesse Mollien came from France. She disliked what she called the ‘atmosphère lourde et énervante’ [heavy and irritating atmosphere] of England, and spent much of her time writing letters.

The rest of her family and their households settled nearby in Richmond and Twickenham. They became the court suburb of the Orléans, as Chislehurst would be of the Bonapartes. East Sheen and later Bushey House near Hampton Court, again lent by Queen Victoria, were used by the Duc and Duchesse de Nemours; Mount Lebanon House in Richmond by the Prince and Princesse de Joinville; the widowed Duchesse d’Orléans lived in Cambourne Lodge in Richmond. All were accompanied by French servants and courtiers. In time the housheolds became less French. According to the 1861 census only one of the Duc d’Aumale’s 23 servants was English; in 1871 he had eight English servants. Rosa Lewis, later famous as owner of the Cavendish Hotel, began as a kitchen maid in the household of Aumale’s nephew the Comte de Paris.

Aumale was the richest of the Orléans princes, thanks to the intrigues of his father and Sophie Dawes, who had combined to persuade the Duc de Bourbon to leave Aumale most of his fortune. In 1852 he bought Orléans House, where his parents had lived in 1815-17. He gave fetes there to benefit the French Société de bienfaisance of London and until his death in 1897 was President of the Twickenham Rowing Club. A celebrated bibliophile, he began to collect in London some of the treasures now on display in France in his château of Chantilly, including the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berri and ‘the Orléans Madonna’ by Raphael. One purpose was to assert the grandeur of his dynasty and remind the outside world of its existence. He added a library and picture gallery to Orléans House and also subsidised sympathetic newspapers in France. For him, however, as he wrote, ‘nothing can replace the absent fatherland’.

Most of the Orléans spent every evening together, in one of their houses in Richmond or at Claremont, in ‘une intimité complète’ [complete intimacy]. Perhaps because of the unpopularity of their father’s Anglophilia in France, the rise of exclusive nationalism after 1850, or the self-sufficiency of large families, they lived in a French ghetto: ‘Claremont was entirely French’, wrote one of their courtiers. They did not interact with the English as easily as the Bourbons, the Bonapartes, or Louis-Philippe himself. Aumale’s neighbour, adviser and friend was a political hostess – ‘dearest Frances’ – Lady Waldegrave, chatelaine of Strawberry Hill. She helped win him support in the London press. However, she admired Napoleon III and the Prince Imperial, in part for their love of England: ‘the Orléans princes have never had the pluck to take the same line,’ she complained in 1879.

Marriages and funerals, for which hundred specially crossed the Channel, helped the Orléans remind France of their existence. The Duchesse d’Orléans’ sons the Duc de Chartres and the Comte de Paris were married – in both cases to first cousins, daughters of the Prince de Joinville and the Duc de Montpensier – in Saint Raphael’s church, Kingston, in 1863 and 1864 respectively: Marie-Amélie was cheered by spectators at the latter wedding, which was also attended by the Prince and Princess of Wales. Thereafter, to the delight of the local tradesmen, the young couples settled in Morgan House, Ham and York House, Richmond (now Richmond Chamber of Commerce, the only Orléans residence in the borough which has not been demolished), respectively. On 24 August 1864 – the day before the feast of Saint Louis – the Comte and Comtesse de Paris made a grand entry into their new residence: the Vicar read an address of welcome. There were flags, music, cheering school-children, games, illuminations and fireworks.

The funeral of Marie-Amélie on 3 April 1866 was far better attended than that of Louis Philippe in 1850 – a sign of the respect which she inspired and of her close relationship to the royal families of Europe. Like that of Marie-Josephine in 1810, it was an act of defiance against the regime in Paris. It was attended by the general staff of Orleanism – Thiers, Guizot, Remusat and Duchatel in the same carriage; the Marquis d’Harcourt, the Comte d’Haussonville, the journalists Saint-Marc Girardin, and Prevost-Paradol – as well as by her grandson the king of the Belgians, the Prince of Wales, her own family, and the ambassadors or ministers of Austria, Prussia, Bavaria, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Saxony, Spain, Brazil and Mexico. 150 carriages followed the procession, which was watched by all of Esher. The Queen was buried in the dress she had worn when fleeing France in 1848.

The Orléans returned to France when the laws of exile were repealed by Thiers’ government in 1871. Incredibly, they were passing through the corridor connecting Dover station and the Lord Warden Hotel, on 20 March, at exactly the moment that the ex-Emperor Napoleon III arrived there from his prison in Germany. The Empress Eugenie curtsied. The men passed by without a word, merely raising their hats. One exiled French court was going to London; another was leaving it. Aumale and Nemours, however, may have kept properties in England – not sure if they would have to return.

Particularly after the deaths of the Prince Imperial in 1879 and of the legitimist claimant the Comte de Chambord in 1883, the chances of the Comte de Paris, whom French monarchists called Philippe VII, increased. He seemed moderate and reliable. The Third Republic appeared unstable and divided. In the elections of 1885 the right did well. On 14 May 1886 in the Hotel de Matignon, rue de Varenne, he gave a lavish reception for 4000 people – ambassadors, nobles and ‘the elite of the world of science, the arts, literature and the magistrature’, in honour of the wedding of his daughter Amélie to the Duke of Braganza, heir to the throne of Portugal.

Republican authorities were offended. They had not been invited: moreover their carriages could not get through the streets to reach the Chamber of Deputies in time for a parliamentary debate. Le Temps claimed that there were two governments in France, republican and royalist: ‘the pretender acting openly as a king has constituted around himself a veritable court.’ A law was passed on 11 June exiling all heads of dynasties claiming the throne of France.

The Comte and Comtesse de Paris returned to Twickenham, where (since they had sold York House, assuming they would not need it again) they lived in Sheen House and in Stowe in Buckinghamshire. The London region now contained two rival French courts: the Empress Eugénie in Farnborough and the Comte de Paris in Twickenham. In Sheen House, Paris, although often accused of being weak, cosmopolitan, and over-gentlemanly, frequently received men come to discuss French politics; in 1887 the Marquis de Breteuil described him as ‘overwhelmed with visits and does not have the time to be bored or even to suffer from exile.’ The elegant Charles Swann, in À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, has ‘letters from Twickenham’ in his pocket.

Another marriage, between Paris’s next daughter Hélène and the son of the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Clarence, was favoured by Queen Victoria, still a family friend, but prevented by religion. As inflexible on faith as his cousin Chambord had been on the flag, Paris refused to let his daughter convert to Protestantism.

Paris died at Stowe on 8 September 1894 and was buried in the church of Saint Charles Borromeo, Weybridge. It was the last but one of the grandiose French dynastic funerals in England: Marie-Josephine in 1810; Louis-Philippe in 1850; Marie-Amélie in 1866; Napoleon III in 1873; the Prince Imperial in 1879 (the last would be the Empress Eugénie in 1920). Since he was the last serious pretender to the French throne, it can be said that, while Bonapartism had been buried at Chislehurst, royalism was buried in Weybridge. One commentator, J.E. C. Bodley, who criticised his ‘incapacity to touch the imagination of the people of France’, called his death an event of ’complete insignificance’.

After the funeral, however, his son, the Duc d’Orléans, born in Twickenham in 1867, received 1,000 French royalists at the Grosvenor Hotel Victoria (since it was the station for Paris) – one of the last French royalist rallies in London. He held another at York House in Twickenham in January 1900. Princess Hélène married the Duke of Aosta in St Raphael’s, Kingston on 25 June 1895; her sister Isabelle married a cousin, the Duc de Guise, in 1899.

Orléans was rich, right-wing, and unhappily married to an Archduchess. Increasingly restless, he moved between England, Sicily and Belgium. Moreover his pro-Boer attitude during the Boer war lost him many English friends. In 1906 he sold York House to a Parsee millionaire. Brussels became the headquarters of the House of Orléans, until the next Comte de Paris returned to France, after the laws of exile were repealed, in 1950.

In conclusion the exiled French courts in London were important both for Franco-British relations and for French politics. They show that, contrary to traditional narratives of hereditary enmity, Francophilia could be as widespread in England as Francophobia. The large attendance at the principal French royal and imperial funerals in London, and the ovations given by Londoners to Louis XVIII in 1814 and to Napoleon III in 1855, showed that French monarchs could be extremely popular in Britain.

Anglophilia, for its part, could be as characteristic of France as Anglophobia. All three dynasties remained Anglophiles in France. They initiated the pro-British foreign policies of the Restoration, the July monarchy and the Second Empire. London and Paris were never closer than in the years between 1814 and 1870.

London was an incubator of French monarchies as well as Franco-British alliances. For almost a century London, as a capital of French royalism, Orleanism or Bonapartism, was as much part of French politics as it is today, as the seventh largest French city, with 100,000 French voters. National frontiers were porous. For many Frenchmen, due to their country’s revolutions, Paris represented instability, London legitimacy – and lucidity. Its proximity, modernity and freedom made London a better observation post and spring-board than Vienna, residence of Napoleon’s son the Duc de Reichstadt in 1815-32, or Frohsdorf, the Austrian castle where the Comte de Chambord lived.

Their years in London helped to modernise French pretenders and to ensure that, in 1814, 1848 and 1871 they were welcomed back in France. As their ceremonies and rallies in London suggest, the king or emperor ‘over the water’, could appear a plausible political alternative to a vulnerable regime in Paris. Indeed, French pretenders in London were often more realistic about French interests and French diplomacy than the government in Paris. Exiles can be more lucid than men in power.

All three dynasties failed. However, all three had had more followers than would, at the beginning of his London years, the next French leader to establish his headquarters there – namely General de Gaulle.

‘Courts and Cities: The Nineteenth-Century Resurgence’, in Stadtisches Burgertum un Hofgesellschaft: Ostfildern, edited by Jan Hirschbiegel and others, Jan Thorbecke Verlag (2012), pp. 313-318

‘The Court in the Nineteenth Century’, in The Court in Europe, edited by Marcello Fantoni, Bulzoni (2012)

Sublime port, Marseille by David Crackanthorpe, Signal Books, pp.224, (The Spectator, December 2012)

Love letters to foreign lands, Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure by Artemis Cooper, Penguin, pp.384 (The Spectator, October 2012)

Charming, cold-eyed cosmopolitan, Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, 1880-1918 edited and translated by Laird M. Easton Knopf, pp.976 (The Spectator, March 2012)

Gunboat diplomacy, Blue-Water Empire: The British in the Mediterranean since 1800 by Robert Holland, Allen Lane, pp.397 (January 2012)

‘Le pouvoir de l’habit ou l’habit du pouvoir’ in Se vêtir à la cour en Europe, 1400-1815, Isabelle Paresys & Natacha Coquery, eds, Centre de recherche du château de Versailles / Institut de Recherches Historiques du Septentrion de l’université Lille 3-Charles-de-Gaulle / Centre de Gestion de l’Édition Scientifique (2011)

Tulip and Turbans: Turks and Dutch Across Four Centuries, Cornucopia 2012

The great hall of the main Dutch university, Leiden, was once decorated with a panorama of Constantinople, drawn around 1560 by Melchior Lorichs. It was a visible sign of the links between Turkey and the Netherlands, which led to the arrival in Istanbul of the first Dutch ambassador in 1612. Then as now tolerance, and desire to earn a living, overcame differences of race, religion and geography. Four hundred years later, the Turkish-Dutch relationship has been celebrated in both countries in an explosion of exhibitions, publications and concerts.

Showing Turkey’s constant desire for a role in Europe, official relations began in 1610 with a letter from the Kaptan Pasha, or head of the navy, inviting the States General of the Netherlands to send an ambassador to Istanbul. They shared the same enemy, Catholic crusading Spain. Moreover, the Netherlands, as the economic power-house of northern Europe, was a natural trading partner for the Ottoman Empire. Already in the 1580’s, to the dismay of their Venetian rivals, Dutch merchants had begun to trade in Aleppo, one of the richest cities of the Ottoman Empire.

From 1612 to 1639 Cornelis Haga the first Dutch ambassador lived in Istanbul, near the location of the present Dutch consulate on Istiklal Caddesi. He complained of ‘unpleasantnesses’ inflicted by Ottoman authorities, but enjoyed himself so much with local women that he was called, by his English colleague Sir Thomas Roe, ‘the shame of ambassadors’.

Unlike most European powers, the Netherlands had no desire to acquire Ottoman territory. Therefore its diplomats were trusted by the Ottoman government. More than others (except, on occasion, the French), they were used not only as sources of information about Europe – where before 1793 the Ottoman government had no diplomats of its own – but also as mediators with other powers.

Succeeding his father - who had held the same position from 1668 to 1682 – count Jacob Colyer served as Dutch ambassador in Istanbul from 1683 until his death there in 1725. Like most Dutch diplomats, he had many Ottoman friends and thanks to the quantities of wine he served them, and his excellent Turkish and Greek, was said to learn all the secrets of the Sublime Porte. He helped the Ottoman Empire conduct peace negotiations with the Holy Roman Empire at Karlowitz in 1699.

The next Dutch ambassador Cornelis Calkoen also acted as a mediator between the Holy Roman and the Ottoman Empires, when they made peace in 1739. Calkoen assembled a collection of 65 pictures of Istanbul and its people by Jean Baptise Vanmour, (who like Jacob Colyer, lived in Istanbul for nearly forty years), described in this issue by Eveline Sint Nicolaas. As an artistic commemoration of an Istanbul embassy, Calkoen’s collection rivals the magnificent picture collections of the Celsing brothers (Swedish ambassadors in the mid eighteenth century) at Biby in Sweden – and the lost collection of the Comte de Vergennes (French ambassador in 1755-68). No other capital was so important and so colourful: no other capital inspired so many ambassadors to commission so many pictures of it.

Like the Netherlands Research Institute in Istanbul today, the Dutch embassy also acted as a haven for scholars. They included Jacobus Golius and Levinus Warner (Dutch ambassador in 1654-65),who began Leiden University’s collection of Oriental manuscripts ;the Dutch traveller Cornelis de Bruyn, whose magnificent illustrated book Voyage au Levant, about his travels in the Ottoman Empire in 1677-82, was published in Delft in 1698; and another traveller Pieter van Woenzel, who admired the Ottoman Empire, but considered it doomed. Until 1914 Dutch merchants and travellers sent back antiquities, coins and medals from the Ottoman Empire, which can still be admired in the Leiden Antiquities Museum. Today Dutch historians of the Ottoman Empire, often based at Leiden University, and specializing in the interactions between the two countries, include Alexander de Groot, Jan Schmidt and Ben Slot. They have the great advantage, for readers of Cornucopia, of writing in English.

Commerce, however,, not culture was the basis of the relationship: Capitulations granted in 1612 allowed the Dutch to trade, travel and worship freely in the empire; for years the Dutch ambassador like his English colleague would be paid by his country’s Levant company, as well as by his government. Worship was freer in the Ottoman Empire than in ‘tolerant’ Holland where Catholics had to use ‘secret’ churches hidden from the street. From the 1620’s Dutch merchants helped transform Izmir into an international entrepot: at about the same time, across the Atlantic ocean, Dutch merchants were performing a similar role for New Amsterdam (as New York was then called). For a time Dutch merchants, importing fruit and wool and exporting textiles, were more important trading partners than England, Venice or France. The tulip crazes in the Netherlands in the 1630’s and the Ottoman empire a hundred years later, described in previous articles in Cornucopia, led to spectacular prices for hundreds of varieties of tulips, and the appearance of innumerable tulips on Iznik and Delft tiles and ceramics.

The most enduring family of Dutch merchants in the Ottoman Empire were called Hochepied. Daniel Jean de Hochepied arrived in Izmir from Amsterdam in 1677. After he married Count Colyer’s daughter, in 1687 to 1723 he served as Dutch consul in izmir, and became a famous collector of ancient coins and medals. A marvelous picture from 1724, now in the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, shows the audience of his son Daniel Alexander de Hochepied, Dutch consul in Izmir in 1724-59, with the cadi or judge of Izmir, in front of a panorama of the city. He was made a Baron by the Holy Roman Emperor as a reward for the number of Christian slaves he bought and released. Another Hochepied, Catherine, married the Swedish ambassador Count Heidenstam and in 1786 in the Swedish embassy acted in l’Ecole des Jaloux, one of the first operas performed in Istanbul. The Hochepied continued to live in Izmir until the 1920’s. The last of the family, Count D J E de Hochepied, served as Dutch vice- consul in Izmir in 1912- 32 and as Consul-general in Istanbul in 1947-57. An edition of Hochepied family letters from Turkey, between 1677 and 1956, should be published.

Other prominent Dutch merchant families of Izmir, also living there for several centuries, were called Keun, de Jongh, Dutilh, van der Zee and Van Lennep. Born in Amsterdam in 1712 van Lennep arrived in Izmir in 1731 and became a wealthy ship-owner, banker and merchant. A famous portrait of around 1770 by Antoine de Favray, shows David George van Lennep surrounded by his family – called by a French officer Count Mathieu Dumas the happiest he ever met. On the far left is his father in law Justin Leydstar a Dutch merchant of Ankara. Of the two girls in the foreground, one married the Comte de Chabannes, the other Admiral Waldegrave. Elizabeth Clara, standing on the right, married the Smyrna merchant Isaac Morier and was mother of James Morier, author of the English classic of Persian life, Hadji Baba of Isfahan. Thus, thanks to the accessibility of the Ottoman Empire, one picture links Izmir, Ankara, Amsterdam, London, Paris and Isfahan.

The last time a Dutch ambassador acted as mediator between the Ottoman Empire and European powers was in 1828-9 when Count van Zuylen represented the interests of Britain, France and Russia in Istanbul while their ambassadors withdrew out of sympathy for the Greek struggle for independence. He was helped by his dragoman Gaspard de Testa, from a famous family of interpreters which had live d in Pera since before the Ottoman conquest. Dutch firms continued to trade in Izmir. Opium from Anatolia, for example, was exported in vast quantities to the Dutch colonies in Indonesia. Even women and maid servants speculated in it.

Since the fire of 1922, fewer Dutch merchants have lived in Izmir. The Van Lenneps, for example moved to the Netherlands and the US. In contrast, since a labour agreement signed by the two governments in 1964, thousands of Turks have gone to work in the Netherlands. There were never more than a few hundred Dutch living in Turkey. Now about half a million Turks are living in the Netherlands. Many have kept Turkish nationality. Famous Turkish Dutch include Sadi Yemni the writer; Nebahat Albayrak the politician; five deputies and Gökhan Saki the boxer. The two countries are also NATO allies. The flourishing, multi-dimensional relationship between Turkey and the Netherlands, like that between Turkey and Britain or France, shows for how long, and on how many different levels, Turkey has been part of Europe.

The Duchesse de Berry and the Aesthetics of Royalism
Women Patrons and Collectors, edited by Susan Bracken, Andrea M. Galdy and Adriana Turpin, Cambridge Scholars Publishing (2012)

THE DUCHESSE DE BERRY AND THE AESTHETICS OF ROYALISM: DYNASTIC COLLECTING IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY FRANCE

Marie Caroline Duchesse de Berry asserted her politics and her personality not only through her charities, her entertainments, and her attempted uprisings against Louis-Philippe in 1832, but also through her collections. She has been called both “la Marie Stuart de la Vendée” and “the Queen of the Troubadour style”. Who was she?

The Collector

Marie Caroline, princess of the Two Sicilies, was born in the palace of Caserta on 5 November 1798. A grand-daughter of King Ferdinand IV of Naples (after 1816 Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies), she spent most of her youth in Palermo, during the royal family’s retreats to Sicily in 1799-1800 and 1806-16, caused by the French occupations of Naples. In the capella palatina of Palermo, and later in Notre Dame de Paris on 17 June 1816, she was married to her cousin, a nephew of Louis XVIII, Charles Ferdinand Duc de Berry. He was heir to the throne of France, as his elder brother the Duc d’Angouleme showed no signs of producing children. The Berrys’ first duty was to do so. In the meantime one of their occupations was to expand the picture collection begun by the Duke in London. Like many Frenchmen, Berry had his cultural horizons broadened by emigration. Living on a British pension, he had frequented sale rooms and Colnaghi’s, buying works by Wouvermans among others.

Collecting reflected the competitive dynasticism which, as well as nationalism, revolution, and class conflicts, shaped nineteenth-century France. Because they were competing to win or secure the throne, iand needed popularity, the three rival dynasties, Bourbons, Orleans and Bonapartes had to be more active in the arts, as well as in other public spheres. Their patronage took took two forms. First all like their fellow monarchs in Saint Petersburg Vienna and Berlin, who were gradually transforming their dynastic collections into national museums, French monarchs took a personal interest in expanding and improving the national (then called imperial or royal, depending on the dynasty in power) collections in the Louvre and Versailles, with the help of their respective artistic advisers – Baron Denon under the Empire, the comte de Forbin under the Restoration, the comte de Nieuwerkerke under the Second Empire. In response to this massive monarchical patronage, many of the most famous painters of the age – including David (Premier peintre de l’Empereur), Ingres, baron Gerard (Premier peintre du roi), Isabey (Dessinateur de la chambre under both the Empire and the Restoration), Horace Vernet, Prud’hon, and Ary Scheffer - were also court painters, painting dynastic portraits and historical events.

Second, each dynasty also had members who, helped by the generous annual incomes all received from the civil lists of the period, and peerhapsencouraged by the reigning monarch of the day, made large private collections. During the Empire the Empress Josephine’s taste for historical subjects and Redouté flower paintings anticipated that of the Duc and Duchesse de Berry. In all she owned 362 pictures, some of which can be admired in her chateau of Malmaison today. A shared artistic influence was her chamberlain Count Lancelot Turpin de Crissé, who later painted views of Naples for the Duchesse de Berry, and of Paris for the Duc de Bordeaux. Napoleon I’s brother Lucien made an impressive collection of paintings, while his half-uncle Cardinal Fesch accumulated the phenomenal total of 16,000 pictures, in the course of his career as Grand Aumonier and Archbishop of Lyon, and later during his exile in Rome. Most were sold after his death; some are now in the Musée Fesch in Ajaccio.

In accordance with Orléans family tradition (before its sale in London in the 1790’s the picture gallery of the Orleans’ palace the Palais Royal had been one of the most famous in Paris), both as Duc d’Orléans and King of the French, Louis-Philippe made a collection of pictures, French and Spanish. They included the Horace Vernet scenes of the battles of Valmy and Jemappes, in which Louis-Philippe had fought for the first Republic, now in the National Gallery in London. He also founded the French national portrait collection, the Musée de l’Histoire de France, which opened in the chateau de Versailles in 1837.

The Duc and Duchesse de Berry were the principal collectors of the elder branch of the Bourbons. Their collection reflects not only the competing dynasticism of the period but also their personal taste, and the aesthetics of royalism. Like all official patrons of the Restoration, the Duc and Duchesse de Berry tried to appropriate or celebrate the Bourbon past, in particular the patron of the French Restoration, Henri IV. Henri IV was the warrior king who fought his way to the throne in 1589-1596, reconciled Frenchmen after horrific civil conflicts, and died under an assassin’s knife in 1610. Already there had been a revival of interest in this popular royal hero in the eighteenth century and under the Empire: the Empress Josephine had hung pictures of Henri IV in her gallery at Malmaison. After 1814 parallels with the restored Bourbons, who had also come to the throne after years of conflict, increased his appeal. The Duc and Duchesse de Berry bought a picture by Revoil of Henri IV playing with his children in front of the Spanish ambassador, another by Crépin of Henri IV’s former minister the Duc de Sully, showing his grandson the monument containing the heart of his murdered master.

In addition they acquired a version of Baron Gérard’s Entry of Henri IV into Paris, the triumph of the salon of 1817. Commissioned by Louis XVIII from his Premier Peintre Baron Gérard, it was a pictorial expression of the hopes and fears of the Restoration. The painting shows rebels, like former revolutionaries and Bonapartists – such as Gérard himself - being granted pardon as foreign troops leave Paris – an echo of the situation in France in 1817. Anticipating the 1820 picture by Alexandre Menjaud showing Berry’s death-bed agony, witnessed by his illegitimate children by his English mistress Amy Brown, the King’s mistress and illegitimate children are shown in the corner: the Bourbons were no prudes. Berry also began to buy modern French pictures such as, in a gesture to French nationalism, two battle scenes, Le Trompette mort and Le chien du régiment by the Bonapartist Horace Vernet, both now in the Wallace Collection. They were among the nineteen pictures he purchased at the salon in 1819. As well as reflecting their love of the arts, the Berrys’ collection had a political purpose, to popularise the Restoration.

Before his wife’s eyes on 13 February 1820, however, the Duc de Berry was stabbed to death by a Bonapartist fanatic called Louvel, outside the Paris opera. During his long death-bed agony in an antechamber of the Paris opera, the groans of the dying prince mingled with the sounds of the opera-singers, as the royal family and the ministers gathered round the death-bed. ‘Killed on the field of battle’, said Paris wits, referring to Berry’s many affairs with opera-singers.

Eight months later his widow did her dynastic duty, by bearing a son, the Duc de Bordeaux. Her courage and originality are revealed by a scene at the birth on 29 September 1820. As leader of the Bonapartists in Paris, Maréchal Suchet had been chosen to be one of the witnesses to the birth, with a former émigré the Maréchal de Coigny. In the corrosive distrust prevailing in Paris, only a Bonapartist could be trusted to guarantee the veracity of a Bourbon birth. The birth was so rapid that the Duchess could barely keep the umbilical cord attached to the child long enough for Suchet to see it with his own eyes. According to the British ambassador Sir Charles Stuart, with the words Prenez, Mr. le Maréchal! Tirez! the Princess urged the Marshal to pull on her cord himself: “Upon the Marshal showing some repugnance to do so, she repeated Mais tirez donc, Mr. le Maréchal!

Despite this incontrovertible evidence, the venom of party passions and personal ambitions led the Bourbons’ liberal cousins the Duc and Duchesse d’Orléans, whose place in the order of succession had been diminished by Bordeaux’s birth, to spread doubts about it in the pages of the Duchess’s journal. Royalists, however, hailed him as l’enfant du miracle, Henri Dieudonné. The regime seemed assured.

The marriage of the Duc and Duchesse de Berry had been exceptionally happy. To commemorate her murdered husband, on his saint’s day the feast of Saint Charles, on 4 November 1820, the Duchesse founded the elegant neoclassical Hospice Saint Charles at Rosny beside her chateau of Rosny in Normandy, formerly owned by the minister of Henri IV the Duc de Sully. The architect was the Swiss Joseph Antoine Froelicher. Underneath the chapel altar, she buried Berry’s heart, his blood-stained clothes and a copy of Chateaubriand’s panegyric, Memoires historiques sur le Duc de Berry, bound in black leather, of which all witnesses of the murder had been given a copy. Thereafter, with an income of 1.500,000 francs a year from the civil list- about £75,000, over twice what Prince Albert would obtain in the United Kingdom in 1840- the widowed Duchesse de Berry was a leader of taste, fashion and entertainment in Paris until the revolution of 1830. In order to keep her out of politics, fulfill a traditional royal function and make Paris tradesmen happy, both Louis XVIII and Charles X were happy for her to devote her time and her income to the arts. With the possible exception of Marie Antoinette (who owned far fewer pictures), she would be more active as a patron of the arts than any woman of the French Royal Family since Anne of Austria.

The Collection

The curator of her collection was another émigré the Chevalier Bonnemaison. To advertise his patron’s taste and status, in 1822 he published a catalogue in which he hailed the Duc de Berry as ‘le protecteur des artistes’. He dedicated it:
‘A SON ALTESSE ROYALE MADAME LA DUCHESSE DE BERRY.
MADAME,

C’est à VOTRE ALTESSE ROYALE qu’est due l’heureuse pensée de multiplier et de faire connaitre plus généralement par la lithographie les productions remarquables des peintres de genre de l’école actuelle….

Le très humble et très obéissant serviteur, Le cher BONNEMAISON.’

After her husband’s murder the Duchesee de Berry had moved to the Tuileries palace. While the Dutch old masters liked by her husband stayed in their previous residence the Elysée, she continued his project of making a modern French collection. Other contemporary collections, for example those of the Duke of Hamilton, the Marquess of Hertford or the Rothschilds, represent attempts to appropriate the past for self- aggrandizement in the present. They asserted their status by the purchase of objects with royal provenances. The Bourbons’ dynastic rivals the Bonapartes and the Orleans preferred pictures showing national scenes, of battles and heroic deeds. The collection of the Duchesse de Berry reflected the aesthetics of royalism, as well as her personal taste. It concentrated on family life, good works and provincial landscapes. The reasons for these aesthetic choices were in part political. The family and the provinces were two bases of the restored Bourbon monarchy. It tried to heal, through charities, family life and the provinces, the wounds inflicted by revolution, nationalism and Paris.

Indeed the first city to declare for Louis XVIII, on 12 March 1814, while Napoleon I was still in control of Paris, had been a provincial city, Bordeaux – hence the Duchesse de Berry’s son’s title of Duc de Bordeaux. Throughout the 1820’s she made official tours of the provinces, often with a charitable purpose (visits to churches, hospitals, and memorials), accompanied by members of her household: there is still lan Hopital Caroline in marseille today. She regularly summered in Dieppe,a sea-side resort which she helped to make fashionable. She also spent months at her chateau of Rosny. It was packed with books and pictures, and had a garden filled with rare plants and animals including giraffes. Both Dieppe and Rosny represented new departures. They were in Normandy, outside the gilded circle of the Bourbons’ traditional residences in the Ile de France.

Family Life

The 1821 portrait by Louis Hersent, formerly in her collection, of her two children Bordeaux and his elder sister Louise later Duchess of Parma, is in complete contrast to Gérard’s portrait of the young king of Rome – and to portraits of Marie-Antoinette’s children, by Madame Vigee-Lebrun and Adam Wertmuller. Showing the prince in his cradle, watched by his sister, it is domestic and familial. As the entry in the catalogue of her collection boasted, there are no signs of grandeur, no trace of militarism. In contrast to portraits of Marie Antoinette with her children, the mother is not represented.
The focus is on the children.

For every historical picture, such as Taunay’s La mort de Bayard, Destouches’s Marie Stuart à Lochleven or Revoil’s Henri IV with his children, we find many more scenes of contemporary domesticity. The present predominates over the past. Here is a list of some of the pictures the Berrys bought before 1822. Many represent women and children:
La chambre des petits savoyards by M. Bonnefond;
Une scene des boulevards and
L’entree du Theatre de l’Ambigu Comique
by M. Boilly;
Martin Drolling Maison à vendre
and Interieur d’une salle à manger;
M.Danloux’s Le petit gourmand and
La petite boudeuse;
Mlle Gerard Une mère de famille entourée de ses enfants
and L’heureuse mère;
Une distribution d’aumones by M. Taunay;
A Scheffer La bonne vieille;
M. Destouches Une jeune dame visitant son père en prison;
Louis Hersent Louis XVI distribuant ses bienfaits aux pauvres.
M. Duval Camus Les Freres de la doctrine chretienne

Directly linking the family and the restoration, Madame Auzou’s Une des croisées de Paris le jour de l’arrivée de S.M. Louis XVIII (1814) is one of the most political of the Berrys’ pictures. A young and beautiful mother, surrounded by her children, is shown returning to health after a long illness with ‘a smile of happiness on her colourless lips’, as she watches the entry into Paris on 3 May 1814 of Louis XVIII, the king who ‘has given the Charte to his peoples and commanded them to forget hatreds and sufferings’. Pictures, by Mlle Gerard, Bonnefond, Danloux (another royalist émigré who had exhibited at the Royal Academy in London) and many others also concentrate on family life and children: for example La Bonne Mere by M. Genod, showing a mother feeding her daughter; Une famille malheureuse by Prud’hon portrays a family facing poverty as the father is mortally ill. The family was the basis of royalism: blessed by the church, it was naturally opposed to the revolution’s wars and legalisation of divorce. Children were believed to be less corrupt, therefore more loyal, than adults. A favourite song of the period, taken from a play by Colle, La partie de chasse d’Henri IV, was called ‘Ou peut-on etre mieux, qu’au sein de sa famille?’

Yet the collection was not escapist. Scenes of prison, poverty and illness also hung on the Duchesse de Berry’s walls. The collection was also full of views - of Rosny, Italy, Switzerland and Greece. Paris was not excluded. Pictures by Boilly of the boulevards and the theatre of the Ambigu-Comique are a tribute to the Bourbons’ post-revolutionary reengagement with Paris. The Duchesse de Berry lived there for half the year and made the capital the centre of her entertainments.

The subscribers’ list to the printed catalogue of the collection confirms the European character of Restoration Paris. It includes names like Galignani the European bookseller in Paris, happily still with us; the great printer Didot; bankers like Casimir Perier and two barons de Rothschild; Talleyrand; the publisher Treuttel and Wurtz; Pugin and Liszt; booksellers in Paris, Brussels, Rotterdam, Saint Petersburg, Berlin and Warsaw; the Earls of Essex and Yarmouth, the Dukes of Wellington and Bedford; the King and Queen of the Two Sicilies and the Empress Mother of Russia.

The Patron

How much the Duchesse de Berry was involved in particular decisions to buy or commission is unknown. But she loved pictures at least as much as her husband. She had a drawing-master from Piedmont, the Chevalier Storelli and herself frequently painted views of Rosny and Dieppe. Contemporaries were impressed; even the acid Orleanist Madame de Boigne remarked on the intelligent tact with which she talked to artists. She also visited the great flower painter Redouté in his atelier, bought the originals of his drawings of roses, became one of his pupils and helped him get a job at the Muséum d’histoire naturelle; he dedicated his Album des roses, one of which is named after her, to the Duchess in 1825.

The Duchesse de Berry’s collecting was not restricted to paintings. She loved books, particularly the novels of Walter Scott and the plays of Victor Hugo. The bindings of the books in her library, one of the most admired of the day, are masterpieces from the golden age of French book-binding: a black mourning binding decorates Chateaubriand’s tribute to her husband. All bindings bear her coat of arms, pairing Berry and the Two Sicilies. Books too reveal the aesthetics of royalism, in this case hyper-sacralisation of the dynasty. In Hugo’s early royalist poems he compared the duchess to the Virgin Mary and the birth of the Duc de Bordeaux to that of Jesus Christ: both were saviours of the world. She helped him get a pension and watched his daring Romantic play Hernani.

Her Bal Marie Stuart in the Tuileries on 2 March 1829 was a Franco-British celebration, commemorating in the spirit of Walter Scott an imaginary visit of Marie de Guise (represented by the wife of the British ambassador, Lady Stuart de Rothesay) to her daughter Mary Queen of Scots (the Duchesse de Berry herself) and Francois II (the Duc de Chartres, son of the Duc d’Orleans) in France. Guests went to the royal library in search of accurate illustrations on which to base their magnificent 1560 historical costumes. Contemporaries write that the Duchess at parties was in extraordinarily high spirits. “Balls are starting, above all at court; the Duchesse de Berry loves them and is inexhaustible”, wrote the comte de Castellane. Thanks to her the Bourbon court again became a social and artistic magnet.

She was as avant-garde in taste as she was reactionary in politics. Operas were dedicated to her. She helped to popularise the music of Beethoven in Paris and to launch the career of Eugene Scribe, the most popular French dramatist of the nineteenth century. His plays, such as Avant, Pendant et Après about the French revolution and its consequences, were performed in a theatre called, after her, le Theatre de Madame. Fascinated by dress, she also patronised a new fashion magazine called La Mode, edited by Emile de Girardin, which published early articles by Balzac and George Sand.

Her collecting, or desire to accumulate, was multi-dimensional, as befitted a princess, confident of her rank and importance, who read, drew and sang with equal energy. In addition to books and pictures, she also collected ivory, porcelain , miniatures, musical scores and elegant Restoration furniture in light-woods, which can be seen in a famous drawing by Auguste Garneray of her apartment in the Tuileries. She led and formed taste. Her collection of musical scores included operas by Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti. Part of her collections of stones, agates, shells, fossils and geological specimens was housed in a twelve-drawer birch and ebonised cabinet: she is also said to have owned 1,400 stuffed animals.

The July Revolution and the Collection’s Dispersion

The revolution of July 1830 occurred, just after a visit by her father Francis I King of the Two Sicilies to Paris. Parisians had rioted in the garden of the Palais Royal as guests danced in the state apartment above, at a ball given by Louis-Philippe, Duc d’Orléans in honour of his brother-in-law. “C’est une fete toute napolitaine, Monseigneur”, Narcisse de Salvandy whispered to Orleans: “we are dancing on a volcano”. Her only criticism of the coup by her father-in-law Charles X, attempting to restrict the freedoms given by the Charte, was its feebleness of execution. The best French troops were away fighting in Algiers. Fighting in defence of the Charte, Parisians defeated the Royal Guard.

The July revolution was a harsh awakening. It showed that, despite the Bourbons’ dedication to good works and the provinces, most of France followed the leadership of Paris, and wanted a liberal constitution. The royal family departed into an exile which proved definitive. To their disgust their cousin the Duc d’Orléans ascended the throne as Louis Philippe, King of the French. His son the Duc de Chartres, the Duchess’s dancing partner in 1829, became Prince Royal. Both royalists and their enemies agreed that the Restoration had been “une comédie courtisanesque de quinze ans”.

Like the Empress Marie-Louise, who moved her collection to her Duchy of Parma after 1814, after 1830 the Duchesse de Berry was able to move the bulk of her collection outside France, since it belonged to her and not to the Crown. Books, paintings, furniture left Rosny, the Tuileries and the Elysee for her massive eighteenth-century castle of Brunnsee outside Graz in Austria, where she lived after 1835. In a further sign of the close connections between pen and sword in French history, two of her favourite writers continued to write on her behalf. For Chateaubriand, she was the only Bourbon with a strong character. He wrote legitimist pamphlets in favour of ‘Henri V’ (the Duc de Bordeaux) and his mother, often ending with the cry “Madame, votre fils est mon roi!” He also acted as her agent in her negotiations with the royal family, after the failure of her insurrection and the birth of an illegitimate child in 1832, known as l’enfant de la Vendée. Victor Hugo supported the July revolution. However he paid his debt to his former patron with a vitriolic poem attacking the Catholic convert Monsieur Deutz, “paien infame”, who in 1832 had betrayed the Duchesse de Berry’s hiding-place in Nantes to Louis-Philippe’s police: A l’homme qui a vendu une femme (1835).

In order to finance her family and household in exile, the Duchesse de Berry had to sell many of her books, paintings and manuscripts, and her late husband’s Flemish pictures from the Elysée palace, not always for high prices. Sales took place in Paris in 1830, 1831, 1836, 1837, and 1863. 40 pictures were sold in 1830, 235 in 1836, 97 in 1837, 409 in 1863. In all she had probably owned 1,000 pictures. Royalists could help her financially by buying her pictures. The Paris Rothschilds, for example, semi-legitimists keen on royal provenances, bought four Wouvermans at her 1836 sale.

The Duchesse de Berry died in 1870 at Schloss Brunnsee in Austria. She had lived long enough to know that her son, the last French Bourbon of the elder line, the Comte de Chambord (as the Duc de Bordeaux was known after 1830) would remain without direct heirs, as his wife Marie Therese of Modena had born him no children. This was not the Bourbons’ only disaster. In 1861 her nephew the last King of Naples Francesco II had been exiled, her family’s Kingdom of the Two Sicilies annexed to Piedmont. In 1860 the Bourbon Duchy of Parma had also been annexed to Piedmont; the Duchesse de Berry’s daughter Louise Marie Duchess of Parma, widow of the last reigning Duke, had died in exile in 1864.

Until 2011, however, the duchesse de Berry’s collections enjoyed a prolonged after-life in Austria. They remained at Brunnsee, belonging to her descendants by her second marriage, in 1832, to Count Lodovico Lucchese Palli, son of a Viceroy of Sicily. A time-capsule of Restoration France, Brunnsee contained drawings by Isabey of the Duchess and her household reading, playing billiards and attending chapel at Rosny; portraits of the Duchess’s ladies-in-waiting by Alexandre-Jean Dubois Drahonet, author of one of the finest portraits of the Duchess, wearing early examples of French neo-gothic jewellery, now in the Musee de Picardie in Amiens; and her diaries and letter-books. Even the bedrooms were furnished with exceptional Restoration furniture. In an unusual gesture of dynastic piety and personal affection, perhaps intended to assert the royal connections of the non-royal Lucchese Palli family, the bedroom and apartment of the Duchesse de Berry were preserved as she had left them, for over a hundred years - longer than were Prince Albert’s in Windsor Castle. They contained portraits of the French and Neapolitan Bourbons, book-shelves packed with royalist works (some of which advocated a return to the ancien regime), the Duchess’s manuscripts, and the Vienna coffee porcelain service ‘with which she had her last coffee half an hour before her death at 9 am on 16 April 1870’, as a hand-written note in Italian attests. I was lucky enough to be able to consult the manuscripts in 1976, during research for my thesis on the Restoration court. These collections, however, have since been divided among family members. Most surviving objects were dispersed at sales at Sotheby’s in London, on 14 April and 8 June 2011.

The Duchesse de Berry’s son the Comte de Chambord, also had a magnificent collection and archive, coming from royalist families in France as well as the French royal family itself. Until his death in 1883, they made his Schloss Frohsdorf south of Vienna into a Versailles in exile, a cultural challenge to the regimes in power in France (as if the ‘Old Pretender’ had maintained a collection of English royalist art in exile in Rome). On his widow’s death in 1886, they were left to the head of the Spanish Bourbons of the Carlist line, Don Carlos. One of his descendants, Countess Wurmbrand, told me in 1988 that,before the war, so many pictures were hanging in the Schloss that you could not touch the walls. However, sales began. The Frohsdorf library, with signed first editions by royalist writers such as Balzac, was sold at Maggs in 1936. The castle itself was sold in 1942 to the postal authorities. The collections and archives, like those at Brunnsee, have been dispersed.

