The July Revolution in images: the most mega of all mega-posts
Who doesn’t feel a total frisson of excitement when they hear those words in sequence, “July,” then “Revolution”? Unless you are Enjolras, of course. But she is a hater, ignore her.
This is such a cool event in French history. A three-day revolution! I mean, c’mon! The three days of barricades, 27-29 July 1830 (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday), are called “les Trois Glorieuses” in French, and I agree. They are chock full of awesome anecdotes and weird happenings and dire previews for future barricades.
And Victor Hugo almost totally ignores them in Les Misérables. Why? You could argue that he doesn’t want to get off-topic by going there, but, um, it’s Victor Hugo. The history of female monasticism and a mini-thesis on street slang were not considered off-topic for him. I can think of two possible reasons why he didn’t set any of his narrative during the July Revolution: 1.) he didn’t want to open the possibility of redundancy by having two exciting barricade sequences, and 2.) he is really weird about his three-year time-skip during Marius’ plotline. I have always thought that maybe this time-skip must have been shoehorned in later, after much of the narrative had already been written, because it often doesn’t match up with other things we are told in the narrative. Are we really supposed to believe that there is this secret society of revolutionaries already fully formed up and organized ca. 1828-1829, when Marius meets them? (FYI, unless they were super-secretive carbonari badasses, most republicans were not yet organized into societies prior to the 1830 revolution. If the ABC already existed in, say, 1828, they would be the most precocious secret society ever.) And these guys don’t change at all for the next three years? None of them graduate, none of them leave the group and no one else enters the group, none of them even really change in mentality, despite the huge fact of 1830 being in between there. 1830, being an epic failure from the POV of radical republicans, would have had a HUGE impact on the way this group was organized and the way they understood the challenges facing them. But to Victor Hugo, the ABC is a toy set that he can play with when he needs them to meet Marius, and then just set aside for three years, when he can pick them up again and they will be exactly as he remembered them. How many people do you guys know who can stay exactly the same for three years, especially with a life-altering traumatic event in between (and the July Revolution would have been traumatic for this society)? And what’s with the ages he gives for the Friends, anyway? Enjolras is said to be twenty-two when we first meet him, and other ages are given for some of the others, with everyone else generally implied to be older than Enjolras. Three years later, that makes Enjolras twenty-five, and everyone else even older. Um, I get that some of them are, like, eternal students who never intend to graduate, but uh, mid-to-late twenties (thirties for Bahorel!) is a little bit old for reckless barricade bros in this period. The “young people” that 1832 newspapers accuse of starting the trouble at Lamarque’s funeral are described as being, like, 18 or 19. You know, like undergrads. Law students, med students, polytechniciens, lycée students: all of these were generally in their teens or very early twenties in this period. For God’s sake, even space-case Marius graduates law school when he’s, like, 19 or 20! Enjolras, you and your friends have not only officially aged out of crazy revolutionary antics, you’ve even aged out of student antics. You know what I’m starting to think? I think Hugo meant for Enjolras to stay 22 throughout the time-skip, and all the other Friends should “keep as they are” as well: essentially, he has them cryogenically frozen until he needs them again, and he expects them to still be youthful and rash when he picks them up again. Imagine how much trouble this creates when you go to write a story that follows these characters from 1828 to 1832. How to give people character arcs when they must also, on some level, remain static and steadfast for the entire period? How to handle the July Revolution, that elephant in the room?
ANYWAY. Speaking of off-topic, I always get off-topic when it comes to Victor Hugo’s three-year time-skip, which makes no sense.
So today, I’m going to post my favorite images from the July Revolution. I’m sure much artistic liberty was taken for some of these, but they are awesome sources nonetheless. Many of the engravings appeared in cheap publications only days after the events depicted, often as illustrations for eyewitness accounts and anecdotes. These pamphlets were sold to benefit the charities for the widows and orphans of the barricade dead. Other images, especially the paintings, were created later, and many of them have been retconned and carefully composed to provide justification and/or support for the “winners” of the conflict, that is, for the orléanistes and King Louis-Philippe.
^^^The immediate cause of the July Revolution was something called the July Ordinances. On Sun., 25 July 1830, King Charles X and his ministers issued four royal ordinances attacking freedom of the press and altering electoral regulations, measures that were likely to piss off pretty much everyone but especially journalists. The Ordinances were published in Le Moniteur (the official government newspaper) on Mon., 26 July 1830, and they caused an immediate uproar throughout Paris. In this period, when most people couldn’t read and couldn’t afford newspaper subscriptions anyway, they got their news from literate people reading the papers aloud in public spaces like the Parc Luxembourg and the Palais-Royal. This process facilitated the spread of popular outrage over the Ordinances. The above image shows a public reading of the Ordinances on 26 July and the speeches and debates that it occasioned.