A few pictures and pieces of porcelain remain with Don Carlos’s descendants the Wurmbrand family in the Jagdhaus of Frohsdorf and with other descendants elsewhere. The only Restoration collection on public view, apart from some grand royal objects in the Departement des objets d’art of the Louvre and the Paris Musée des Arts Decoratifs, is the Jeanvrot collection in the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Bordeaux. The later Bourbons have no equivalent, as centres of a dynastic collection, of Malmaison, the Musee Napoleon Ier in Fontainebleau and the Museo Napoleonico in Rome for the Bonapartes or the Musee Louis-Philippe at his chateau of Eu in Normandy and the chateau d’Amboise for the Orleans. Even the residences of the later Bourbons have gone. The palaces of the Tuileries and Saint-Cloud were burnt in 1870-1, and their remains demolished by the Third Republic, in a symbolic act of destruction, in 1883. The Duchesse de Berry’s chateau and hospice at Rosny, vandalised by subsequent owners, are now abandoned.

The French Bourbons failed on three levels: biologically; historically; and politically. They failed to perpetuate themselves, to memorialise themselves, and to keep their throne. However, until Chambord’s death in 1883, in collecting as in politics and literature, they helped shapre the parameters of nineteenth-century France. The dynamism of the Duchesse de Berry’s collection and patronage was confirmed in 2007 by a magnificent exhibition organised by Patrick Guibal, “Entre cour et jardin. Marie-Caroline, Duchesse de Berry”, at Sceaux, as that of her son the Comte de Chambord will be, at an exhibition to be held in 2013 at Chambord.

For a few years after 1870 that provincial France which the duchesse de Berry had so energetically courted returned a royalist majority to the Chamber of Deputies. Chambord, however, turned down an offer of the throne in 1873, refusing to accept the Tricolour for the sake of “the white flag of Henri IV”. Perhaps, if he not done so, both his own and his mother’s collections might have survived intact, to be admired today in France.

Introduction to Nancy Mitford’s The Sun King
Reissued by the New York Review of Books 2012

THE SUN KING

On 16 October 1928 Nancy Mitford wrote to her brother Tom: ‘Have you been to Versailles yet? It is my spiritual home and at this time of year is the most divinely melancholy place in the world.’ The passion revealed in these words found its finest expression in the publication thirty-eight years later of The Sun King (1966). An ideal marriage of author, subject and format, it sold 250,000 copies on publication, was translated into seven languages including French, and has never been out of print.

Versailles was more than a royal palace. It was also a seat of government; a national job centre and social security office, distributing hundreds of appointments and pensions; an information centre receiving couriers from throughout Europe; a year round reception, ball, concert and fashion parade; a marriage market and finishing school; and a hub of creativity inspiring music, plays, operas, letters, diaries and memoirs (by, in the reign of Louis XIV, among many others Lully, Rameau, Racine, Molière, Madame de Sevigné, and the Duc de Saint-Simon). In addition to state rooms and hundreds of apartments, it also housed the royal family’s art collections and scientific laboratories; a chapel, where the King attended religious services most days of the year; kitchens serving hundreds of meals; and vendors' stalls. Its out-buildings contained the ministries of war and foreign affairs, guards’ barracks, stables, riding schools and hunt kennels. The palace was surrounded, to the east by parade grounds for the king’s household troops and court officials' houses, to the west by a sweep of gardens and parks. Versailles also functioned, as preachers in the chapel often lamented, as a gambling den and a brothel. To this multi-dimensional universe, more varied and stimulating than the Internet today, Nancy Mitford brought her novelist’s interest in human nature and physical detail; her gift for narrative and entertainment; and the passion for 'that celestial land' France, which had been one reason for her move from London to Paris in 1946, and drives her books on Madame de Pompadour (1954) and Voltaire in Love (1957) and her novels The Blessing (1951) and Don’t Tell Alfred (1960). The other reason was her love for the French politician, and confidant of De Gaulle, Gaston Palewski.

Reproducing many phrases culled from contemporary letters and memoirs, Nancy Mitford begins with the King’s love affair with Louise de la Vallière which helped spur him to visit Versailles in 1660’s. She then describes the subsequent mistresses going up and down 'the Queen’s staircase'. 'The Governess' analyses with distaste Madame de Maintenon's combination of piety, worldliness, poor judgement, disloyalty towards friends, and mismanagement of the girls’ school which she founded at Saint-Cyr. Another chapter, ‘The Faculty’ describes the incompetent doctors under whom, then as now, while ‘the strong survive; the weak, after much suffering and expense both of money and sprit, die’. She does not neglect the royal artists Le Vau and Le Brun and the gardener Le Nôtre, nor the King’s rival ministers Colbert and Louvois. Separate chapters are devoted to ‘The younger generation’ of the King’s bastards, cousins and nephew . ‘Three in eleven months’ describes the deaths of the King’s son the Dauphin and his grandson and granddaughter in law the Duc and Duchesse de Bourgogne in 1711-12. Throughout the book Nancy Mitford shows that the court of Versailles consisted not just of the King and his family and friends, but of an entire society of ministers, diplomats, officers, preachers, gardeners and other professions: a microcosm of France. Below the appearances of deference, they could manipulate as well as serve the King.

Physical details are telling. While the King, ’the viceroy of the Almighty’, faced the altar as he worshipped God in the chapel, the courtiers stared at the King. The King held a stick across a door in Saint–Cyr, lowered only for those who had truly been invited to a performance of Racine’s play Esther in January 1689. The princes of the House of Condé became so physically small and mentally strange that they resembled’ little black beetles’. ‘The melancholy smiles of Mary of Modena’ were the only satisfactions Louis XIV derived from his decision to recognize her son ‘the Old Pretender’ as King of England. The opening sentence is famous: ‘Louis XIV fell in love with Versailles and Louise de La Vallière at the same time; Versailles was the love of his life.’

Nancy Mitford describes Versailles, correctly, as ‘a shop window, a permanent exhibition of French goods’, which ‘made an enormous contribution to French supremacy in the arts’. The hereditary system for offices, from ministers to gardeners, was its foundation: ‘he built the greatest palace one earth but it always remained the home of a young man, grand without being pompous, full of light and air and cheerfulness – a country house. ‘She describes the Galerie des Glaces as the palace’s ‘main street’ or ‘market place’. Not all readers, however, will agree that this gallery, which contains more images of the monarch it glorifies than any other, is ‘one of the beauties of the western world’.

If she idealises the palace, it is not true that she idealises Louis XIV. She describes him as ‘a man of iron’, unbowed by deaths or defeats. He was secretive, ruthless, indifferent to the sufferings of peasants and galley slaves, capable of inspiring terror and making blunders such as the revocation of the Edict of Nantes and the imposition of the papal bull Unigenitus on the French bishops. ‘Hardly had he assembled his most interesting and important subjects under his roof than he retired into almost private life with an ageing spouse [Madame de Maintenon] and her circle of excellent nonentities’ – although Louis XIV’s private life resembled other people’s public life. Although the text was checked by two historians, John Lough and Ian Dunlop, there are exaggerations. Lord Portland, sent as ambassador to Louis XIV by William III in 1698, is unlikely, unless he had a very silent marriage, not to have spoken 'a word of English’. He preferred French, but could understand, and write, English, and his wife, a member of the Villiers family, was English. The place in the order of succession to the throne, to which Louis XIV elevated his bastards, is exaggerated (they came after, not before, the princes of the blood); and he is absolved, implausibly, from knowledge of the ravaging of the Palatinate. Nevertheless The Sun King has helped inspire many other historians of the court, including the author of this introduction.

The Sun King was also an outstanding early example of the ‘coffee-table book’, showing, at the appropriate moment in the text, not only photographs of the palace and portraits of its inhabitants, but also objects made by Louis XIV’s craftsmen, now dispersed to museums or private collections. Thus it revived, in twentieth-century commercial form, the tradition of the royal illustrated book much practised by the court it described. The first book to commemorate Versailles had been the volume showing scenes from Les Plaisirs de l’Ile enchantée of 1664, one of the early entertainments organised there by Louis XIV.

The credit, and the original idea for The Sun King, are due to the pioneer of book packaging George Rainbird and the ‘indispensable’ picture researcher, Joy Law. Nancy Mitford wrote: ‘the book in its present form would never have seen the light of day but for her’. She became a friend to whom, in gratitude, the author left her house in Versailles.

Versailles, which Nancy Mitford had loved so much, also helped to kill her. In 1967, as she had long planned, she moved from Paris to Versailles, to 4 rue d’Artois. In 1969 Gaston Palewski married his mistress of many years, Violette de Talleyrand. She was heiress of a family which had held court offices in Versailles and she owned the magnificent eighteenth-century chateau of Le Marais, south of Paris. Soon thereafter Nancy Mitford developed the rare form of Hodgkin’s Disease, from which she suffered four years of agony until her death, in her house in Versailles, on 30 June 1973. Her strictures on doctors in The Sun King proved all too prescient.

Nevertheless The Sun King remains, as her friend Harold Acton, another English historian of Bourbons (The Bourbons of Naples 1956, The Last Bourbons of Naples 1961), wrote in his biography of Nancy Mitford, ‘the most entertaining introduction to its subject in English’. Like much else in English history and culture (for example the Wallace Collection of French pictures and furniture in London, or the career of her great-uncle Sir Winston Churchill), The Sun King shows that Francophilia is just as English as Francophobia.

Philip Mansel and Torsten Riotte, ‘Monarchical Exile’, Introduction to Monarchy and Exile: the Politics of Legitimacy from Marie de Médicis to Wilhelm II
Edited by Philip Mansel and Torsten Riotte London, Palgrave Macmillan, 376 pages, 2011

1

Introduction: Monarchical exile

Philip Mansel and Torsten Riotte

Exile is one of the dynamics of European history. Not only can it induce a constant sense of danger, humiliation and exclusion. It can also provide opportunities for transformation, influence and action. In ‘Reflections on exile’ Edward Said claimed that modern Western culture has been in large part the work of exiles, émigrés and refugees.1 Said’s essay is a reminder of the various forms of exile. He refers to the masses of people who fled war, persecution or individual misfortune as opposed to, what he calls ‘heroic’ exile: ‘literature and history contain heroic, romantic, glorious, even triumphant episodes in an exile’s life.’2

Many historians have been interested in the former group: the refugees and displaced persons of the 19th and 20th century. Migration history represents one important way of understanding exile. Originating in the industrial and political revolutions of the 19th century, an unprecedented degree of mobility caused hundreds of thousands of people to leave their home country, with numbers dramatically increasing during the course of the 20th century. Red Cross estimates for the year 2000 assumed a figure of 500 million displaced persons worldwide.3 Historians are still discussing why these migrants left and what impact they had on specific societies.4

The topic of the current book is closer to the second type of exile. Although exile is not understood as ‘heroic, romantic, glorious or triumphant’ in a literal sense, the approach can be described as cultural and political. Historians have long researched elites in exile. The ‘Hitler émigrés’ are the most prominent case. Until the 1970s, a majority of scholars – amongst whom a large number were émigrés themselves – discussed the life of those artists, scientists and intellectuals who fled Nazi Germany or its satellites.5 Although their numbers were much smaller than the total migration figures mentioned above, the cultural impact of the émigrés is still alive in their host countries. The émigrés put into words what others could not adequately describe: their feelings of isolation, estrangement, and loss. Hence émigrés’ works shaped our understanding of exile much more directly than statistical figures could do.6

Out of this tradition new studies with a broader focus have emerged. Historians now look beyond the twentieth century and the age of extremes and examine exile in all its historic, political, and geographic dimensions. Publications such as Marc Raeff’s book on Russian exiles7, and Henry Kamen’s study on the exiles that created Spanish culture8, show that exiles made important contributions not only to the literary discourse on exile but to the politics, culture, and history of their respective countries. For the early modern period, Edward Chaney’s path-breaking ‘The Grand Tour and the Great Rebellion’ on English royalists, and Tessa Murdoch’s ‘The Quiet Conquest’, on the Huguenots, both published in 1985, underline the dynamics of exile and the varied forms of interaction between exiles and their host societies.9

It might seem a daring undertaking to examine monarchs in exile. Monarchy and sovereignty seem too closely connected to be separated: the king is dead – long live the king. However, the three most common reservations about researching royal exile can be easily addressed. Although royal exile is often believed to be the exception rather than the rule, every European country with the exception of Switzerland experienced a sovereign residing abroad during the Early Modern or Modern period. Royal exile was much more common than might be assumed. At least 40 monarchs fled their country during the long nineteenth century from 1789 to 1918.10 It would have been easy to add more chapters taken from other centuries: on Henry Tudor before 1485; Stanislas Lesczynski of Poland between 1709 and his second and final abdication in 1736; the Bonapartes between 1815 and 184811; the Carlist pretenders to the throne of Spain after 1834; the Bourbon claimant the comte de Chambord after 183015; the House of Orleans’s two exiles in 1848-70 and 1886-1950; the exile of the Karageorgevich dynasty from Serbia between 1858 and its return after the murder of King Milan in 1903. The list indicates – and the examples in this collection illustrate further - how difficult it is to define royal exile. Out of the eleven dynasties discussed in this volume, five returned; but in no case did a former reigning sovereign regain his (or her) crown. Hence the majority of the protagonists became monarchs in exile.13

In addition, royal exile is often believed to have been relatively comfortable or luxurious and, hence, lacking the uncertainty and difficulties of other forms of exile. Royal exile is often thought of as retirement as, for example, in the cases of Napoleon III after 187114 or William II after 1918.15 In reality, as we will see in this volume, a large number of monarchs went through severe personal difficulties and crises during their time abroad. They remained in the dark about their political and personal future, often for years. Louis XVIII changed residence nine times in fifteen years before establishing himself in England and, depending on the political circumstances of the day (and the hosts’ political strategy), endured situations of great physical and psychological hardship. In this regard, royal exile differed little from other experiences of exile.16

More importantly, monarchs in exile (and the artists that contributed to royal representation) proved eager to underline the individual suffering endured during exile. Visual representations used religious imagery. The representations of the Stuarts during their exiles after 1644 and 1688, and the Bourbons after their return in 1814/15 provide numerous examples.17 The literary scholar Helmut Koopmann has pointed to an additional aspect. Exile imagery also included an epic element. The ‘oldest’ exile we know is Ulysses, a ‘basileos’ or king who loses his ‘oikos’ or sovereignty. He travels far and masters several challenges abroad. He returns home to defeat the unworthy contenders for domestic sovereignty in order to be rightly and justly re-installed head of his house. Legitimacy was contested and had to be re-negotiated. Some of the images of ‘the king over the water’ and the ideas associated with it originate in classical literature.18

Finally, exile is generally remembered as defeat. The last Stuart pretenders in Rome and Florence, Napoleon I’s death on St Helena, Charles X’s death in Gorizia , and the German Kaiser’s in House Doorn, four of the most prominent examples of monarchs in exile, represent the failure, not only of personal ambition but also of a system of government. Although victory and defeat defined the contemporary perceptions of exile, it remains questionable whether these are useful categories for scholarly debate. Louis XVIII‘s denunciation in 1804 of the conquests of Bonaparte as a ‘perfidious system of violence, ambition without limits, arrogance without restriction’, leading to wars without end, was as prophetic as the cry of Count von Platen, Foreign Minister of the exiled King Georg V of Hanover, in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian war – ‘despite all the victories of the Prussian army we should not assume that peace will last […] this is merely a truce. It is certain that Prussian militarism cannot last’.19

The ‘defeated’ often end as the victors. To the ‘retour des cendres’, the reburial of Napoleon’s ashes in the Invalides in Paris in 1840 and the return of Louis Napoleon to France in 184820, other examples of more recent date could be added. After the fall of the Soviet Union and its satellites, many exiles returned to their former homeland. The exiles’ heritage appeared more attractive than the recent Communist past. In 1992 President Yeltsin thanked Russian exiles in Paris for ‘preserving our cultural heritage’.21 The white Russian general Denikin was reburied in state in Moscow in 2005, the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna (as many other exiled Romanovs have been) in Saint Petersburg in 2006. Partly because of their function in de-legitimising the intervening Communist regimes, after over forty years in exile, ex-King Michael returned to Romania in 1992, and ex-king Simeon to Bulgaria in 1996: in 2001-5, he governed it as prime minister Simeon Saxe Coburgensky.

What are the advantages of researching royal exile? So far, historians have looked at foreign policy. In some cases, exiled monarchs contributed substantially to international history. Philip Mansel shows in his article on Louis XVIII that the exile and return of the French Bourbons can only be understood in the context of their opposition to French expansion and commitment to the frontiers of France before 1792. British support of the Bourbon dynasty was due to international strategic considerations more than to concern for legitimate sovereignty.22 The situation in France was equally affected by international politics. The return of the Bourbon dynasty was overshadowed by the allied occupation of French territory and the nation’s defeat. The restoration of the Bourbons can be seen as an international event. The British government helped the Bourbons in the hope that they would return France to its old frontiers.

Louis XVIII’s exile influenced both his personal decisions and his public image. Bourbon monarchy after 1814 was different to what it had been before 1789. The exile experience and the impact of royal exile on both the individual sovereign and society help to understand changes in political attitudes and mentalities. Further examples show how royal exile changed public attitudes. Guy Stair Sainty and Torsten Riotte demonstrate that both the Kings of the Two Sicilies and of Hanover lost their thrones as a result of their opposition to Italian and German nationalism respectively, and to those nations’ unification by force of arms. The two monarchs in exile had only limited impact on international relations; but Bourbon royalism and Guelph identity remained political forces in their respective countries.23 The German scholar Wolfgang Schivelbusch has coined the term ‘a culture of defeat’.24 He argues that military defeat affects policies in many other fields, from education and welfare to finances and warfare. Monarchs in exile could be part of such a pattern of influence.

In 1866 King Johann of Saxony (a Catholic ruling a Protestant country, as James II and III had hoped to do), was able to return from six months in exile in Austria because he accepted German unification. Despite his return as King, some alleged he had been reduced to the status of mayor of Dresden. As James Retallack shows, Prussian supremacy proved as difficult for the victors as for the defeated. While parts of the Saxon public were sympathetic to the idea of a unified Germany, others proved highly critical of the Prussian-dominated German Empire. In this sense, the issue of monarchy and exile questions a homogeneous and deterministic picture of events. The British envoy to Saxony, Charles Edward Murray, commented in June 1866 on British newspaper coverage of Saxon defeat: ‘English readers of the “Times”’ he wrote, ‘will of course believe that the Prussians are welcomed here as brothers, and that the Saxons wish no better and could do no better than to become incorporated with Prussia.’ Murray strongly disagreed with such an assessment. Instead, he wrote that ‘the poor Saxons should feel the most intense hatred’.25

Exile shows the limits of nationalism: in defence of their cause, the exiled Stuarts and Hanoverians were prepared to fight on the side of France against their own countries, as Bourbons were prepared to fight against France for Britain.26 The history of Saxony, Hanover and southern Italy cannot be understood without reference to their exiled monarchs. Further examples could be added to this list: support in Hungary, Catalonia, Scotland, and Ireland for exiled monarchs show the many alternatives always existing to ‘successful’ supranational states – as the revival of Catalan and Scottish nationalism, and Italian regionalisms, in the 21st century remind us.

A discussion of royal exiles helps to understand the dynamics of public debate on legitimacy.27 With a contender alive, there always existed an alternative. Accounts of political debates – as far as historians are able to trace them – illustrate that the departure and absence of a sovereign contributed to the public debate. Daniel Szechi describes Jacobitism as the most successful opposition movement in the eighteenth century. Although it is still discussed whether the ’15 and ’45 rebellions had any potential for military success, the importance of Jacobitism to the political culture of eighteenth century Britain is no longer questioned: J.C.D. Clark has established that even such a main-stream writer as Dr Johnson was a crypto-Jacobite.28 Monarchs in exile could, however, fail to be incorporated in the public discourse on recapturing political power and status, as in the case of Napoleon III after 1871 and Wilhelm II after 1918.29

Exile means absence. Declarations drawn up in the exiled court were the main means of communication with the monarch’s former subjects. From Charles II’s to those signed by the exiled Kings of Hanover and the Two Sicilies, they show the resilience and persistence of exiled monarchs, in contrast to the silence and passivity displayed by the ancient republics of Venice, Genoa and Dubrovnik, after their extinction by Napoleon Bonaparte between 1797-1806. Persistence did not, however, necessarily mean success. Whether any of the Kaiser’s publications after his departure in 1918 were taken seriously remains debateable. The published reviews imply that a majority of Germans understood the defeated Hohenzollern dynasty to be unfit for government.30 Royal exile shows what studies of monarchical representations often overlook: The fabrication of monarchy is rarely a one-directional process and depends on the reader, consumer, or recipient as much as on the publicist, minister or artist.31

Royal exile also shows the operation of many competing views of sovereignty or political power at different levels. Monarchs in exile were closely observed. Newly established regimes considered it necessary to employ police agents to watch exiled sovereigns. The archives of the Third Republic hold numerous files on Legitimists, Orléanists and Bonapartists, detailed accounts which lasted beyond the early, critical years of the Third Republic and even the turn of the 20th century.32 The Prussian political police proved similarly alert to ‘Guelph’ opponents.33 Political authorities discussed the potential danger from royalist oppositions. Cabinet ministers, diplomatists and other political representatives considered former dynasties to be a threat.

The book is a contribution to the discussion about the nature of monarchy. It sheds new light on the nature of legitimacy, and the nature of ‘the family of kings’.34 Despite the contemporary belief in dynastic marriage as a political instrument, in reality family ties and feelings of solidarity between monarchs were generally weak.35 Legitimacy was less important than strategy. Charles II received less help from his cousins the Kings of France and Denmark than from Philip IV of Spain: indeed Louis XIV allied with a regicide, Cromwell. In his exceptional generosity to James II and III after 1688, Louis XIV may have been motivated by opposition to William of Orange and the Anglo-Dutch alliance, as well as by monarchical and religious solidarity. Similarly the exiled e Louis XVIII received little help from his cousins the Bourbon kings of Spain and Naples. Nor did George V of Hanover obtain support from his British cousins Queen Victoria and the Duke of Cambridge.36 Austria supported and gave asylum to the Kings of Saxony and Naples the Grand Duke of Tuscany and the Dukes of Parma and Modena out of opposition to German and Italian unification – although Franz Joseph probably also saw himself as upholder of the monarchical principle in Europe.

The discussion of monarchs in exile will help understand the nature of the monarchical system, what ceremonies and customs survived in exile, who remained loyal and why, how exiles remained in touch with the former homeland, and how they adapted to life abroad. Exiled monarchs show what forces united, or divided dynastic Europe and the relative importance of international politics and dynastic loyalties in the destinies of monarchies. Charles II followed the ceremonies of the Anglican Chapel Royal and touched for the king’s evil;37 Charles VI maintained a separate household as King of Spain in Vienna after 1711.38 Louis XVIII made new appointments to the Maison du roi and organised such ceremonies as the marriage of Madame Royale, daughter of Louis XVI to her first cousin the duc d’Angouleme in the palace of the dukes of Courland in Mittau in 1799 and the state funeral of his wife the last Queen of France Marie Josephine of Savoy, in Westminster Abbey in 1810.39 The Guelph dynasty made spectacular marriages such as that of the Duke of Cumberland to Princess Thyra of Denmark in 1878 and of Prince Ernst August to Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia in 1913.40

Another device was the continued creation of Knights of the respective monarchies’borders of chivalry. Hence the competitions between Stuarts and Hanovers for control of the Order of the Garter (the latter dynasty changing its riband colour to ‘true blue’, darker than the blue of the Stuart order);– the development of two rival Orders of the Golden Fleece, awarded by rival kings of Spain in Madrid and Vienna; the ‘confraternity of orders’ established by the exiled Louis XVIII and Paul I.41 Some exiled monarchs were sufficiently wealthy or politically useful to maintain their own regiments – the present Grenadier guards and life guards of Elizabeth II have their origins in the exiled army of Charles II42; Louis XVIII had regiments on the pay roll of the British and Austrian armies43; the king of Naples kept forces fighting the Italian army in the south in the 1860’s.44

The eleven dynasties selected for this volume represent a sample of European princes who lived outside their former sovereign territory. They were selected because they show the changes that occurred in royal sovereignty, legitimacy, and public debate within the 300 years before the Great War. Independent of gender, rank, and territory, a royal exile’s main task remained the upholding of his or her status. Princes were expected to gather a group of loyalists, create a court, and recover sovereignty. Such activism had little chance for success, if it was not perceived as potentially successful. To provide for the future, exiled princes needed to be accepted by the European elites, the family of princes in particular. Their public image had to reflect their royal status. Hence the importance of the arts, literature and historiography to exiled monarchs in order to uphold the idea of loyal support, political power and legitimate rule.

In this context, the Stuarts represent the central nexus and principal literary reference, in the history of royal exile. No other dynasty had such a prolonged experience of exile, between 1644 and 1660, and 1688 and 1807, which explains why four essays deal with that dynasty. The Stuarts’ exile proved how important an exiled dynasty could be in crystallising national sentiment. The exiled Stuarts were focuses for Irish and Scottish nationalism.45 They also show that the state in Early Modern Europe had not been detached from the person of monarch.46 As John Vincent Cronin demonstrates, parts of Ireland even paid taxes to the exiled Charles II. Regional realities differed from metropolitan demands. Their restoration in 1660 made the example of the Stuarts attractive to other exiled dynasties. It is surprising to see that not only the Catholic Bourbons saw their own exile of 1789 to 1814 in light of the Stuarts.47 Even the Protestant Hanoverian dynasty proved eager to imply a historical continuity. George V of Hanover paid a historian, Onno Klopp, to write a history of the House of Stuart, a publication that was perceived as a five volume pamphlet in support of Hanoverian legitimism.48

After the middle of the eighteenth century, ideas of sovereignty were transformed. Loyalist elites found themselves confronted with new concepts of nation and state challenging royal sovereignty and legitimate rule. The three chapters on France show how Louis XVIII hoped to win French hearts by representing himself as a pacific and European monarch.49 Napoleon I failed to find a balance between charismatic leadership and legitimacy.50 Napoleon III depended as much on military success as on public support.51 All three sovereigns can be seen as representatives of changing ideas of sovereignty.52 During the nineteenth century the modern nation state gained increasing control over public life. Many loyalists had to withdraw from active politics. Royal exile was confronted with modern concepts of state and an increasing bureaucracy. The qualities of a monarch became increasingly irrelevant to the failure and success of a national economy and – to a lesser extent - foreign policy. Representative aspects of monarchy gained new dimension, not least due to new forms of media such as photography and film. Two competing narratives exist for monarchy at the end of the nineteenth century. One is a narrative of decline. Stripped of political power, increasingly questioned by democratic ideas and bourgeois thinking, European monarchy represented an anachronistic species on the verge of extinction.53 The other narrative sees monarchical Europe, thanks to the legacy of failed revolutions, as powerful enough to cause the outbreak and the catastrophic results of the Great War. The German case provides the most prominent example. John Rohl’s epilogue on the exile of the Kaiser illustrates both German society’s demand for a new form of leadership and Wilhelm II’s inability to meet them.54

Rohl’s interpretation of the Kaiser should remind us that the book also discusses the importance of character in history. For some – for example James III in Rome - as for many twentieth century exiles, their place of exile became the new homeland: The Comte de Chambord felt more at ease in Austria, where he had lived since the age of twelve, than in France when he revisited it, for the first and last time since 1830, in 1873. On the other hand their character and resilience, and a favourable situation in their former homeland, enabled Charles II, Louis XVIII and King Johann from Saxony to return to the throne in 1660, 1814 and 1866 respectively. European history could have followed many different paths. Exiles and the defeated can affect events as well as nationalists and conquerors. ‘Monarchy and Exile’ hopes to show that W.H. Auden was wrong when he wrote in 1937:
History to the defeated
May say Alas.
But cannot help
Nor pardon. - lines he himself later called ‘quite inexcusable’.55

1 Edward W. Said (2001) Reflections on Exile, in: id., Reflexions on Exile and other Literary and Cultural Essays. (London: Granta), pp. 173-186, here p. 173. return to main text
2 Ibid. return to main text
3 Helmut Koopmann (2001) ‘Exil als geistige Lebensform’, in: id. (eds.) Exil. Transhistorische und transnationale Perspektiven (Paderborn: mentis), pp. 1-2, here 2. return to main text
4 The following three publications offer a good starting-point for any reader interested in migration history: Jan Lucassen and Leo Lucassen (eds.) (1997) Migration, Migration History, History: Old Paradigms and new perspectives (Bern, Frankfurt a.M., New York, et al.: Peter Lang); Nancy L. Green (2002), Repenser les migrations (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France); Klaus J. Bade (eds.) (2007) Enzyklopädie Migration in Europa: vom 17. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart (Paderborn: Schöning). return to main text
5 Daniel Snowman (2002) The Hitler Emigrés. The Cultural Impact on Britain of Refugees from Nazism (London, Chatto & Windus). See the historiographical discussion and bibliography in: Jochen Oltmer (2010) Migration im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Munich: Oldenbourg), pp. 61-126; 127-160. return to main text
6 C.-D. Krohn/ P. von zur Mühlen/ G. Paul/ L. Winckler (eds.) (1998), Handbuch der deutschsprachigen Emigration 1933-1945 (2nd. ed., Darmstand: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft). return to main text
7 Marc Raeff (1992) Russia Abroad: a cultural history of the Russian emigration, 1919 – 1939 (Oxford: OUP). return to main text
8 Henry Kamen (2007) The disinherited. The exiles who created Spanish culture (London: Allan Lane). return to main text
9 Edward Chaney (1985) The Grand Tour and the Great Rebellion. Richard Lassels and ‘The voyage of Italy’ in the Seventeenth Century (Geneve: Slatkine); Tessa Murdoch (1985) The quiet conquest: the Huguenots 1685 – 1985 (London: Museum of London). return to main text
10 Torsten Riotte (2009) ‘Der abwesende Monarch im Herrschaftsdiskurs der Neuzeit. Eine Forschungsskizze am Beispiel der Welfendynastie nach 1866, Historische Zeitschrift 289, 627-667, here 630. See also the articles by Heidi Mehrkens (2008) ‘Rangieren auf dem Abstellgleis. Europas Abgesetzte Herrscher 1830-1870’, in: Thomas Biskup/ Martin Kohlrausch (eds.) Das Erbe der Monarchie. Nachwirkungen einer deutschen Institution seit 1918 (Frankfurt and New York: Peter Lang); and Hans Henning Hahn (1983) ‘Möglichkeiten und Formen politischen Handels in der Emigration. Ein historisch-systematischer Deutungsversuch am Beispiel des Exils in Europa nach 1830 und ein Plädoyer für eine international vergleichende Exilforschung’, Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 23, 123-161. return to main text
11 Euler (2008), Napoleon III. in seiner Zeit (2 vols., Hamburg: Verlag Dr. Kovač). return to main text
12 Daniel de Montplaisir (2008), Le comte de Chambord. Dernier roi de France (Paris: Perrin). return to main text
13 In addition to the chapters in this book see Anna Kea (2008) The Mangnificent Monarch: Charles II and the Ceremonies of Power (Cornwall: continuum), particularly pp. 45-80 and Edward Corp (2004) A Court in exile. The Stuarts in France (Cambridge: CUP), particularly pp. 104-135, id. (2009) The Jacobites at Urbino: An Exiled Court in Transition (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan), pp. 43-76, Philip Mansel (2005) Louis XVIII (pb ed., London: John Murray), pp. 77-169. return to main text
14 Johannes Wilms (2008) Napoleon III. Frankreichs letzter Kaiser (München: C.H: Beck), p. 265 writes that Napoleon led the life of a ‘country gentleman’ in Chislehurst. Eric Anceau’s (2008) Napoleon III: un Saint-Simon à cheval (Paris: Tallandier), pp. 545-558 interpretation sees Napoleon’s exile after 1871 slightly different and the ex-emperor ‘more decided than ever’ to regain power. However, both agree that his ill-health did not allow further political ambition. return to main text
15 John C.G. Rohl (2009) Wilhelm II. Der Weg in den Abgrund (Munich: C.H. Beck), pp. 1246-1326; Martin Kohlrausch (2005) Der Monarch im Skandal: die Logik der Massenmedien und die Transformation der wilhelminischen Monarchie (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag), pp. 301-472. return to main text
16 Wilhelm Bingmann (1995) Louis XVIII. von Frankreich im Exil: Blankenburg 1796-1798 (Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang), and Philip Mansel (2005), Louis XVIII., pp. 56-76, 77-109. return to main text
17 Paul Kléber Monod (1993) Jacobitism and the English people (pk ed., Cambridge: CUP), particularly chapter 1: Laws of man and God, pp. 15-44; for Louis XVIII: Natalie Scholz (2006) Die imaginierte Restauration: Repräsentation der Monarchie im Frankreich Ludwigs XVIII. (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft), pp. 92-100. return to main text
18 Helmut Koopmann (2001), p. VII, Ernst Doblhofer (1987) Exil und Emigration. Zum Erlebnis der Heimatferne in der römischen Literatur (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft). return to main text
19 Philip Mansel (2005), p. 136, see also Jean-Paul Bertaud (2009) Les Royalistes et Napoléon (Paris: Flammarion), pp. 170-173; Jasper Heinzen (2007) ‘The Guelph Conspiracy: Hanover and the European system 1866-1870’, International History Review 29, 2, 281. return to main text
20 Robert Tombs (1996) France 1814-1914 (London and New York: Longman), pp. 312-317; for the legacy of Napoleon and its importance to Napoleon III see Sudhir Hazaresingh (2004). The Saint-Napoleon. Celebrations of Sovereignty in nineteenth-century France (Cambridge/ Mass. And London: Harvard University Press). return to main text
21 The Independent 8 February 1992 return to main text
22 For a detailed discussion see Reiner Marcowitz (2000) Großmacht auf Bewährung: die Interdependenz französischer Innen- und Außenpolitik und ihre Auswirkungen auf Frankreichs Stellung im europäischen Konzert 1814/15 - 1851/52 (Stuttgart: Thorbeck). return to main text
23 For Hanover: Japser Heinzen (2010) Hohenzollern State-Building in the Province of Hanover, 1866-1914 (unpubl. PhD thesis: Cambridge University). return to main text
24 Wolfgang Schivelbusch (2001), Die Kultur der Niederlage: der amerikanische Süden 1865; Frankreich 1871; Deutschland 1918 (Darmstadt: Wissneschaftliche Buchgesellschaft). return to main text
25 Charles August Murray to Earl of Clarendon, No 36, Dresden, 28 June 1866, The National Archives, FO 68/142. return to main text
26 Jasper Heinzen (2007) lists the relevant literature on Hanoverian military conspiracy against Prussia. For the rebellion in 1715 and 1745 see: Daniel Szechi (2006), 1715: The great Jacobite rebellion (New Haven/ Conn.: Yale Univ. Press) and id. (1994) The Jacobites: Britain and Europe 1688-1788 (Manchester: Manchester University Press). return to main text
27 Peter Burke (1992) The fabrication of Louis XIV (New Haven and London: Yale University Press), and Jens-Ivo Engels (2000) Königsbilder. Sprechen, Singen und Schreiben über den französischen König in der ersten Hälfte des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts (Bonn: Bouvier). For ‘Legitimsm’ as ideology see Geoffrey Cubitt (2003), ‘Legitimsm and the Cult of Bourbon Royalty’, in: Nicholas Atkin and Frank Tallett (eds.) The Right in France: from Revolution to Le Pen (London and New York: I.B. Tauris), pp. 51-70. return to main text
28 cf. J.C.D. Clark Samuel Johnson:literature, religion and English cultural politics from the Restoration to Romanticism, Cambridge University Press 1994 return to main text
29 For the legacy of Napoleon III: John Rothney (1969) Bonapartism after Sedan (Ithaca/ New York: Cornell University Press); for Wilhelm II: Arne Hofmann (1998), ‘Wir sind das alte Deutschland, das Deutschland wie es war...’: Der ‘Bund der Aufrechten’ und der Monarchismus in der Weimarer Republik (Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang), Friedrich Freiherr Hiller von Gartringen (1976) ‘Zur Beurteilung des “Monarchismus” in der Weimarer Republik’, in: Gotthard Jasper (ed.), Tradition und Reform in der deutschen Politik. Gedenkschrift für Waldemar Besson (Frankfurt a.M.: Propylän); Jack Sweetman (1973), The Unforgotten Crowns: The German Monarchist Movements, 1918-1945 (Ph.D. diss., Emory University). return to main text
30 Chapter 16 in this volume and Martin Kohlrausch (2005), pp. 335-59. return to main text
31 Peter Burke (1992) and Jens-Ivo Engels (2000); see also Hannah Smith (2006) Georgian Monarchy: politics and culture, 1714-1760 (Cambridge: CUP), and Johannes Paulmann (2000) Pomp und Politik. Monarchenbegegnungen in Europa zwischen Ancien Régime und Erstem Weltkrieg (Paderborn: Schönigh). return to main text
32 Surveillance des différents partis et mouvements: bonapartistes, royalistes, boulangistes, nationalistes, antisémites, cléricaux1871-1915: Archives Nationales, Paris, F7 12428 à 12521. return to main text
33 Welfische Agitationen, Oktober 1886- bis September 1914, Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes, R4199 - R4205; Hannover: Verhandlungen mit Agenten des Königs Georg, Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes, R 3028; Politische Personalien von welfisch gesinnten Beamten und Pastoren, 1899-1904, Niedersächsisches Hauptstaatsarchiv Hannover, Hann 122a, No 2749. return to main text
34 For a discussion of the idea of a society of princes see: Lucien Bely, La société de princes: XVIe - XVIIIe siècle (Paris: Fayard). return to main text
35 I am grateful to Daniel Schönpflug for allowing me to read the manuscript of his forthcoming book on Hohenzollern marriages from the seventeenth to the twentieth century where he discusses the foreign political dimension in more detail: Daniel Schönpflug (2009) Die Heiraten der Hohenzollern: Verwandtschaft, Politik und Ritual im europäischen Kontext 1640–1918 (unpubl. Habil. Thesis: FU Berlin). return to main text
36 Next to chapters 10, 13 and 15 see also Torsten Riotte (2008) ‘The house of Hanover. Queen Victoria and the Guelph Dynasty’, in: Karina Urbach (ed.) Royal Kinship. Anglo-German Family Networks 1815-1918 (München, K.G. Saur), pp. 75-96. return to main text
37 Anna Kea (2008), particularly the appendices on p. 212-4. return to main text
38 See chapter 4 in this volume. return to main text
39 Philip Mansel chapter XX in this volume return to main text
40 Torsten Riotte (2008) and chapter 15 in this volume. return to main text
41 Philip Mansel ‘From exile to the throne’ p. xx return to main text
42 Philip Mansel (1984) Pillars of Monarchy| Royal Guards in History, p. 11 return to main text
43 Philip Mansel ‘From exile to the throne’ p xx return to main text
44 See Guy Stair Sainty chapter XX return to main text
45 Chapter 8 in this volume. For a critical discussion see Margaret Sankey and Daniel Szechi (2001), ‘Elite Culture and the Decline of Scottish Jacobitism 1716-1745’, Past and Present 173, 90-128. return to main text
46 Albrecht Koschorke, Susanne Lüdemann, Thomas Frank, Ethel Matala de Mazza (2007) Der fiktive Staat. Konstruktionen des politischen Körpers in der Geschichte Europas (Frankfurt a. M.: Fischer Taschebuchverlag). return to main text
47 Geoffrey Cubitt (2007), ‘The political uses of seventeenth-century English History in Bourbon Restoration France’, The Historical Journal, 50,1, 73-95; Daniel de Montplaisir (2008), pp. 119-126 (L’ombre des Stuarts’). return to main text
48 Lorenz Matzinger (1993) Onno Klopp, 1822-1903: Leben und Werk (Aurich: Ostfriesische Landschaft. return to main text
49 Reiner Marcowitz (2009) ‘Vergangenheit im Widerstreit. Die Restauration 1814/15-18130’, in: Reiner Marcowitz and Werner Paravincini (eds.) Pardonner et oublier? Les discourse sur le passé après l’occupation, la guerre civile et la révolution (Munich: Oldenbourg), pp. 111-123. return to main text
50 Michael Kertauret (2009) Napoléon et la quatrième dynastie: fondation ou restauration? in: Hélène Becquet and Bettina Frederking (eds.) La dignité de roi. Regards sur la royauté au premier XIX siècle (Rennes: Presses Univesitaires de Rennes), 35-48. return to main text
51 Eric Anceau’s (2008); John Rothney (1969). return to main text
52 Robert Tombs (1996) pp. 120-3. return to main text
53 Lothar Machtan (2008) Die Abdankung: wie Deutschlands gekrönte Häupter aus der Geschichte fielen (Berlin: Propyläen). return to main text
54 Next to John C.G. Rohl (2009) and Martin Kohlrausch (2005) see the introduction in: Holger Afflerbach (2005). Kaiser Wilhelm II. als Oberster Kriegsherr im Ersten Weltkrieg. Quellen aus der militärischen Umgebung des Kaisers, 1914-18 (Munich: Oldenbourg), and Stephan Malinowski (2004), Vom König zum Führer. Deutscher Adel und Nationalsozialismus (pk ed., Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer Taschebuchverlag), pp. 228-59. return to main text
55 I am grateful to Richard Davenport-Hines for this information. return to main text

From Exile to the Throne: the Europeanisation of Louis XVIII, chapter in the book above

Chapter from

Monarchy and Exile: The Politics of Legitimacy from Marie de Médicis to Wilhelm II

Frontiers were the key to Louis XVIII’s return from exile. By promising to abandon French conquests and return to France‘s pre 1792 frontiers in accordance with Bourbon tradition, he won the backing of Russia and Britain. In comparison French and European royalism were less important. In exile Louis XVIII was a factor in European diplomacy in 1791-2 and 1798-1801, and a secret British weapon after 1812. New documents show that from 1808 the future Prince Regent supported his restoration. Castlereagh helped write the King’s Declaration of Hartwell in 1813. Exile helped Europeanise the French monarchy.

Philip Mansel is author of, among other works, lives of Louis XVIII (1981) and the Prince de Ligne (2003), and histories of the Court of France from 1789 to 1830 (1989) and of Paris between Empires 1814-1852 (2001). All have been translated into French. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Institute of Historical Research, a member of the Centre de Recherche du Chateau de Versailles and editor of The Court Historian, journal of the Society for Court Studies.

Philip Mansel - From Exile to the Throne: the Europeanisation of Louis XVIII

On 21 June 1791 Monsieur, Comte de Provence fled France in a hired carriage, disguised as an English merchant. On 24 April 1814 he returned as King Louis XVIII, in a carriage drawn by cheering subjects through the cities of northern France, until he entered Paris in triumph on 3 May.1 Exile had transformed him from a fugitive into a monarch. European strategy, and the King’s character, rather than French royalism, or European legitimism, were the main reasons for the transformation.

French Royalism as an active political force had little success. In August-September 1792, when they entered eastern France behind the Austro-Prusian armies under the Duke of Brunswick, the emigre Princes and their army of 20,000 were badly received.2 In 1797-9, when public opinion was more favourable,3 efforts to use royalist majorities in parliament were thwarted by the military coups of Fructidor 1797 and Brumaire 1799. Conspiracies and risings before 1800, and attempts to persuade Bonaparte to restore the King in 1800-02, also failed.

It is notable however that French royalism was not an entirely spent force. In 1793 the port of Toulon had invited provence and Artois to return.4 In 1797 the legislative elections produced a royalist majority. In 1799 Le Mans was briefly held by a royalist army. Bonaparte’s increasingly monarchical regime after 1800 was in part a tribute to, and bid to extinguish, monarchy’s appeal.

Like internal French royalism, the exiled monarchy had its own dynamic: neither were a continuation of the ancient regime. This is shown in its diplomacy. The dynastic network and diplomatic alliances, to which Louis XIV and Louis XV had devoted so much money and effort, were of little use to their exiled descendants. Louis XVIII’s father in law the King of Sardinia did little to help him. When he was in Turin in 1794, he was described as living ‘in a state of perfect Retirement and Ennui, much dejected’.5 His cousin the King of Spain provided the French Bourbons with small pensions. Yet he refused Louis XVIII asylum and after 1795 was an ally of the French Republic and Empire, even hoping that a Spanish Bourbon might become King of France.6 Other Bourbon cousins, the King of Naples and the Duke of Parma – recipient of the largest single French subsidy before 1789 - were even less generous, and also refused him asylum. His first cousin on his mother’s side the Elector of Saxony refused him asylum in 1796, writing that ‘disastrous circumstances do not allow me to abandon myself to the sweetest sentiments of my heart’.7 The Bourbon family was a divided family.

The main ally of the French monarchy before 1789, Austria, showed itself to be, as Louis XVIII and many French courtiers and ministers had long feared, hostile to the Bourbons. In 1793 it wanted territorial gains in northern France.8 In 1799 a British diplomat noticed in Baron Thugut, the Austrian chief minister who had personally witnessed the disastrous campaign of 1792, ‘a stronger inclination to divide France and perpetuate the distractions of that country than to reestablish either Monarchy or any other steady government... he has a strong prejudice against the King of France and the French princes whom he considers as personally obnoxious to the French nation.’ In August 1804, in the presence of Napoleon’s ambassador, Thugut’s successor Count Ludwig Cobenzl burnt Louis XVIII’s protest against the proclamation of the French Empire with his own hands.9

In contrast to Austria, Russia was the most consistent friend of the exiled Louis XVIII. The reasons were a combination of principle and strategy. Far from the armies of the French Republic, the Tsars had the power to uphold the monarchical principle. A France within its traditional frontiers would let Prussia and Austria have their traditional influence in Italy and the Empire, thereby helping Russia predominance in Poland.

Frontiers were the key to Louis XVIII’s return from exile. He continued the traditional Bourbon policy, since the Treaty of Aix la Chapelle of 1748, to avoid further territorial expansion in Europe. To the dismay of much French opinion, despite the growth in power of Austria, Prussia and Russia, the Bourbons believed that France was a satisfied power with no need for further territory in Europe. As Louis XVI’s Foreign Minister Vergennes wrote to him in 1777: ‘France constituted as it is should fear expansion, rather than aim for it’.10 During his twenty - three years as an exile between 1791 and 1814, Louis XVIII promised not to profit from the ‘conquests made by the pretended republic’.11 To foreign governments, for example the British government in 1807 he presented himself as ‘the future pacifier of Europe’.12

As the struggle between James II and William III had been dominated by European strategy in general, and French expansion in particular, so were the policy and movements of Louis XVIII in exile. Louis XVIII was always on the move, more than most monarchs in exile, since the French government repeatedly requested his hosts to expel him from their territory: from Verona in 1796, Blankenburg in 1798, and Warsaw in 1804.

As a consequence from 1791 the Princes had tried to Europeanise their predicament, presenting themselves as a necessity, to save Europe from the French revolution. Out of Catherine II’s commitment to counter-revolution, in the autumn of 1791 the Russian ambassador to the Circles of the Upper and Lower Rhine Count Romanzov, and the Swedish ambassador to the Imperial Diet Baron Oxenstierna, were also accredited to Provence and Artois and the émigré government at Coblenz. So important was such European recognition that, on both occasions, the emigre nobility living in Coblenz en corps was sent to compliment the ambassadors.13 Thereafter the princes addressed frequent confidential letters to Catherine II, requesting both funds and advice.14

The émigré government was European in composition as well as in strategy. Both the Russian and Swedish ambassadors, as well as the Baron de Duminic first minister of the Princes’ uncle and host the Elector of Trier, the Baron de Bray, agent of the Grand Master of Malta, and the Prince of Nassau-Siegen, a German prince in Russian service, were members of the Princes’ council in Coblenz.15 The émigré government also had its own diplomats throughout Europe: in Vienna the Duc de Polignac, in Madrid the Duc d’Havre, in Rome the Cardinal de Bernis, in Saint Petersburg Comte Esterhazy and representatives in eight other cities.16

Having dissolved their army at the insistence of the King of Prussia on 15 November 1792, in late December the Princes installed themselves, their government and archive on Prussian soil in the small town of Hamm in Westphalia, living a life which Artois compared to a Trappist monastery.17 Until 1814 they depended on foreign funds, and on foreign governments for a place to live. No income was received from royalists inside France. Russia remained crucial (the Empress sent two million in 1791, 1,661,144 689 livres in 1793). The Russian ambassador Romanzov resided at Hamm, determined, as he wrote to the Marechal de Castries, Minister of Marine of Louis XVI and the leading minister of the Emigre government, to serve ‘the cause of the French monarchy with zeal’.18 It was the Russian ambassador in Venice, Count Mordvinov, who secured permission from the Venetian government for Provence to establish himself, after he left Hamm and his father-in-law's court at Turin in 1794, in Verona. After Provence became King of France as Louis XVIII on his nephew’s death in 1795, Mordvinov was formally accredited to him, as was Baron Simolin, formerly Russian ambassador to Louis XVI, in 1796-7.19

At Verona Louis XVIII lived in a small villa the Casa Gazzola, with no outward splendour. One – often forgotten - definition of a court, however, was that it was a centre of news and couriers. In 1795, soon after the death of Louis XVII, Pitt sent an unofficial ambassador to the new King - one of his top diplomats Lord Macartney, previously first British ambassador to the Emperor of China. Lord Macartney wrote: ‘ever since the death of Louis 17th the king’s residence here has been assuming more and more the air of a Court’, not through outward splendour, but ‘by the numerous correspondences, the arrival and departure of couriers from time to time’.20

Louis XVIII’s principal means of marking his accession was not ceremonial but political, by issuing the disastrous Declaration of Verona. Printed Declarations and private letters, of which he wrote a vast quantity, were his way of reaching public opinion in France. Despite advice to the contrary, in 1795 he proclaimed his belief in the former government ‘which for fourteen centuries was the glory of France, the delight of the French’. While not mentioning the parlements by name, he wanted a streamlined old regime. He believed reforms had caused the revolution. However he did promise equality before the law, equal access to all positions and to restrict retribution to regicides alone.21

The years between 1795 and 1798 were a nadir in the Émigré government’s relations with the European powers, hence in the success of its projects. Artois felt that their only hope was in ‘the support of the great powers’, but that all were hostile.22 The death of Catherine II in 1796, however, brought Paul I, an ardent believer in counter-revolution, to the throne. Moreover he wanted to use the many French émigré knights of the Order of Saint John to help his election as Grand Master of Malta – which would also give Russia a Mediterranean base. Despite his Orthodox faith, he had been officially declared its Protector in November 1797.23 Both strategy and ideology combined to make him favour Louis XVIII. In early 1798, Louis XVIII was expelled from the Duchy of Brunswick due to pressure from the French government – which, at Talleyrand’s suggestion, even thought of kidnapping him. Paul I offered Louis XVIII 200,000 roubles a year and the use of the Baroque palace of Mittau, built by Rastrelli for the Dukes of Courland, and situated near the port of Riga. An exiled king was installed in a former palace and capital – which Russia had annexed only two years previously in 1796. The King set out in February 1798 with an entourage of 82 people.24 The Tsar, who had also taken the émigré Armee de Conde into his service, allowed the King one unequivocal sign of sovereignty, close to any monarch’s heart - one hundred of his own bodyguard, the famous gardes du corps du roi, to guard him.25

Mittau was the exiled Louis XVIII’s sole interlude of regal grandeur: he compared himself to James II at Saint-Germain. By July 1798 the King’s court and guard, at first confined to one floor of the main wing of the palace, had obliged the offices of the prison, law-court and archives of the city to move out and had themselves begun to expand into the town.26 By 1801 about 300 French emigres lived in Mittau.27 At one stage Louis XVIII even suggested that his gardes du corps take over the police of Mittau. Although the Pretender was never allowed to go to Saint Petersburg, as he had hoped, and his court was never as lavish as James II’s at Saint-Germain, it shows that Paul Schroeder’s allegation of the exiled Bourbon court’s ‘pitiful existence’28 is incorrect. At Mittau Louis XVIII was on the main road to Saint Petersburg, corresponding with such famous figures of Counter-Revolution Europe as Gentz, Pozzo di Borgo and Rivarol, receiving Russian and British diplomats, General Dumouriez, the Grand Duke Constantine, and Marshal Suvorov himself, who stopped there in March 1799 to obtain the King’s blessing before the combined allied attack on France that summer.29

Thanks to Paul I one of the defining events in the history of the later Bourbons took place in the chapel of the palace at Mittau on 10 June 1799: the marriage of the daughter of Louis XVI – who, after her release from prison in 1795, had spent four years with her mother’s family in Vienna – to her first cousin the Duc d’Angouleme. The marriage would prove sterile. Owing to the Duchess’s intransigence, it would also prove a political disaster. At the time it was believed to secure the dynasty’s future. It was witnessed by many court officials from Versailles, since after 1795, in accordance with the traditional self-regulating mechanism of the court of France, Louis XVIII was served not by his household as Comte de Provence (with the exception of his favourite d’Avaray, promoted to be a Capitaine des Gardes in replacement of the ‘constitutional’ Duc d’Ayen) but by the Maison du Roi, an institution almost as old as the monarchy itself.30 Saint-Priest, Ministre de la Maison du Roi of both Louis XVI and Louis XVIII, drew up the marriage contract. Among the signatories were the Cardinal de Montmorency Grand Aumonier de France; the Ducs de Fleury and d’Aumont Premiers Gentilshommes de la Chambre; the Duc de Guiche, Capitaine des Gardes.31

The first signatures on the marriage contract were Paul and Louis, in that order. A sign of Europeanisation, and growing toleration during the emigration was the presence at the ceremony, among other local dignitaries, of a Lutheran and an Orthodox priest. At the same time the King appointed Paul I the first non-Catholic member of the Order of the Saint Esprit and the tsar appointed Louis XVIII chevalier of the Order of Saint Andrew.32 At the Tsar’s request, a fraternite d’armes was established between the King’s Orders of Saint Lazare and Mount Carmel and the Tsar’s Order of Saint John, and many Frenchmen and Russians were appointed to each of them by the two monarchs.33 The two monarchs hoped to draw the Catholic and Orthodox churches closer together. Louis XVIII composed a project for the fusion of the Gregorian and Orthodox calendars. In 1799 Paul I even offered asylum in Russia to the Pope.34 In 1800 Paul I received the credentials of Louis XVIII’s official minister plenipotentiary to him, the Comte de Caraman.35

In exile Louis XVIII retained not only foreign support but also courtiers’ loyalty. As he boasted to his sister the Queen of Sardinia he had never experienced ‘that abandon, that universal neglect which are only too common in such cases.’36 His total entourage, throughout his exile, numbered between 100 and 200. In accordance with the character of the French court, there were quarrels over precedence between court officials, in his carriage in Verona or in the chapel at Hartwell. Intrigues flourished. In 1811 Blacas lamented to d’Avaray: ‘Loyalty, nobility, purity of principles are follies ; devotion is a stupidity, fidelity and respect an outdated fashion, integrity a dupe, frankness a word devoid of sense and religion a mask behind which one can do anything.’37

Louis XVIII also retained the loyalty of the French Emigration. There were at least 129,000 emigres outside France, who formed an entire society on the move, with its own writers, artists and style, sometimes called the style Louis XVII, in contrast to the Empire style. The latter was defined by Louis XVIII’s favourite the Comte d'Avaray as ‘the crapulous and affected dignity which now reigns in France’.38 For many of them the Emigre government remained the focus of loyalty, ambition, patronage. Emigre or emigre-commanded units, with which the emigre government maintained contact, served in the British, Austrian, Sardinian and Spanish armies. Lieutenant Colonel de Durler, commander of the Regiment de Roll (sometimes called ‘the Gardes suisses of the Emigration’), which served in the British army from 1794 to 1816, for example, paid court to Louis XVIII at Verona on 25 January 1796.39 In 1796 the King thought of joining the Loyal Emigrant Regiment, which fought for Britain in the Austrian Netherlands, Brittany and Portugal under the command of his old friend and courtier the Comte de La Chatre.40 In 1800 there were about 5100 émigré troops (at least on the regiments’ books), including the remains of the regiments de Saxe, de Bercheny and Royal Allemand formerly in the French army, serving in the Austrian army, while the Armee de Conde consisted of 3,177 soldiers.41

One reason why Bonaparte allowed émigrés to return to France after 1802, according to Talleyrand, was ‘in order to isolate further Louis XVIII and deprive him of the royal air which a numerous emigration gave him.42 Émigrés like Peltier and Fauche-Borel, Bonald and de Maistre, served as royalist publishers and publicists. Works by former servants of the royal Family, Clery and Hue, glorifying the martyred Louis XVI, were published abroad in French at the instigation of Louis XVIII and his government, and sold throughout Europe. On the other hand the strength and vociferousness of the Emigration might also limit Louis XVIII’s freedom of manoeuvre. Thinking of Artois and others he wrote in 1794 that, if he negotiated with revolutionaries, he might face perpetual civil war.43

The Bourbons in exile were European not only in their policies, and movements, but also in their attitudes to foreign service. This reflected both the loosening of national boundaries by Counter-revolutionary fervour, and the contemporary cult of military glory. Like the ‘old Pretender’ who fought in the French against the British army, or the Prince Imperial, who died fighting in the British army in 1879, the Bourbons felt it was better to fight in a foreign army, than to do nothing. Louis XVIII believed that what he and Angouleme called ‘a shameful idleness, my shameful inaction …my cruel and pernicious inaction’ was fatal to the French monarchy.44 Louis XVIII denounced the ‘vicious circle’ of French discouragement and foreign powers' lack of support; he received no foreign aid as there was no royalist movement in France. There was no royalist movement as he received no foreign aid. Discounting its impact on French nationalism, the King believed that foreign service would encourage supporters and prove the Bourbons’ determination to recover the throne. Only two days after his marriage in June 1799, the Duc d’Angouleme wrote to Paul I stating: ‘to serve as a volunteer the cause of God and my king in the first ranks of the army of Your Imperial Majesty , to show that I have not degenerated from my ancestors is all I want, all I ask’. He also applied to join the Russian army in 1807, 1812 and 1813, while the King applied to serve with the Austrian army in 1800 and, ‘as one more soldier’, with the Spanish army in 1808.45

In 1808-10 during the beginning of the Spanish uprising against Napoleon, all the Bourbons, Louis XVIII, Artois, Angouleme, Berri and Orleans were electrified and wanted to join the Spanish cause. Canning prevented them.46 They were not worried about the charge of attacking their own country, since they believed they were fighting not la patrie but une faction. As Provence and Artois had written to the Emperor Francis II in 1792: ‘France is outside France with us’.47

At the same time, despite their exile, and willingness to serve foreign powers, the Bourbons remained very French. They were not Italianised like the last Stuart Henry Benedict, Cardinal Duke of York. In 1798 the King wrote to his nephew the Duc d’Angouleme that ‘the best, the true way of pleasing the French nation is to appear French in your speeches, in your actions, in fact in all your mannerisms’.48 he did not consider other thrones for himself or his family. Although he was descended from two Kings of Poland, Stanislas Leszczynski his great-grandfather, and Augustus III of Saxony his grandfather, he described suggestions in 1801 and 1802 of a throne in Poland or northern Italy as ‘a folly and an ingratitude. They are not my children. Heir of thirty-three kings, it is my right or rather my duty to occupy this blood-stained throne’.49

Poland was under discussion since in 1801, during a Russian rapprochement with Bonaparte, (and spurred by reading a disrespectful letter by d’Avaray) Paul I had expelled Louis XVIII from Mittau.50 Finally he was allowed by King Frederick William III of Prussia to settle in Warsaw, then a Prussian garrison town. Louis XVIII led a retired life in Warsaw, receiving Poles only on la fete de Saint Louis. In January 1802 the new Tsar Alexander I addressed a circular to his ambassadors in Paris, Berlin, London, Naples and Vienna to ask the governments of Europe, including the French Republic, to provide financial support for the Bourbons. Austria, Prussia and Spain refused to provide any more than they were already providing. Britain sent £5000 at once and then £6,000 a year.51

At this point Louis XVIII had his moment of despair, due to the state of Europe as well as France. In France the government of the First Consul had acquired legitimacy, for many or most Frenchmen, by his victories, his reforms and the successful plebiscites of 1800 and 1802. Most émigrés were returning to France, welcomed by a government which declared it had ended the revolution. Britain and Russia, as well as the rest of Europe, had made peace with the French Republic. The Pope himself had signed a Concordat. Louis XVIII had failed in his efforts, in order to perpetuate the dynasty, to marry his other nephew the Duc de Berri either to the widowed Electress of Bavaria, or to princesses of Savoy, Saxony, Parma or Naples. He wrote to Artois that he feared that Berri would not be accepted even by a daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Weimar: ‘terror is the order of the day… our time has passed or rather one could say it is sleeping’.52 Through d’Avaray he spoke of retiring to Naples and depositing his crown in the heart of his cousin the King.53 Louis XVIII even considered accepting a subsidy from Bonaparte, if paid via the Russian government.54

This loss of faith was temporary. The Angoulemes refused to accompany him to Naples; moreover Ferdinand IV would not have given him asylum there.55 In 1803 when Bonaparte approached Louis XVIII, through a Prussian official, to renounce his claim to the throne in return for de grands avantages, he made his famous declaration, the cri de coeur of an exiled monarch: ‘I do not know the intentions of God towards my family and myself, but I know the obligations which he has imposed on me by the rank in which he has been pleased to have me born. Christian, I will fulfill these obligations until my last breath. Descendant of Saint Louis, I will know how to follow his example and maintain my self-respect even in prison. Successor of Francois Ier, I want at least to be able to say like him’ We have lost everything except honour’. Since war had started again, British boats circulated the King’s reply along the coast of France.56

On the throne, the King commemorated this Declaration in exile. He continued to use, in the Tuileries, the simple wooden desk at which he had written it, instead of the gilded desks of his predecessors; and he had himself painted at this desk by the premier peintre du roi Baron Gerard, in a picture commissioned and ‘composed’ by himself. It shows him in the Tuileries palace, ‘meditating on the institutions he will give his people’, on 3 May 1814, the day of his return to Paris.57

In 1804 he composed another Declaration, with the Princes of his family, to protest against Bonaparte’s assumption of the throne and what he called the ‘horrible farce’ of the coronation in Notre Dame on 2 December. The Declaration shows the evolution of Louis’s policies in exile. In its final form the declaration endorsed a general amnesty for all including the regicides; and the broad outlines of the post revolutionary settlement, including careers open to the talents, and administrative changes. It explicitly renounced the Declaration of Verona and its ‘antique maxims’. As d’Avaray had written as early as 1800, ‘if you want the end, you want the means’. While not explicitly renouncing all conquests, it offered a moderate vision of France's position in Europe: ‘A perfidious system of violence, ambition without limits, arrogance without restriction, makes you endure endless wars of which only exhaustion will end the agony’. Despite the opposition of Artois, the British government and Alexander I, the King insisted on the Declaration’s publication, writing to Gustavus IV of Sweden, who declared war on the French Empire in 1805, that it was ‘destined for France, made for France’ and should be sent there in as many copies as possible. With Swedish help, it was printed in Stockholm and Berlin in 1805, but its circulation in France is doubtful.58

Louis XVIII was expelled from Prussia, due to French pressure, in 1804, and again allowed to live in Mittau by the Tsar of Russia, although in reduced circumstances. It is probably no coincidence that the envoy Napoleon sent to Berlin to ask for the Pretender’s expulsion was the comte d’Arberg. He happened to be, through his wife a Princess of Stolberg, the brother-in-law of the Young Pretender. Napoleon no doubt hoped the last Bourbons would lapse into the same insignificance as the last Stuarts.

Finally in September 1807, on his own initiative, without Russian permission, Louis XVIII sailed, via Sweden, for England. In a private letter to his friend the Comte de Blacas, d’Avaray pretended that the reason was the desire for ‘direct communications’ with British ministers. Another reason was the King’s dislike of the distance of Mitttau from France and jealousy of Artois’s control of what the King called ‘that multitude of unofficial agents and undirected agencies’.59 The Tsar’s alliance with Napoleon I earlier that year at Tilsit might also make Mittau less reliable as a residence.

However the main reason was probably money. The Swedish ambassador in Saint Petersburg, Count Stedingk an old friend from Versailles, claimed to know de science certaine that the move was designed to stop Artois monopolising British subsidies.60 Certainly in April 1807 d’Avaray had written to Orleans, Louis XVIII’s secret intermediary with the British government (in order to keep Artois and Alexander I in ignorance) that ‘the heir of Saint Louis has nothing to live on’.61 In July 1807 with tears in his eyes and ‘in very eloquent and affecting terms’ Louis XVIII had begged visiting British diplomats for £15,000. Charles Stuart, who would be British ambassador to Louis XVIII in 1815-24, was so moved by the sight of a King in distress that he felt ‘as if I had been at an Execution for a week after’.62

In Britain, although he was never treated by the government as well as he had been in Russia by Paul I in 1798-1801, Louis XVIII found himself in the country with the public most interested in his cause, both out of sympathy for the Bourbons, but even more out of hostility to Napoleon I. It would be the most enduring, and secure, of the many residences he experienced during his discovery of Europe between 1791 and 1814.

The British government had at first showed little interest in the exiled Bourbons. In 1793 the British Foreign Minister Lord Grenville forbade both Provence to land at Toulon, despite its inhabitants’ request for his presence, and Artois to land in England.63 There may have been ambitions to annex Toulon, as Britain annexed the former French possession of Corsica between 1794-8.

However, again showing the primacy of strategy over ideology, the expansion of the French Republic made Britain pro-Bourbon. In 1799 Lord Grenville wrote: ‘Europe can never be restored to tranquillity but by the restoration of the monarchy in France’. Despite Austrian hostility, Pitt himself declared in Parliament in January 1800: ‘The Restoration of the French monarchy... I consider as a most desirable object because I think it would afford the strongest and best security to this country and to Europe’ - although it was never a sine qua non of peace.64 The House of Bourbon had become a British cause.

The war of the Second Coalition marked the Bourbons’ break-through with Britain and Russia or, as Artois wrote in the self-justifying language of the Emigration, the moment when ‘the sovereigns are beginning to open their eyes’.65 Thereafter Britain always kept the Bourbons as a reserve card. Again in 1805 both Russia and Britain believed ‘the restoration of the Bourbon family on the throne ...highly desirable for the future both of France and Europe’.66

In London the Comte d’Artois received and corresponded with the Foreign Secretary Canning and his successor the Marquess Wellesley. They paid court to him, not the other way round. On 1 September 1808 for example Canning wrote: ‘I am at Your Royal Highness’s disposal, either tomorrow or Saturday, at any hour tomorrow and at any hour from twelve to five on Saturday which may best suit Your Royal Highness’s Convenience.’67 The Bourbon role in British anti-Napoleonic plans is forgotten by British historians since they see events from a British rather than a European perspective – and do not consult even those French sources in the National Archives at Kew, such as the King’s correspondence with the British government in FO 27/ 76-105.

When Louis XVIII arrived off Yarmouth in November 1807, the government at first refused to let him land, preferring him to reside in Edinburgh. Britain was so pro-Bourbon, however, that it was partly due to public opinion that the King was finally admitted. The Duchess of Devonshire noted in her journal on 5 November: ‘never, I think , was the public feeling more strongly expressed than it has been against the incivility and want of respect and attention to Louis XVIII.’ Mistreatment of exiled royalty could touch a popular nerve. In 1748 Parisians had been equally outraged by the French government’s arrest of the Young Pretender at the Paris opera. Finally the British government allowed Louis XVIII to reside wherever he wished, beyond a fifty mile radius, and gave him a pension of £16,000 a year – almost as much as a son of George III received.68 While the Emperor Napoleon was called by the British government ‘Buonaparte’, Louis XVIII received the title ‘His Most Christian Majesty’.

If Louis XVIII was the most European, he was also the most English, of Kings of France. Like many educated Frenchmen of the time he was well informed about the country, its history and literature. One sign of his knowledge of England and its history was his habit of comparing himself in exile to Charles II and, less wisely, to James II.69 He spoke English well.

Louis XVIII had a powerful ally and host in England in the person of Lord Grenville’s brother George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, first Marquess of Buckingham. Religion was the main reason. Buckingham had married Lady Maria Elizabeth Nugent, an Irish heiress who converted to Catholicism. Since 1793 the Marquis and his Catholic wife were at the head of contributors to the charities established for French emigres. Buckingham wrote to Artois in 1807 that only ‘the return of his august family in France’ could ‘return peace to Europe and facilitate the reestablishment of the social order in the whole civilised world’. In 1808 he drank before the King, on one of his many visits, a toast to ‘The true Peace of Europe founded on a strict alliance between the two Sovereigns’. In 1809 Louis XVIII told the Marquess Wellesley, the Foreign Secretary: ‘I consider the interests of his country as inseparable from those of France’.70

The Prince of Wales was another ally. In 1808 he and the Duke of York went to see Louis XVIII at Wanstead House, residence of the exiled Prince de Conde, the first of many meetings, again ignored by British historians. ‘The Prince said that his manner was the most attentive yet most dignified possible’. The Prince of Wales considered the restoration of the Bourbons as a British interest. In 1808 or 1809 - according to the unpublished memoirs of Lady Isabella Fitzgerald who married the Vicomte de Rohan Chabot, and the unpublished diary of the Duchess of Devonshire - after dinner at Oatlands he ‘went down on his knees and promised to restore him to the throne of his ancestors when nobody believed it possible’ - one promise to which he was faithful.71 This promise - never before revealed - is one reason for the Regent’s decision to keep his father's Tory’s ministers in 1811: Whigs’ readiness to make peace with Napoleon was well known. Thus the French Bourbons were a factor in English politics.72

The British government was so eager to perpetuate the Bourbons that in 1810 it agreed, at the request of the Comte d’Artois (no doubt alarmed by the marriages, that year, of both Napoleon I and the Duc d’Orleans, and by his son’s long liaison with Amy Brown), to send a frigate to collect a Sardinian princess as wife for the Duc de Berri and to provide her with a pension of £3000 p.a. The King of Sardinia, however, reiterated his refusal made in 1805, when he had told his brother: ‘it would be to marry thirst and hunger and turn my daughter into a perpetual gypsy with neither food nor a home.’.73

Thanks to the close relations between the British and French royal families, the first Catholic service to be held in Westminster Abbey since 1559 was the state funeral on 26 November 1810, of ‘the Queen of France’, Louis XVIII’s wife Marie Josephine of Savoy. After a five hour ceremony in the French Royal Chapel, built in 1799 by émigrés themselves in King Street near Portman Square, a funeral cortege set out for Westminster Abbey. The grandest ceremony of the Emigration court demonstrated its European connections. The funeral cortege was opened by twelve knights in mourning; the queen’s equerry carrying her crown on a cushion; a carriage containing four dames du palais de la reine (la Duchesse de Piennes, the Duchesse de Coigny, the Vicomtesse de Narbonne-Pelet and the Comtesse de Mesnard). Then, surrounded by gardes du corps du roi, came the hearse drawn by six horses in black velvet funeral gear; four carriages containing the princes of the French royal family; the gala carriages of six princes of the British Royal Family, also drawn by six horses; the carriages of the ambassadors of Spain, Portugal, Sardinia and the Two Sicilies; and a long procession of carriages of British sympathisers. In the abbey the procession was received by the Dean and Chapter; the united choirs of the Abbey, Saint Paul’s and the Chapel Royal sang a requiem. Then before a congregation of 300 the coffin was lowered by twelve Chevaliers de Saint Louis into a vault of the Henry VII Chapel, before its final transfer, in accordance with the Queen’s wishes, to Sardinia. By reminding the public of the Bourbons’ existence, the ceremony infuriated Napoleon I whose spies took down the names of the participants.74

Seven months later, on 19 June 1811 Louis XVIII and his family were the guests of honour at the sumptuous fete for 3000 by which the Prince Regent inaugurated his Regency. The Regent welcomed him, in a room hung with fleurs de lys tapestries and a portrait of Louis XV, with the words: Ici Votre Majeste est roi de France. The British government addressed him by his official incognito of ‘M. le comte de l’Isle’; at court, however, he maintained his royal title.75

As these two ceremonies show, in England, Louis XVIII led a form of court life. The Grand Aumonier de France Mgr de Talleyrand-Perigord, archeveque de Reims, appointed in 1808 on the death for the previous incumbent Mgr de Montmorency Laval, kept a register of the birth, deaths and marriages of the court. In accordance with French etiquette apartments were kept in Hartwell for each member of the Royal Family, including the Condes, each of whom had to visit the King there regularly.

Whereas the King of England had abandoned the habit, the King of France still ate in public au grand couvert about every three weeks – the only ceremony of the old regime court maintained in exile. In contrast to the exiled Charles II and James II, there was no touching for the King’s evil, no coucher or lever, no procession of Knights of the monarchy’s orders of chivalry. Louis XVIII also held receptions, for example in 1809 for all women presented before 1790 and, in a break with tradition, all men ‘indistinctly’. Thus, as with the admission of non-Catholics to the wedding of the Duc d’Angouleme in 1799, the émigré court was lowering barriers. In 1810 the exiled Gustavus IV of Sweden found that, whereas he was abandoned, the rooms in Hartwell were hardly big enough to hold all those who came to pay their respects to Louis XVIII.76

The King continued to correspond with his agents abroad. At Hartwell and his London embassy he kept the enormous archive of his government in exile, now in Paris in the archives of the Foreign Ministry and the Archives Nationales. It was an acquisitive archive; the Queen’s letters to her beloved Madame de Gourbillon in London were seized for the King’s archive after the Queen’s death, as were the papers of the royalist agent the Comte d’Antraigues after his mysterious murder in Barnes in 1812.77

As an outward sign of sovereignty, the King signed marriage contracts – for example that between Lady Isabella Fitzgerald and the comte de Rohan-Chabot in 1809. He also occasionally gave titles, for example making d’Avaray a Duke in 1809, and issued passports and naturalised people French: the great counter revolutionary and pro-Bourbon publicist the Chevalier de Gentz, later Metternich’s assistant, was given French nationality in 1804.78 He also appointed court officials. On 8 August 1809 an unknown provincial noble the Comte de Blacas, already commissioner in charge of the Maison du roi since 16 March 1809, was appointed by letters patent to the ancient court office of Grand Maitre de la Garde Robe du Roi and became the King’s principal secretary and adviser.79 D’Avaray left for Madeira for the sake of his health: he died there on 4 June 1811.

Hartwell functioned as an alternative court in England, for English as well as French admirers. Many came to visit and dine with the King: generally they were of the rank of colonel or president de parlement or over.80 The best description of the court comes from the great Regency diarist Charles Greville, who visited the King with his father in 1812. Having ‘dressed’ (in other words put on formal court costume) at Aylesbury, they set off for Hartwell at 5 p.m.

‘The King had completely altered the interior, having subdivided almost all the apartments in order to lodge a greater number of people. There were numerous outhouses, in some of which small shops had been established by the servants, and there were many gardens so that the place resembled a little town. Upon entering the house we were conducted by the Duc de Gramont into the King’s private apartment. He received us most graciously, and shook hands with both of us. This apartment was exceedingly small, hardly larger than a closet, and I remarked pictures of the late King and Queen, Mme Elizabeth and the Dauphin Louis 17th, hanging on the walls. The King had a manner of swinging his body backwards and forwards, which caused the most unpleasing sensations in that small room, and made my Father feel something like being sea sick; the room was just like a cabin, and the motions of H.M. exactly resembled the heavings of a ship. After our audience with the King we were taken to the Saloon, a large room with a Billiard Table at one end.’ After he was presented to the royal family and ‘a vast number of Ducs, etc.’, ‘dinner was announced when we went into the next room, the King walking out first. The dinner was extremely plain, consisting of very few dishes, and no wines except Port and Sherry. H.M. did the honours himself and was very civil and agreeable. We were a very short time at table and the Ladies and Gentlemen all got up together; each of the ladies folded up her napkin, tied it round with a bit of ribbon and carried it away. After dinner we returned to the Drawing Room, and drank Coffee. The whole Party remained in conversation for about 1/4 of an hour, when the King retired to his closet upon which all repaired to their separate apartments. There were numerous outhouses, in some of which small shops had been established by the servants, and there were many gardens so that the place resembled a little town. Whenever the King came in or went out of the Room, Madame d’Angouleme made him a low courtesy, which he returned by bowing and kissing her hand. This little ceremony never failed to take place.’81

Hartwell had been rented in 1808 for ‘not ...less than five years’, which shows that, at the height of Napoleon’s power, Louis XVIII felt little confidence in a speedy restoration. A letter from Blacas to the King’s representative in Vienna, the Marquis de Bonnay, on 10 August 1809 shows the state of mind at Hartwell after the victory of Napoleon over Austria: ‘I will not give you news of ce pays-ci, many people write to you and tell you no doubt what is happening there. Alas for us nothing but what is sad and depressing, an inaction, a distance from everything which makes us despair and by destroying our cause ensures the enslavement of Europe’. Napoleon’s marriage to an Archduchess in 1810, and the birth of their son the King of Rome a year later, made the court of Hartwell ill with rage.82

However the defeat of napoleon in Russia increased British interest in the Bourbons. On 10 September 1812, after a meeting of the two Royal Families at the Duke of York’s country house at Oatlands, Blacas wrote: ‘it is impossible to show more touching interest than did the Queen and the Prince Regent to the King and all his family. In one word, Monsieur le Marquis, never since the days of their exile have our Masters received a welcome worthier of their misfortunes and their virtues.’ For her part Princess Augusta admired Louis XVIIII: ‘He has a very fine manner and is very gracious. He is a v. well informed man83, speaks English very well and understands it perfectly. He is very large as large as Stephen Kemble. He conversed in a very agreeable manner and generally walks up and down the Room in the hope of it keeping down his fat. His countenance is very good and he makes a very fine Bow without any affectation. My Brothers were delighted with him.’84

Here it is useful to consider Louis XVIII’s character as a factor in his restoration. Except in 1802 he had not despaired. As his Declarations made clear, he was less of a reactionary than in his youth. Unlike Charles X or the Comte de Chambord, he was someone in whom foreign powers and Frenchmen could place their hopes.85 Here are some evocations by those who worked with him.

Lord Macartney, although he disagreed with some of his policies, wrote that he was a man of ‘good understanding, good judgement and wit’, ‘improved not exasperated by adversity’.86 The Marquis de La Maisonfort wrote that he seemed just the same, in three rooms in an inn in Blankenburg, as in the Tuileries. Wherever he was he had the same simple desk with the same almanacs and showed the same bonhomie and erudition, ‘the same calm, master of his thoughts and always above his own destiny’.87

His temporary secretary the Marquis de Bonnay wrote to the Prince de Ligne in Vienna – clearly intending to publicise the King through Ligne’s networks of correspondents and acquaintances - on 5 and 12 October 1803 to praise ‘his temper of an evenness which every day rouses the admiration even of all those who have been used to it for twelve years. He responds to everything, understands everything, adapts to everything.’88

The thousands of letters he wrote in exile to correspondents across Europe, showed a simplicity, humour and erudition unusual in a monarch. To Lady Malmesbury, who asked how he was, he replied in 1800: ‘I am at five hundred leagues from my fatherland and this says everything’.89 On 29 march 1803 he wrote to the Comte de Blacas, who had begun to work for him as his agent in Russia: ‘Adversity is not very difficult to support when one has faithful subjects like you and one does not lose hope of employing their zeal in the service of the state’.90 To the Marquess of Buckingham in 1807 he wrote:
‘It would be difficult for me, my lord, to tell you how grateful I am for your proceedings towards me. I am very accustomed to them, not yet personally, but what touches me no less, with respect to my subjects who are unfortunate through their fidelity. I accept your amiable offer as eagerly as you make it and I will immediately depart for Gosfield [a country-house which Buckingham had lent him]. Happier days will dawn for France, I have the firmest hope, then it will not be one of my smallest satisfactions to say and I too am one of those Frenchmen whom the Marquess and Marchioness of Buckingham obliged in the time of their misfortune.
I pray you my lord to present my respects to your admirable wife and to be totally persuaded of my high esteem and all my sentiments for yourself.’
Louis’.91

To Canning, an early sympathiser with French royalism, he wrote ‘from the perfect intelligence between George III and Louis XVIII should resulte the salvation of Europe.. wherever there is resistance to the usurper there is my place indicated’. He needed a guide in England and there was none in whom he had greater confidence than in Mr Canning. He had constantly found that I alone am not blind (I am speaking freely and this does not include Mr Canning) and I will never despair of seeing all eyes opening’.92

In Britain, his hopes for formal recognition, residence in London or meetings with ministers had not been realised. In London on 19 December 1812, however, at secret meetings unknown to Castlereagh’s biographer Sir Charles Webster, Blacas promised the Foreign Secretary Lord Castlereagh that the King will support ‘the present order of things’. (the meetings were kept secret to prevent denunciations of war-mongering by the government’s enemies in Parliament, and to prevent alienating Britain’s continental allies). Declarations were the King’s principal means of influencing French opinion and in the declaration of Hartwell of 1 March 1813, written with Castlereagh’s help, he repeated the moderation of his 1805 declaration and followed the advice of Castlereagh. It promised union, happiness peace and ‘repose’; the maintenance of ‘le Code dit Napoleon’ except in matters of religion, and of ‘administrative and judicial bodies’ and guaranteed ‘the freedom of the people.’ Thereafter the British government provided the King with the financial means to print the Declaration and to have it distributed on the Continent by what Blacas called ‘devoted servants who can inform the French of the King’s intentions and the King of the dispositions of the interior.’ Louis XVIII always had enough money to employ secret agents.93

The secret British policy to support the Bourbons, promoted by the Regent, Lord Liverpool, and Castlereagh, can be deduced from its agents’ acts. For example in early 1813 the British minister in Stockholm had copies of the Declaration of Hartwell printed there, while a British officer, Sir Neil Campbell, had 2000 copies printed at Provins in mid-February 1814. As early as August 1813 the British government suggested their restoration - to the horror of Austria94 On 16 January 1814 a well informed courtier Lord Yarmouth, a close friend of the Regent, wrote: 'Bunbury is gone to Lord Wellington...to arrange for the appearance of a Bourbon there , and to say much on this subject which Government are too much afraid of Whitbread [ a Whig MP] to put on paper. ‘Despatches from Hartwell to the continent were carried by the couriers of the Regent’s trusted Hanoverian Minister in London, a frequent visitor to Louis XVIII, and personal friend of Blacas, Count Munster.95 The distribution of the Declaration of Hartwell ensured that, contrary to a widespread belief, Louis XVIII and the Bourbons were not completely forgotten in France in 1813-14.