^^^As the news of the Ordinances spread, the liberal activists (both republicans and orléanistes) gathered at the offices of their newspapers (especially the republican Tribune des départements and the orléaniste National), where they debated what was to be done in response to the government. They decided to defy the Ordinances’ attack on the freedom of the press by publishing a protest in their papers. This led to the government attempting to silence the opposition press by sending troops to seize the journalists’ printed issues and their means of production (their presses). The above image shows the seizures at the offices of Le Temps, which the journalists are protesting vigorously to the gathering crowd.
^^^This shows the seizures at the offices of the orléaniste daily Le National. The gentlemen in suits are the editors of the paper, and the workingmen shown to the right are the printers. The crackdown on the freedom of the press united journalists and printers in protest.
^^^Detail: The editors of Le National. Probably these are intended to be mini-portraits of actual people, but I can’t identify them for sure. The fellow to the far left, making a classical gesture of protest, looks a lot like Alphonse de Lamartine (a figure later important in the 1848 Revolution), but I’m not sure if Lamartine was involved with Le National. Probably one of the dark-haired fellows is supposed to be Armand Carrel, though none of them really resembles him. The fair-haired fellow with the spectacles might be Adolphe Thiers, one of the editors-in-chief of the paper and later a powerful figure in Louis-Philippe’s government. These very public scenes of seizing newspapers played out in front of angry crowds in the streets, and served to whip up even more public outrage against the Ordinances.
The armed conflict began almost unwittingly outside the gates of the Palais-Royal, in the rue Saint-Honoré, where the army and the king’s personal Swiss guard were trying to lock the people out of the Palais-Royal. This was essentially an attempt to stifle public debate and protest, since the Palais-Royal was a popular location for such activities. The people began throwing rocks at the troops, there was gunfire, and before long, there were skirmishes between the soldiers and the people in the street, and the people in the windows of the buildings above got into the action as well, throwing down projectiles and firing on the troops. Chaos ensued, and makeshift barricades were thrown up to provide cover and to hinder the troops.
^^^Furniture thrown down upon the heads of the troops in the rue Saint-Antoine on the 28 July. The paving-stones and the rubble are being used for makeshift barricades, as you can see in the lower corners of this image, but there is no fully-formed barricade yet in this street.
^^^During the 27 and 28 July, hardly anyone in the crowd had guns yet. This was remedied by attacking guardhouses and taking the weapons of the troops/police on guard there. Guns could also be obtained by sacking gun shops and commandeering the merchandise “in the name of the people.” A well-known anecdote, illustrated above, relates how a famous gun shop located right near the Palais-Royal was one of the first to be attacked by the crowd. The owner, Le Page, urged the crowd to stop sacking the shop and harassing his employees–instead, he declared himself a patriot and willingly distributed his guns to the crowd.
^^^Building a barricade in the rue Saint-Honoré. This street was the site of some of the earliest barricades during the Three Days.
^^^The fully formed barricades of the rue Saint-Honoré.
^^^Battling at the barricades of the rue Saint-Honoré.
^^^A barricade on the 28 July led by a polytechnicien. Notice the antique battle-ax and pikes being brandished by the insurgents. A famous anecdote from the revolution tells of how a group of workingmen broke into the Museum of Artillery in the rue du Bac and made off with a bunch of antique weapons and armor, which they then proceeded to use in battle. A similar anecdote tells the same about a group that raided the theatres to get their hands on the weapons used onstage in plays and operas (these were real guns, pikes, crossbows, etc.). Such stories must have amused contemporaries, because these antique weapons and armor pieces often show up in illustrations of the July Revolution.
^^^This barricade depiction is titled ”La charte, ou la mort!” La charte, that is, the Constitutional Charter of 1814, was an important rallying point for the July Revolution. It was a document that had been created in 1814 by King Louis XVIII, which promised some basic liberties to the French people. Charles X’s Ordinances of 26 July 1830 were widely seen as being in violation of the Charter of 1814, so the insurgents had a legal basis for revolt. A certain (more conservative) segment of the insurgents painted their rebellion as a defense of the legality of the Charter, and wanted to abolish Charles X’s ordinances and return instead to the Charter: hence the barricade battle cries “Vive la charte!” and “La charte, ou la mort!”
Radical republicans like the Friends of the ABC of course thought the Charter itself sucked, since it was still an document issued at the pleasure of kings and subject to royal manipulation. Courfeyrac argues vehemently against the Charter of 1814 in Les Misérables: “‘Secondly, no offense to Combeferre, a charter granted is a vicious expedient of civilization. To avoid the transition, to smooth the passage, to deaden the shock, to make the nation move unawares from monarchy to democracy by the practice of constitutional fictions, these are all detestable arguments! No! No! Never give the people a false light. Principles wither and grow pale in your constitutional cellar. No half measures, no compromises, no grant from the king to the people. In all these grants there is an Article 14. Along with the hand that gives there is the claw that takes back. I wholly refuse your charter. A charter is a mask; the lie is under it. A people who accept a charter, abdicate. Right is right only when entire. No! No charter!’” [Article 14 was an article in the Charter of 1814 that allowed the king to contravene the Charter’s provisions when it was a matter of national emergency. This was Charles X’s official justification for why he could issue ordinances that were seemingly contrary to the provisions of the Charter. Courfeyrac implies that having such an open-ended clause allows kings to abuse their power with only the slightest pretext and pretty much invalidates the point of a Charter in the first place, which ought to be making the king accountable to his people.]