Russia’s interest in the Bourbons also revived. Alexander I employed French royalists like the Duc de Richelieu, governor of Odessa, and future prime minister of France; the Comte de Rochechouart one of his ADCs; and Napoleon’s earliest and most determined enemy Count Pozzo di Borgo – who had known Napoleon since their childhood. The Tsar kept the restoration of Louis XVIII as one of his policy alternatives. He revealed his intentions in a letter to Louis XVIII’s agent the comte de La Ferronays in 1813. He promised that he would act once allied armies had crossed the Rhine and royalist movements had manifested themselves in France: meanwhile he would manoeuvre and wait for the propitious moment. ‘patience, great circumspection and the most profound secrecy are essential.. The moment is not yet propitious.’96 From early 1813 Count Lieven, Russian ambassador in London, and Pozzo di Borgo came to see the King at Hartwell: Lieven had orders from Louis XVIII’s old friend from 1791, with whom he had continued to correspond, ‘mon cher et estimable Comte Nicolas ‘ Romanzov, now Russian Chancellor, to advocate the Bourbon cause to the British government.97 In 1813 an émigré serving in the Russian embassy in London, the Marquis de La Maisonfort published a pro-Bourbon and anti-Napoleon pamphlet the Tableau de l’Europe. It went into thirty two editions in many different languages. Louis XVIII in exile always had good publicists.98

In his letters to Bonnay in Vienna, Blacas presented the King as a European necessity, rather than a divine-right monarch. On 7 April 1813, for example:
‘I can beside only repeat to you, Monsieur le Marquis, what i have already told you with regard to the King’s opinion of the true interests of France. They are invariably inspired by the sentiments of moderation and justice which only a legitimate government can make the French people share…The King will ennoble the sacrifices which are necessary’.99

In January 1814 the last meetings in Hartwell and London took place between Louis XVIII, Blacas, the princes, Lord Liverpool, Edward Cook of the Foreign Office, and the Comte de Gramont, son of the King’s Capitaine des Gardes and an officer in the Regent’s favourite regiment the Tenth Hussars. He had been sent by Wellington from south-west France to ask for the arrival of a French prince. Wellington was crucial in convincing the British government that there would be a pro-Bourbon movement. The Bourbons put forward their popular front. Louis XVIII wrote to Liverpool that the wishes of ‘the entire nation’, as well as the rights of their birth and the glory of their ancestors, compelled the Bourbons to go to France.100 On 22 January 1814 Artois, Angouleme and Berri left for the Continent, with British passports, accorded by the British government at Wellington’s demands. Angouleme went to Wellington’s headquarters in the south-west.

On 25 January, breaking British constitutional proprieties with the knowledge of Lord Liverpool, the Regent summoned the Russian ambassador to Carlton House and informed him that peace with Napoleon would only be a breathing- space. His entire life was ‘a series of bad faith, atrocity and ambition’. In the interests of European peace a restoration of the Bourbons, in whom the Regent personally took ‘a strong interest’, should be proposed to the French nation.101

The Bourbons remained a popular British cause. Louis XVIII’s vision of Napoleon as ‘the Beast of the Apocalypse’102, was shared by most of England. When the Allies threatened to make peace with Napoleon at the Congress of Chatillon in February-March 1814, there were anti-peace and pro-Bourbon demonstrations in London. Crowds cried ‘Bourbons forever! God bless the Bourbons! No peace with Boney, with the invader!’ Even the hackney coachmen wore white cockades.103 This popular British hatred of Napoleon was more important than the admiration of a few wealthy Whigs such as the Duke of Hamilton, Lord and Lady Holland and Byron.

Finally the royalist movement of 12 March 1814 in Bordeaux was organised in part by Louis XVIII’s agents and by local royalists. Coordinated with Wellington’s approaching Anglo-Portuguese army, and the Duc d’Angouleme, the rising realised Louis XVIII’s dream of French royalism emboldened by the presence of a foreign army. The ‘vicious circle’ of royalist inaction and foreign indifference, of which he had complained for twenty years, had been broken. Formerly revolutionary, Bordeaux had become fertile ground for royalism, since its economy had been ruined by the revolution and the continental blockade. In a well planned demonstration, after the Napoleonic authorities had evacuated the city, the Mayor Count Lynch and the National Guard came out of the town to greet Marshal Beresford and his Anglo-Portuguese troops. To cries of ‘A bas les aigles! vivent les Bourbons!’ they tore off their tricolour cockades and put on white ones.

The later Bourbons have a reputation for reaction; but a few hours later Angouleme entered the city, shouting to cheering crowds, more like a presidential candidate than a legitimate prince: ‘No more wars! No more conscription! No more vexatious taxes!’ It was both the only popular movement in favour of an exiled monarch which contributed to his subsequent restoration, and the only time a French provincial city has taken the political lead from Paris. At allied head quarters in eastern France on 28 March Metternich and Castlereagh drank a toast to Louis XVIII and the mayor of Bordeaux.104

Paris, where the Declaration of Hartwell was widely distributed, was also known to contain royalists. That is one reason why allied armies marched on it in late March. Alexander I himself encouraged royalism after he entered Paris on 31 March, promising that day, in a proclamation written by Pozzo, never to make peace with Bonaparte or any member of his family. There were royalist demonstrations in his presence in the streets and at the opera, with cries of ‘Vive le roi! Vivent les Bourbons! a bas le tyran’.105

European politics ended the Bourbons’ exile. Following the instructions of allied monarchs, on 12 April Artois entered Paris in the uniform of the National Guard. The only foreigners present in the procession, to commemorate Britain’s hospitality to the Bourbons and role in their restoration, were Lord Castlereagh and his mission.106 That month Louis XVIII told a young English visitor that he had never felt such joy in his life; but he would never wish such joy for anyone else, since its intensity was due to the end of twenty-three years of misery.

During three days of fetes and receptions in London on 20-23 April Louis XVIII launched a charm offensive in favour of peace and trade. To the Corporation of the City of London, which expressed the hope that France and England would remain so ‘indissolubly allied by the relations of amity and concord as to ensure and perpetuate to both and to Europe at large uninterrupted Peace and Repose’, Louis XVIII replied in English ‘neither myself nor my Family will ever forget the Asylum afforded us nor the Stand which has been made against Tyranny by England, whose powerful aid has enabled my people to speak freely their sentiments of loyalty’ - sentiments frequently repeated by members of his family and household. In a much criticised speech after a dinner at Carlton House on 22 April 1814, he attributed ‘the restoration of our house on the throne of its ancestors’, after divine providence, ‘to the counsels of Your Royal Highness, to this glorious country and to the steadfastness of its inhabitants.’ On 23 April on the royal yacht Royal Sovereign, under the command of the Duke of Clarence, with a loan of 100,000 from the British government to pay for journey he sailed for France.107

In conclusion Louis XVIII’s government in exile was an active element in European politics between 1791 and 1814. Louis XVIII saw European rulers or heirs such as the King of Sweden (in 1791, 1804 and 1807), the Prince of Wales (after 1808) and the Tsar of Russia (who visited Mittau in 1807). During the emigration Russia and Britain replaced Austria and the Bourbon monarchies as the Bourbons’ principal supporters.108 The causes of counter-revolution, and legitimism, were less important than great power strategy. The monarchs of Europe’s letters of congratulation on his restoration refer not to Louis XVIII’s right to the throne of France but to the peace of Europe. As Francis I wrote, with studded lack of enthusiasm: ‘it is with a very lively satisfaction that I see in the fortunate return of Your Majesty in his dominions the guarantee of the future tranquillity of Europe and the signal for the renewal of the former relations of friendship between our two states which are one of the first conditions of it’.109 By their unwavering support in the Hundred Days, allied monarchs and statesmen showed that they believed that the cause of Louis XVIII was ‘that of all Europe’, or as Sir Charles Stuart said that ‘old Louis’ was ‘the best King for all of us.’110

By turning to European powers, and renouncing territorial expansion, Louis XVIII anticipated the strong European and British dimension in French politics and culture in the period after 1814. In this period, more than any other, there is no French history, only European history. He also, except for the moment of despair in 1802, maintained his determination to recover the throne of France. Pride in his exiled government and its European allies explains why, in his speech to the Chambers of 4 June 1814, Louis XVIII mentioned his reconciliation of France with Europe before the new French constitution111 - why he continued to use his exile’s desk in the Tuileries palace – and why in December 1821 he claimed to a deputation from the Chamber of Deputies: ‘in exile and during persecution I upheld my rights, the honour of my family and that of the French name’.112

1 Philip Mansel (2005) Louis XVIII, (London: John Murray), pp. 54, 176. For Louis XVIII’s government in exile, see Philip Mansel (1999) ‘From Coblenz to Hartwell: the Emigre Government and the European Powers 1791-1814’ in Kirsty Carpenter and Philip Mansel (eds) The French Emigres in Europe and the Struggle against Revolution 1789-1814 (London: Macmillan Press), p. 1-27. Mansel (2005), pp. 71-3 return to main text
2 Mansel (2005), pp. 71-3 return to main text
3 - return to main text
4 Ibid , p. 77 return to main text
5 PRO FO 67 /15 Trevor to Grenville 14 December 1794 return to main text
6 Philip Mansel (2005) Louis XVIII, p. 124; Frans Durif, Jean Grassion (eds) Journal du Marquis de Bombelles, (Geneva: Librairie Droz 1978- in publication), IV, 329, 11 June 1795, VI, 300, 7 June 1805, 327 letter of Abbe Edgeworth 17 May 1806 return to main text
7 Wilhemn Bringmann (1995) Louis XVIII.von Frankreich im exil. Blankenburg 1796-1798 (Frankfurt and Main: P.Lang), p. 297 ‘des circonstances funestes ne me permettent pas de m’abandonner aux plus doux sentiments de mon cœur’, Elector of Saxony to Louis XVIII l2 August 1796; cf. Gerard Walter Le Comte de Provence, Paris 1950, Albin Michel, p. 279; Comte de Vaudreuil, Correspondance inedite… avec le Comte d’Artois, 2 vols Paris 1896, II 266 Artois to Vaudreuil, 25 August 1796. return to main text
8 Paris Archives nationales (henceforward referred to as AN) Castries archives, 306 AP30 ‘Reflexions sur le parti a prendre par M le Regent, 1794’ ‘la cour de Vienne considere la France comme une puissance qu’il faut abattre’; Comte V. Esterhazy (1905) Memoires, 387 referring to Austrian ministers who ‘regardent l’abaissement de la Maison de Bourbon comme le plus sur moyen d’elever celle d’Autriche’. return to main text
9 Earl of Minto (1874) Life and Letters 3 vols, III 92; cf. Karl A. Roider (1987) Baron Thugut and the Austrian Reaction to the French Revolution (Princeton: Princeton University Press), p. 88-9; Louis Wittmer (1925) Le Prince de Ligne, Jean de Muller, Fredrich de Gentz et l’Autriche (Paris: Edouard Champion), p. 117n return to main text
10 Gaston Zeller (1964) ‘Les Frontieres Naturelles: Histoire d’une Idee Fausse’, in Aspects de la Politique Francaise sous l’ancien regime (Paris: Universitaires de France), p 107. return to main text
11 Comte de Barante ed. (1845) Lettres et Instructions de Louis XVIII au Comte de Saint-Priest (Paris: Amyot), p. 145 instructions du Roi, 26 May 1800 return to main text
12 West Yorkshire Archives, Leeds, Canning Papers HAR/GC/ 56 Comte d’Avaray to Canning 1 November 1807, Louis XVIII to Canning 7 December 1807. return to main text
13 Comte de Bray (1911) Memoires, p. 219, Bray to Grand Master 30 September 1791; AN 306 AP (Castries papers) 1721 f 21vo Calonne to Castries 6 March 1792 return to main text
14 i.e. Baron F S Feuillet de Conches (1864) Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette et Madame Elizabeth (Paris: Henri Plon) 6 vols 1864-1873, VI, 82 241, 398, letters of Provence and Artois, 8 June, 30 July, 1 August, 31 October 1792 return to main text
15 Ernest Daudet Histoire de l’Emigration (Paris: Hachette), 3 vols 1904-7, p. I 97 return to main text
16 PRO PC 229/558 (Calonne papers) precis de la situation des affaires des Princes tant au-dehors qu’au dedans February 1792. return to main text
17 Feuillet de Conches, (1864), VI, 410, Provence and Artois to Catherine, 29 November 1792; Vaudreuil Correspondance, II 116 Artois to Vaudreuil, 28 December 1792 return to main text
18 AN 306AP 1722 f 88 Romanzov to Castries 1/12 August 1793 return to main text
19 Gerard Walter (1950) Le Comte de Provence p. 226; Friedrich Grimm,(1934) Correspondance Inedite du Baron Grimm au Comte de Findlater (Paris: Les Presses universitaires de France), p. 208, letter of 15 December 1796. In 1795 Russia also asked Austria to recognise Louis XVIII, see Paul Schroeder (1994) The Transformation of European Politics 1763-1848 (Oxford: Oxford University Press), p. 148n return to main text
20 P. Mansel (2005) Louis XVIII, p. 90-1, 78 return to main text
21 Ibid p.111-2 return to main text
22 AN 306 AP 30 Artois to Provence, 27 April 1794. return to main text
23 Roderick E. McGrew (1992) Paul I of Russia (Oxford: Clarendon Press), p. 259-262. return to main text
24 Wilhelm Bringmann (1995) Louis XVIII. von Frankreich im exil Blankenburg 1796-1798 (Frankfurt and Main: P. Lang), p. 255, 283 ; Philip Mansel (2005), Louis XVIII, p. 83 return to main text
25 Ernest Daudet Histoire de l’Emigration, II p. 203 return to main text
26 Vicomte de Reiset, (1913) Josephine de Savoie, Comtesse de Provence, (Paris: Emile-Paul Frères), p. 343, quoting official correspondance; Ernest Daudet Histoire de l’Emigration, II 227 return to main text
27 Comte d’Avaray (1910) ‘Louis XVIII expulse de Russie en 1801’ in Feuilles d’Histoire, January 1910, p. 34 return to main text
28 Paul Schroeder (1994), p. 217, 197 return to main text
29 Philip Longworth (1965) The Art of Victory: The life and Achievements of Generalissimo Suvorov (London: Constable), p. 236. return to main text
30 Hence the King’s remark le Duc de Fleury etant d’annee [as Premier Gentilhomme de la Chambre du Roi] aurait du venir avec nous: Louis XVIII, ‘Un voyage de Verone a Riegel en 1796’ in Feuilles d’Histoire January 1909 I p 376 return to main text
31 (2005) Philip Mansel Louis XVIII p. 114 return to main text
32 Documents kindly communicated by Herve Pinoteau. return to main text
33 Vicomte de Guichen (1909) Le Duc d’Angouleme (Paris: Emile Paul), p. 66 ; cf.
Saint Petersburg Russian National Library (henceforward referred to as RNL) Fund 588, Pogodinskie autographs, No. 417 Louis XVIII to NI Soltykov appointing him member of ‘our Orders of Mount Carmel and Saint Lazare’, Mittau, 13/24.2.1800. The appointment is counter-signed by two court officials the Comtes de Cossé-Brissac and d’Agoult. return to main text
34 McGrew (1992) p. 289, 317; Barante (1845), p. 159n. return to main text
35 See Russian National Library Saint Petersburg (kindly copied by Catherine Phillips) Fund 991, Obshchoe sobranie inostrannykh avtografov [General Collection of Foreign Autographs], opis’ 2, No. 56Louis XVIII to M le Cte de St Priest, Mittau, 6. July 1800:
Je me suis reserve, mon cher comte, la satisfaction de vous apprendre moi-même que je viens de recevoir une estafette du Cte de Caraman qui m’annonce que l’Empereur lui a fait savoir par son Vice-chancelier, qu’il recevroit les lettres de créances que je lui ai remises, avec le titre de Ministre Plenipotentiaire. C’est ainsi que Paul Ier repond aux viles calomnies de ceux qui méconnoissant sa grande ame, soient prêts a dire qu’il avoit abandonné ma cause. Cette heureuse nouvelle ne m’a point surpris, les bienfaits de mon généreux ami m’ont appris a le connoître, mais ma joye n’en est pas moins vive et je m’empresse de vous la faire partager
Adieu mon cher comte, vous connoissez mon amitié pour vous
Louis’ return to main text
36 Philip Mansel (2005) Louis XVIII p. 87 return to main text
37 Wilhelm Bringmann (1995) Louis XVIII. von Frankreich im exil Blankenburg 1796-1798 p. 278; Blacas papers, Blacas to Louis XVIII 26 October 1809, asserting, in the time honoured fashion of French court officials, ‘les droits de ma charge que je tiens des bontes de Votre Majeste’. return to main text
38 Ernest Daudet Histoire de l’Emigration III, p. 338 ;emigre artists and architects included Madame Vigee Lebrun, Danloux, Huet Villiers, Mosnier and Joseph Ramee. return to main text
39 Ernest Daudet Histoire de l’Emigration I p. 223; Vicomte de Grouvel (1947) Les Corps de Troupe de l’Emigration Francaise 1789-1815 (Paris: Editions de la Sabretache) 3 vols 1947-54. return to main text
40 AN 197AP (La Chatr papers) Louis XVIII to Duke of York 11 July 1796, cf. Louis XVIII to Comte de La Chatre 10 July 1796 referring to his sorte de fremissement religieux at reading the regiment’s casualty list and to his desire d’aller au feu avec vous... votre excellent regiment nous irait surtout a meveille. return to main text
41 National Library of Scotland Minto Papers Mss. 11259 f 378 Corps francais au service de S.M. l’Empereur et roi f 334 Etat effectif du corps aux ordres de S A S Monseigneur le prince de Conde, July 1800 return to main text
42 Michel Poniatowski (1986) Talleyrand et le Consulat (Paris: Librairie Académique Perrin), p. 92 return to main text
43 Philip Mansel (2005) Louis XVIII p. 113 return to main text
44 Ernest Daudet Histoire de l’Emigration, II p. 426, III, p. 414 return to main text
45 Barante (1845) p. 141 instructions of 26 May 1800 to comte de Saint Priest; Ernest Daudet Histoire de l’Emigration III p. 468 return to main text
46 Ernest Daudet Histoire de l’Emigration III p. 448, 465, 467, 471. return to main text
47 AN. F7 6255 (papers of Marquis de Lambert) Provence and Artois to Francis II, 6 May 1792 return to main text
48 Ernest Daudet Histoire de l’Emigration II p. 325 return to main text
49 Daudet, ‘Louis XVIII et Bonaparte’ Le Correspondant 10 March 1905 p. 873; cf Antoine Ricard (1891) Correspondance diplomatique et mémoires inédits du cardinal Maury (1792-1817) 2 vols (Lillle: Société de Saint-Augustin, Desclée, de Brouwer), II p. 270 Louis XVIII to Maury 10 August 1803; Walter, Monsieur, p. 344 return to main text
50 Philip Mansel (2005) Louis XVIII, p. 107; McGrew (1992) p. 317 return to main text
51 Comte Boulay de la Meurthe, Correspondance du Duc d’Enghien, 4 vols 1904-13, I 223-4 circulaire du gouvernement russe; Ernest Daudet Histoire de l’Emigration III p. 247 return to main text
52 Daudet ‘Louis XVIII et le Comte d’Artois’, Revue des Deux Mondes 1 January 1905 p. 133n Louis XVIII to Artois 5 June 1797; Ernest Daudet Histoire de l’Emigration III p. 280 Louis XVIII to Artois 1802 return to main text
53 Comte Boulay de La Meurthe, Correspondance du Duc d’Enghien, I 225 Avaray to Acton, 15 January 1802; Benedetto Croce ‘Il Duca di Serra-Capriola e Giuseppe de Maistre’ in Archivio Storico Per le Provincie Napoletane, XLVII, 1922, p. 338, 9 Louis XVIIl to Duca di Serra-Capriola 25 January 1802 return to main text
54 Ernest Daudet Histoire de l’Emigration III p. 251 return to main text
55 Philip Mansel Louis XVIII, p. 106 return to main text
56 - return to main text
57 Ibid p 84-5; Philip Mansel Paris between Empires, London, John Murray, 2001, p. 192 return to main text
58 Philip Mansel, Louis XVIII, p. 119; Boulay de la Meurthe (1907) III 524 -529; AN AE (Musee de l’Histoire de France) I Louis XVIII to Gustavus IV Adolphus 5, 16 October 1805 return to main text
59 AN 198AP2, 3 (La Fare papers) D’Avaray to Blacas, 9 November 1807 return to main text
60 Historical Manuscripts Commission, The Manuscripts of JB Fortescue preserved at Dropmore, 10 vols 1893-1927, IX 445 La Chapelle to Louis Philippe 22 February 1806; Comte de Stedingk (1844) Memoires posthumes du feldmarechal comte de Stedingk 3 vols 1844-7 (Paris: A Betrand), II, p. 369 Stedingk to Gustavus IV 10 October 1807 return to main text
61 AN 300 AP (Archives de la Maison de France) III 16 d'Avaray to Orleans 6 April 1807; Dropmore papers, IX, 443, La Chapelle to Louis Philippe 20 February 1806 return to main text
62 Hon. Mrs. Edward Stuart Wortley (1927) Highcliffe and the Stuarts (London: John Murray), p. 104-5, Charles Stuart to Lord Buckinghamshire, 1 August 1807 return to main text
63 Gerard Walter, Monsieur Comte de Provence p. 218, 221 Grenville to Drake 22 October 17931; Z. Pons (1825) Memoires pour servir a l’histoire de la ville de Toulon en 1793 (Paris : Impr. C.J. Trouvé), p. 340 Admiral Hood and Sir Gilbert Eliot to Conseil General of Toulon, 23 November 1793. return to main text
64 Piers Mackesy (1974) Statesmen at War. The Strategy of Overthrow 1798-1799 (London and New York: Longman), p. 69; Sir Charles Webster, The Foreign Policy of Castlereagh, 2 vols (London: G. Bell), 1950-35, I 234, 238n; cf John Ehrman (1996) The Younger Pitt: The Consuming Struggle (London: Constable), p. 223, 230, 344n, 347 return to main text
65 Barante (1845) p. 213 Artois to Saint-Priest 3 September 1798 return to main text
66 Adam Czartoryski (1887) Memoires et Correspondance avec l’Empereur Alexandre Ier 2 vols II, 32 instructions to Mr Novosillzov 11 September 1804; Charles Webster (1924) Documents on British Foreign Policy p. 394 British government to Russian Ambassador, 19 January 1805 return to main text
67 Canning and Artois sometimes corresponded four or six times a month., see West Yorkshire Archives Leeds, Harewood papers, Canning Archives HAR\GC\56;, passim. return to main text
68 Philip Mansel, (2005) Louis XVIII, p. 146 return to main text
69 National Library of Scotland Minto Papers 13002 f 56 d’Avaray to Minto February 1801, re Louis XVIII’s fondness for talking of ‘mon devancier Charles II’ return to main text
70 West Yorkshire Archives, Leeds, Canning Papers HAR/GC/ 56 Avaray to Canning 1 November 1807, Louis XVIII to Canning 7 December 1807 return to main text
71 Rohan-Chabot family papers, memoirs of Lady Isabella de Chabot, II, Paragraph 150 return to main text
72 Private archives (name withheld) Diary of Elizabeth Duchess of Devonshire 20 October 1808, 5 September 1818 return to main text
73 Comte Auguste de La Ferronays (1900) En Emigration. Souvenirs tirés des Papiers du Cte A. de la Ferronnays (1777-1814) par Le mis Costa de Beauregard (Paris: Libraire Plon), p. 283, 285 letters of Louis XVIII and the Duc de Berri to King of Sardinia 10 August 1810; BL. Add. Mss. 37290f 191 Artois to Wellesley, 8 August 1810 return to main text
74 Vicomte de Reiset (1913) Josephine de Savoie Comtesse de Provence 1753-1810 (Paris: Emile Paul), p. 421-424; Egerton Castle ed. (1896) The Jerningham Letters 1780-1843, 2 vols (London, Richard Bentley & Son), I, 381 Lady Jerningham to Lady Bedingfield 26 November 1810; AN 224APIV (Broval papers) journal du comte de Broval 26 novembre 1810; AN F7 4336B 5 (papers of the Ministry of Police) Etats des Francais qui ont assiste au Convoi de la Comtesse de Lille et dont les noms ne sont pas inscrits sur la Liste des Maintenus return to main text
75 Philip Mansel, Louis XVIII p. 168-170; Mrs. George Jackson ed. (1873) The Bath Archives: A Further Selection from the Diaries and Letters of Sir George Jackson, 2 vols, I p.271 letter of 22 June 1811 to Mrs Jackson; cf. Ferdinand Baron de Geramb (1811) Lettre a Sophie sur la Fete donnee par le Prince Regent pour celebrer l’anniversaire de la Naissance du Roi (London), passim return to main text
76 Philip Mansel Louis XVIII p. 87, 148 143 140 return to main text
77 Ibid p. 152 return to main text
78 See eg RNL Fund 965, coll. P.L. Vaksel, opis’ I, No. 1653Laisser-passer for Martin Petit Jean, priest of the parish of Besançon travelling to Russia, signed at Blankenburg, 2 November 1797; Bibliotheque Nationale fichier Charavay number 48933 letter of Louis XVIII, 30 May 1804 re Gentz. return to main text
79 The letters of appointment are in the Blacas papers return to main text
80 Marquis de La Maisonfort (1998) Mémoires d’un agent royaliste (Paris: Mercure de France), p. 217 return to main text
81 Charles Greville (1938) The Greville memoirs, 1814-1860 8 vols (London: Macmillan & Co.), I, 8-10, 10 April 1814 return to main text
82 AN 37AP1 Bonnay papers; Philip Mansel Louis XVIII p. 154 return to main text
83 - return to main text
84 AN 37AP1; D.M. Stuart (1939) The Daughters of George III letter to Lady Harcourt nd. return to main text
85 Philip Mansel Louis XVIII p. 134-6 return to main text
86 Philip Mansel Louis XVIII p. 90 return to main text
87 Marquis de La Maisonfort (1998) p. 127, 216-7 return to main text
88 Decin archives, Czech Republic, Clary papers 103 Bonnay to Ligne return to main text
89 Philip Mansel Louis XVIII p. 77, 101 return to main text
90 Blacas papers return to main text
91 Huntington Library San Marino, Stowe papers, Louis XVIII to Buckingham 2 November 1807 return to main text
92 West Yorkshire Archives, Leeds, Canning Papers HAR/GC/ 56 Louis XVIII to Canning 2 November, 7 December 1807, 31 January 1808 return to main text
93 PR0 FO 27/91 note of 19 December 1812; AN 37 AP 1 Blacas to Bonnay 10 September 1812, 17 March 1813; Blacas papers Louis XVIII to blacas 9, 19, 21 February 1813 return to main text
94 La Ferronays, Emigration, 338; Neil Campbell Napoleon at Fontainebleau and Elba, 1869, p 94; Webster, Castlereagh, I 234 return to main text
95 AN 37 AP1 Blacas to Bonnay 24 October 1813 return to main text
96 Blacas papers Alexander I to La Ferronays 24 April 1813 return to main text
97 Blacas papers Romanzov to Lieven 3/15 april 1813 ; cf. RNL Mss. Fund 991, Obshchoe sobranie inostrannykh avtografov [General Collection of Foreign Autographs], opis’ 2, No. 57 Louis XVIII to Nikolay Petrovich Rumyantsev, 1/13.1.1805, asking for asylum in Russia for M. d’Avaray. return to main text
98 La maisonfort, Memoires 1998, pp. 206, 220 return to main text
99 AN 37 AP1 Bonnay papers return to main text
100 Philip Mansel Louis XVIII p. 164 return to main text
101 Webster Documents, p. 145; BL Add. Mss. 47245 f 107 (Lieven papers) Lieven to Nesselrode 14/26 January 1814 (secret) return to main text
102 Blacas papers Louis XVIII to Blacas 27 April 1813 return to main text
103 Ludovic de Contenson (1910) ‘Un agents royaliste en 1814’ in Revue de Paris 15 July 1910, p. 320 return to main text
104 Philip Mansel, Louis XVIII p. 166, 167 return to main text
105 Philip Mansel, (2001) Paris between Empires p. 9-12, 15 return to main text
106 Charles Dupuis, Le Ministere de Talleyrand, Paris 2 vols 1919, I 221n return to main text
107 Philip Mansel, Paris between Empires p. 54 return to main text
108 cf. BL. Add. Mss. 47287B f 97 Blacas to Lieven 23 March 1814 avec l’appui genereux de la Russie et de l’Angleterre il ne tardera pas a etre retabli sur le trone des ses ayeux. return to main text
109 Blacas papers Francis I of Austria to Louis XVIII 30 April 1814 return to main text
110 Philip Mansel, Louis XVIII p. 244 return to main text
111 Moniteur, 5 June 1814 p. 617 return to main text
112 A. Forneron, Histoire generale des emigres, Paris 3 vols 1828, II, 124 return to main text

The battle for the holy city, Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore, Weidenfeld, pp.638 (The Spectator, February 2011)

Un adversaire de longue haleine: Louis XVIII et la maison de Bourbon en 1810 in 1810: le tournant de l’empire, edited by Thierry Lentz, Paris éditions Nouveau Monde (2010), pp. 163-178

‘Paris in the Time of Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann’ in The Great Cities in History ed. John Julius Norwich, Thames and Hudson, (2009)

Through Levantine Eyes, Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922 by Giles Milton, Sceptre, pp.426 (The Spectator, May 2008)

The King of Peace, Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace by Avi Shlaim, Allen Lane, pp.720 (The Spectator, January 2008)

Lord Stuart de Rothesay: The Ambassador as Boulevardier
Foreword to Robert Franklin’s book Lord Stuart de Rothesay, published by Book Guild in May 2008

LORD STUART DE ROTHESAY: THE AMBASSADOR AS BOULEVARDIER

The Congress of Vienna was the battle of Austerlitiz of European diplomacy. It inaugurated a golden age of ambassadors. Until the outbreak of the First World War, they had the power to save or select kings, summon fleets, even patrol capitals. Nowhere were ambassadors able to wield more influence - or enjoy more diversions - than in Paris after the Bourbon restoration.

Paris was the capital of Europe, with its best museums, theatres, salons, cafes and shops. It was also a city where, owing to European governments’ role in the restoration of the Bourbons, foreign ambassadors could influence internal French politics as well as international diplomacy. Indeed, between the allied occupation of 1815 and 1820, a shadow government of European ministers and generals, then of ambassadors, regularly met at the British embassy in Paris, in addition to the French council of ministers meeting in the Tuileries palace.

No foreign ambassador was more Parisian than Sir Charles Stuart, British ambassador from 1815 to 1824 and 1828 to 1831 - as Robert Franklin’s excellent, accurate and feeling biography shows. It is based on the ambassador’s extensive archive, a panorama of Paris life, high and low, now in the National Library of Scotland. Born in 1779, a grandson of George III’s first and favourite Prime Minister Lord Bute, Charles Stuart knew Europe from an early age. As a young man he travelled to Stockholm, Regensburg, Saint Petersburg and Vienna (Paris was out of bounds, owing to the revolutionary wars). With an open mind, a gift for languages (‘to me learning a foreign language is an amusement’) and a love of adventure, he was an ideal diplomat for the years of peril during the struggle against Napoleon.

After his first posts as Secretary of Legation and Chargé d’Affaires in Vienna in 1801-4, and Attaché and Minister ad interim in Saint Petersburg in 1804-7, he was sent to Spain in 1808, on a mission to the Juntos at the start of the Peninsular War. Although he took what he called ‘a personal Interest in the Affairs of this Nation [Spain]’, on his own initiative he returned to Austria in 1809 to observe the Archduke Charles’s gallant, if unsuccessful, campaign against Napoleon. Both his flights from Madrid and Vienna he found ‘very entertaining’, he told his friend Miss Berry in London later that year. She considered Stuart, at thirty, ‘better informed than anybody, has seen more and judges better’ - particularly on foreign politics. Another admirer, Lady Granville, would compare him to ‘a good Court guide or book of reference. He discovers what others are about or would be about to a degree that must be very useful to him.’ The British government showed its appreciation of these talents by appointing him ‘Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary’ in Lisbon in 1810.

Like many men of his generation, Stuart led a European life. His future rival for influence in Paris, the Corsican-born Russian diplomat Count Pozzo di Borgo (first encountered in Vienna in 1802), his friend the liberal French prince Louis-Philippe Duc d’Orleans, who received a British pension and proclaimed himself a British agent, and his superior the Foreign Secretary Lord Castlereagh, were European by career as well as background. They were united by a common language, French; by shared aristocratic values; and by devotion to ‘the common cause’ of defeating Napoleon. From 1810 Stuart combined two roles: he was both George III’s minister in Lisbon and a dominating member of the Regency Council governing Portugal, while the Prince Regent of Portugal was residing in Brazil. His mission was to help remove ‘all causes of jealousy’ between the Portuguese administration and the British army and navy. He spent half the day at the Portuguese Regency Council, half the day at the British embassy.

In April 1814 Stuart arrived in Paris, soon after the victorious allied armies. He wrote to his mother on 1 May: ‘The town is very entertaining from the variety of persons it contains; it is full of Emperors and Kings, Ambassadors and Envoys … we lead the most agreeable life. I dine tomorrow at Malmaison.’ He never looked back. Lord Bute had been described by King George III as his ‘truest and best friend’. Charles Stuart would be distinguished, among British diplomats, by his personal attachment to Kings Louis XVIII and Charles X. In 1814 he was appointed temporary British Minister in Paris.

Stuart had first met Louis XVIII in July 1807, when the King was an exile living on Russian soil, at the palace of Mittau in Courland. Stuart was returning from Memel to Saint Petersburg with the staff of the British embassy, after Alexander I had begun peace negotiations with Napoleon. With tears in his eyes, the exiled and impoverished monarch, already a British pensioner, had ‘in very eloquent and affecting terms’ begged his visitors for £15,000 more. Stuart felt ‘as if I had been at an Execution for a week after’. Clearly he was moved by royalty in distress; and Louis XVIII could put on a fine dramatic performance. Four months later the King sailed for England, where his pension was raised to £16,000 a year.

During the Hundred Days, Louis XVIII was again an exile. Stuart’s legitimism was inseparable from his sense of Europe: he liked ‘old Louis’, whom he considered ‘the best king for all of us’ (‘us’ meaning the governments of Europe, not the French nation). Stuart decided, on his own initiative, to leave his post at the Hague, where he had been appointed ambassador to the newly proclaimed King William I of the Netherlands in February. On 29 March Stuart wrote to Louis XVIII’s trusted minister the Comte de Blacas, an old friend from Saint Petersburg,: ‘I am too sensible of the numerous marks of kindness which I have received from His Majesty to hesitate to offer my feeble services as far as they could be useful’, though the King was then a fugitive with no fixed abode. On 31 March he informed Blacas of his intention of ‘anticipating the King’s wishes’, by coming ‘to offer His Majesty the assurance of the unshakeable attachment of my Sovereign to the interests of his Illustrious House’. On 2 April he joined Louis XVIII at Ghent.

While in Ghent, he passed on to the King the advice of the British ministers on how to run a constitutional government. For once they dropped their guard. The Prime Minister Lord Liverpool wrote that, ‘to manage the party warfare as to reconcile it with the safety of the sovereign – to do this the King must give the contending parties facilities against each other, and not embark himself too deeply with any’; ’the true strength of a constitutional King’ was to throw ‘the odium and risk’ for actions on his ministers. For Lord Castlereagh, ‘the surest way effectually to control a party is to employ them …it is a struggle for power and if the King will make himself the umpire and exclude no man for his past conduct, who can be made useful, H M may preserve his crown and bring the system gradually to its true bearings.’ Louis XVIII would listen to this advice – which he had already partly put into practice in 1814 - more readily than Charles X.

Stuart divided his time between Ghent and Brussels – he supplied some of the plate and liveries for the Duchess of Richmond’s ball. After Waterloo, officially ‘attached to the person of His Most Christian Majesty’, he accompanied Louis XVIII on his return to France – as part of the baggage of the British army, as Talleyrand bitterly remarked. (In reality the British army also needed Louis XVIII, without whose orders to French forts to surrender it would not have reached Paris so easily.)

At Cambrai on 29 June, he played a part in reconciling Louis XVIII to his next President du Conseil, Talleyrand. That day Stuart wrote to Lady Elizabeth Yorke, whom he married a year later: ‘Louis le Regrette, who is now become Louis le Desiré, is very happy. I receive kisses and loves from him daily and what is better, very good dinners since we came into this land of milk and honey.’ Only the informality prevailing during Louis XVIII’s dash back to Paris, and his need for British support, could have secured the British ambassador the honour of dining with the King of France.

Thereafter Stuart had the double advantage, as ambassador, of representing Britain when it was both the ally of the King of France and the principal model for French politics, industry and literature; as Madame de Stael wrote: 'England has for a long time been as fashionable in Paris as Paris is in the rest of Europe’. Moreover British troops occupied parts of Paris until January 1816, and northern France until late 1818. From the Hotel in the rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré which remains the British embassy to this day (Stuart had helped organise its purchase from Pauline Borghese in 1814), Stuart reported on and intervened in French politics; helped run, and entertain, the huge British community in Paris (it was said that at any one time a third of the House of Lords could be found there); and amassed a library during the golden age of French book-collecting and book-binding. His duties even included organising the ceremonial reburial, on 9 September 1824 at Saint Germain-en-Laye, of James II’s intestines, before a congregation of Jacobites’ descendants. The King of Sardinia, heir to the Stuart claim, was represented by his ambassador; Stuart did not attend, on the grounds that he represented a Protestant monarch.

Pleasure was another occupation. Despite his marriage to Lady Elizabeth Yorke, daughter of the Earl of Hardwicke, in 1816, and the birth of two daughters, Stuart frequently crossed the frontier between the ‘grand monde’ of diplomacy and the ‘demi-monde’ of actresses and dancers. More than most ambassadors, he liked to walk the boulevards. Chateaubriand remembered the mud on the ambassador’s boots when he arrived at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for political discussions in 1823. Lady Granville remarked that he kept ‘the worst company and worst connections’ and was happiest ‘grubbing about Paris like an old clothes man’. His distant cousin Violet Stuart Wortley, who lived at Highcliffe in the early twentieth century, commented that the letters about women exchanged between Stuart and his cousin Lord Lowther were ‘better burnt than printed’. Fortunately some love letters to Stuart are quoted by Robert Franklin. ‘Farewell my love, farewell to you who helped me to discover the charm of life,’ wrote one admirer. The reality was sometimes less romantic. Lord Lowther wrote in his diary in 1821: ‘The only circumstance that causes Stuart’s jealousy is it being supposed you have a woman for nothing. This puts him in activity without delay.’

Stuart’s private life may have affected his official duties. Possibly his pursuit of pleasure is one explanation for the dryness, imprecision and brevity of Stuart’s despatches, of which British officials were complaining as early as 1819. Wellington once wrote: ‘There is not much in his despatches and I do not comprehend the little they contain, thank God!’

In 1824-8, when George Canning was Foreign Secretary, Stuart was replaced at the Paris embassy by his colleague and rival Lord Granville. In 1825 he was sent back to Lisbon, where he had served in 1810-14, and to Rio de Janeiro as special ambassador to help arrange the terms of the independence of Brazil from Portugal. Stepping outside the confines of his British nationality and career, in effect he worked for - and mediated between - King John VI of Portugal and his son Dom Pedro I of Brazil. In recognition of his services to these foreign monarchs, he was made Conde de Machico in Madeira in 1825, Marquez d’Angra in Brazil in 1826 and finally Lord Stuart de Rothesay in the United Kingdom in 1828. That year, after Canning’s death, he was reappointed to the Paris embassy.

The British ambassador may also have broken the law. In 1829 there was a scandal in the newspapers when his confidential servant of many years, William Wood, was found to be running a smuggling operation, what the Foreign Secretary Lord Aberdeen called ‘constant intercourse between the London and Paris shopkeepers, by means of the ambassador’s bag’. It is unlikely that his master was unaware of his activities, which Aberdeen revealingly described as ‘beyond the reasonable limit of indulgence’. Wood was dismissed. The Duke of Wellington did not believe the ambassador’s protestations of innocence.

Stuart’s second attempt to save the Bourbon throne was less successful than his first. During the revolution of 27-29 July 1830, the people of Paris rose against Charles X’s ordonnances designed to install absolute government, and expelled his troops. Stuart was well-informed, since he continued to walk about Paris unharmed, and to receive regular reports from agents on the street – they form an hour by hour history of the July Revolution which can be consulted in Stuart’s papers. From 31 July, as in 1815-20, Stuart met other ambassadors, in a body, to discuss the situation in France.

Concluding that Charles X had become too unpopular to be politically useful, on 2 August they drew up a joint note advising the King, who was still surrounded by a loyal army near Rambouillet, to think of his own safety and that of his family. In other words European diplomats encouraged the King of France to leave his kingdom. This advice – and the ambassadors’ failure to join the King - was perhaps the decisive moment in the July revolution.

The British ambassador played so important a role in French politics that on 30 July the former British pensioner, Louis-Philippe Duc d’Orleans, had, from his refuge outside Paris in Le Raincy, already consulted Stuart on what to do. Stuart advised him to stay where he was and to remember his oath of loyalty to Charles X. Whereas Stuart’s rival the Russian ambassador Pozzo di Borgo was already favouring Louis-Philippe’s elevation to the throne, Stuart was a legitimist, who considered himself accredited to the Bourbons, as well as to France. Again Stuart stepped outside the limits of his nationality for a few days, and put the interests of the House of Bourbon before those of the British government – and his own career. Stuart told Orleans – incorrectly - that his elevation to the throne could not be countenanced by 'any among the Powers which are parties to the treaties [of 1814 and 1815] placing the Bourbons on the Throne'.

Stuart’s legitimism remained inseparable from his sense of Europe. Stuart feared that the fall of the Bourbons would lead to war with Europe for 'the recovery of the Frontier of the Rhine'. (In reality for the next eighteen years Louis-Philippe would restrain French national ambitions.) After much hesitation Louis-Philippe returned to Paris on 30 July. The following day he was appointed Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom, by liberal Deputies assembled in the Hotel de Ville.

Realising that Louis-Philippe, with whom he was in constant communication, was about to be named King, on 6 August Stuart despatched one of his attachés, Colonel Cradock, to Charles X. The King was at Merleroult, on the way to Cherbourg, where he planned to sail into exile. For the sake of the Bourbon throne, Cradock asked the King to let his heir, his grandson the Duc de Bordeaux, stay in France: the presence of the legitimate heir was ‘absolutely necessary for the encouragement of that Party’ (i.e. The Legitimists). Like a French legitimist, Stuart hoped Bordeaux would reign as Henri V. According to Charles X, Stuart was the only individual who had tried to communicate with him from Paris. Wellington and Aberdeen were horrified. It was one thing, in 1815, to defend Louis XVIII against the enemy of Europe, Napoleon; it was quite another, in 1830, to defend Charles X against his own people. The British government could be accused of fomenting civil war in France.

It was, however, considered impossible for the Duc de Bordeaux to stay in France. The royal family would not entrust him to the Duc d’Orléans or the city of Paris. His mother, the Duchesse de Berri, thought he would be poisoned. Nor would Louis-Philippe take charge of him – although Stuart’s papers show that he might have done a week earlier. On 9 August Louis-Philippe was proclaimed King by the Chamber of Deputies - the logical choice to avert bloodshed and maintain order.

Having compromised himself and his country for the Bourbons, Stuart was bound to be recalled. The blow fell in January 1831. A natural Parisian, like many British ambassadors, he lingered in his beloved city for several months, even after the arrival of his successor Lord Granville.

The principal occupation of his retirement (apart from a brief and unsuccessful embassy, ruined by ill-health, in Saint-Petersburg in 1841-4) was the construction, with the help of his wife’s fortune, of a large and elegant neo-gothic chateau, a rival to Eastnor Castle and Fonthill Abbey: Highcliffe Castle on a family estate outside Christchurch in Hampshire. Stuart loved the French monarchy and its history so much, and had such an original mind, that Highcliffe was the first, and almost the only, country-house, in Britain or France, to incorporate pieces of French architecture and decoration. They included pannelled rooms; bas reliefs, carved wood pannels of the life of Christ and stained glass from the abbey of Jumieges and the church of Saint Vigor in Rouen; and a magnificent late Gothic oriel window, removed in the early 1820’s from the grande maison des Andelys in Normandy and shipped across the Channel - an act of British diplomatic vandalism that recalled the removal of sculpture from the Parthenon thirty years earlier by Lord Elgin, British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. It aroused the anger of Victor Hugo and led to the creation of the first post of Inspecteur des Monuments historiques. Stuart could find such pieces since, as a result of the French government’s sales of confiscated ecclesiastical and émigré property after 1790, many churches and chateaux were being broken up for re-sale as ‘salvage’, by bands of professional demolition-men. The window represented a further link with the French monarchy, since it was said to be the window of the room in which the father of Henri IV, Antoine de Bourbon King of Navarre, died in 1562.

Highcliffe is one of the few commemorations in architecture (as opposed to books or pictures) of an ambassador’s career. Incorporating pieces of French chateaux and churches, facing France across the English Channel, it symbolised that Franco-British union to which Stuart had devoted most of his diplomatic career. Containing a Great Hall, drawing-room and library, an octagon and winter garden, it would be grand enough to house Kaiser Wilhelm II and his suite during a three week stay in November 1907: without realising, he had chosen a house symbolising the Franco-British alliance which would defeat him.

Highcliffe is as Franco-British as the drawings of Count d’Orsay or the books of Nancy Mitford, a frequent guest in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Highcliffe was even more Franco-British when it contained Stuart’s French books, furniture, taprestries, pictures and memorabilia (such as the furniture of Marshal Ney, Queen Hortense’s harp, and a chair embroidered by Queen Marie-Amelie). The 30,000 volume library was sold at Sotheby’s in 1855. Stuart’s papers and the rest of his collections were dispersed after his successors sold Highcliffe to a local builder in 1949. Like the French castles and churches from which it had been partly created, Highcliffe Castle in its turn was stripped of its panelling and some of its wall-sculpture, as well as its contents. Some of Stuart’s Empire furniture can now be admired in the Victoria and Albert Museum. With £800,000, and other objects bequeathed by Mrs Hole, heir of their last owner Stuart’s cousin Bettine Lady Abingdon, it is one of the largest bequests the museum ever received. The portrait of Stuart painted in 1830 by Sir George Hayter, looking like the conventional ambassador he was not, wearing the robes of a peer of the realm and the collar of a Knight of the Bath over his Privy Councillor’s uniform, now hangs in the British Embassy in Paris.

The ambassador had left Paris; Paris did not leave the ambassador. He sold his house at Bure Homage, next to Highcliffe, to a demi-mondaine called Sophie Dawes, Baronne de Feuchères, last mistress of the last Prince de Condé. She had retired to England with her fortune, after her lover’s death in mysterious circumstances (possibly due to asphyxiation for sexual purposes) on 27 August 1830. Stuart and Madame de Feuchères both employed the same architect W. J. Donthorn, although Madame de Feucheres, like Madame du Barry in her pavillon in Louvenciennes, preferred the purest neoclassicism. The proximity of their houses suggests very close relations. The reaction of Lady Stuart de Rothesay and their daughters is not recorded. Stuart died at Highcliffe on 7 November 1845.

Today the diplomacy of the Bourbon Restoration is as forgotten as Lord Stuart de Rothesay himself. Legitimate monarchy is no longer a fashionable solution to international problems. Highcliffe, though restored by Christichurch Council and enjoyed by many visitors, remains a shell: it has lost the collections which commemorated the ambassador; houses come up to the park gates. Stuart’s sense of Europe, and knowledge of France, are, however, as necessary as they were in his life-time. Robert Franklin has resurrected an ambassador with a message.

Paris, Court City of the Nineteenth Century
The original footnoted version of this article appeared in The Court Historian 11, 1 in July 2006

PARIS, COURT CITY OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY

Despite its reputation as la ville rouge, a hot-bed of revolution, for most of the nineteenth century Paris was a court city - thus the principal residence of the monarch, and a city where a large number of the inhabitants served the monarch and his family, his administration and his household, and where political, cultural and economic life depended in part on the monarchy.

Due to the size of the monarch’s household – 3,000 in 1830 under Charles X - and of those of junior members of his dynasty, perhaps 10,000 people in Paris (out of a population of around 700,000) worked for the court. Despite the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 and frequent riots and insurrections, Paris normally contained more courtiers and aspiring courtiers than revolutionaries. It was a court city that contained the human and material fabric for three courts – Bonaparte, Bourbon and Orléans. Furthermore, Paris often functioned as a court city for Europe.

Above all it was its buildings that established Paris as a court city, especially the Tuileries palace in the heart of Paris, connecting the two outstretched wings of the Louvre, and the palace of Saint-Cloud outside the city, which was the court’s summer residence. Between 19 February 1800, when the First Consul took up residence in the Tuileries, and 4 September 1870, when his niece by marriage, the Empress Eugénie, fled it to escape a baying mob, these palaces had as much influence, both in France and abroad, as Versailles before 1789. If they had not been destroyed in 1870-71, during the Franco-Prussian war and the Commune respectively, the French monarchies of the nineteenth century would be less forgotten today.

The numerous other royal buildings and properties scattered throughout Paris, which were known as the Domaine de la Couronne, also provided visual confirmation that it was a court city. They included the palaces of the Luxembourg, the Elysée, and the Palais Royal, residence of the Duc d’Orléans; five royal theatres and opera houses, all containing lodges reserved for the court officials who ran them; the ministries; the royal factories making luxury goods for the court, such as the Gobelins tapestry factory; and the royal museums, such as the Louvre. The Palais Bourbon, which contained the Chamber of Deputies, showed that Paris remained the capital of Europe. Nothing could be more misleading than Niall Fergusson’s assertion that ‘Britain created the modern world’. Not only was French, rather than English, the language of the world until 1939, but it is the semi-circular French Chamber of Deputies in the Palais Bourbon, rather than the rectangular House of Commons in Westminster, that was and still is the principal architectural model for other parliaments. Moreover the Charte of Louis XVIII, promulgated in the Palais Bourbon on 4 June 1814, rather than the English constitution, was the model for other European constitutions, including the Bavarian of 1818, Belgian of 1831, Spanish of 1836, Piedmontese of 1848, Prussian of 1850, Austrian of 1860 and Ottoman of 1876.

The supreme expression of Paris’s municipal identity, the Hotel de Ville, had in 1789 and 1792 been the seat of a revolutionary Commune. In the nineteenth century, however, it was, with the exception of a few revolutionary days, a bastion of monarchy. According to the nature of the regime in power, it was decorated with royal or imperial portraits. In 1814 in the Hotel de Ville the Conseil Municipal issued a violent proclamation in favour of the Bourbons. To advertise its authority, the court paid regular ceremonial visits to the Hotel de Ville (as it had before 1789) to mark occasions such as a coronation, the birth of an heir or a victorious campaign. Such visits generally included a dinner, a ball and festivities for the crowds gathered outside. After the coronation visit of Charles X in June 1825, which included a state dinner, a concert by fifty harpists and a ball for 8,000 guests opened by the Duchesse de Berri, foreigners acknowledged (according to the Prefet de la Seine the Comte de Chabrol) that no other capital in Europe could have organised such a seductive celebration.

The Hotel de Ville even contained a throne room, where on 31 July 1830 Louis Philippe Duc d’Orléans was proclaimed Lieutenant-General of the kingdom. Thus a cadet branch of the monarchy ended the brief independent Parisian government of 29-31 July which had defeated the troops of Charles X during the ‘trois journéees’ of 27, 28 and 29 July. Another monarchical victory over revolution would also be proclaimed at the Hotel de Ville. In a riposte to the proclamation there of the Second Republic on 24 February 1848, the magic number of 7,824,189 votes in favour of establishing the Second Empire would be inscribed in gigantic figures on its façade in November 1852.

Dress, as well as architecture, affirmed Paris’s role as a court city - as, in the days of the sans culottes, it had affirmed Paris’s role as a revolutionary capital. As early as 1801, when he was First Consul of the French Republic, Bonaparte imposed the habit habille, the court dress of Versailles, on men without official positions attending Sunday receptions in the Tuileries: others wore uniform. In April 1802 an Irish visitor wrote: ‘The etiquette of a court and court dress are strictly observed and everyone agrees that the splendour of the Tuileries is much greater than ever was the old Court of France.’ When Bonaparte’s footmen first appeared in the streets of Paris in their livery of green and gold at the procession to Notre Dame on 18 April 1802 for the Te Deum in honour of the Concordat with the Pope, Parisians are said to have exclaimed: ‘Ah voila encore la bourse et la livrée! Oh comme c’est beau, comme ca fait plaisir, voilà qui commence veritablement un peu a prendre couleur … Ah c’est bien c’est comme autrefois – enfin nous reconnaissons notre pays.’ [‘Here again are extravagance and livery. How beautiful this is, what pleasure it gives us! Here is something that truly begins to lend colour to everything. How good it is that things are now as they were before! At last we can recognise our country again!’]

Thereafter all public buildings, and the public coaches which were the principal means of transport in France, were staffed by men wearing the livery colours of the monarch: green and gold under Napoleon I and Napoleon III; blue, silver and red under Louis XVIII and Charles X; red and silver under Louis-Philippe. Dress also confirms that Paris was the court city of Europe. It was partly in imitation of the civil uniforms of the French monarchy that Austria introduced these in 1814 and Britain in 1817. Worth, the couturier of the Empress Eugénie, dressed more crowned heads of Europe than had Rose Bertin, the couturière of Marie Antoinette, or Le Roy the couturier of the Empress Josephine.

Because military, urban and political history are artificially segregated, the role of armies in cities has been sidelined. Parts of nineteenth-century Paris looked like an armed camp, as full of dramatic uniforms as Berlin or Saint Petersburg. The principal barracks of the guard, whether imperial or royal, generally at least 25,000 strong, was on the site of what is now the Musée d’Orsay, near the Tuileries palace. The daily changing of the guard and its weekly review by Napoleon I in the courtyard of the Tuileries were among the principal moments in the life of the city – like the changing of the guard in London today. Even under Louis Philippe, le roi bourgeois, although there was no royal guard, at least 40,000 soldiers were stationed in Paris. From 1814 until its dissolution in 1827, and throughout the reign of Louis-Philippe, the garde nationale de Paris, the bourgeoisie under arms, was on duty at the Tuileries palace. Officers dined with Louis-Philippe and his family.

If architecture, dress and soldiers helped make Paris a court city, so did commerce. At least five hundred shops, probably more, advertised their dependence on the monarchy by placing ‘de l’Empereur’, ‘du roi’, or words relating to other members of the dynasty, with the relevant coat of arms, on their invoices, shop-signs and shop-fronts – as can still be seen on the shop-front of the former royal chocolatier Debauve et Gallais in the rue des Saints Pères. In the absence of the imperial court, Parisian commerce was described as being in a state of ‘cold and languor’. ‘Hardly had Her Majesty the Empress arrived in the capital than it took on a new appearance,’ wrote the Journal de l’Empire in 1807. ‘In 1814 the conseil general des manufactures proclaimed to Louis XVI’s daughter the Duchesse d’Angouleme that ‘the French people more than all others likes to find its models at the court of its kings’. The harm done to Paris commerce by Louis-Philippe’s abolition of the Maison du Roi was much criticised. Even under Louis-Philippe, however, the suspension of court balls in the winter of 1847-8 due to mourning for his sister Madame Adelaide was thought to have contributed, by the lack of orders for guests’ new clothes, to the economic distress which helped spark the revolution of February 1848. No parties, no monarchy.

Banking, as well as trade, dress and architecture, confirmed Paris’s continuing status as a court city. While the radical banker Laffitte encouraged the July revolution, his rival James de Rothschild, one of the richest men in Europe, lent money to Charles X and Louis-Philippe. His banking philosphy could have been resuméed in the words of his brother Amschel, head of the Frankfurt branch of the Banque Rothschild, in 1816: ‘a court is always a court and it always leads to something’. ‘The Louis XIV of the counting-house’, as his friend Heine called him, helped finance the allied invasion of France and Louis XVIII’s return in 1814 and enjoyed instant access both to Louis-Philippe and Napoleon III. His refusal to support Thiers in 1840 helped prevent the outbreak of war between France and Europe over the fate of the Ottoman Empire. As Consul-General of Austria, James de Rothschild formed part of court society in Paris. His triple hotel on the rue Laffitte had a decorative scheme which explicitly compared his family to another dynasty of bankers turned sovereigns, the Medici, and was furnished with pictures and furniture purchased at the sales of the Duchesse de Berri.

Manners and customs, as well as material culture, also made Paris a court city. Parisians regularly attended court receptions in the state apartments after Sunday mass, in search of a nod from the monarch, a word with his ministers and a place to hear news, meet friends and show loyalty to the regime. So many people went that the Tuileries was at least as crowded as Versailles before 1789. In 1814 it was said that ‘un gentilhomme qui ne se montre pas a la cour n’existe plus’ [‘a gentleman who does not show himself at court no longer exists’]. In 1827 Colonel de Castellane wrote ‘because it was Sunday I went to the château’ (as, in this period, the Tuileries palace was generally called). By 1830 the chapel and the salle des marechaux, to which the public was admitted, and the salle du trone and the grand cabinet du roi, reserved for the most senior officials, were too small to contain those wishing to attend the court. The architecture of the sixteenth century could not satisfy the appetite for court life of the nineteenth.

The main public garden in Paris, the Tuileries garden in front of the palace, was a public arena, like the Colosseum in imperial Rome, where by their cheers or silence or the cockades they wore - white for the Bourbons, tricolour for the Bonapartes and the Orléans - Parisians could show their political sympathies; this especially applied during the rapid regime changes of 1814-15. Despite all that has been written about ‘les fêtes republicaines’, the principal fetes of the nineteenth century, when food, drink and entertainments were offered to the population of Paris, were monarchical: the fetes of Saint Napoleon on 15 August, of Saint Louis on 25 August, Saint Charles on 6 November or Saint Philippe on 1 May; and in addition, under the Restoration, the fetes of 3 May and 12 April, anniversaries of the re-entry into Paris of Louis XVII1 and Charles X respectively.

In the literature of the period there is further evidence of Paris as court city. There was never such direct contact between the pen and the sword as in nineteenth-century Paris. Some of its greatest writers were also courtiers. Stendhal was a fervent Bonapartist, who worked in Napoleon’s household as an inspector of furniture, shunned the Bourbon court after 1814 and praised the ‘courage’ and ‘personal talents’ of Napoleon’s brothers. Eager to obtain repayment of a debt of two million livres to her father Necker (and so provide her daughter with a dowry large enough to enable her to marry the Duc de Broglie), the great liberal Madame de Stael wrote in favour of the Bourbons, and even of Louis XVIII’s unpopular minister the Comte de Blacas. Chateaubriand was not only a Romantic genius but also a courtier and pensioner of Charles X, whose entry into Paris on 12 April 1814 he accompanied on horse-back. Until his death in 1848 he devoted much of his energy to writing pamphlets or making speeches in favour of the Bourbons.

In his poems another Bourbon pensioner, Victor Hugo, compared the Duchesse de Berry to the Virgin Mary and her son the Duc de Bordeaux to a previous Saviour of the World, Jesus Christ - extremes of flattery unknown to previous centuries. After 1830 Hugo became a courtier of Louis Philippe, assuring the King that France and his dynasty had the same heart and the same blood. His reward was to be nominated a peer of France, as Vicomte Hugo, in 1845. Alexandre Dumas worked for a time as a librarian of Louis Philippe; Michelet gave the King’s daughters history lessons; Théophile Gautier became a librarian of Napoleon III’s cousin Princess Mathilde. espite protestations of dislike of court life, Prosper Merimée became an intimate of the Empress Eugénie, a frequent guest at the court’s autumn ‘series’ at Compiègne, the director of its theatre and proof-reader for the Emperor. Dynastic loyalty governed many pens. Tocqueville and Lamartine were both former legitimists who by their speeches in the Chamber of Deputies helped weaken the July monarchy. Balzac was a legitimist who sent books to the comte de Chambord in exile with the dedication ‘de son fidèle sujet de Balzac’.

The court’s need for glorification and commemoration affected painting as well as writing. The Maison du Roi and the Maison de l’Empereur played a central role in commissioning pictures and sculptures, as did individual royal collectors such as the Empress Josephine, the Duchesse de Berri, the Duc d’Orléans and Princesse Mathilde. David, premier peintre de l’Empereur, Baron Gerard, premier peintre du roi, Ingres and Delacroix, among others, derived part of their income and inspiration from the court. David painted the Coronation of Napoleon, and Gerard that of Charles X, as well as many flattering portraits of monarchs and senior officials. No works of art, however, affirm more strikingly Paris’s role as a court city than the elaborate gilded cradles offered by the municipality, in a tradition unique to Paris in the nineteenth century, to three successive heirs to the throne: the King of Rome in 1811, the Duc de Bordeaux in 1821 and the Prince Imperial in 1856.

Music in Paris also reflected its role as a court city. One of the first aspects of court life revived by Bonaparte, two years before he became Emperor, was Sunday mass in his own chapel, with music performed by his personal choir and orchestra. Directed by Paisiello, it was said to provide the best singing in Europe, and continued to do so under the Bourbons until the revolution of 1830. Cherubini, Rossini, Liszt and Auber also worked for the court in Paris and wrote music on dynastic themes, such as Cherubini’s requiems for Louis XVI, or Rossini’s opera to celebrate Charles X’s coronation, Il Viaggio a Reims. In 1824 Sosthènes de La Rochefoucauld, an aide de camp of Charles X who had been appointed Directeur-General des Beaux-Arts in 1824, lured Rossini from London to Paris by the offer of a salary of 40,000 francs a year, the post of Director of one of the royal theatres, the Théatre Italien, and the title ‘Compositeur du roi et Inspecteur-general du chant’, with a special uniform. As he said in a speech before Charles X and the prize-winning artists at the closing ceremony of the Salon of 1824 in the Louvre, La Rochefoucauld intended to make the monarchy, as in the reign of Louis XIV, the main patron of the arts: in his opinion nothing contributed more to the glory of a reign. He was the courtier Maecenas of Charles X, as Baron Denon, Director of the Musée Napoleon and the imperial court factories, who ‘knows the Emperor’s taste and the habits of the court’, was of Napoleon I and the Comte de Nieuwerkerke, Directeur-general des musées imperiaux in 1853, Surintendant des Beaux Arts from 1863 to 1870, of Napoleon III.

In addition to dress, trade and the arts, the monarchs’ power and personal interest made Paris a court city. Nineteenth-century monarchs could affect Paris, both by their influence on their ministers, and by their control of the Domaine de la Couronne, which owned the Paris palaces and museums. None neglected their capital, as Louis XV and Louis XVI had been accused of doing. They were more successful in beautifying the city than in staying on the throne of France.

From the moment he seized power, Bonaparte was concerned, as his architect Pierre Fontaine noted with approval on 31 December 1799, with ‘l’embellissement de Paris’ – an interest which, as Fontaine’s diary shows, never waned. He personally supervised the decoration of his palaces with his architects Percier and Fontaine, generally demanding ‘de la magnificence, de l’or’ [‘splendour and gold’]. Even on the morning after his return to Paris in 1815, he made time to see Fontaine. He also stamped his personal and dynastic emblems, N’s and eagles, on public buildings (they were replaced by L’s and fleurs de lys under the Restoration). Street names as well as monarchs’ initials proclaimed the dynastic vocation of Paris. In this monarchical century the Place de la republique was called the Place du Trone, the Rue de la Paix the rue impériale or royale; Montmartre itself was officially called Montnapoleon before 1814.

Indeed Napoleon I devoted part of the money he won from his conquests in Europe – the Domaine Extraordinaire – to improving Paris. In addition to the Colonne de la Grande Armée in the Place Vendôme and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, he began (and often inspected in person) the Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile; the Ponts d'Austerlitz et d'Iena, named after victories over Austria and Prussia; the Bourse, the rue de Rivoli and the Temple de la Gloire (now the Madeleine). Work also started on palaces for the King of Rome and the imperial archives, the university, and new markets, prisons and slaughter-houses. So much construction was in progress that Paris looked as if it had been taken by assault by architects.

After the entry of the allied armies and sovereigns into Paris on 31 March 1814, Paris remained Europe’s model for monarchical magnificence and luxury. Von Klenze, a pupil of Percier who had had been court architect of King Jerome Napoleon in Kassel, became the principal architect of Munich under Ludwig I and of Saint Petersburg under Nicholas I; palaces and museums, modelled on those in Paris, were his speciality. The column Napoleon I erected on the Place Vendôme was emulated, and in size surpassed, by columns erected to the glory of Nelson and the Duke of York in London, and of Alexander I in Saint Petersburg.

An English visitor in 1814, Lady Burghersh, no admirer of Parisians themselves ('so vulgar, such mauvais ton'), was lost in wonder: 'As to the town of Paris, the beauty and magnificence of it surpassed anything I could form an idea of. All the Arcs de Triomphe, pillars etc which Buonaparte has erected are perfect.'41 Another English visitor, Augustus Foster, said: 'It requires to recollect all Bonaparte's tyranny not to regret him; his works and improvements are so magnificent.'42 Soon after he assumed the regency in 1811, the Regent had boasted that he would 'eclipse Napoleon'. His architect John Nash visited Paris in 1814 and again in 1815. In the following fifteen years Carlton House Terrace was built on the model of the buildings on the Place de la Concorde, while Regent Street, with interiors 'in the richest Parisian style imaginable', was modelled on the Rue de Rivoli. Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace were filled, on George IV’s orders, with French furniture and china.

Confirming its role as the court city of Europe, Paris provided both an architectural model for London, and a social alternative to the British court. On the orders of Louis XVIII, in keeping with his desire to strengthen ties with Britain and attract foreign visitors, from 1814 onwards British visitors to Paris were admitted to the Tuileries 'in any manner and at any time that they present themselves.' An incorrectly dressed Englishman was admitted to the royal chapel, while some correctly dressed Frenchmen were barred. One Englishwoman wrote: 'Nothing can exceed the handsome manner in which the whole Royal Family receive the English.'43 The Royal Family often spoke to such vistors in English. At the festivities for the wedding of the Duc de Berri in June 1816, Cornelia Knight wrote: 'The King has given orders that all whose names are sent in by Sir Charles Stuart are to be accomodated [with invitations].’ In some years, perhaps because the Regent held no more than four Drawing-rooms a year in London due to ill health and love of privacy, more British than French ladies were presented at the court of the Tuileries.

Louis XVIII made a daily afternoon drive through Paris, partly in order to advertise his good health, partly to check on the mood in the street. In keeping with the Restoration’s use of Catholicism as a political instrument, his reign saw the construction of churches such as Notre Dame de Lorette, Saint Vincent de Paul and the chapelle expiatoire to commemorate Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. On his personal initiative Louis XVIII also erected the Château de Saint-Ouen, just outside the city, as a memorial to his Declaration there on 2 May 1814, promising France a liberal constitution. New models of the statues of Henri IV on the Pont Neuf, Louis XIV in the Place des Victoires and Louis XIII in the Place des Vosges, were erected to replace those demolished during the Terror. Unlike Louis XVIII, Charles X yielded in 1826 to the pleas of the Duchesse d’Angoulème to erect a massive statue of Louis XVI on the site of his execution on the Place Louis XV – a monument which, if completed, would have permanently culpabilised Paris for its role during the revolution.

The month of September 1824, marking the death of Louis XVIII and accession of Charles X, saw the apogee of Paris’s history as a court city. Most Parisian of Bourbons, Louis XVIII, although skeleton thin, almost blind and barely audible, had insisted, against his doctors' advice, on returning from Saint-Cloud to the Tuileries in time for the Fête de Saint Louis on 25 August 1824. To the Prefect of the Seine’s expression of the city's congratulations, he replied: 'I am very touched by the sentiments expressed to me by my good city of Paris; it knows all my love for it. I am truly convinced that when it celebrates my fete it does so from the bottom of its heart.'50.

So silent was the crowd waiting in the garden outside the palace during the King’s last days that courtiers inside were not aware of its presence unless they looked out of the window.51 The King finally died on 16 September at four o’clock in the morning – the only French monarch after Louis XV to die on the throne. As many as forty thousand Parisians in one day, according to one newspaper, filed past to pay their respects to the dead King lying in state in the throne room. 'Never for any event has such a crowd been seen,' wrote a former chamberlain of Napoleon. A young liberal journalist, Adolphe Thiers, who would mastermind the suppression of the Paris Commune in 1871, noted: 'The entire population of Paris is wearing mourning ... all week the Tuileries has been besieged with people wanting to see the Throne-room.’ On 23 September, as church bells tolled throughout the city, and artillery fired ceremonial salutes, the King’s funeral cortege proceeded through the streets of Paris to his burial at Saint Denis. The Comte de Rumigny noted: 'All the windows were packed and the streets crowded. Outside the city on the road to Saint Denis there was an even greater crowd.'

On 27 September the new king Charles X rode into his capital on horse-back. At the entrance to the Champs Elysées, he was presented with the keys of the city by the corps municipal. The Prefect of the Seine, the Comte de Chabrol, said: 'Proud to possess its new king, Paris can aspire to become the queen of cities by its magnificence, as its people wants to be the first of all by its fidelity, its devotion and its love'. Charles X, escorted by his household and (at his special invitation) by all the senior army officers in Paris, deliberately took a long route through the city to Notre Dame for a Te Deum. The outward journey was down the rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré and along the boulevards and the rue Saint Denis; he returned to the Tuileries by way of the quais. Despite a steady drizzle, he was received with enthusiasm by 'every class of the people'.

The contradictions arising from Paris’s role as both court city and revolutionary capital were symbolised by the Palais Royal, and its long rectangle of shops, cafes and brothels running north towards the Bourse. It was a n nursery of revolution in 1789-92, but after 1800 it became a pleasure-centre, attracting visitors from all over the world; it was called ‘the Paris of Paris’, ‘the rendez-vous of Europe’, ‘the culminating point of the universe’. One end of the rectangle contained the palace itself, residence of the ducs d’Orléans, cousins of the kings of France. After 1814 Louis Philippe, d’Orléans, held a rival, liberal court there to that of the Tuileries: he also redecorated and extended his apartments on the first floor.

Showing his determination to assert his rank as First Prince of the Blood and perhaps to marry a daughter to the heir to the Two Sicilies, Louis Philippe gave a ball for two Kings, Charles X of France and Francis I of the Two Sicilies, in the Palais-Royal on 29 May 1830. Paris demonstrated its role as a court city by the three thousand guests dancing on the first floor and, even more, by the number of spectators, almost as well-dressed as the guests themselves, who packed the windows of houses overlooking the entrance to the palace. Even if they could not belong to court society, many Parisians wanted to look as if they did.

Down in the garden on the other side of the palace, however, Paris had resumed its role as a revolutionary capital. Members of a crowd estimated by Fontaine at one hundred thousand shouted up at the dancers on the first floor, ‘Down with aristocrats! Down with embroidered coats!’ Narcisse de Salvandy made the celebrated comment to Louis Philippe: ‘It is a very Neapolitan fete, Monseigneur; we are dancing on a volcano.’

Two months later, on 26 and 27 July, the volcano erupted. The first riots of the July revolution, against the absolutist coup of Charles X, broke out in the garden and streets of the Palais Royal. However it continued to function as a royal palace. On 7 August, in the galerie des batailles on the first floor, Louis-Philippe accepted the deputies’ offer of the throne of France.

At the start of his reign he abolished the maison du roi, and even the celebrated orchestra which had attracted so many visitors to Sunday mass in the Tuileries chapel. He sang the Marseillaise so often with the crowds in the garden and court-yards of the Palais Royal that he lost his voice. His reign was punctuated by riots, insurrections and so many assassination attempts that the King complained that he was the only species of animal for which there was no closed season.

Dress reveals, however, that Paris soon reverted to its role as a court city. The triple forces of commerce, the court tradition and fear of ridicule were stronger than revolutionary revulsion. At first at the Palais Royal everyone visiting the King had worn the frac. His valets were dressed out of livery, prompting him to mistake one of them for a deputy, and ask which department of France he represented in the Chamber. Even before Louis Philippe moved to the Tuileries in October 1831, however, men had begun to pay their court to him in uniform. At the New Year reception of 1835 men in fracs seemed isolated among thousands of uniforms. At the celebrations of the marriage of the Duc d’Orléans in 1837 at Fontainebleau, only one man wore a frac: the banker Laffitte. Paris had a court again.

Even under the Citizen King the Tuileries was more impressive than Buckingham Palace under Queen Victoria. After one ball in which the entire first floor of the Tuileries was used, Charles Greville wrote: 'The long line of light gleaming through the whole length of the Palace is striking as it is approached, and the interior, with the whole suite of apartments brilliantly illuminated and glittering from one end to the other with diamonds and feathers and uniforms, and dancing in all the several rooms, made a magnificent display. The supper in the theatre was the finest thing I ever saw ... the whole thing as beautiful and magnificent as possible and making all our fetes look pitiful and mean after it.' The Tuileries continued to act as a substitute court for the British: so many came that French journalists complained that an English accent opened all doors at the Tuileries. The first evening Disraeli spent 'in the domesticity of a court' was at the Tuileries under Louis-Philippe.

Like Napoleon I and Louis XVIII, Louis-Philippe was a constant presence in the streets of Paris. An English Parisian called Mrs Gore wrote: 'At all hours, from daybreak till sunset, Louis Philippe may be met, sometimes on horseback, sometimes in a private equipage, accompanied by his architect or a single aide de camp or even alone, nimbly inspecting the progress of the public works in the most remote quarters of the town.' Detailed inspection of building works was his favourite way to relax and forget the ‘injures atroces’ to which he was daily subjected.

His successor Napoleon III not only held the most brilliant court in Europe, but also transformed Paris into its most modern capital - the largest and quickest peace-time transformation of a capital in the history of Europe. His Prefect, Baron Haussmann, known as ‘the Attila of expropriation’, had the right to work directly with the Emperor and planned to make Paris ‘the imperial Rome of our time’. On the walls of his study in the Tuileries Napoleon III kept a map of Paris marked in his own hands with plans for new streets. The putrid tangles of ancient streets around the Halles and the Ile de la Cité were replaced by new boulevards (Malesherbes, de Sebastopol, de Magenta, the rue de Rennes, the Avenue de l’Opéra and so on) designed, it was said, with all the sutbtlety and intelligence of a cannon ball. They had a political as well as an architectural purpose. They were intended to bring not only light, water, and traffic to the heart of Paris, but also, since they were broad and straight, to facilitate troop movements in case of riots.

In part because of its role as a court city, Paris became the paradigm of town planning, from Cairo to Buenos Aires. In the 1850’s and 1860’s, as part of the modernisation of the Ottoman Empire, Paris-trained architects erected palaces in Constantinople for the Ottoman Sultan and in Cairo and Alexandria for the Khedive of Egypt. Squares, boulevards, an opera house and public statues appeared in Cairo on the orders of the Paris-educated Khedive Ismail. The Parisianisation of Cairo culminated in his entertainments for the Empress Eugénie, when she came to open the Suez Canal in 1869.

Such were the attractions of Paris under Napoleon III, that it was said that the reason why his cousin Prince Napoleon, who resided in the Palais Royal, would not become Grand Duke of Tuscany or the King of the Two Sicilies after the flight of those monarchs in 1859 and 1860, was that nothing would induce him to leave Paris. So many crowned heads visited Paris that Merimée wrote that they were treating the Tuileries palace as a railway station. Even Queen Victoria, on her state visit in August 1855, was impressed: 'Everything is so truly regal, so large, so grand, so comprehensive it makes me jealous that our great country and particularly our great metropolis should have nothing of the same kind to show!' By 1857 the second wing linking the Louvre and the Tuileries along the rue de Rivoli, balancing the wing built 230 years earlier along the Seine, had been finished. A statue of Napoleon III as protector of the arts can still be seen above an entrance to the Louvre. 1867 was another apogee of Paris as a court city, when Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie received the Emperors of Russia and Austria, the King of Prussia and the Ottoman Sultan himself, come to admire the Universal Exhibition. The King of Prussia asked for a map of Paris to serve as a model for Berlin; the Emperor Francis Joseph wrote to his wife that he was overwhelmed by ‘the conquering beauty of it all’.

With all these forces pushing Paris into the role of a court city - architecture, dress, trade, manners and customs, the arts, above all the monarchs themselves - why, alone of great nineteenth-century capitals, did Paris not remain one?

There are four reasons. First, by their own excesses, the monarchs destroyed themselves, as the Emperors of Russia and Austria and the German Kaiser would do in the twentieth century. Napoleon I destroyed himself by his appetite for conquest, Charles X by his appetite for Catholic absolutism and an ill-prepared coup d’état. Louis Philippe destroyed himself by his refusal to reform or dismiss Guizot and by his sudden flight when the military situation could still have been salvaged. ‘Ils se sont perdus et ont perdu la royauté en France’ [‘they have lost themselves and have lost royalty in France’], wrote Merimée – and the King’s courageous younger sons Aumale and Joinville, then in Algeria, would have agreed. Napoleon III destroyed himself by an ill-prepared war against Prussia when no French interests were at stake, even though his monarchy had been given new life by a successful plebiscite.

One common factor behind these acts of self-destruction was French, and especially Parisian, nationalism and desire for European hegemony. One reason why Napoleon I refused to make peace in 1814 was his fear of public reaction to the cession of Antwerp and the left bank of the Rhine – territories he had inherited from the Directory. Louis XVIII was dethroned in 1815 above all by popular desire for revanche, the French conviction, similar to that of Germans after 1918, that in 1814 they had not been defeated but betrayed, shown by the look of ‘blasted glory, of withered pride and lurking revenge' on the faces of French soldiers in Paris. Even after twenty-two years of war, and the loss of a million French lives, half France wanted to start fighting Europe again.

In 1830 Charles X lost his throne in part because his best troops were in Algeria; he was trying to appeal to French nationalism by conquering a new French Empire in Africa. In 1831 Louis Philippe began to lose popularity by refusing to accept the throne of Belgium for his son, and, even more, by refusing to help a rising in Poland. War would have made him popular, as his eldest son the Duc d'Orléans knew when he said that the more hostile Europe was to Louis-Philippe, the more popular he would be in France, and 'I would rather be killed on the Rhine than in the Paris gutter.' The principal reason, however, for Louis-Philippe’s refusal to extend the franchise in France was his fear that, given French bellicosity, it would lead to wars in Europe. In 1870 Napoleon III was almost compelled to declare war on Prussia by what Gautier called the ‘delirious enthusiasm, universal joy’ of Parisians at the prospect of fighting France’s rival for hegemony in Europe. It was the most popular war of his reign. Anyone who dared speak out for peace would have been ripped to death on the boulevards. It is nationalism, and the military defeats and revolutions it helped to provoke, which destroyed Paris as a court city.

Paris itself was the third factor. Whereas the Emperor of Austria and King of Prussia left their capitals in times of war or revolution, Paris was so dominant in France that monarchs rejected the possibility of leaving it to save their monarchy – as the Valois and Louis XIV had done. As Tocqueville wrote: ‘Qui regne à Paris commande à la France’ [‘Whoever reigns in Paris has control over France.’]. Against the advice of his President du Conseil the Prince de Talleyrand, who was horrified by the prospect of the King returning ‘dans les fourgons de l’étranger’ [‘in foreign waggons’] at the end of the Hundred Days, Louis XVIII refused to establish his court in Compiègne or Lyon and insisted on going straight to Paris. Charles X, saddened by what he considered the ingratitude and inconstancy of Paris, had considered leaving it before the revolution of July 1830. But he refused to stay in Saint Cloud or retreat to Blois or Tours after the defeat of his troops by Parisians in July 1830. When, after a disastrous review on the morning of 28 February 1848, Louis Philippe realised he could no longer trust his ‘comrades’ in the Paris national guard, he abdicated and fled the country – although, outside Paris, much of it still supported him. No monarch had the courage to retire to Versailles like Thiers in 1871, and then encircle and conquer Paris. The dominance of Paris also diminished the need for a court. By 1870 the Paris bourgeoisie had become so numerous and so rich that the market could fulfil the commercial and patronage role of the court. The Impressionists did not need Princess Mathilde.

The fourth factor which worked against dynastic survival was biological contingency. If the Duc de Bordeaux had not been born in 1820, and Louis-Philippe had succeeded as legitimate king, the Bourbon monarchy might have survived. If Louis-Philippe’s heir the Duc d’Orléans had not died in a carriage accident in 1842, he might have helped his father defeat the revolution of 1848. If Napoleon III had not been weakened by illness in 1870, Paris, like Vienna and Berlin, might have remained a court city.

Nonetheless, even in modern times there have been signs that some of the traditions of the monarchical era are not dead. The role still played by the President of the Republic and his advisers in the politics and architecture of Paris - as in the grands projets advertising the septennats of Pompidou and Mitterand - suggests that, beneath its republican exterior, Paris still has some of the spirit of a court city.

Brussels, London, Paris: The Prequel
The original footnoted version of this article appeared in History Today in May 2006

BRUSSELS, LONDON, PARIS: THE PREQUEL

Belgium is often dismissed as an artificial country, with no clear identity. In fact since the golden age of the Dukes of Burgundy in the fifteenth century, Flanders and Brabant, Brussels, Bruges and Antwerp have been one of Europe’s cultural and economic magnets. The land of Van Eyck, Van Dyck, Rubens, among others, could rival in creativity Tuscany, or the Ile de France. After the sixteenth century this Burgundian, or as it was then called Flemish, identity was heightened, and distinguished from the northern Netherlands, by a shared experience of the Counter- Reformation and of Spanish, and after 1713 Austrian, rule. The figure of the Belgian as hard-working, bon vivant, Catholic, with a specifically Belgian sense of mockery, was beginning to be established.

Belgium first became independent in 1790. The Emperor Joseph II was determined to mould the different nations and provinces of the Habsburg Monarchy into what, with imperial hauteur, he called ‘one mass directed in the same manner’. In January 1787, he replaced privileges and traditions treasured in Flanders and Brabant since the Middle Ages with a modern, uniform administration. Every village fair, for example, should fall on the same day. From the Cardinal Archbishop of Malines down, the population of the Austrian Netherlands turned against the Emperor.

The rebels showed none of the lack of identity of which Belgians are accused today. They began to call themselves the ‘Belgian nation’ (after the provinces’ Latin name) and to form groups of armed volunteers, wearing uniforms, and brandishing flags, in red, black and yellow – the colours of Flanders and Brabant, and now Belgium. In a crucial ‘word-grab’, the Belgian rebels appropriated the word patriot for themselves. The celebrated local grandee and Austrian general the Prince de Ligne denounced ‘this ridiculous name Patriot, once so admirable’.

Patriots’ pamphlets show a vigorous sense of Belgian identity, based on a shared history and geography, love of freedom and hatred of administrative uniformity. One pamphlet claimed: ‘the Belgian nation has always distinguished itself by its sense’, and praised ‘this good spirit which has at all times made it prefer its ancient maxims to systems of innovation’. These ‘ancient maxims’ were enshrined in the Joyeuse Entrée or bill of rights sworn by the Dukes of Brabant since 1356, and the charters of the different provinces and cities: ‘the liberty of the Belgians is lost in the dawn of time’…

Joseph II, in contrast, was hated as a perjured tyrant. ‘La revolution brabanconne’, as it was called, was Catholic, traditionalist and – since there was no royal dynasty available - Republican. Austrian troops were forced to evacuate Brussels on 12 December 1789. On 10 January 1790 the Emperor was deposed and an independent state called the Etats Belgiques Unis proclaimed. It was governed by a sovereign congress, according to a constitution modelled in part on the United States of America. On public buildings the red bonnet of liberty replaced the black double-headed eagle of the Habsburgs. Thus the first modern Republic in Europe was not French but Belgian.

However, it lasted less than a year. Torn between traditionalists and modernisers, it was reconquered with ease by Austrian troops in December 1790, lost to French republican armies in November 1792, again reconquered by Austria in spring 1793. In the summer of 1794 it was reconquered by France. For the subsequent twenty years the ancient provinces of Flanders and Brabant were divided into French departments.

Despite or because of the French occupation, Belgian national feeling did not die. As Napoleon’s Prefect Monsieur de La Tour du Pin noted, ‘le peuple n’est ni anglais ni autrichien ni anti-francais…il est belge’. After the fall of the French empire, there was no desire to remain French. In 1815 Belgium, as it was now generally called, became part of the newly created Kingdom of the Netherlands under King William I of the House of Orange-Nassau. The new Kingdom did not have one capital, like the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. So strong was Belgian sense of identity that the capital alternated every year – with six to seven hundred protesting civil servants and diplomats - between Brussels and The Hague.

If few in Belgium wanted to be French, fewer still wanted to be Dutch. Both in the French and in the Flemish-speaking provinces French remained, as the language of the educated elites, an essential sign of Belgian identity, and social success. King William I was told in 1822 by the lawyers of Ghent: ‘l’usage de la langue francaise est devenu general et en quelque sorte national parmi les hautes classes de la societe’. The King’s attempts to make Dutch the official language of government in the Flemish-speaking provinces were as unpopular in the 1820’s as, a century later, Belgians’ own measures to do the same would be popular. Other causes of the unpopularity of ‘Monsieur Guillaume’, as the King was called, were his conviction that his authority was independent of the constitution; his Protestantism; and his attempts to restrict the power and freedom of the parliament and the press - much inferior even to the France of Charles X.

The Belgian revolution was precipitated by the French revolution of 27-29 July 1830. Since Paris was at the height of its role as the political and cultural capital of Europe, the revolution of 1830 had greater immediate impact than that of 1789. On 25 August at the Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels, the audience was electrified by a song from La Muette de Portici, an opera by Auber. Set during a revolt against Spanish domination in Naples in 1647, it had taken Paris by storm when it opened on 29 February 1828. Although critical of revolutionaries, its most famous song was a paean to nationalism:
Amour sacre de la patrie!
Rends nous l'audace et la fierte!
A mon pays je dois la vie,
Elle me devra la liberte.

The opera captured so well the liberal and nationalist spirit of the age that it had been chosen to reopen the Paris opera-house after the July revolution. On 25 August it was not the opera alone – it had already been played in Brussels before King William I in 1829 – but the timing of its performance, so soon after the July revolution in Paris, which precipitated revolution in Brussels. The audience burst into shouts of Aux armes! Aux armes! and Vive la France! Surging into the square outside, it joined crowds of young men armed with sticks. Houses of Orangist officials and police officers were sacked and set on fire. A civic guard was formed.

The story of the next few weeks reads like a text-book lesson in how to lose a country. Dutch policy, unbending over the principle of union between the two halves of the Kingdom, was weak in execution. After 31 august the King’s son the Prince of Orange, who had re-entered Brussels while leaving 6,000 troops outside, tried to find a compromise solution. Since he was more popular than his father, some considered that he should become King of Belgium. After he left on 3 September, however, the newspaper Le Politique wrote, on 6 September: ‘let us be ourselves, let us be Belgians, let us have our Belgian chambers, our Belgian constitution, our Belgian army, we have the finest and richest country in the world’. On news of the approach of another Dutch army, on 19 September a mob stormed the Hotel de Ville in search of arms and money. In Brussels on 23-27 September Belgians fought against Dutch troops, whom they forced to withdraw; the country had proved itself on the streets of its capital. On 26 September a provisional government was established. On 4 October it declared Belgian independence. That month, invoking the Quadruple Alliance of 1814 and the Congress of Aix la Chapelle of 1818, which had guaranteed the Netherlands’ frontiers and independence, King William asked for the intervention of the great powers. Within a month of Belgium’s creation, its fate had been europeanised.

In contrast to 1790, when the great powers had acted separately and refused to recognise the Etats Belgiques Unis, in 1830 they coordinated their policies. France and Britain were the main actors. Contrary to its current insularity, Britain was then a fully European power. In 1827 it had cooperated with France and Russia to save Greece from Ottoman reconquest. Thus France since the battle of Navarino, far from being England’s traditional enemy, is its traditional ally. The Duke of Wellington himself, Prime Minister in 1828-30, considered the dominant interest of Britain, after peace, to be maintenance of the entente with France. It was English to be pro-French, and to speak good French.

Palmerston, Foreign Minister from 1830, admired the July revolution. In the House of Commons on 31 May 1831, he first used the phrase entente cordiale. For his colleague Lord Holland the alliance between France and Britain was the true Holy Alliance.

The most nationalistic country in 1830, widely expected to launch a war, was France. French ministers trying to please public opinion, worked for the 'reunion' or all or part of Belgium to France. Talleyrand, appointed French ambassador to London in September 1830, declared of Belgium : ‘it is not a nation. Two hundred protocols will never make it a nation’. He favoured the acquisition of Mariembourg, Philippeville and Luxembourg, or more, by France.

However, the new king Louis-Philippe had more influence over French foreign policy than his ministers and ambassadors. Both in word and deed he was an European. Having lived in London, off a British pension in 1800-1808, and later in Sicily he could write: 'I am a cosmopolitan who takes root nowhere and the place I inhabit is indifferent to me...Palermo, Paris, Twick [Twickenham, where he had resided in 1800-08], the Seine, the Thames are all one to me' (the last five words are in English in the original). After 1830, he hoped, he told one British ambassador, to efface the spirit of military glory and conquest in France, and replace it by the spirit of commercial and industrial enterprise.

In keeping with this Franco-British partnership, from September 1830, for the sake of ‘the security of Europe’ Wellington consulted France over the future of Belgium. He abandoned as a lost cause King William I of the Netherlands, although the creation of the united Netherlands in 1813-15, as a barrier against France, had been a British initiative. He insisted that a conference of all five great powers, including France, should meet in London.

Another factor which favoured Belgian independence – when throughout Europe public opinion expected a general war - was the weakness of the other great powers. Russia, Prussia and Austria were distracted by a rebellion in Poland in November 1830 - in part provoked by Polish officers’ fears that Nicholas I planned to send them to suppress the rising in Belgium. All three powers lacked money.

The London conference opened in the Foreign Office in October 1830 – meetings continued during weekends at Broadlands, Brocket and other Whig country houses. The crucial players were Palmerston, Wellington and Talleyrand. As the latter said, with irresistible cynicism, ‘ce que j’appelle tout le monde, c’est vous et nous’. In November an armistice was imposed. The principle of Belgian neutrality, already discussed in the eighteenth century, was reaffirmed. The London conference was dominated by belief in the ‘European duties’ of Belgium and the Netherlands and the ‘common interest’ of ‘the great community of European states’. It was a continuation of the Congresses of Vienna, (1814-15), Aix la Chapelle (1818) and Verona (1822). It enjoyed its own ideology, charter and staff, and its decisions were binding. As so often until the catastrophe of 1914, Europe was a reality, capable of overriding individual national interest. Protocol 19 of the treaty of February 1831 recognising Belgium stated that ‘Each nation has its particular rights; but Europe also has her rights; it is the social order that has given them to her.’

Europe received further practical expression after the election on 4 February 1831 of the second son of Louis -Philippe, the Duc de Nemours, as King by the Belgian National Congress. Putting the peace of Europe before the interests of his country and his dynasty, Louis-Philippe refused the offer: the London Conference – or more precisely Palmerston, the Prime Minister Lord Grey and the Russian ambassador Prince Lieven - had already decided on another candidate, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg as the next King. They had met for a shooting weekend on 10 and 11 December at Claremont, the Prince’s country house in Surrey. The London Conference considered that Europe, represented by itself, had more right than the Belgian National Congress, to choose the first King of the Belgians. The choice of a sovereign was too important to be left to the people.

If the London Conference shows one form of federal Europe functioning on the level of ministers and diplomats, the House of Coburg, a younger branch of the ruling dynasty of Saxony, shows another. Prince Leopold, who was born in the small town of Coburg, capital of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, in 1790, never let national frontiers limit his ambitions. In 1809 he considered becoming Napoleon’s ADC; in 1813 he served against Napoleon in the Russian army. In 1816, he married the Regent’s daughter Princess Charlotte of Wales, heiress to the United Kingdom. He became a British prince with an income of £50,000 a year. Her death in 1817 was followed by a long period of inactivity and travel. One of his sisters married the Duke of Kent, becoming mother of the future Queen Victoria in 1819. Prince Leopold was a liberal who believed constitutional monarchy, not absolutism, was the best guarantee of the stability of Europe. As his secretary Baron Stockmar would remind him, he accepted the Belgian throne ‘to save the general peace and to uphold the cause of constitutional monarchy in Europe.’ He accepted it on condition that the London Conference approved of his candidacy and guaranteed the new country’s frontiers.

Having been elected king by the Belgian National Congress, and renounced his rank and pension as a British prince, on 21 July 1831 he entered Brussels. In the flower-strewn Place Royale, decorated with a throne and a Tree of Liberty, he swore ‘to observe the constitution and the laws of the Belgian people and to maintain the national independence and the integrity of the territory’. Leopold I was then greeted with cries of Vive le Roi! and the words ‘Sire, montez au trone!’ There was a 101 gun salute; church bells rang; then in the words of The Times ‘The King ascended his throne and received homage of all his subjects.’

Leopold I was not only Britain’s candidate for the throne of Belgium. French approval was demonstrated when on 9 August 1832 Leopold I married Louis-Philippe’s eldest daughter Louise-Marie at Compiegne. The creation of Belgium gave France a friendly instead of a hostile neighbour on its northern frontier. One French diplomat considered that it 'guarantees our North Eastern frontier and gives us a defence...on which at so much cost the Duke of Wellington had built a ring of hostile fortresses.' Already in 1830 France was prepared to go to war, as France and Britain eventually would in 1914, if the Prussian army entered Belgium.

Another successful joint Franco-British operation on land and sea led to the Dutch evacuation of Antwerp on 23 December 1832. The final treaty of 1839 secured Dutch recognition of the new country, although Belgians would have liked to retain southern Zeeland, Maestricht, and parts of Limburg and Luxembourg. The principle of permanent Belgian neutrality was guaranteed by the great powers of Europe, including Prussia. Far from being opposed to national identity, in Belgium, as in other states such as Greece and Romania, Europe helped create and guarantee it.

Belgium’s constitutional monarchy worked so well that it began to exercise influence abroad. Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands itself, based their constitutions on that of Belgium. Connected to both Britain and France, the Coburgs began to play a European role. In 1836 Leopold I and Baron Stockmar helped arrange the marriage of one of his nephews Prince Ferdinand to the young Queen Maria of Portugal. Prince Albert later ‘supervised all his studies and assisted him in all his undertakings.’

Leopold I forms part of the forgotten European aspect of British history, which has been just as important as its insular traditions. As uncle of Queen Victoria he was able, like another great European King William III in 1688-1702, to modernise, europeanise, constitutionalise – in one word to Coburgise - the British monarchy.

He often visited his niece in England – staying at Windsor for example in September 1837 when she had just ascended the throne - and instructed her in how to be a constitutional monarch. She should be sure always ‘to express your sincere interest for the Church’; to avoid a breach with her mother; to be firm and resolute and nobody’s tool; and always to praise England and its inhabitants since ‘two nations in Europe are really almost ridiculous in their own exaggerated praises of themselves, the French and the English’. ’To be National is the great thing’. he believed that men were guided by their passions more than by their interests. The Queen loved him as a father and often followed his advice.

His principal agent of influence in London, before the Queen’s marriage to his nephew Prince Albert in 1840, was Baron Stockmar. Born in Coburg in 1787, Baron Stockmar was Leopold’s Comptroller of the Household and Keeper of the Privy Purse. A European in deed as well as word, he had first won the prince’s notice by refusing to give priority to German over French wounded in the hospital he ran during the Napoleonic wars. Always in Leopold’s phrase to Queen Victoria ‘at your elbow’ - he was with her at breakfast time on the first day of her reign - ‘a living dictionary of all matters scientific and political that happened these thirty years’, an admirer of the English constitution, he directed her studies in history, law and literature. ‘Be assured, dearest uncle, that he possesses my most entire confidence’ she wrote to Leopold I on 19 June 1837. After 1840 ‘Stocky’, as she called him, ‘so sensible about everything and so attached to you’, performed the same functions for Prince Albert,whom he loved as a son. In Queen Victoria’s words he assisted in ‘regulating their movements and general mode of life and in directing the education of their children’ – and in smoothing over the royal couple’s many quarrels. At Buckingham Palace, Windsor and Osborne, rooms were always ready for Stockmar. Since he suffered from the cold, he was not obliged to wear knee-breeches at dinner.

Leopold I and Stockmar were proto-Eurocrats. In Britain they wanted the monarch to be a permanent premier above party, with a duty in Stockmar’s words to ‘watch and control’ government action. To a certain extent, as some newspapers would complain, this is what Prince Albert became. In Europe they worked to strengthen the Franco-British entente. Knowing, in his own words ‘’all the proceedings of the King [Louis-Philippe] and his Cabinet even more than I do those of your Government’, ‘seeing constantly in the most unreserved manner the whole of the despatches’, Leopold I urged the French government to ‘communicate as much as possible all the despatches of the French diplomats to the English government’. He acted as a force for peace in 1840 when war almost broke out between France and the rest of Europe over the future of the Ottoman Empire.

Louis–Philippe was so eager to strengthen the ‘entente cordiale’ that he broke with French tradition and married four of his children to Protestants – all Coburgs. Queen Victoria came to love what she called ‘the dear French family’, to which she was linked by so many marriages. At Leopold’s instigation she visited them at the Chateau d’Eu on the Normandy coast in 1843, while Louis- Philippe visited her at Windsor in 1844.

Even Prussia might have been Coburgised, or Belgianised, through the well-tried method of a royal marriage. In 1858 Victoria and Albert’s eldest daughter Vicky married the heir to the throne of Prussia Prince Frederick William. Victoria, Albert and Leopold I hoped that the young couple would help the transformation of Prussia into a constitutional monarchy like Britain or Belgium. Vicky was given as her Private Secretary, Stockmar’s son Ernest, who soon became her husband’s principal political adviser. The tragedy was that Frederick William died in 1888 after only months on the throne; while his son Wilhelm II’s Hohenzollern genes outweighed his Coburg inheritance. Or rather the latter was eradicated by Bismarck and the prince’s Prussian military tutors – apprehensive of any suggestion of Coburg or British influence. ‘If only Willy would cling to dear Stockmar like we do’, wrote his mother: instead he acquired what she called ‘the simple views of a lieutenant’. Those ‘simple views of a lieutenant’ were evident in August 1914. Regarding the treaty of 1839 guaranteeing Belgian neutrality as a ‘scrap of paper’, Germany invaded Belgium in order to attack France. Britain therefore entered the First World War.

If the Coburgs lost Prussia, however, they kept Britain and Belgium. If we look to the past as a guide to the future, we find that Europoe has functioned as an effective political force, guaranteeing national identities and freedoms. Long before Britain joined the European Union, Europe was in London, in Buckingham Palace, in the Foreign Office, in Parliament and the City, as well as in English history and culture. Europe is behind us as well as in front of us.

Introduction to Three Kings in Baghdad: The Tragedy of Iraq’s Monarchy by Gerald de Gaury, I. B. Tauris (2007)

Introduction to A Girl in Paris: A Persian Encounter with the West by Shusha Guppy, Tauris Parke Paperbacks (2007)

The Viennese charades, Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna by Adam Zamoyski, Harper Press, pp.634 (The Spectator, June 2007)

Obituary of Lesley Blanch (1904-2007), The Independent (15 May 2007)

The Prince and the Fuhrer, Royals and the Reich by Jonathan Petropoulos, Oxford, pp.524 (August 2006)

‘Paris, Court City of the Nineteenth Century’, The Court Historian, vol. xi, no. 1 (July 2006)

‘Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century’ in Historic Paris Walks, edited by Leo Hollis, Cadogan Guides (2006), pp. 122-134

‘Cultivez vos Scripta: les Archives Privées de France’ in AFPAP, Cahiers de l’Association française des Archives Privées de France, I (2006), pp. 23-33

‘The Last Caliph and his Daughter’ in Meetings with Remarkable Muslims, edited by Barnaby Rogerson, Eland Books (2005), pp. 290-7

‘The French Renaissance in Search of the Ottoman Empire’ in Re-Orienting the Renaissance: Cultural Exchanges with the East, edited by Gerald Maclean, Palgrave Macmillan (2005), pp. 96-107

Introduction to Pierre Loti: Travels with the Legendary Romantic by Lesley Blanch, I.B. Tauris (2004), pp. 5-8

Power behind the scenes, John 3rd Earl of Bute: Patron and Collector by Francis Russell, Francis Russell, pp.279 (The Spectator, August 2004)

Overbearing and undermining, Lord Cromer by Roger Owen, OUP, pp.436 (The Spectator, March 2004)

From Constantinople to Cairo: Ottoman Inaugurations and their Successors
from The Court Historian Volume 9, No. 1 (July 2004)

From Constantinople to Cairo: Ottoman Inaugurations and their Successors

Islam is a religion with few rituals, no sacraments and no priesthood. As a result monarchical inaugurations in Muslim countries have, with one exception, been far simpler than in Christian monarchies. There was no anointing, no reception of the monarch into holy orders, no coronation, no oath-taking, no acclamations by the people – such as made the coronation of the Muslim caliph’s most powerful neighbour, the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople, and those of western monarchs, protracted and elaborate ceremonies.

Muslim inaugurations were primarily political and military events. The principal ceremony at the inaugurations of caliphs in Damascus and Baghdad was an act of physical homage – obeissance or kissing of the caliph’s hand or the hem of his robe, first by senior officials and officers, then by members of the general public. This act, which both recognised sovereignty and affirmed loyalty, was called bay’at.

The most detailed accounts of an Islamic inauguration come from the most enduring of Islamic empires, which was also part of the diplomatic system of Europe, namely the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman inauguration consisted of five processes: enthronement; relic-association; homage; sword -girding; ancestor- reverence.

First enthronement. This was a pre-Islamic Turkish or Persian ceremony; there was no Arab or Islamic tradition of thrones and enthronement.1 The Ottoman sultan was not considered truly Sultan until he was seated on what Ottoman chroniclers called ‘the throne of felicity’, ‘the throne residence of the world’ in his palace in Constantinople. Possession of the gilded and bejewelled imperial throne, which can still be admired in Topkapi palace in Constantinople today, indicated that he had the blessing of God. In 1603 the accession of Ahmed I, in 1648 the accession of Mehmed IV, organised by factions within the imperial household and harem, were signified by the unexpected appearance of the new Sultan seated on the throne in the gate of felicity – the gate preceding the throne room, in the third court-yard of the palace, where the throne now is. In the first case the viziers and ulama had expected to see his father Mehmed III, of whose death they were unaware. In the second case, the Sultan’s grandmother Kosem Sultan, the real power behind the throne for many years, having deposed her son Ibrahim, showed the new Sultan, her seven year old grandson Mehmed IV, wearing an appropriate turban, sitting on the imperial throne. She is said to have told the viziers, ‘Here he is! See what you can do with him!’ and then withdrawn.2

After 1453 the enthronement ceremony had to take place in Constantinople in the imperial palace – hence the mad dash, by rivals to the throne, to seize the palace, after the death or deposition of a sultan, in 1512, 1520 and 1566.3 In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, however, the imperial palace in the old Ottoman capital of Edirne, north west of Constantinople, which functioned as the Ottoman Empire’s second city, assumed a similar role as a symbol and guarantee of sovereignty.4

Linked to the Ottoman enthronement ritual was a process of what can be called ‘relic association’. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Ottoman Empire was becoming more consciously Islamic, modelling itself more closely on what it knew of the traditions of the early Islamic caliphate. After Mecca had recognised Ottoman sovereignty in 1517, relics of the prophet Mohammed had been taken to Constantinople, and housed in a special chamber in the palace next to the imperial apartments and the throne-room – where they can still be seen today. In the seventeenth century they were introduced into the Sultan’s inauguration ritual, in order to assert more vehemently that the Ottoman Empire was a Muslim caliphate like the others – a fact of which even Ottoman viziers had doubt, since the House of Osman, of Turkish stock, did not fulfil an elementary requirement of caliphal rank, namely descent from the Prophet. The Ottoman Sultan gave thanks for his accession in the relic chamber and asked for God’s blessing before his installation on the imperial throne. In 1617 the Sultan Mustafa I, like later Sultans, put on the turban of the third caliph, Omar, saying ‘praise be to God O Lord who has judged such a feeble slave worthy of this post’.5 The sword and the cloak of the prophet were also venerated, or worn, on the enthronement day, for example in 1789 by Selim III.6 Possession of the prophet Mohammed’s relics increased the Ottoman dynasty’s aura of sanctity, as possession of the ‘holy shroud’ alleged to be of Jesus Christ himself, in a chapel in the royal palace in Turin, increased the prestige of the House of Savoy.7

The third and most important process in the Ottoman inauguration was the ceremony of bay’at or performance of homage: under the Ottoman dynasty it was, like the empire itself, more codified, elitist and official than in other Islamic monarchies, or in the Byzantine empire.8 At different moments officials kissed the Sultan’s hand, his feet, the dust at his feet, the hem of his robe, or at the end of the empire, the cloth which covered the throne, held by a chamberlain.9 Generally speaking, the first to perform homage, pray for and acclaim the new Sultan were the pages of the sacred chamber, followed by the chavush or ushers. They were followed by the viziers, the ulama or learned men of the empire; court officials10; judges; and officers of the elite corps of Janissaries. The people was excluded.

In accordance with the late Islamicisation of the empire, in order to make it resemble a Muslim caliphate, from the accession of Suleyman II in 1687 the syndic of the corps of descendants of the Prophet, known as the nakib al ashraf generally took first place in paying homage11, kissing the hem of the sultan’s robe, then praying for his prosperity. The bay’at was a critical moment in sovereignty transfer. If a new bay’at was performed to a new sultan, the previous bay’at to the previous sultan was automatically annulled.12

In a conference on coronations it is easy to over-emphasise religion and ceremony and to forget the military basis of monarchy. At all times in all monarchies there were people who realised that, as Voltaire said around 1735, ‘God is on the side of the big battalions, or at least of those which fire best.’13 The English version of this remark was uttered on 20 October 1714, when the Archbishop of Canterbury asked the congregation in Westminster Abbey whether it accepted the newly crowned George I as lawful King. The former mistress of James II, the Countess of Dorchester remarked: ‘Does the old Fool think that anybody here will say no to his question, when there are so many drawn swords?’14 ‘Drawn swords’, that is to say loyal, well-paid, effective troops, were the indispensable foundations of coronations and inaugurations. No soldiers, no coronation. When the claim of the first Fatimid ruler of Egypt to be Caliph, and his alleged descent from the Prophet, were questioned, he drew his sword and declared ‘Here is my lineage’.15

The military basis of the Ottoman Empire was clearly expressed at the bay’at ceremony for Selim II, son of Suleyman the Magnificent, in 1566. The empire was at the height of its power, stretching from Algeria to Azerbaijan, from Hungary to Yemen. However the sultan was afraid of his own troops. Mehmet Sokollu Pasha, possibly the greatest grand vizier in Ottoman history, insisted that the new sultan Selim II, having held had one enthronement and bay’at ceremony in the palace in Constantinople, hold a second at army headquarters outside Belgrade. The purpose was, according to the chronicler Solakzade, to let ‘your slaves the pillars of the state to prostrate themselves each according to usage before the foot of throne of the sultanate, then that the class of koul [slaves] hear from your august and sacred mouth the words of gifts and augmentations in conformity with the law applied since ancient times by your great august ancestors.’

In other words even the son of Suleyman the Magnificent was not truly sultan until he had publicly proclaimed his dependence on, and promised larger gifts of money to, the janissaries. When Selim II did not follow this advice, the janissaries rioted and shouted: ‘there has been no question of the respect which is due to us nor of gifts and augmentations. What does this mean?’ They speak of respect to themselves not the sultan. Selim II would be physically prevented from entering the imperial palace in Istanbul until he had promised further largesse to his Janissaries. He had to buy his way into his own palace.16

The fourth process in the Ottoman inauguration took place at the mosque of Eyub, a religio-dynastic shrine just outside the city walls, the Ottoman version of the abbeys of Saint-Denis or Westminster. Indeed it is still the most popular Muslim shrine in Turkey today, attracting thousands of Muslim pilgrims. The new sultan went there in the imperial barge up the Golden Horn from the imperial palace. Before the tomb chamber of the companion of the Prophet and Islamic warrior saint, Abu Ayyub, whose grave had been miraculously rediscovered by Mehmed the Conqueror soon after his conquest of Constantinople, the new Sultan was girded with the sword of Osman the first Ottoman Sultan, allegedly a gift from the last Seljuk Sultan of Rum. This was an invented tradition, first definitely recorded at the accession of Selim II, in 1566, although probably long in practise. Clearly the motive was to legitimise and sanctify the Ottoman conquest of the city only a hundred years before, and to raise the prestige of the dynasty by association with the religious nimbus of Abu Ayyub and the Prophet.17 Another motive may have been to compete with western inaugurations. Many western monarchs had swords put on them during their coronation or inauguration, and some Ottoman sultans did feel a sense of competition with their fellow-monarchs: Suleyman the Magnificent had been keen to outshine the splendour of the Emperor Charles V’s coronation at Bologna in 1530.

It was a ceremony to which few were admitted. At first the Sultan girded on the Sword of Osman himself. Subsequently the choice of official to place the sword in the belt round the Sultan’s waist reflected changes in the Ottoman power structure. Sometimes it was the senior religious official of the empire, the Mufti of Constantinople; in 1687, for the first time, he was assisted by the Aga of the Janissaries – representing the most powerful, disobedient and popular of military units.18 The Mevlevi order of dervishes was associated with religious openness and tolerance; and the Sheikh of the Mevlevis always performed the ceremony, from the girding of the most radical of Ottoman sultans Mahmud II in 1808, until that of the last sultan Mehmed VI, in 1918.19

Perhaps the most original aspect of the Ottoman inauguration, again beginning in 1566 was the new sultan’s return from Eyyub, on horse-back through the city, praying and distributing alms at the tombs of his ancestors, in the mosques they had built and named after themselves, namely the mosques of Fatih Mehmed II, Selim I and later Mahmud II.20 Since they were deliberately erected on the most prominent hills of Constantinople, this process of ancestor veneration was a symbolic reaffirmation of the dynasty’s sovereignty in space as well as time, throughout the coveted imperial capital.21

Contemporary observers and politicians, as well as subsequent historians, were able to deconstruct, the Ottoman imperial inauguration’s component parts. Such was the dynasty’s prestige that even after the empire’s defeat in World War I, the great war leader Mustafa Kemal could not liquidate it overnight, as happened to Romanovs, Habsburgs and Hohenzollerns. After the flight of the last sultan Mehmed VI, doomed by his reliance on the British Empire, on 17 November 1922, his cousin Abdulmecid II was inaugurated on 29 November 1922. However Mustafa Kemal ensured that this final ceremony was only a demi-investiture as Caliph, not Sultan. Any ceremonial which implied sovereignty or political power, as opposed to religious authority, was eliminated.

The new caliph, who had accepted his position only under duress, did not go to Eyyub to be girded with the sword of Osman. Nor did he wear uniform or sit on the Ottoman imperial throne. In white tie and tails he received homage standing in front of the throne, then went to pray before the tombs of his ancestors in the mosques of Mehmed II, Selim I and Mahmud II. Applause accompanied him all the way. Far from preventing, this probably encouraged his expulsion on Kemal’s orders, with the rest of the dynasty one and a half years later, on 4 March 1924.22

The traditions of Islam were faced with the realities of modern constitutional monarchy in the successor states of the Ottoman Empire, most of which received written constitutions based on that of Belgium. The new monarchies often had crowns stamped on their printed documents; but they were symbols of monarchy, never physical objects. Royal inaugurations were primarily parliamentary and constitutional occasions. When the young King Farouk of Egypt, then a popular idol, ascended the throne in 1936, some politicians wanted a bay’at in traditional mode in a royal palace. However the prime minister was Nahas Pasha, leader of the secular constitutional party the Wafd, many of whose members were Copts. After considerable discussion between sheikhs and ministers, on 29 July 1937 King Farouk swore, on the Koran, to uphold the Egyptian constitution, sitting on a throne in the Chamber of Deputies: ‘I swear by Allah that I will respect the constitution, the laws of the Egyptian nation and will uphold the independence of the country.’23 The main ceremonial aspect of the day was the grandiose procession from the palace to the parliament.

In Iraq the inauguration of a monarch was also a constitutional ceremony. Within a few weeks of his arrival in the country, the British protégé Faisal I had been declared King of Iraq at 6 am on the morning of 23 August 1921 in a ceremony in the old governor’s palace in Baghdad, in stifling heat, by the reading of a – completely mendacious – proclamation written by the British High Commissioner, stating that 96% of the country wanted Faisal as King. Faisal then read a speech saying: ‘the whole country is my party’, and he was acclaimed as king.24 Since there was no Iraqi national anthem, the band played God save the King.25

Thirty-two years later, on 2 May 1953, however, his grandson Faisal II celebrated his inauguration as King of Iraq by taking an oath to the constitution in the parliament, receiving the congratulations of thirty foreign delegations, politicians and notables and by holding a military parade. ‘The people of Baghdad was in a seventh heaven of happiness,’ wrote Gerald de Gaury – but five years later during a military coup the King and most of his family were murdered.26 As in the Ottoman Empire, the key factor in deciding the fate of modern regimes in the Middle East was, and is, the army.

The one Muslim country with grandiose coronation ceremonies, magnificent crowns and one of the oldest monarchical traditions in the world, dating from the sixth century B.C., which had itself strongly influenced those of the Macedonian and Roman empires, was Iran. This monarchical tradition resurfaced under the Qajar dynasty in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. On 21 October 1848, at the astrologically auspicious hour, Nasser-al-din Shah sat in state on the marble throne in the Gulestan place in Tehran, wearing a crown modelled on pre-Islamic patterns ‘and all the insignia of royalty’ and received the homage of his officials.27 On 9 January 1907, attended by ministers, princes, and tribal dignitaries, in the museum of the Gulestan palace in Tehran, his grandson Mohammed Ali Qajar was crowned Shahanshah or Shah of Shahs, by the grand vizier. Mullahs recited passages from the Koran in praise of King David – who was a model for Muslim as well as Christian monarchs. The ceremony ended with prayers for the ‘sultan, son of the sultan, son of the sultan, Mohammed Ali Shah.’28

The tradition of Iranian coronations continued under the Pahlavi dynasty. Reza Shah crowned himself on 16 December 1925, with the newly created Pahlavi crown, at a ceremony which the British embassy and British guests such as Vita Sackville-West had helped.29 No Iranian coronation was more magnificent, than that of Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and his empress on 26 October 1967. The Shah had waited until twenty-six years after his accession, on the grounds that he did not wish to be crowned until Iran had become prosperous. After prayers intoned by an Imam, the Shah crowned his wife, (with a crown specially made for her in Paris) as well as himself, thereby appearing to confirm that the Pahlavi dynasty was destined to inaugurate a new and progressive era for Iran.30 This monarchical tradition is just as central to, and characteristic of, the history of Iran as the current religious regime.

1 Nicolas Vatin et Gilles Veinstein, Le serail ebranlé. Essai sur les morts, depositions et avenements des sultans ottomans, XIVe -XIX et siècles, 2003, p. 304 return to main text
2 Vatin et Veinstein, pp. 259, 261; Colin Imber, The Ottoman Empire, 2003, p 115; Philip Mansel, Constantinople: City of the World’s Desire 1453-1924, 1995, p. 99 return to main text
3 Vatin et Veinstein p. 263 return to main text
4 Vatin et Veinstein pp. 263, 266 return to main text
5 ibid pp. 292-3 return to main text
6 ibid p. 295-6 return to main text
7 Encyclopedia of Islam, art. Khil’a return to main text
8 Encyclopedia of Islam, art. bay’at; Vatin et Veinstein p. 270 return to main text
9 ibid p. 272 return to main text
10 ibid pp. 275, 277, 301 return to main text
11 ibid pp. 287-8 return to main text
12 ibid p. 305 return to main text
13 The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 19 p. 716 return to main text
14 Mary Countess Cowper, Diary, p. 5 return to main text
15 Max Rodenbeck, Cairo the City Victorious, 1998, p. 68 return to main text
16 Vatin et Veinstein, pp. 282-4; Mansel, Constantinople, p. 222 return to main text
17 F.W. Hasluck, Christianity and Islam under the Sultans, 2 vols 1925, II, 604, 611; I. Mouradgea d’Ohsson, Tableau general de l’empire othoman, 3 vols 1787-1820, I 305 return to main text
18 Vatin et Veinstein, pp. 311-312 return to main text
19 ibid p. 319 return to main text
20 Vatin et Veinstein p. 307; Imber p. 117 return to main text
21 Vatin et Veinstein p. 308 return to main text
22 Mansel Constantinople, pp. 409-413 return to main text
23 Mansel, Sultans in Splendour, 1988, p. 166; Hugh McLeave, The Last Phaoroah, 1964, p. 80; Barrie St Clair McBride, Farouk of Egypt, 1969, pp. 86-88 return to main text
24 ibid p. 130 and illustration return to main text
25 H V F Winstone Gertrude Bell, 1980 ed p. 241 return to main text
26 Gerald de Gaury Three Kings in Baghdad, 1961 p. 169-170 return to main text
27 Abbas Amanat, Pivot of the Universe: Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar and the Iranian Monarchy 1831-1896, 1997, p. 100 return to main text
28 Mansel, Sultans in Splendour, pp. 79-80 return to main text
29 ibid p. 148 return to main text
30 Lesley Blanch, Farah Shahbanou of Iran, 1978, pp. 121-127 return to main text

Courtiers and communists, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, pp.693 (The Spectator, July 2003)

‘Istanbul: Europe’s Muslim Capital’, History Today, Vol. 53(6) (June 2003), pp 20-27

‘The Jewel in the Crown of the Padishah’, introduction to Beirut & the Sultan: 200 photographs from the albums of Abdul Hamid, Éditions Terre du Liban, Beirut (December 2002), pp 15-17

Who wore the royal trousers?, The Fall of the French Monarchy by Munro Price, Pan Macmillan, pp.448 (The Spectator, November 2002)

‘The Tableau general de l’empire Othoman as symbol of the Franco-Ottoman, Franco-Swedish, and Swedish-Ottoman alliances’, in The Torch of the Empire: Ignatius Mouradgia d’Ohsson and The tableau general of the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century, Istanbul, Yapi Kredi (November 2002), pp 77-83

‘Introduction’, Turkish Letters, by Ogier de Busbecq, Edward Foster (translator), Sickle Moon (January 2001), pp. Ix-xv

‘The Grand Tour in the Ottoman Empire, 1699-1826’, Unfolding the Orient: Travellers in Egypt and the Near East, edited by Paul and Janet Starkey, Ithaca Press (2001), pp 41-64

‘From Coblenz to Hartwell: the Émigré Government and the European Powers, 1791-1814’, in The French Émigrés in Europe and the Struggle against Revolution, 1789-1814, Macmillan Press (U.K.) (1999), St Martin’s Press (U.S.) (1999), pp 1-27

Obituary of Richard Cobb (1917-1996), The Independent (16 January 1996)

‘Le Prince de Ligne et les Émigrés français 1789-1814’, Nouvelles Annales Prince de Ligne, Vol. X, Hayez (1996), pp 9-21

‘Le Prince de Ligne, candidat à l’indigénat hongrois. Une autobiographie inédite’, Nouvelles Annales Prince de Ligne, Vol. VII, Hayez (1992), pp 7-30

Reclaiming England’s European Past, History Today, July 1992

‘The Riddle of Asmahan’, Grand Street (Winter 1990), pp 76-93

Princess Fahrelnissa Zeid: My life played me a Serenade, Turquoise, The International Magazine of the Turkish World, issue 5, Winter 1989-90, pp. 38-42

‘Wellington and the French Restoration’, The International History Review, Vol. XI, No. 1 (February 1989), pp 76-83

‘Selling the Empire’, Saudi Aramco World (January / February 1989), pp. 34-9

‘The Swedish Connection’, Saudi Aramco World (January / February 1987), pp. 24-7

The Influence of the later Stuarts and their supporters on French royalism 1789-1840’, Royal Stuart Papers, Vol. XXI, The Royal Stuart Society (1983), pp 1-10

‘How Forgotten were the Bourbons in France between 1812 and 1814?’, European Studies Review, Vol. 13, No. 1 (January 1983), pp 13-37

‘Monarchy, Uniform and the Rise of the Frac’, Past & Present, No. 96 (August 1982), pp 103-132


TRIBUTES

Patrick Seale

Patrick Seale, address given by Philip Mansel at Saint Bride’s Fleet Street, 9 July 2014

I want to talk about Patrick as a man of many different worlds, books and careers. His accumulation of identities, countries and cities, as well as his personality, made him unusual among British writers of his time, 1930-2014.

His multiple identities began at birth, in Presbyterian Belfast of all cities, to Morris and Reine Sigal. His father was of Russian Jewish origins – born in Jerusalem in 1896, converted to Christianity as a boy - his mother, Reine Marie Attal, known as Renée, was Tunisian-Jewish-Italian.

Morris Sigel, who changed his name to Seale in 1945 (14 July 1896 – 29 August 1993), was an Arab scholar and Christian theologian who wrote about the links between Islam and Christianity. He was appointed to a Presbyterian mission in Damascus and it was there that Patrick grew up. Missionaries could be great educators – the American University of Beirut began as the Syrian Protestant College - and Morris translated the Bible and some of Luther’s works into colloquial Syrian Arabic, and translate Maritn Luther into Arabic. He also wrote:

  • Muslim Theology: A Study of Origins with Reference to the Church Fathers (London: Luzac 1964)
  • Desert Bible: Nomadic Tribal Culture and Old Testament Interpretation (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1974)
  • Qur'an and Bible: studies in interpretation and dialogue (London: Croom Helm 1978)

Thus from birth Patrick was on the fault-lines of relations, boht conflictual and convivial, between Christians and Muslims. Patrick himself felt of Christianity, to quote him, that there was ‘not enough evidence’. At Oxford he joined the Voltaire Society.

As a boy in Damascus, he spoke French with his mother; English with his father, who spoke with a Yiddish accent; and Arabic with Syrian friends – he spoke the language fluently but never mastered the written language. He went to a French school in Damascus.

He was both English and French. The family changed its name from Sigel to Seale in 1945. He went to a boardin g-school called Monkton Combe, did national service with the British army in the Suez Canal zone; and studied at Balliol and Saint Antony’s. He lived in London from 1970 to 2001 and became an art dealer exhbiting David Hockney, among others; a literary agent for Shirley Conran and Melina Mercouri; and a member of the Garrick Club. He returned to London in 2011 and died here this April.

Yet he also had a French life. He wrote French beautifully, loved the literature, and lived in Paris three times: first in 1956-9 as an economics correspondent for Reuters, covering the birth of the European Economic community as it then was - he became and remained a convinced Euroepan. He also lived in Paris during the year of the student revolution, 1968, which in his words ‘nearly overthrew the most majestic govenrment in Europe’. He covered it for his employer, The Observer and – with his constant researcher, co-author and Observer colleague Maureen McConville – wrote a book French Revolution 1968. It concludes with the optimistic words: ‘a torrent of critical eenegy was released which for a moment made officialdom cringe…it carried the germ of hope that the intellect, the spirit and the imagination if given free range and scpope could really change the world’. He again lived in Paris, with his family, in 2001 -2011. One of his last projects was to revive the memory of Emilie Charmy, who had been his landlady in the rue de Bourgogne in the 1950s – conveneiently close to the chamber of deputies.

Patrick also had a Lebanese life. He lived in Beirut in 1963-7 – where he may have acquired his taste for sharp white suits – and inherited Philby’s job as Middle East correspondent of The Observer, in the golden age of English journalism: I can still remember the impact of his lively, personal articles. He described Philby, sitting with his wife Eleanor on a beach off the Corniche, drinking row upon row of miniature bottles of spirits accumulated from airlines. Beirut then seemed destined to be a world city and agent of capitalist modernity – that role now assumed for the region by Dubai. Perhaps someone will make a book of the best of his articles and of the letters he wrote from Beirut to Albert Hourani, his supervisor at Saint Antony’s.

Two books came out of Beirut: Philby The Long Road to Moscow (he was also a star of a recent BBC4 programme on Philby); and one of his best books, 800 pages long, on Riad al solh. Better researched than many academic books, it displayed his deep knowledge of the families and feuds of Syria and Lebanon – and the forgotten British contribution in 1943-6 to the independence of both countries.

Patrick also spent many months in Syria. His first book, The Struggle for Syria (1965) wa based on many interviews with local politicians, and local broadcasts and newspapers. Asad of Syria: the Struggle for the Middle East (1988), dedicated to his second wife the writer Rana Kabbani, was based on hours of interviews with the Syrian dictator and his ministers. Patrick described it as ‘an attempt to explain what the world looks like from the seat of power in Damascus’.

He called one chapter Forging the Nation but quoted his friend and rival Neal Ascherson who wrote: ‘Most nations are forgeries’ – a remark which today Spain, the United Kingdom and Syria, among other nations, are learning to understand. Patrick believed – what millions of Syrians would dispute - that Asad ‘Represents Arabs’ aspirations to be master soft their own destiny in their own region’ – rather than Asad’s aspiration to be master of Syria. Patrick was also in 1999 an intermediary in efforts to secure a peace treaty between Syria and Israel.

Patrick also had a wider Arab life. He wrote The Hilton Assignment on a failed British attempt to overthrow Colonel Ghadaffi; and Abu Nidal Gun for Hire, about a Palestinian terrorist/ nationalist arms dealer and suspected Israeli agent. In his last years he co-authored Desert Warrior about a Saudi general Prince Khaled bin Sultan, and planned another book with his friend and researcher Alan Rush, on the impending Sunni/Zeidi struggle in the Yemen. From 2000 he began syndicating columns written in English and translated into Arabic to outlets in the Arab press: Al-Hayat, the paper based in London; Al-Ittihad, based in the UAE; the Beirut Daily Star, the Saudi Gazette, the Paris-based Afrique Asie and Jeune Afrique.

What links all these lives – journalist, historian, political intermediary, entrpreneur - apart from the need to earn a living and support his family, and reluctance to be confined in a university? Hard work and self-discipline: He spent most of the day at his desk. Charm, generosity and prescience. He prophecied the fall of Mubarak and the continued grip on Syria of the Assads when others, in 2012-14, predicted their demise.

Above all that openness to people and places which was his main identity. As Christophe Ayad wrote he was a ‘dandy erudit touche a tout’; a man for our time; a cosmopolitan before globalisation. He could make friends with almost anyone. he shows how many identities, can be put into one life: Belfast, Oxford, London, Paris, Damascus, Beirut, Riyadh, not forgetting Tourettes his beloved bolt-hole and work-place in the Var. He was a man of the world in every sense. In the nightmare new world of sectarianism, militarism and barrel bombings, the disintegration of country after country in the Middle East, above all the barbarianisation of and mass flight from Syria, there should be more people with his scepticism, his intelligence and his humanity.

Philippe Jullian

Jullian retrouve

Philippe Jullian had a touch of genius. Ignoring barriers between nationalities and professions, he created his own universe. A Protestant born in Bordeaux, he was both French and English, writer and illustrator, biographer and novelist. Standing at an angle to his age, better travelled and better read than many of his contemporaries, he refused to worship at the shrines of Sartre and picasso. When asked his opinion of the nouveau roman, he replied ‘I have nothing to say’. Preserving the cynicism of a more lucid age, he was a Tallemant des Reaux writing in the reign of Sartre.

In France recently there has been a Jullian revival, led by friends such as Ghislain de Diesbach his literary executor and biographer, and Jean -Louis Gaillemin the art historian. There is a lot to revive. He wrote innumerable articles in the Revue des Deux Mondes and Connaissance des Arts, and 40 books (three of which first appeared in English), Among them are biographies of then forgotten figures such as D’Annunzio, Jean Lorrain and Robert de Montesquiou ,and some of the first studies of Orientalism and the ‘aesthetes and magicians’ and ‘dreamers of decadence’ of the 1890’s. His thousands of drawings include book covers, travel sketches, fantasies and two sets of illustrations for A la recherché du temps perdu, done in 1949 and 1969. Noone knew better how to draw a party, a worthless youth or a disabused dowager.

Among his masterpieces now back in print in France are Les Morot Chandonneur [i.e. Morts au champ d’honneur] written with Bernard Minoret in 1955, brilliant parodies of Chateaburiand, Michelet, Flaubert and Gide, among others, describing the rise and fall of a ruthless French family: there is never a false note. Recently Alexandre Pradere and Laurent de Commines have done a book on the same theme, dedicated to Jullian’s ‘immortal memory’: Splendeurs et miseres de l’Hotel de Thunes (2009).

Memoires d’une bergere (1959) has a wonderful balance of text and illustration, each enhancing and reinforcing the other. The period from 1789 to the fourth republic is recounted from the point of view of ‘the most beautiful armchair in Paris’. In one scene La Fayette falls in love with Madame du Barry. Some drawings, of ‘l’Afrique ouvrant ses bras au negoce’ or ‘a Morot Chandonneur, l’epargne francaise reconnaissant’ can give a fou rire. In Les styles (1961), even more skilfully than his model Osbert Lancaster, with a finer, more mocking line, and wider range of literary references, he satirises the styles of the past, with unforgettable drawings of Mmes Surgis du Passet and Haugoult Dujour, Mrs Cutter Dash and Mrs Bellow Parr, ‘Une muse du front populaire’ or ‘Une amie de la Duchesse de Windsor’. Rooms and objects inspired him at least as much as people. He wrote: ‘Je n’ai qu’une passion serieuse: le bibelot.’

As his latest homage to Philippe Jullian’s memory Ghislain de Diesbach has recently edited and published his diary between 1940 to 1950. With his acerbic style and lack of moralising, it is among the most original diaries of these abject years. Some remarks written in 1941 or 1943 show the bite in his style: Nous ne somms pas assez malheureux ici pour avoir de grands espoirs’; ‘les rencontres les plus facheuses sont les plus droles’; pour etre heureux des ses amis il ne faut jamais rien attendre d’eux’. Of one friend he wrote : ‘il a plus d’avenir que de talent’.

Like the recent exhibition of colour photographs in the Bibliotheque historique de la Ville de Paris, this diary shows how easily Paris adapted to the German occupation. Jullian and his friends enjoyed first nights, tea parties and amateur theatricals. The curfew favoured night-long parties. Jullian often dressed up as a retired courtesan, and entertained his friends by recounting her vie de cocotte (tales published as Memoirs of Chrystianne de Chatou in London in 1950).

Jullian’s Paris was even more sociable than Lees-Milne’s London. More disturbed by German troops’ looks than by their crimes, his friends were obsessed with books. Hours were s spent reading and discussing Barres, Wilde, Gide or James. A diary was a literary exercise more than a personal record. Young men read each other their diary of the previous week. Jullian meets Maurice Sachs walking his dog on a snow-covered boulevard and records that the laugh of Cocteau, covering his mouth with his hand, comes via Proust from Wilde. Post war London, which he often visited, shocked him. Naples was less depressing than these ‘immenses etendues de mediocrite’. In contrast in the cafe de Flore, you still had the illusion of being ‘au coeur des choses’.

Many will find his opinions disturbing. In 1944, at the time of the liberation, he wrote that, using ‘Nazi methods’, three quarters of the maquis behaved little better than the collaborators: ‘tous se valent’. On the train between Paris and Bordeaux he heard ‘des propos de cannibales’. In his opinion ‘le parti le plus faible est toujours le meilleur’.

Capable of great kindness, as I frequently experienced, Philippe Jullian was also capable of great unhappiness. As he wrote in this diary, he had suffered all the torments of love about which he had read in novels. He had preferred his grand-parents, who taught him his passion for the past, to his parents and called himself Jullian, after his grand-father Camille Jullian the historian of ancient Gaul, in preference to his father’s name Simounet. Of the latter he wrote, with his customary bitterness, that he was ‘responsable de tout ce qui l’eut horrifie en moi; mais je ne me souviens pas avoir souhaite sa mort’. His mother he found ‘inutile, lassante, pitoyable’, later Violet Trefusis was a surrogate. She seduced him by her houses.

With ‘un gout tres vif pour les beaux hommes’, much of his life had been occupied by the pleasures of the hunt, although he never had ‘the pleasure of selling myself’. In his opinion ‘les etres sont des boites fermees et quand on possede une des meilleurs clefs , on ne peut se tenir d’essayer mille serrures.’ However his passion for transvestism may betry his self-dislike. He defined himself as ‘un petit provincial pas joli garcon.’

In 1975 he published one of his best books La Brocante, which shows a new precision and honesty. He writes brilliantly, accompanied by equally brilliant drawings, about snobbery, reading and collecting and includes bons mots such as ‘il est plus plus facile de denicher des objets interessants que de rencontrer des gens qui vous fassent rire’. He laments that England has become ‘an immense suburb’, quotes the famous remark’ there is better but it is cheaper’, and ends with the cri de cœur ‘brocantons sur le volcan’.

He was then hit by two lethal blows; a fire in his adored country mill in October 1976, which destroyed many of his books and catalogues; the murder eleven months later of his Moroccan servant Hamoud, whom, writes Diesbach, he had loved like a son. The little taste for life he had retained vanished. On 25 September 1977, at the age of 58, he hanged himself. His surviving sketch-books, left to the Victoria and Albert Museum, are a vision of a magic world: pre-globalised Mexico, England and the Levant. They demand exhibition and publication.

Lesley Blanch

[This piece originally appeared in The Independent on 15 May 2007]

LESLEY BLANCH (1904-2007)

With Lesley Blanch, England and France have lost one of their last living links to White Russian Paris, Free French London, and many other vanished worlds. Her friends have lost a loving and positive presence in their lives. Even when she was over a hundred, old and new friends alike left her carpet-strewn Menton eyrie feeling stimulated, not drained. Her conversation ignored conventional frontiers of time, space, nationality and fashion. I visited and telephoned her many times, drawn by the warmth of her personality as well as her colourful, cosmopolitan past. Always with an angle and turn of phrase of her own, she could talk equally vividly of film stars, race hate, Arab ‘lollipop sweetness’ or the Mitfords: ‘Nancy was very well–connected – and very good at making use of it. They certainly made capital out of their lives…Nancy spoke French perfectly, but with a terribly cultivated English accent. I spoke French my own way.’

When she spoke of her once-adored third husband, the Free French airman and Goncourt-winning writer Romain Gary, her voice fell like a guillotine: ‘The only time Romain was happy was when he was fucking somebody.’ The office which he made her find for him in Hollywood she called ‘Romain’s fuck-box’. ‘Yes, it is true he paid for my trips to the Caucasus – but I [voice sharpening] never had a dress allowance like other wives … I’m not jealous at all; I never was jealous, but I did get a little peeved sometimes.’

Her account of their marriage, Romain: un regard particulier (1998), is a masterpiece which deserves publication in English. It will appeal to lovers of the complex ballet of love and hate between French and English. Animal attraction battled with implacable selfishness: ‘infidelities, absences, complications, complicity and comprehension’. When her book The Wilder Shores of Love (1954) was a world-wide best-seller, he had a nervous breakdown.

Lesley’s toughness and self-reliance (her mother had often urged her ‘just get up and get on with it’) helped her survive three marriages; her parents’ impoverishment; the blitz; years in fashion journalism; a fire which destroyed many of her beloved dresses, pictures and books; and the final horror of publication of a biography of Romain Gary , which included a libellous account of their divorce. She won a court case which forced the author to make changes in the book. Her own biographers she kept firmly at bay.

Travel had been a consolation. Her open mind and wide reading helped her to appreciate New York and the Caucasus, Menton and Hollywood. The Muslim world, setting for The Sabres of Paradise (1960), was as great a passion as Russia, inspiration for Journey into the Mind’s Eye (1968). She knew Afghanistan before the Taliban, Iran before the Mullahs, Egypt before its actresses started wearing turbans to demonstrate their piety; and had many adventures there. ‘I was never raped and I was very rapeable then,’ she told me. On the contrary, she liked a certain harshness, in men as well as landscape. Her boldness could surprise other women. Her younger days, when she sometimes spilled soup on a dress to oblige her escort to buy her a new one, she described as ‘polite prostitution’.

Things – an Indian khalat, a stuffed aubergine, dresses – and cats – compensated for the failings of human beings. ‘Things are loyal. They remain when people go.’ She appreciated how Queen Marie of Romania’s ‘veils and trailing draperies’ had helped maintain the mystique of royalty. For her the all-enveloping Afghan burqa was not the instrument of man’s domination, but the garb of woman’s self-protection, convenience, independence and honour – and even a means of seduction. Books - Lermontov, Pushkin, Blake, Barbey d’Aurevilly - were part of life, not subjects for an academic study. Her familiarity with such masters helped her acquire a precise use of words and a wide range of references.

Her courage in her illnesses impressed all who witnessed it. Often in pain, feeling ‘rugged, very rugged’, as she told me, she longed to go. She had lived long enough to see her books acquire new readers after they were republished in English, and translated into French by Guillaume Villeneuve; and had lived, perhaps many times, what she called ‘the moment we seek, our own absolute moment in time’. As she said: ‘It is no good being old, you have to bow out at eighty.’

Richard Cobb

[This piece originally appeared in The Independent on 16 January 1996]

RICHARD COBB (1917-1996)

The magic of Richard Cobb’s style, combined with an incomparable sense of place and interest in human nature, made him a genius among post- war British historians.

Cobb acquired the love of France and of shocking which were to dominate his life while staying with an irreverent family in Paris in the 1930s. Research into the most extreme of French revolutionaries, the Hebertistes, was interrupted by wartime service in the British army which, for Cobb, included cleaning latrines, trying to learn Polish, serving with the Czechoslovak Independent Brigade Group and writing for La Renaissance du Bessin. After a year in Brussels, one of his favourite cities (first visited to avoid appearing as a witness in a murder trial), he lived in Paris from 1946 to 1955, doing research in the archives, teaching English, and writing.

He had many friends in the French Communist Party and, in part because they had provided him with frequent hot meals, he wept at the death of Stalin. He was exuberant and unconventional. At one of the night-clubs he frequented, he met ex-King Farouk, with whom he shared the same birth- date. They occasionally drank together, and 40 years later Cobb was one of the few people to remember that, in the Fourth Republic, un farouk was a name for a 10,000-franc note. He once greeted the dawn nude, in the company of a dozen similarly unattired men and women, in the fountains of the Place de la Concorde.

While living in Paris he acquired the knowledge of France which made him the poet of the vespasienne and the fille montante, of bourgeois ladies of Roubaix and the museum of crime at Lyon. Essentially English, he loved France so much that he believed that to live there was to live doubly and several times applied for naturalisation.

“After 1958, as far as I was concerned, nothing could ever be quite the same again.” He disapproved of military coups and compared Paris under the Fifth Republic to Warsaw after the 1944 rising, so great was the scale of destruction of the old buildings and streets he loved so ardently. He had, however, already made a break with France by accepting a teaching position at Aberystwyth in 1955. In 1961 he obtained a post at Oxford. His style of teaching, talking, drinking, and after-dinner behaviour - chariot racing in Balliol senior common room was the least of his exploits - made this shy, often uneasy man a living legend. Cobb was thin, looked like a cross between Voltaire and George VI, and was once described by a friend as the dirtiest soldier he had ever seen. His eyes were usually drunk, with curiosity or alcohol, but his capacity to recover from the night before was the envy of his students.

To be taught by Richard Cobb, often in a class as small as an early Christian cenacle, was to be taught life. He did not simply describe, he transformed himself into, a farmer overeating merely for the pleasure of depriving Parisians of their food; a revolutionary who had marinated in envy all his life and was using his position on the Committee of Public Safety for revenge; or a tricoteuse who preferred the lists of the guillotined to contain spectacular noble, rather than plebeian, names.

Cobb enjoyed Oxford, perhaps because it provided so many opportunities to study individuals and puncture pretension. He admired Maurice Bowra and Arthur Marder as much as French colleagues such as his patron Georges Lyebore or the historian of the sans- culottes Albert-Marius Soboul. He described the funeral of his friend Jack Gallagher, the historian of Africa, as “the saddest sight I have ever seen”.

Cobb loved archival research, particularly (until he was banned after a row) in the Archives Nationales in Paris, one of the most beautiful buildings in Europe. He wrote as well as he taught, at first articles in learned journals such as Presence Ardennaise, then exhaustively researched studies of the revolutionary armies of 1793-94, popular protest and death in Paris. His first book to reach a wider audience was A Second Identity (1969 - the title refers to his French self), a collection of reviews on subjects ranging from the Jacobin historian Georges Lefebvre to “la bonne dame de Loudun” Marie Besnard, accused of having murdered 11 of her relations. His style, at once insolent, erudite and parenthetic (sentences could be as long as paragraphs), won him many admirers. A Second Identity was followed by an armee revolutionnaire of books. Among the best were Promenades: a historian’s appreciation of modern French literature (1980), which described favourite novelists such as Marcel Pagnol and Raymond Queneau; The Streets of Paris (1980), a dazzling essay on four arrondissements of Paris, extolling balustrades and courtyards of the 19th century, washable brothel-fronts of the 1930s and Tunisian shops of the 1960s, with photographs by Nicholas Breach; Still Life (1983), sketches from a Tunbridge Wells childhood; A Classical Education (1985), an unforgettable account of his friendship with a Dublin matricide; and Something to Hold Onto (1988), openly Proustian autobiographical sketches describing his relations, the book illustrator Frank Pape and the pleasures of the lavatory. Cobb believed that a historian should get inside the threshold, step beyond the door, and write about private people and private places. Accents, clothes (in his youth Tunbridge Wells was, “a place where clothes called to clothes, cutting out words and greetings”), family photographs and loneliness in cities interested him more than intellectual debates or economic graphs. He extended the frontiers of history so far that his books included descriptions of the tin trunks of French officials on the way to the colonies in a Marseilles hotel, girls in hotel rooms crouching over bidets in “a rapid gesture of orthodoxy rather than of hygiene” and the third army, of “enormous, long-whiskered, dark-coated, red-eyed rats”, below the Germans and the resisters, which surfaced in Paris during the occupation. His unique ability to understand other people enabled him to make collaborators human and a childhood in Tunbridge Wells between the wars interesting.

At least until his last marriage, and the birth of his children, Cobb was a lonely man who sought safety in familiar routines and faces. His own private threshold could be hard to cross. One of his chief pleasures was to attack solemnity and falsity, the cults of statistics, of student revolution and, in the end, of the French Revolution.
“Emphasise my frivolity,” he once told me, as he poured the last of a bottle.


FORTHCOMING LECTURES

For a list of forthcoming lectures by Philip Mansel, click on the Future Engagements button in the menu at the top of the page.

CATALOGUES

Le Roi est Mort: Louis XIV - 1715, château de Versailles, 2015. Notices on royal funerals 1793-1824, pages 287-293

Fausto Zonaro: Life and Light between Ottoman Splendour and Italian Belle Époque, Italian Cultural Institute in Istanbul, Florence, 2015 - Philip Mansel,‘The last Court Painter: Fausto Zonaro and Abdülhamid II’, pages 65-85.

Intersecting Worlds - Ambassadors and Painters - Pera Museum, Istanbul, 2014 - Philip Mansel, ‘Friend of Foe? The Ottoman Empire and Europe, from Mehmed II to William II’, p 9-20

Thomas Hope and the Neoclassical Revolution

From the catalogue for the 2008 exhibition Thomas Hope: Regency Genius at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Bard Center, New York, Yale University Press (2007)

[The original fully-footnoted version of this article will appear in the catalogue to be published by Yale University Press in 2007 for the 2008 exhibition ‘Thomas Hope: Regency Genius’ at the Victorian and Albert Museum and the Bard Center in New York]

THOMAS HOPE AND THE NEOCLASSICAL REVOLUTION

Amsterdam and London; banking and court society; revolution in the Netherlands and the Grand Tour in the Ottoman Empire; the wars to free Europe from French domination, and the style wars of Regency England - Thomas Hope’s background is as international as the neoclassicism he preached.

The fortune which helped him to become one of the greatest art patrons in London came from Europe. Thomas Hope was born in Amsterdam on August 30, 1769, into the richest family of merchant bankers of the age. The wars of Catherine II, the Louisiana Purchase and the expansion of the Napoleonic empire were funded, in part, by Hope and Company. The basis of the Hopes’ lives and fortune was the connection between Great Britain and the Netherlands – described by Sir James Harris, George III’s ambassador in the Hague in 1784-8, as “the ancient union and alliance between the two Nations”.

Power, money and Protestantism were the foundations of this “ancient union and alliance”. Without Dutch ships, soldiers and money, William Prince of Orange, grandson of Charles I and Stadholder of six of the seven provinces of the Netherlands, could not have invaded England in November 1688, and, three months later, after the flight of his father-in-law and uncle James II, become King William III. Thereafter the Dutch alliance – and the Dutch troops who continued to garrison London until 1697 and the Dutch advisers who helped establish the bank of England in 1694 - helped Britain remain a Protestant, parliamentary monarchy, and become a world power which, as William III had intended, freed Europe from the threat of French hegemony.

The “ancient union and alliance” weakened, but did not disappear, in the eighteenth century. George I’s and George II’s concern for the Electorate of Hanover after 1714, and the growth of trade and the Grand Tour, strengthened Great Britain’s links with Europe – while British rivalry with France increased Britain’s need for European allies. In 1734 William III’s cousin and principal heir William IV Prince of Orange married Anne, eldest daughter of George II. In 1745, in accordance with their treaty obligations, 6,000 Dutch troops moved to England to help protect the throne of George II from the Jacobite menace: even then the Protestant Succession in Britain was considered to need the guarantee of troops from the Netherlands.

In the eighteenth century Amsterdam remained one of the largest ports in Europe. With a population of 150,000, it was surrounded by a forest of masts, which can be seen in the background of the portrait of Henry Hope and John Williams Hope and their families, painted by Benjamin West in 1802. Some winters 3,000 ships were moored in the port of Amsterdam.

The lure of Amsterdam, the “ancient union and alliance” between Britain and the Netherlands – and the habit of younger sons going into trade – explain why, in the second half of the seventeenth century, Henry Hope had crossed the North Sea and become a merchant in the Netherlands. He came from the family of the Hopes of Hopetoun and Rankeillor in Scotland (he was second cousin of Sir Archibald Hope of Rankeillor and of the father of the first Earl of Hopetoun). Both branches continued to use a common motto – At spes non fracta - and coat of arms and to correspond with and entertain each other at least until the end of the eighteenth century.

In the early eighteenth century Henry Hope’s eldest son Archibald owned four ships, and two malt-houses in East Anglia. Helped by the skill of Archibald and his brothers Thomas and Adrian Hope, the Hopes were bankers in the right place at the right time. When the Netherlands was neutral during the Seven Years’ War, the Hope bank helped raise loans for the British government and pay subsidies to Britain’s allies. In 1762 the bank was named Hope and Co. Thanks to a persistent policy of reinvestment of profits, between 1762 and 1769 Hope and Co’s capital grew from about 4.3 million florins to 6.8 million. Profits averaged 8.25 % of mean capital.

Like the Rothschilds sixty years later, the Hopes followed what one of their partners would call “the royal path”. They were court bankers relying for business on governments and dynasties rather than on industry and private clients. The Netherlands contained a court society, centred on the princes of Orange, residing in the Hague and their country palace at Het Loo, as well as a bourgeois society based on Amsterdam. Although the Prince of Orange was not a sovereign in the Netherlands, merely the senior government official, his household was referred to as “the court”. Whereas on formal occasions Amsterdam merchants generally wore black, the princes of Orange and their supporters, like members of court society throughout Europe, wore brightly coloured court dress, usually imported from Paris. In the conflict for power and influence in the United Provinces between the princes of Orange and the urban elites based on Amsterdam called “the Patriots”, the Hopes sided with the House of Orange: both inside and outside the Netherlands, they were appalled by what they saw of republican government. Moreover the princes of Orange like the Hopes supported the Dutch alliance with Britain. The Hopes strengthened the princes of Orange’s links with the merchant community. Thomas Hope represented both William IV and William V, princes of Orange, on the boards of the West India and East India trading companies.

Due to the stagnation of the Dutch economy and the Amsterdam stock market in the eighteenth century, Hope and Co became an European force. Dutch investors regularly saved between 25% and 37% of their income. Since there were few opportunities for domestic investment, they looked abroad. Hope and Company became Europe’s leading merchant bank, investing in areas as diverse as cochineal, flower bulbs and Brazilian diamonds. Beginning with Sweden, Hope and Company also raised loans for foreign governments. Between 1768 and 1787 they issued ten loans to the Kingdom of Sweden: interest was between 4% and 5% and commission between 4.5% and 9.5%. Such loans enabled King Gustavus III to finance both his court festivals and his preparations for war with Russia, without being obliged to raise taxes needing the prior approval of the Swedish Riksdag.

The Hopes were European in their private lives as well as their investments. Scottish in origin, pro-British by inclination and religion, they always married Dutch wives. In 1763 John Hope, Thomas Hope’s father, married Philippina Barbara van der Hoeven, a daughter of the burgomaster of Rotterdam. Continuing the family tradition, he became an Orangist member of the town council of Amsterdam in 1768 and a director of the East India company in 1770. He ran the bank with his first cousin Henry Hope, who had been born in Boston, and his uncles Thomas and Adrian. Reflecting the European character of their city and bank, they were later joined by a young clerk from Cornwall called John Williams and the son of a Huguenot cloth merchant Pierre Cesar Labouchère (of whom it was said that he spoke French like an Englishman and English with a strong French accent). The bank remained a family business. After he married the heiress of Henry Hope, Anne Goddard, daughter of John Goddard of Rotterdam and Woodford Hall Essex and of Henry Hope’s sister Henrietta Maria Hope, in 1782, John Williams became a partner, and added the name Hope to his own.

The Hopes spoke English, Dutch and – as was common throughout educated Europe until the mid-twentieth century - French at home. The Baron de Frénilly remembered a visit to Amsterdam in 1785 where he found – no doubt his patriotism led him to exaggerate – Amsterdam millionaires who patronized a French theatre and “who made a point of being French, who spoke only French”. The magnificence of the Hopes’ table, where they were served by footmen in red and gold livery, was due to the French food as well as to the display of glass and porcelain. “With all this show,” noted another French visitor, “the dinner was very frigid and extremely boring; it had the air of ceremoniousness and constraint of the “maisons de bonne compagnie” in Paris.” If they lived “à la française”, the Hopes’ travels were English. In January 1794 Henry Hope wrote to Francis Baring – member of a North European banking family, originally from Groningen and Bremen, which had established itself in London and was already working in partnership with the Hopes - “I am so completely in the habit of considering Holland and England as the same Country that I can very easily find myself as much at home in the one as in the other” – a freedom from nationality more common in the eighteenth century than in the twenty-first.

Like other contemporary financiers, the fermiers-généraux in France, the Hopes were distinguished by their art collections as well as their wealth: Thomas Hope was not the first of his family to be an art patron. Amsterdam was then the centre of the European art market and in 1771 his father John or Jan Hope had bought the Bisschop collection of 230 Dutch and Flemish pictures, including works by Wouwermans, Terborch and Jan Steen. John Hope lived in a large house on the most elegant street in Amsterdam, the Heerengracht, as well as in a house in the Hague and at country seats near Haarlem and Utrecht. On a visit to the Low Countries in 1781, Sir Joshua Reynolds called his collection “the first in Amsterdam” and praised “the particular attention and civility of its possessors”. “By his British descent and international connexions, his travels and his enormous fortune,” writes J. W. Niemeijer, “he stood somewhat apart from the other Dutch patrician families, developing a taste and lifestyle to which present day Holland is indebted for the possession of several works of art of international significance.”

John Hope’s cousin Henry Hope constructed a magnificent neoclassical villa at Welgelegen near Haarlem between 1785 and 1789; it was designed for him by the Sardinian consul Triquetti (also a British secret agent) on the model of the Villas Borghese and Albani in Rome. He filled it with pictures by Titian and Rembrandt, among others, and decorated its façade with sculpture. The Hopes lived like kings. In 1808 Welgelegen would be sold, shorn of its contents, for 300,000 florins to King Louis Napoleon, recently appointed King of Holland by his brother. The King of Holland occasionally resided in his palace in Haarlem until his deposition in 1810. Today it is the seat of the offices of the government of the Province of North Holland.

In 1788 Hope and Co switched from Sweden to Russia, issuing the first of eighteen loans on behalf of Catherine the Great. She needed funds in order to fight another war against the Ottoman Empire: like French investors before 1917, Dutch investors appreciated a country like Russia which could not be swept off the map in one campaign and had a reputation for creditworthiness. Moreover, whereas the King of Sweden in 1787 paid Hope and Co 6% commission, the Empress in 1788 paid 6.5%. The Empress sent Henry Hope her portrait; he replied by a letter to her banker Robert Sutherland praising her “elevated genius and almost supernatural loftiness of mind”. Hope and Co also organized loans to the Polish government in 1793, two year before the country disappeared off the map in the last Partition. Hopes’ partner Robert Voute, another son of a Huguenot, was appalled by the sight of the Polish parliament surrounded on one side by Prussian and on the other by Russian troops. This did not, however, stop him from traveling to Saint Petersburg in search of more business. At Tsarskoe Seloe on June 5, 1794, he was received in audience for two hours by the empress. He found her amiability itself – although she had the vaguest notions of rates of exchange. Surrounded by tables piled high with books and papers, she seemed to lead a life of servitude, in contrast to her courtiers, who spent much of the day playing cards. Continuing to organize loans for her successor Paul I, for a time the Hopes called themselves “Messrs Hope and Company, Bankers to His Majesty the Emperor of the Russian Empire”.

In western Europe, however, the Hopes’ world of courts and dynasties was under threat, from “patriots” in love with liberty. On August 9, 1787 Henry Hope lamented to the Paris banker and patron of the arts Laborde de Méréville, a friend of Marie Antoinette, that whereas the French government was, in his opinion, strong enough to survive the current fashion for liberty, “here …everything has been upset and it can only end in absolute tyranny whether by the prince or by the people – the inevitable outcome of the complete anarchy which reigns today”. The struggle for power in the United Provinces between the Prince of Orange and the patriot party erupted that autumn. It reflected the rivalry between Britain and France, as well as the contest between courts and “patriots”. The Orangists were supported and organized by the British ambassador Sir James Harris, the Patriots, as in the reign of Louis XIV, by France. Harris called them “the French party” and claimed they wanted “an entire subversion of the stadholderate”: in July the States-General forbade men even to whistle tunes in honour of the House of Orange.

In the end, to avenge the patriots’ temporary detention on June 28, 1787 of his sister the Princess of Orange, the King of Prussia sent an army under his cousin the duke of Brunswick into the United Provinces. The patriot militias, known as free corps, melted away (as, when they invaded France in the summer of 1792, Brunswick and the King of Prussia assumed French militias would do too). The European counter-revolution had begun two years before the outbreak of the French revolution. On September 20, 1787 the Prince of Orange re-entered the Hague in triumph, his carriage drawn by cheering burghers wearing orange ribbons. He was reinstated in all his rights and privileges; that evening he told Harris “he considered he owed everything which had passed to His Majesty’s support and protection”. On October 10, Amsterdam capitulated to the Duke of Brunswick. Thus, whereas in 1789 the city of Paris would defeat and capture the Bourbons, in 1787 the city of Amsterdam was defeated by the Oranges and the Prussian army.

Even after Amsterdam surrendered, Dutch society remained violently divided, as the Hopes discovered for themselves. On October 12, 1787, two days after Amsterdam capitulated, Henry Hope and John Williams Hope entered the bourse, in the transactions of which they played such a prominent part, wearing large Orange cockades. Jostled by hostile Patriot merchants, they were soon in danger of falling and losing their lives. They were saved by “the whole body of the Jews” (traditionally pro-Orangist), who came out of their quarter, delivered the Hopes from their assailants and carried them away. The Hopes only returned to the bourse when they knew they would receive a speech of apology.

In 1789, as bread prices in France soared to their highest level in the century – increasing the fear and unrest which culminated in the storming of the Bastille - the Hopes’ grootboeken show they purchased half a million guilders worth of wheat on behalf of Louis XVI, in order to help feed Paris. The Finance Minister Necker used his personal fortune as security for the purchases. Thereafter Dutch investors, who had preferred French loans because of their higher rate of interest, suffered as they were paid in revolutionary assignats rather than real money.

Soon they would suffer in their persons as well as in their pockets: it was the French revolutionary wars which obliged Thomas Hope to propagate his neoclassical revolution in London rather than Amsterdam. In 1794, having conquered the Austrian Netherlands, French Republican armies approached the Dutch frontier – partly in order to cut off their enemies from the Amsterdam capital market. On October 17, 1794, Henry Hope and John Williams Hope and their family fled to England: their cousins Thomas, Henry Philip and Adrian to Germany. On January 18, 1795, as French troops entered Amsterdam, the other partners in the bank, Baring and Labouchère, and the Prince of Orange himself, also fled to London. On January 27 the painter and Royal Academician Joseph Farington recorded in his diary meeting “the Mr Hopes of Amsterdam. – they spoke of the people of Holland as being divided into parties and though not eager for the French coming, yet ill inclined to associate for a general defence …The Mr Hopes have brought to England their fine collection of pictures and have removed so much of their property as they said as to have left only chairs and tables behind them. – It is supposed Mr Hopes have realized in this country half a million and that the Stadholder has secured as much while the storm has been brewing.” Signalling that London had become, as it remains to this day, Europe’s leading capital market, Hope and Co’s payments were henceforth made in London not Amsterdam. Henry Hope settled, with John Williams Hope and his family, and his celebrated collection of four hundred pictures, in a house in Harley Street he bought from his cousin Lord Hopetoun. The Prince of Orange lived in the palace William III had built at Hampton Court. Resolutely pro-British (as Britain remained pro-Orange until the restoration of the House, with British help, to power in the Netherlands in 1813), he ordered the authorities in Dutch colonies to admit British troops as those of an ally. Ceylon and the Cape Colony passed from Dutch to British rule.

London, rather than Amsterdam, was henceforth home to the Hopes. In 1795 it was the largest and richest city in the world. Capital of an empire which ruled the oceans, it was believed to attract “all treasures that the four quarters of the globe possess”. It certainly attracted Europeans. As German wars drove the talents and capital of Europe to London in the twentieth century, so did French wars in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In addition to Dutch Orangists like the Hopes, and French royalists like the fathers of Pugin and Brunel, German bankers like Nathan Rothschild in 1798, Schroeder in 1802, Fruehling and Goschen in 1814, moved to London. “The war against France was in part financed by mobilising the resources of the Continent through the London capital market,” writes Martin Daunton.

By the time he arrived in London Thomas Hope had completed his education, briefly served as a partner in the family bank and embarked on his travels. Their extent reflects the breadth of his curiosity as well as the depth of his purse. He visited Italy four times, Granada, Africa, Portugal, Seville and Cordoba. In 1791 he called on the sculptor Flaxman in Rome; in 1792 he was in Sicily with the painter George Wallis. Back in Rome he was painted by a French painter, Jacques Henri Sablet, playing the newly fashionable English game of cricket. After his flight to Berlin in December 1794, and a passage through London, he was again in Rome by December 1795. In 1796 he proceeded to the Ottoman Empire.

Such a destination was not then as unusual as it may appear in retrospect. Since the early eighteenth century the more adventurous gentlemen on the Grand Tour had proceeded from Rome or Venice to the Ottoman Empire. They were lured by the quality of the classical remains as well as the power and exoticism of the empire. John Montagu and William Ponsonby had traveled from Rome to Constantinople in 1738; Robert Wood and Richard Dawkins had visited Palmyra and Baalbek, of which they published celebrated illustrated accounts, in 1751. In 1794-5, only a year before Hope, John Morritt had traveled to Constantinople, Greece and Anatolia, staying with Turks and wearing Turkish dress. The major cities and ports of the empire, such as Aleppo and Izmir, had bankers who cashed drafts and letters of credit for foreign merchants and travelers. Once an imperial firman ordering the authorities to allow the traveler to proceed without hindrance had been purchased in Constantinople, Ottoman officials and subjects were generally co-operative. Richard Pococke, who traveled in the Empire in 1738-40 and on his return to London helped found an Egyptian Society open to “any gentleman who has been in Egypt”, later wrote: “I happened to see Constantinople at a time when the Turk was in good humour, and had no reason to be displeased with the Franks . . . I went freely all over Constantinople and was so far from being affronted in the least that I rather met with civility in every place; entered publicly into such of the mosques as I desired to see and sometimes even on Fridays just before the service began and when the women were coming into the mosques to hear the harangers” [needing to pay “only a very small gratuity”] . . . “And indeed to speak justly of the Turks they are a very tractable people when they are well used and when they have no prospect of getting anything by ill treatment.”

The Ottoman Grand Tour was especially popular during the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, since much of the rest of Europe was closed to British travelers. Indeed Hope probably left Italy in order to avoid the French Republican armies under Bonaparte which occupied Lombardy in spring 1796. From early 1796 to late 1797 Hope traveled in the Ottoman Empire. The exact parameters of his journey are lost. He probably went overland to Constantinople, where he said he spent twelve months. Then, traveling via Ephesus and the islands of the Aegean, he visited Athens. By October 1797 he was in Cairo with Frederick Hornemann, an African traveler, and a Major Schwarz from Göttingen.

It was customary for travelers in the Ottoman Empire to be accompanied by an artist, as well as servants, interpreters, bodyguards and couriers. Montagu and Ponsonby had taken Liotard; Wood and Dawkins a Piedmontese draughtsman called Giuseppe Borra, who later worked at Stowe. The Benaki Museum in Athens contains 525 drawings of scenes and monuments in the Ottoman Empire, in five volumes. Most are by Thomas Hope; some, however, are by other hands. They show that he had visited Egyptian temples and Ottoman houses and mosques as well as classical ruins. One volume contains drawings of Egyptian costumes, Nile boats, the catacombs at Alexandria; another depicts mosques, palaces, the pyramids. Two years before Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt, and a decade before the publication of the Description de l”Egypte, Hope and his artist, or artists, show an interest in the details of Ottoman and Mameluke mosques, domestic interiors, the Sultan’s barges, and Ottoman costumes that was unprecedented for the time. However, details of the Egyptian-style furniture he later designed were drawn from prints of Egyptian furniture already published in Italian books rather than from direct observation. Hope later wrote: “In the course of long and various travels I resided nearly a twelvemonth at Constantinople; visited the arsenal and bagnio frequently; witnessed the festival of Saint George; saw Rhodes; was in Egypt, in Syria, and in every other place which I have attempted to describe minutely; collected my Eastern Vocabulary . . . on the spot, and whilst writing my work had at one time an Albanian in my service . . . adopted a fictitious hero in order to embody my observations on the East in a form less trite than that of a journal; avoided all antiquarian descriptions studiously as inconsistent with the character assumed; I am the sole author of Anastasius.”

The last remark is, however, economical with the truth. The style is more polished, the sentences shorter, than in Thomas Hope’s other works. It is possible that, just as Hope suppressed the contribution of C. H. Tatham to the design of his house in London, so he suppressed the role of other hands in his novel. A book by Hope’s descendants states that Anastasius was revised with the help of his sons’ tutor Rev. J. Hitchens, later Vicar of Sunninghill near Hope’s house in Surrey.

In 1798, soon after his return to London, Hope celebrated his Ottoman Grand Tour, as Ponsonby and Montagu had sixty years earlier, by commissioning his portrait with a mosque in the background. John Montagu had been painted in Ottoman Muslim dress by Knapton. Thomas Hope was painted in the dress of the levents, low-ranking Greek sailors in the Ottoman navy, by Sir William Beechey.

Thomas Hope’s novel was a more original commemoration of his Ottoman Grand Tour. Described as “Memoirs of a Greek; written at the close of the eighteenth century”, Anastasius took London by storm when it was published, at first anonymously, in 1819. It is both the personal story of Anastasius, a demonic Greek who lies, steals, seduces and murders his way across the Ottoman Empire, and a picture of that empire in the years between 1770 and 1797 when it was, Hope writes, “an empire tottering to its base”, under attack from Russians, Arabs and rebellious governors. Rather than evoking Greece or the classical world, as the Abbé Barthelemy had done in his once celebrated novel Les Voyages du Jeune Anacharsis (1788), Anastasius is the first novel set in an Arab and Ottoman context. The hero converts to Islam, travels from Chios to the Pelopponese, Smyrna, Constantinople, Aleppo, Egypt, Mecca and Arabia under the Wahhabis – except the last, all places visited by Thomas Hope.

As critics pointed out, Anastasius showed the author’s accuracy and his familiarity with the scenery and offices he describes. The novel describes among other events: the Russian-backed rising of the Pelopponese against the Ottoman Empire in 1770; the rise and death by “the fatal bow-string” in 1790 of Nicholas Mavroyennis, dragoman of the fleet, Hospodar of Wallachia and the only Greek to command an Ottoman army; the “dazzling career” of Ghazi Hassan Pasha, commander of the Ottoman fleet; the power of the Karaosmanoglu family in western Anatolia; the power struggles between Janissaries and sherifs, or descendants of the Prophet, in Aleppo; the practises and beliefs of the Druze religion; the sight of the pilgrim caravan to Mecca “winding their way through the white sands like a black and slender milliped”; and the rise of “a new and heretical” Wahhabi power in the 1790s under the warrior followers of the House of Saud, “a race of men with bodies of steel, with souls of fire whose own abode was the inaccessible heart of the desert”. Thomas Hope is one of the first western writers to praise “the energy” and “freedom of the desert”, “a country where the heart resembles a volcano whose eruptions never cease”.

Hope also describes, at length, the complex power structure of Ottoman Egypt where Mameluke beys, Ottoman governors and Coptic scribes governed “smoke-dried men, tattooed women and blear-eyed bloated children”, in a land of “filth and ruins” where plague was so frequent that “the living became too few to bury the dead”. As befitted a partner in the bank which had helped finance Catherine II’s wars, he knew that in the 1770s the Empress had planned to attack the Ottoman Empire in alliance with Mameluke beys; that there was doubt over the legitimacy of the Ottoman Sultan’s claim to be Caliph of the Muslims; and that as a result of the many cruelties of Djezzar Pasha, Ottoman governor of Acre, people could be seen walking through its streets short of a nose, a hand or lips; “the wailings of the tortured mixed themselves with the murmurs of the fountains”.

Manners and customs are noted in detail: the Turks’ habit of commissioning landscapes without figures owing to their prejudice against human representation; the contrast between the bright dress of the Muslims – which he called “Mohammed’s hateful livery” - and Christians’ compulsorily dark costume; the prohibition in Istanbul against Christians riding a horse; and the dismal appearance of their houses from the outside, designed to deflect the hostility of the mob, compared to the “eastern magnificence” within. The prison next to the Constantinople arsenal is described with the same detail as the opium market “where insanity was sold by the ounce”.

The mannered cynicism of the style appealed to Regency London, and showed that Thomas Hope had acquired a sense of humour. Anastasius says: “never did we take a fellow’s booty whom we did not also rid of a life thus become worthless to him. To do otherwise would have been tempting Providence and was against my oath”. Money is called “the universal language”, conscience “the relentless monitor”. A man who has been castrated is described as being “furnished with his passport for the harem”. Referring to the honesty of Stephen Mavroyennis, “His enemies rejoiced at it though his friends still kept hoping that he was not too old to mend.” Hope was praised for his “easy condensation” and “epigrammatic and most searching wit”. Thus he wrote of Djezzar Pasha’s torture of his wives, “the greatness of the raptures he had tasted became the measure of the pangs he inflicted”. “Among Jews and among gentiles, in scripture and in fable, in ancient times and in modern, it has been the invariable rule for ladies to accuse of too much warmth those in whom they have found too little.”

In the end Anastasius dies in Austria, broken-hearted by the death of his son – a sign that the final composition of the novel, rather than immediately following Hope’s return from his Ottoman tour, can be dated to the months after the death of his young son Charles of fever in Rome in 1817, which traumatized Hope and his wife. In the novel Hope reveals Whig views – surprising in a member of an Orangist family which had felt compelled to flee French revolutionary armies. For him the papacy represented a combination of “imbecility and impotence”, French revolutionary regimes “a more promising system” than old monarchies. Although Hope laments the state of regions “once adorned by the Greeks and now defaced by the Turks”, he was not pro-Greek. He attacked their “credulity, versatility and thirst of distinctions” and claimed to be “equally disgusted with the brutal stupidity of the rulers as with the servile apathy of the ruled”. His name did not appear on lists of British Philhellenes during the Greek war of independence in the 1820s – although a Greek boy called Aide, “not only young but handsome with keen black eyes and a most gentle submissive voice and apparent timidity”, of whom nothing more is known, came to visit him in London. Hope loved the Levant. In comparison, he called western Europe “heartless . . . frigid . . . dull and prosaic”. However, he never went back.

Back in London, Thomas Hope began his life-long battle to impose his taste and style on England. Neoclassicism, not Philhellenism, was the passion of his life. He believed that, in contrast to the “degraded French school of the middle of the last century”, a return to “true elegance and beauty” in dress and design, modeled on the patterns of the Greeks and Romans, would contribute immensely “to the extension of our rational pleasures”, give “the eye and the mind the most lively, most permanent and most unfading enjoyment”, refine “the intellectual and sensible enjoyments of the individual”, advance the “virtue and patriotism” of the nation – and provide practical encouragement for artists and craftsmen. In addition to the scholarly aims revealed in such works as Household Furniture and Interior Decoration (1807) and Costume of the Ancients (1809), another motive for his propagation of neoclassicism may have been a desire to regain in London, by the originality and splendour of his residence, the position which his family had once enjoyed in Amsterdam. By their gilded majesty, some of the chairs he designed and owned look like thrones. In addition Thomas Hope had inherited a tradition of collecting and connoisseurship from his father and their cousin Henry Hope. As a result, of the three great European banking houses in the hundred years between 1760 and 1860, Hope, Baring and Rothschild, none produced an art patron as original and creative as Thomas Hope.

He had enough money to realise his aims. As one of the four heirs of the Hope bank, his capital in Hope and Co alone consisted of 3,223,802 “guldens courant “in 1798; his share of annual profits amounted to 148,750 “guldens courant”. In the classic tradition of the transformation of new wealth into a great collection, Thomas Hope was the fourth generation from the founder of the bank, and the first not to work in it. The bank continued to be run by Henry Hope and John Williams Hope. Especially after the marriage of Pierre Cesar Labouchère to Dorothy Baring in 1796, they worked closely with that other London bank owned by a family from northern Europe, Barings.

In November 1802, during the temporary interlude in the “French wars” when even Great Britain had made peace, the Hope bank was re-established in Amsterdam. For a time it resumed its European role. In 1803 it helped finance the American purchase of Louisiana from the French government – the most foolish voluntary cession of territory in history. Thereafter, despite the resumption of war between Britain and France in 1803, Hope and Co helped organize both the private investments and the government loans of Napoleon’s brothers. Between 1802 and 1808 the Hope bank also arranged the forced contribution exacted by the French government from Napoleon’s satellites like the kings of Spain and Portugal. It is possible that these foreign loans, earning between 3% and 5%, like the previous government loans helped keep intact the Dutch wealth of the seventeenth century, to fund the economic revival of the nineteenth. Despite the Napoleonic wars and the continental blockade, the Hopes’ partner Labouchère – one of Talleyrand’s most intimate friends – continued to travel between London, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam: Napoleon I himself used Labouchère as a source of information on English politics.

Many members of Hope’s family remained attached to the Netherlands. Henry Hope and Thomas’s beloved bachelor brother Henry Philip Hope often returned there. His second cousin and occasional hostess Mrs Williams Hope, famous for her scornful remarks about the English, left when she could; in the Netherlands she married her daughters to Dutch gentlemen and eloped with a Prussian officer called the Baron von Dorpff. It was her determination to marry von Dorpff , on her uncle’s death in 1813, and to withdraw her capital, which precipitated the final sale of the Hope bank to Barings that year for a total of £250,521 sterling. Thomas Hope also returned to the continent, visiting Paris, Rome and Naples in 1802-3, and again in 1816-18. However he had become English. After 1798 he never lived anywhere but London.

The principal means he chose to impose himself and his taste in London was the creation of a magnificent and fashionable house. Between 1799 and 1802 he was rearranging, redesigning and redecorating his house on the corner of Mansfield Street and Duchess Street – near his cousins Henry Hope and the Williams Hopes in Cavendish Square. Three pictures of Indian scenes commissioned from Thomas Daniell hung in a drawing room with a sofa after the Eastern fashion and a Turkish ceiling. The splendid, brightly coloured neoclassical and neo-Egyptian interiors were filled with furniture in similar styles, which Hope designed; classical sculpture which he had bought in Italy, including a porphyry head of Nero set in gilt bronze by Valadier and statues of Minerva and Hygeia recently discovered in the ruins of Ostia; eleven neoclassical busts by Thorwaldsen; many works by Flaxman and fashionable painters such as Benjamin West and John Martin. The “lion” of the collections, bought in 1801 for four and a half thousand guineas, were two thirds (750 in all) of Sir William Hamilton’s legendary collection of Greek and Roman vases, which Hope arranged in three “vase rooms”. Hope also displayed his rank, wealth and taste through the purchase and commissioning of silver gilt candle-sticks, vases, and other items such as a tea service, from Paul Storr and the royal goldsmiths Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, and the purchase of pictures formerly in the collection of the Ducs d’ Orléans. In splendour and originality he now had a house to rival the other “lions” of Regency taste: the Prince of Wales’s London residence at Carlton House and “Chinese” pavilion at Brighton; Beckford’s neogothic abbey at Fonthill; and John Soane’s house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

The difference was that Hope’s house was more modern and more public. Fonthill was inaccessible, except to the few guests whom Beckford allowed in; Brighton and Carlton House were usually reserved for the prince’s guests. “During the season when the nobility is in town”, however, Duchess Street, like many other great London collections, could be visited by ticket. In contrast to Beckford and the prince, Hope was a didactic, determined to promote a neoclassical revolution among the English.

The artistic role of the house in Duchess Street is described elsewhere in this catalogue. Its human function was not only to house Thomas Hope but also to provide an arena for his conquest of London. From its completion in 1802 until his death in 1831, he entertained there constantly. In England expenditure on parties was considered so admirable that even the number and weight of candles – then a considerable expense – as well as the names of prominent guests were reported in full in the leading daily newspapers. On May 10, 1802, below a list of six to ten parties held every night that week in the London “beau monde”, The Times wrote:

One of the most splendid Routs that has taken place this season was given by Mr THOMAS HOPE at his house in Mansfield Street on Friday night last [May 7] which was attended by nearly one thousand persons of the first rank and fashion in the country. Sixteen rooms were opened to receive the visitors, which were decorated with great taste, and very brilliantly lighted up so as to excite great admiration: there were two hundred and fifty wax lights in the different rooms, many of which exceeded in weight two pounds and a half. The golden candlesticks so much admired on the Prince of WALES’s visit were used on this occasion. The arrangements were under the direction of Mrs WILLIAM[S] HOPE who did the honours of the house. His Royal Highness the Prince of WALES was among the guests.

Despite such a debut, Thomas Hope’s first steps into the world of “rank and fashion” revealed his awkwardness. Hope was blamed for inviting members of the Royal Academy to his house not “to meet Company, the Duchess of Gordon etc but as professional men to publish His fine place.” He won a reputation for egotism, didacticism and vanity, and he was careful with money. Writing in praise of his own “elegance and unity of design and classic taste which I must confess to have sought in vain in the habitations of my neighbours” was unlikely to make him friends. Lord Glenbervie wrote that he was “said to be the richest but undoubtedly far from the most agreeable man in Europe . . . He is a little ill-looking man of about thirty with a sort of effeminate face and manner, and speaking a kind of language which you are in doubt whether to think merely affected or what is called broken English.” The great architects Wyatt and Smirke, among others, disliked him; for a time, despite his patronage of the arts, he was not invited to Royal Academy dinners. His exclusion, much discussed, was referred to as “Mr Hope’s business”. Satirical verses were directed against him. “Hope’s Garland”, for example, ends:
Each grace of style to me is known
Sound sense, deep thinking are my own.
And willing worlds in pleased surprise
Proclaim me rich! And great! And WISE!!!
Or:
Lo! Tommy Hope beyond conjecture,
Sits judge supreme of architecture.
Contracts his brows and with a fiat
Blights the fair fame of classic Wyatt.
And gravely proves himself alone is able
To form a Palace very like - a Stable.

Some considered a preoccupation with style, at a time when the country was fighting for its life against the Napoleonic Empire, a sign of frivolity rather than confidence. In The Edinburgh Review of April-July 1807 Sydney Smith wrote with unaccustomed pomposity: “At a time when we thought every male creature in the country was occupied with its politics and its dangers, an English gentlemen of large fortune and good education has found leisure to compose a volume on household furniture”. Such matters, he continued with a dig at Hope, should be left to slaves and foreigners.

Many Londoners disagreed. In 1804 Benjamin West had proclaimed that Hope’s house was “the finest specimen of true taste that is to be found either in England or in France”. At the Royal Academy dinner in 1805 he sat between Lord Lowther and the Bishop of Lincoln, opposite Lord Cowper. He joined the Royal Society and Royal Society of Arts in 1804, the British Institution and Society of Antiquaries in 1805 and the Committee of Taste in 1807.

After 1806, moreover, Hope was helped by a beautiful, popular and kind-hearted wife. Farington reported that at first - like others, including Susan Beckford and a Miss Dashwood – the Honble. Louisa Beresford had refused him; but “was afterwards persuaded by Her friends not to refuse so splendid a prospect.” Their marriage, on April 16, 1806, was a union of beauty, birth and wealth. Daughter of the Anglican Archbishop of Tuam and niece of the Marquess of Waterford, Louisa Beresford had little money of her own. Extremely rich, Thomas Hope was considered by many to be painfully ugly. (A caricature by an artist called Dubost, whom Hope had annoyed, representing them as “Beauty and the Beast” was displayed in a Saint James’s shop window until “cut to pieces” by Mrs Hope’s brother in 1808.)

Despite, or perhaps because of, an unromantic beginning, they soon formed an exceptionally happy couple. In 1810 Miss Berry called them “the image of domestic comfort and good understanding”. In a letter of 1811 Hope praised his wife for having “a warm heart, a good understanding, an excellent sense and a kind affectionate disposition which can hardly ever allow you to say, and never to do, anything that can give the least pain to those that love you”. In another letter he wrote to her as “my dearest dearest Lou”. In public he acknowledged here as “the sole partner of all my joys and sorrows . . . whose fair form but enshrines a mind far fairer”. After the success of Anastasius, he bought her two rows of pearls, known in the family as “the Anastasius pearls”.

For her part, she wrote to “my dearest Hope” that she enjoyed being “adorned and set off to every advantage”, “an object of envy for these distinctions” and “courted and recherché in society”, only because she received these “many worldly advantages” in return for having conferred happiness on him: “I had rather follow him I love or belong to to a convict’s ship or share the meanest garret with him”. For her he was “a beloved friend”. She complained if excluded from his travels. In 1807 they bought a country house, the Deepdene in Surrey. It was soon sumptuously furnished with Egyptian-style and neoclassical furniture and sculpture and fitted with thirty-three bedrooms, though the novelist Maria Edgeworth – an old friend of Mrs Hope from Ireland – found it “much too fine for a country house even putting the idea of comfort out of the question”. Children soon followed: Henry Thomas in 1808, Charles in 1810, Adrian John in 1811, Alexander James in 1820.

The diaries and letters of the time record the Hopes’ conquest of London – particularly Whig London. Holding regular assemblies, or routs, throughout the season, the Hopes made their house one of the most hospitable in the capital. At a rout on June 6, 1806 soon after their marriage, there was such a crowd that some guests could not reach the house, let alone the host. Having already been to a birthday Drawing Room at court that day, Mrs Spencer Stanhope at half past eleven “set out for Mr T. Hope’s rout but after waiting in the street till near one we found to get in was impossible. Therefore very reluctantly we turned about and came home.” In 1809 Miss Berry found “all the world”, including the Princess of Wales, dancing in the statue gallery; a year later she attended “an enormous assembly; the whole house open and the Princess of Wales there.” In 1813 Maria Edgeworth wrote: “We have been to a grand night at Mrs Hopes – furniture Hope – rooms really deserve the French epithet superbe! All of beauty, rank and fashion that London can assemble I believe I may say in the newspaper style, was there and we observed that the beauties past fifty bore the belle. The Prince Regent stood holding converse with Lady Elizabeth Monck one third of the night – she leaning gracefully on a bronze table in the centre of the room in the midst of the sacred but very small space of circle etiquette could keep around them.” There were nine hundred guests and the Regent stayed till half past three. Many walked to the house as there was no space for coaches to deposit them. When Maria Edgeworth asked Hope the name of one guest he replied: “ I really don’t know; I don’t know half the people here nor do they know me or Mrs Hope even by sight”. Probably many people were brought, uninvited, by their friends, or were admitted, as at some court receptions, on the strength of their dress and manners, rather than by invitation.

Lord Byron himself did not disdain the Hopes’ hospitality. His letters to Lady Melbourne in 1814 contain remarks such as: “we shall meet at Mrs Hope’s I trust”; “I believe I told you the claret story at Mrs Hope’s – last ball but one.” Anastasius impressed him. He said he would have given two of his most approved poems to have written it. Or, in another version, that it made him weep – because he had not written it and “Tommy Hope” had.

For both Hopes, social life became an addiction as well as a strategy. If Thomas Hope did not accompany his wife to “assemblies”, she tried in letters, as a loyal wife, “to give you as much information and amusement as I could and to be the vehicle through which you were informed of one of the endless tributes of just praise to your abilities, information and genius.” They arranged for the same social life to follow them wherever they were. Like many Londoners they visited Paris after the fall of Napoleon (Thomas Hope never, it seems, returned to Amsterdam). In 1815 the liberal writer Sismonde de Sismondi attended a “Bal fort brillant” and many other parties at the Hopes’ in Paris.

By the 1820s the Hopes were “big Whigs”, friends of previous mockers such as Lord Glenbervie and of Lady Holland herself. A “select early” party in Duchess Street consisted of a hundred guests. The Hopes were equally hospitable in the country. “The Deepdene Album” contains entries by, among others, Walter Scott, Samuel Rogers, John Wilson Croker and Thomas Moore. Nevertheless reservations remained. In 1823 Lady Holland’s son Henry Edward Fox wrote, after seeing the Hopes every day one season in Brighton: “I got better acquainted here with Mrs Hope who is uncommonly pretty and very good natured, with some of the drollery and none of the vulgarity of her country . . . Mr Hope has a foolish manner and a very disagreeable voice and says silly little nothings that make people almost disbelieve his having written Anastasius. He has a talent for drawing and has good taste (a further acquaintance with him has made me scratch out the epithet; its place may be supplied by the word ‘peculiar’). But certainly nothing appears to make one think him at all equal to such a book as I believe that to be.”

That year Hope’s ambitions suffered a major setback. A peerage remained the supreme symbol of acceptance in London. Despite British society’s reputation for elasticity, it was rarely awarded to a banker, let alone one born abroad like Thomas Hope who, moreover, under a Tory administration, supported the Whigs. The elevation of the Tory banker John Smith to the peerage as Lord Carrington had been permitted, in 1797, only after much resistance from the King. The first peerage awarded to a Baring, a family which had settled in England in the 1760s and had served the government well over foreign loans, was not granted until 1835. Nevertheless Hope made a bid. In 1823 he offered to buy a peerage for £10,000. Wellington, his intermediary with the government, was outraged. Despite their generosity to charities, neither Hope nor his equally wealthy sons ever obtained one. His social life, however, continued undisturbed. In 1827 Wellington’s friend Mrs Arbuthnot wrote in her diary: “London is beginning to fill and to be gay. We have just the same society as last year. Ladies Belfast and Gwydyr and Mrs Hope are at home the Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; Tuesdays and Saturdays the Opera and Thursday is left for chance people.”

If Hope failed to storm the House of Lords, he succeeded in opening another door to social position, one perhaps more accessible to a banking fortune, namely the royal family and royal household. Although little is known about relations between Hope and George IV, the Hopes were seen at a Christmas party at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton in 1823: Mrs Hope is described as “dressed in solid gold, with rare birds flying in different directions out of her head”. With an eye to the future, Mrs Hope also contributed to charities patronized by the Duchess of Clarence, the pious wife of George IV’s younger brother, the future William IV. From 1826 the Clarences began to visit the Hopes at the Deepdene. In 1829 the Hopes’ eldest son Henry Thomas became a Groom of the Bedchamber and for three years MP for the rotten borough of East Looe, purchased for him by his father. In 1830 Mrs Hope became a Woman of the Bedchamber to the new Queen Adelaide. A less elevated position than that of Lady of the Bedchamber, it provoked a blast of contempt from Lady Holland: “the services are not dignified; and at Court she cannot be admitted into the Circle or be spoken to as her own station entitles her to. Otherwise she gains the [right to carry the Queen’s] fan and gloves.”

By then, however, Thomas Hope was ill. According to Maria Edgeworth he was on the road to recovery when he caught a chill, while out on his roof in January, directing workmen to make a sky-light for a new picture gallery. As he lay dying, he was watched over night and day by his wife and his sons Adrian and Henry. He said: “I am extinguishing but not as fast as I could wish.” He died on February 2, 1831 and was buried at the Deepdene in the mausoleum he had erected for his son Charles. “Some of the last words he ever uttered,” wrote Mrs Hope to her mistress the Queen, “ were of gratitude and attachment to Your Majesty and the King.” By securing them places in the royal household – and by keeping his fortune intact - Thomas Hope had ensured that his family remained part of court society. His two elder surviving sons married Frenchwomen (Adèle Bichat, an actress, and Mathilde Rapp, daughter of a Napoleonic general); his youngest son married Lady Mildred Cecil, whose brother Lord Salisbury later became one of the most successful Victorian Prime Ministers.

Hope’s personality remains elusive. He was more popular with women than with men. Perhaps because of their similarities of taste and character with Hope, two of the most sympathetic accounts are by unmarried lady writers, Miss Mitford and Miss Edgeworth. For Miss Mitford, “Of all the persons I ever knew, I think he was the most delightful. There was a quick glancing delicate wit in his conversation such as I never heard before - it came sparkling in, chequering his grave sense like the sunbeams in a forest. He had also (what all people of any value have) great truth and exactness of observation and said the wisest things in the simplest manner. Above all there was about him a little tinge of shyness, a modesty a real and genuine diffidence most singular and most charming in a man of his station, his fortune and his fame.” He had “the air and bearing of “a man of the highest distinction”. Maria Edgeworth had frequently stayed at the Deepdene and Duchess Street. She praised his “information and general powers of conversation”; he was “so entertaining” during a walk that she almost forgot “the beauties of nature”. Above all he was always “as kind as possible”; “nothing can be more kind or obliging than he is to us”.

The world and family which Thomas Hope created have vanished. His widow and his sons quarreled over his Will as well as that of his brother Henry Philip Hope. Mrs. Hope remarried, less than two years after his death, on November 29, 1832, to her cousin and childhood sweetheart Marshal Beresford. Known by his step-sons as “the Marshal”, he was as different from Thomas Hope as a man could be. Large, ill-tempered and rough-mannered, he had won fame as the commander of the Portuguese army during the Peninsular War, and subsequently as unofficial ruler of Portugal. Confirming that Thomas Hope had been the driving force behind their entertainments, after her second marriage Louisa Beresford ceased to hold routs or receptions in the same way. Although still listed as a Woman of the Bedchamber in the Royal Kalendar of 1833, her name is no longer mentioned in that of 1834.

On inheriting his step-father’s fortune, Hope’s youngest son Alexander James took his step-father’s name and became Alexander James Beresford Hope. By 1917 both the Hope and Beresford Hope families had died out in the male line. The simplicity and purity of neoclassicism, to the promotion of which Thomas Hope had devoted much of his life, were already beginning to be replaced, at the time of his death, by heavily ornamented eclecticism. Alexander James Beresford Hope became as keen a publicist for neogothic as his father had been for neoclassicism. In a remarkable double victory for greed and philistinism, both Hope’s houses were demolished, Duchess Street by his son in 1851, the Deepdene by its owner British Rail in 1969. Hope’s collections were dispersed by his descendants in sales in 1898 and 1917. In 2005 it is difficult even to find surviving letters.

This exhibition will, it is hoped, revive the reputation of a high priest of neoclassicism who, at the end of his life, summed up his character and ambitions in the following words: “I who though of merchant blood am not a merchant; who though dabbling in authorship rank not among the inspired; who have only been able to bestow on a few humble artists the feeble patronage of an humble individual have done all I could; and should I succeed in kindling for the arts a more intense and universal love when comes the hour of death I shall think I have not lived in vain.”

The Last Court Painter: Fausto Zonaro and Abdulhamid II
The original footnoted version of this article appeared in ‘Fausto Zonaro: From the Venice Lagoon to the Shores of the Bosphorus - An Italian Painter at the Court of the Sultan’, the catalogue of an exhibition held at the Vittoriano in Rome from 25 November to 20 December 2004 - pp. 33-47.

THE LAST COURT PAINTER: FAUSTO ZONARO AND ABDULHAMID II

The great tradition of court painters, nursery of Raphael, Rubens and Goya, came to an end not in Rome or Madrid but in Istanbul. Its principal representative was Fausto Zonaro.

Born in the small town of Masi di Padova in the Veneto in 1854, son of a building foreman, Fausto Zonaro had studied and painted in Verona, Venice, Paris and Naples, without making name or fortune. His early works such as Sul ponte delle Guglie, showing three girls walking in Venice or Festa del Redentore are no more than lively and charming. In search of a secure market, at the age of thirty-seven, he turned to the Ottoman Empire, the charms of which had been popularised in Italy by Edmondo de' Amicis's once celebrated work, Costantinopoli (1874). Zonaro arrived in Istanbul in November 1891.

Istanbul was a natural destination for a struggling artist. Containing about one million inhabitants, it was not only capital of an empire which stretched from Albania to Armenia, and from Salonika to Sana’a, but also one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Approximately 58 % of the Ottoman population were Muslim, 22% Orthodox, 15% Armenian, and 5% Jewish. In addition there were many foreigners, for whom Istanbul was a land of opportunity, particularly since imperial decrees in 1839 and 1856 had made all religions, in theory, equal under the Sultan. Regarding prosperity in the Ottoman Empire as more attractive than freedom in the newly independent Kingdom of Greece, thousands of Greeks left in order to work in Istanbul. Poles and Hungarians found the Ottoman Empire a haven from oppression in the Russian or Austrian empires. The Sultan’s court painter in 1864-76 was a Pole, Stanislas Chlebowski, as were many Ottoman generals. Istanbul had three roles. It was one of the diplomatic and commercial centres of Europe, to which it had been connected by train since 1888; it was a modernising metropolis where schools taught French as well as Ottoman to the empire's elite, Muslim, Christian and Jewish; and, since the Ottoman Sultan was Caliph of the Muslims, it was the capital of Islam.

The cosmopolitan nature of the Ottoman capital was expressed in the Almanach du Levant, which gave the date, the name of the relevant religious festival and the time of sunset and sunrise (Muslims and Jews still lived by a calendar in which the day began at sunset) for each day in Ottoman, Greek, Armenian, Ladino, Bulgarian and French. The costumes which could be admired on the Galata bridge, linking the European city of Pera to the traditional Muslim districts of Istanbul, included Greeks in flared white kilts; Circassians in black sheep skin caps; Kurds in embroidered jackets; Albanians in white breeches, as well as Europeans wearing the latest fashions. One witness said: ‘there is nothing like it in the whole world from San Francisco to Peking, nothing so vivid, so alive, so heterogeneous, so anomalous, so fascinating’.

Italians too had been living in Istanbul, since before the Ottoman conquest in 1453, owing to the presence of colonies of Venetian and Genoese traders. Until its replacement in the middle of the nineteenth century by French, the second language of international commerce in Istanbul, as in the other ports of the Levant, was Italian. The man who helped Sultan Mahmud II turn Ottoman troops into a modern army after the massacre of the Janissaries in 1826 - and who taught the Sultan to ride in the western fashion - was an elegant officer from Piedmont called Colonel Calosso. An artist from Malta, Count Amedeo Preziosi, had lived in Istanbul, painting its people and costumes, in 1842-76.

When Zonaro arrived in Istanbul, it was ruled by Sultan Abdulhamid II. Intelligent but autocratic, he had dissolved the first Ottoman parliament and ended the brief experiment with constitutional government in 1878, only two years after his accession. Traumatised by the deposition and suicide of his uncle Abdulaziz in May 1876, the deposition three months later for mental instability of his brother Murad V, soon followed by a war which brought the armies of Tsar Alexander II within sight of the minarets of Istanbul, at times, in the words of one of his Grand Viziers he was ‘out of his mind with fear and jealousy’. Imperialism and nationalism threatened the very existence of the empire. He reacted by concentrating power in the palace of Yıldız located outside Istanbul on a hill above the Bosphorus (it was called Yıldız, or star, since it was so easy to see the stars there).

Abdulhamid rarely visited the city of Istanbul. Instead he made Yıldız into a separate palace city, the last great power statement of the Ottoman dynasty. It was at once a palace, a ministry, a military head-quarters, and a university. Behind the high walls of Yıldız were offices, barracks, museums, schools, hospitals, pavilions, a theatre, a library, a furniture factory, a photography laboratory, a printing press and a zoo. Ministers were summoned there at any time of day or night. In 1895 the French ambassador was told ‘The Sultan has ended by absorbing everything...Everything is decided at the palace, the most insignificant as well as the most important affairs’. He was said to pay one half of his empire to spy on the other.

Even in Istanbul itself there were nationalist demonstrations. On 18 September 1895 2000 armed Armenians demonstrated in front of the offices of the Sublime Porte, the Ottoman government, crying ‘Liberty or death’. Abdulhamid reacted, both in 1895 and after a terrorist attack in 1896, by allowing Armenians to be massacred in the streets of his capital by mobs of men 'laughing like children on holiday', in the words of a foreign diplomat. Ottoman soldiers and policemen looked on, or occasionally joined in.

A foreign artist like Zonaro, however, was the right man in the right place. The Sultan rarely permitted the construction of a factory. Possibly fearing the use of electricity by terrorists, he allowed it only in embassies, hotels, hospitals and his own palace - not in the city itself. Contemporaries regarded Istanbul as a miracle of beauty. The future King Abdullah of Jordan called it ‘fascinating beyond description, a city of great beauty enthralling in every season, summer and winter alike…nobody and nothing seems strange and you can find anything you want from any country.’ The air of the Bosphorus was ‘tonic to the body and exhilaration to the spirit’. An employee of the Ottoman Bank called Louis Rambert found the Bosphorus ‘a spectacle of real enchantment…What light! What sunshine!’

Few cities have been recorded so fully, by one artist, as Istanbul by Fausto Zonaro. By his own count, Zonaro painted (out of a total oeuvre of about 2,400 works in all mediums) around 1,300 pictures of the city – a unique total, more than Canaletto painted of Venice. Zonaro was allowed, by the Sultan’s police, to paint anywhere in the city, even inside mosques, except Yıldız and the great Muslim shrine of Eyyup. Regarding Istanbul as a pre-industrial paradise, Zonaro painted as many different aspects of the city as possible: pashas, beggars and hammams; street barbers, public letter-writers, gypsies, fishermen; and firemen rushing across Galata bridge. His landscapes included views of fountains, grave-yards and many different districts: Anadolu Hisarı, Salacak, Üsküdar, Kumkapı, Tatavla, Beşiktaş, Nişantaş, Ortaköy.

A lover of women, in Europe a painter of nudes, he shows many Istanbul women unveiled or with flimsy white veils. This may be wishful thinking, since contemporary photographers record women hidden by the dark black cloaks and scarves on which Abdulhamid’s police insisted. In keeping with the city’s location on the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn, and his own love of the sea, Zonaro excelled in seascapes. In these pictures, masts and minarets, sails and clouds, mist and smoke, above all light and water, combine into some of the most evocative of all representations of Istanbul.

Zonaro also painted the religious ceremonies which, before the restrictions imposed by Mustafa Kemal, dominated the public life of the city. The painter went where photographers did not, or could not, go. Every Thursday afternoon he went to hear Rufai dervishes. One of his most remarkable pictures, The Dervishes of 1910 depicts an elder of the Rufai order walking on the prostrated backs of some disciples, while chanting dervishes, possibly including Zonaro himself, are watched by groups of Turkish children and European ladies. A photograph of it still hangs in an Istanbul dervish tekke today, since there is no other visual record of such a ceremony. Another picture, painted for Abdulhamid to give a Shia leader, is a reminder of the presence of a considerable Persian minority in Istanbul. It shows Shia muslims chanting and cutting their flesh on 10 Moharrem, to produce blood in commemoration of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, as they still do in Iran and Lebanon.

Zonaro’s importance as a painter of Istanbul is enhanced by his unparalleled access to the Ottoman court. He was introduced there by the European ambassadors, who played such an important role in the capital and in his own career. In 1896 he painted an enormous picture of the crack Ertoghrul cavalry regiment of the Imperial Guard, riding across the Galata bridge on white horses, watched by passers-by. Admiring it in his studio, the Italian and Russian ambassadors suggested that he present it to the Sultan. Abdulhamid, who knew that the survival of the empire depended on the power of its army, was pleased by this image of Ottoman power and modernity, rather than the usual Orientalist representations of picturesque decay. As a reward Zonaro was appointed to the post of Painter of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan, recently vacated by the death of the previous holder, another Italian Luigi Acquarone. His salary was low, only 40 lira a year, but was frequently augmented by gifts and further payments from the Sultan, and by sales of pictures to private individuals.

Italians were welcome in the Ottoman palace. Since the reigns of Selim III (1789-1807), and Abdulhamid’s Rossini- and brandy-loving grandfather Mahmud II (1808-39), it had created its own synthesis of East and West.. French and Greek were heard there as well as Ottoman. Although he learnt some Ottoman, in the palace Zonaro probably most frequently spoke French. Whereas the Sultan had public buildings like the Central Post office in Eminonu and the Land Registry ofices in Atmeidan built in neo-Turkish styles, and maintained Islamic traditions of piety, Yıldız was built and decorated in a variety of European styles, generally under the supervision of his chief architect, called Raimondo d’Aronco. Abdulhamid’s opera troupe in Yıldız was directed by another Italian, Arturo Stravolo. The director of the Imperial band, and the Imperial school of music, in succession to Giuseppe Donizetti, brother of the composer, was Guatelli Pasha.

Austria, France and Britain had already occupied, respectively, Bosnia in 1878, Tunisia in 1881 and Egypt in 1882. Russia was the traditional enemy, and regarded Istanbul, as Nicholas II said in 1896, as ‘the key to her back door’. Germans already helped train the Ottoman army. Until it invaded Tripolitania in 1911, Italy was erroneously believed to be a power without designs on Ottoman territory – another reason for the popularity of Italians in the palace.

As ‘Painter of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan’, like many previous court painters Zonaro began to paint ‘palace pictures’, large official canvasses glorifying the empire and the dynasty, which were commissioned by the Sultan to hang on the walls of his palaces and are still today in the collections of the Turkish National Palaces. The Attack shows a scene from the Ottoman Empire’s brief and victorious war with Greece in 1897: with drawn bayonets, cheering Ottoman soldiers charge Greek troops. It still hangs in the ambassadors’ waiting room in Dolmabahçe palace, a bracing reminder to European powers that, in defence of its territory, the Ottoman Empire was capable of putting up a good fight. As a reward for this picture Zonaro was given the keys to 50 Akaretler Sokak, a three storey house in an elegant classical terrace built to house court officials behind Dolmabachce palace.

At a time when Istanbul was coveted by Russia, Bulgaria and Greece, and its Christian population was growing faster than its Muslim population, the Sultan also commissioned Zonaro to paint scenes from the Ottoman conquest, such as the entry of Mehmed II into the city and the fleet’s transport overland from the Bosphorus into the Golden Horn, as if to reassert the city’s Ottoman identity.

Zonaro’s most successful palace pictures are the smaller, more impressionistic and less glossy views of the visit of the German Emperor and Empress Wilhelm II and Augusta Victoria to Abdulhamid II in 1898, on their way to Jerusalem and Damascus. The German alliance was the Sultan’s principal diplomatic weapon in his attempts to safeguard the Ottoman Empire; indeed at Damascus Wilhelm II declared that he would always be a friend to the Sultan and the 300 million Muslims of the world. For once, royal personages do not dominate pictures commissioned by a monarch. The picture of the Emperor and Empress leaving the Chalet Kiosk at Yıldız, which had been especially extended for their visit, focuses on the Sultan’s horses and his footmen’s magnificent blue and gold liveries. The picture of the Emperor and Empress embarking at Dolmabahce unites in one canvas four dominating elements in Istanbul under Abdulhamid: the sea; the German alliance; the palace; and mosques. The Sultan himself is nowhere to be seen.

Zonaro was the last interesting court painter in Europe. In other courts, like Vienna, Saint Petersburg and Madrid, with the advent of photography, the tradition of court painting was dying out. The only contemporary rival to Zonaro as a court painter, Philip de Laszlo, as the exhibition at Christies in London in 2004 proved, painted more royal sitters, from more different royal families, than any other court painter in history. His portraits are flattering but lack depth. Moreover he painted nothing else. Zonaro covered every type of subject necessary to a monarch in search of dynastic glorification: history, ceremonies, portraits, battles.

Zonaro became a court painter in every sense, deriving most of his income, inspiration and occupations from the court. He frequently visited and painted Yıldız, which he called the Sultan’s ‘earthly paradise’, studied Ottoman, wore the fez and an Ottoman uniform and medals, gave drawing lessons to and painted princes in a studio in the grounds of Yıldız and instructed artists in the Imperial Porcelain Factory, founded by Abdulhamid at Yıldız in 1893, in the art of painting on porcelain. Gilded neo-islamic frames were made for Zonaro’s pictures in the palace workshops; and he arranged pictures on the palace walls, and in the museum the Sultan established in the palace grounds. While doing so, he once met the sultan himself, with whom he was able to exchange a few words in Ottoman. Abdulhamid advised him to cut off bits of a painting if it did not fit the space above a doorway. He was also charged with plans for creating a weapons museum. Zonaro’s eldest son was given a scholarship to attend the imperial lycee at Galatasaray and his pictures were on sale in the shop established in 1886 on the grande rue de Pera to sell products from the imperial factories. Visitors to his studio, many of whom bought pictures, included artists, ambassadors, pashas and, during a Mediterranean cruise in 1907, Winston Churchill.

The popularity of Zonaro in Yıldız confirms the vigour of the Ottoman Sultans’ tradition of commissioning portraits, which was commemorated in the exhibition on ‘The Sultan's Portrait’, held in Topkapı palace in 2000. It had begun with Gentile Bellini, sent from Venice in 1479 at Sultan Mehmed II’s request to paint his portrait. As a Venetian, a painter and a visitor to Istanbul, Bellini was a model for Zonaro: indeed one of his commissions from Abdulhamid would be to copy Bellini’s portrait of Mehmed II. Disapproval of portraits in the Muslim world was widespread. Unlike his father and grandfather Sultans Abdulmecid and Mahmud II, Abdulhamid himself refused, when Sultan, to sit for a photograph or a portrait. Nevertheless, even in the palaces of the caliph of Islam, there had never been an Islamic prohibition of human images.

Despite its European architecture and culture, Yıldız was also the last great Islamic palace. The most important ceremonies there were Muslim, such as the Sultan’s weekly Selamlik at the Hamidiye mosque or the departure of the Sultan’s gifts and the pilgrim caravan to Mecca every year, which Zonaro painted in 1903. It was in Yıldız that the Hejaz railway was planned to take Muslim pilgrims and the Sultan’s soldiers from Damascus to Mecca itself. Zonaro painted a portrait of the man behind the railway, Izzet Holo Pasha, Second Secretary and the Sultan's adviser on Arab affairs, said to be the most influential man in the palace and also to nourish a secret contempt for his master.

By 1908, according to one estimate, 12,000 people inhabited the palace city of Yıldız. Outside the palace walls, however, the Sultan’s authority was crumbling. Telegrams arrived almost daily in Yıldız with news of revolts in the provinces. ‘Outside my world of art I could see that the empire was beginning to be shaken by increasing political turmoil’, wrote Zonaro in his memoirs. In July 1908 a revolt in Macedonia, led by Young Turk officers hostile to the Sultan's autocracy and convinced of the empire’s impending partition by Russia and Britain, spread rapidly, partly owing to the Sultan's failure to pay his own troops. On 24 July, on the advice of his ministers, the Sultan abolished censorship and promised elections for the autumn. In effect he had restored constitutional government. Istanbul exploded with joy. In the words of the English traveller Aubrey Herbert the city seemed to glow like a rose. Christians and Muslims embraced in the street. Despite detestation of his government, the Sultan himself remained popular. Zonaro remembered that, when Abdulhamid went to mosque on the first Friday after the restoration of the constitution, he was cheered by crowds carrying banners proclaiming ‘Liberty, Equality Fraternity and Justice’: ‘never in my life had I heard such a cry. Never had I seen so many exulting people.’

Like other court painters such as Goya, Primo Pintor de camara in Spain and Baron Gerard, Premier Peintre du Roi in France, who were ready to paint both Bourbons and Bonapartes, so Zonaro, despite being Painter of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan, was prepared to paint his master's enemies. To most court painters, money and opportunity mattered more than loyalty. Moreover Zonaro was a liberal who believed, like most people in Istanbul in 1908, that the Young Turk revolution was the dawn of a new era.

The sketch of a woman raising her veil to look at the Ertoghrul regiment, made for the picture which had gained Zonaro his title of Painter of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan, appeared in 1908 on the cover of the Figaro illustre, as a symbol of the rebirth of liberty in Turkey. That October Zonaro, at his own request, was finally allowed to paint three portraits of the Sultan. Zonaro later remembered that the Sultan, frowning and deep in thought, did not say a word.

During an attempted counter-revolution in April 1909, partly caused by Istanbul troops’ fury at their loss of privileges, and the prospect of serving in distant provinces, Zonaro sheltered a neighbour in his house. He was father of Zonaro’s friend Enver Bey, one of the Young Turk leaders. As Young Turk troops from Salonica took control of Istanbul on 24 April 1909, Zonaro completed a portrait of Enver Bey himself, portrayed as a stern young officer in uniform, fixing onlookers with a chilling stare. Behind him are some of the wild-haired Macedonian irregular troops who had helped take control of Istanbul. Enver’s signature appears in Zonaro’s vistors’ book on 28 April, the day after Abdulhamid was informed of his deposition. As a souvenir of the sitting, Enver gave Zonaro the binoculars which appear in his portrait. Soon after the deposition of Abdulhamid, Zonaro gave a party in his house in honour of his new patron, Enver Bey.

The court painter’s enthusiasm for revolution did not, however, save his career. He had disputes with the new government not over politics but over the more vital matters, for most artists, of accommodation and remuneration. Abdulhamid had been lavish in distributing rewards and favours to his servants; the new regime, although keeping Abdulhamid’s heir Mehmed Reshad as Sultan, preferred to cut the cost of the court. Zonaro was dismissed from the post of painter to the Sultan and asked to pay rent on his house since the fall of Abdulhamid. Regarding his treatment as an insult, on 20 March 1910 he left Istanbul on the Orient Express. Refusing a request to return, he eventually settled in San Remo.

If he left Istanbul, Istanbul did not leave him. On the shores of Liguria, he wore the fez, painted new pictures of Istanbul, made copies of old ones, and wrote memoirs of his life in the Ottoman capital, which he planned to publish accompanied by his wife’s photographs. By a strange coincidence, in 1923 another exile from Istanbul, Abdulhamid's brother, the last Sultan Mehmed VI, who had fled the new Kemalist regime, also settled in San Remo. He died there three years later, followed by Zonaro in 1929. The quality of Zonaro’s archive preserved by his grand-daughter Yolanda Zonaro Meneguzzer in Florence, including his visitors’ book and his wife’s account-book, as well as the memoirs and photographs, reinforces his importance as a witness to Istanbul’s imperial sunset. Thanks to Zonaro and Abdulhamid, Istanbul has at least as good a record, in pictures, of its last years as an imperial capital and court city as Berlin, Vienna or Saint Petersburg.

At the Sublime Porte: European Ambassadors to the Ottoman Empire 1550-1800
Catalogue for the exhibition at Hazlitt, Gooden and Fox, London, May to June 1988 (includes essays by Philip Mansel), London (1988)

Franz Xaver Winterhalter and the Courts of Europe 1830-1870
Catalogue for the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London, October 1987 to January 1988, and the Petit Palais, Paris, February to May 1988 (contains biographical entries by Philip Mansel), London (1987)