^^^”Vive la charte!”
^^^The barricades in the place de Grève, during the fight for the Hôtel de Ville. At the crest of the barricade, a bourgeois (a portrait of a real person, possibly?) supports a wounded workingman, who holds the tricolor standard aloft. A dead Swiss guard is sprawled at the bottom of the barricade. One workingman reaches back for more ammunition as he prepares to fight the soldiers on the other side. The barricade here is more formed, but still not very formidable in size. Most of the barricades of 1830, as seen in these images, were not very tall or impressive. There was no time in the beginning of the 1830 conflict to build such well-designed barricades, so the result is that they are often no more than quick breastworks designed to protect the fighters, but they are not the carefully constructed fortresses seen in Les Misérables or in the Revolution of 1848.
^^^Detail: The group on the right: a rapturous bourgeois with a saber, a polytechnicien giving orders, and, behind them in the background, the towers of Notre-Dame just across the river. The flag proclaims: “Vive la charte!”
^^^The place de Grève barricades again. You can see how spread out and disorganized the fighting is, due to the sheer size of the place de Grève.
^^^Battling for the Hôtel de Ville. A wounded man urges the fighters on while dying in a woman’s arms, and a polytechnicien rallies the insurgents, carrying a tricolor that reads “Vive la charte!!!” (Abusing punctuation marks–it’s not just an internet age thing.)
^^^More battling for the Hôtel de Ville. These images are not very consistent in showing the layout of this battle (where the insurgents were, and where the troops were), which gives the impression that it must have been a very confused atmosphere. I’ve assumed that there must have been insurgent forces attacking both from the inland side (the rue du Mouton) as well as from the river side (the pont de Grève), with the troops trapped somewhere in between.
^^^More battling for the Hôtel de Ville. This painting captures a famous event in the July Revolution, in which a group of insurgents lead a crazy courageous suicidal charge across the pont de Grève in the face of steady grapeshot and gunfire. The insurgents’ standard-bearer was a fellow who told his companions, “Remember me–my name is Arcole!” He was the first to fall as they stormed the bridge, and the bridge came to be named after him: it is still called the Pont d’Arcole today. (An alternate explanation for the bridge’s name is that the insurgents’ charge across the bridge reminded onlookers of the Napoleonic Battle of Arcole. Both anecdotes circulated at the time, but the one featuring a martyred patriot named Arcole seems to have been more compelling, and hence more popular.)
^^^Detail: Arcole leading the charge on the bridge.
^^^Detail: A surgeon working on a wounded man. Many doctors and medical students had come to help on the barricades by the 29 July, but in the days before that widespread response, the barricades suffered from a serious lack of trained doctors.
^^^Detail: Men and a woman work on another wounded man. Notice the guys wearing Renaissance armor in the upper right corner–more “loans” from the Museum of Artillery and/or the theatres.
^^^Another view of the conflict at the place de Grève/Hôtel de Ville/pont de Grève. The gun smoke covering the bridge and the place is amazing and eerie.
^^^A barricade, possibly at the place de Grève/Hôtel de Ville, just based on what the background looks like.
^^^Battling at the Porte Saint-Denis.
^^^A worker declaring his solidarity with the army soldiers who came to join the insurgent ranks.
^^^Building barricades on the 29 July, using furniture, paving-stones, and what looks like some kind of cabriolet or omnibus. This could be on the Left Bank, since many of the barricades on the Right Bank were built earlier, on the 28 July, while those on the Left Bank were later, mostly on the 29 July.
^^^Detail: Workingmen tearing up paving-stones for the barricade.
^^^Defending a barricade.
^^^Delacroix’s famous painting depicting and celebrating the July Revolution: “Liberty Leading the People.” When he showed it for the first time at the Spring Salon of 1831, it’s said that the critics were less than impressed: Lady Liberty should not look so vulgar, they said (translation: bare boobs are okay, but she looks too much like a real workingwoman, and that feels socially threatening).
^^^Detail: Lady Liberty, said to be modeled after Marie Deschamps, a famous female fighter on the barricades of 1830.
^^^Detail: A child brandishing pistols (often thought to be one of the inspirations for the child Gavroche in Les Misérables). Children are commonly represented in images of the July Revolution barricades, though scholars believe that this is not so much because children were actually all over the barricades, but as a way of visually representing the broad cross-section of society that came together to fight against the government (not only workers were there, but also bourgeois and polytechniciens; not only men, but also women and children; and so on).
^^^Detail: Speaking of diversity on the barricades: a workingman (left, with saber), a bourgeois (right, with carbine), and in the background on the far right, a polytechnicien (in the bicorne hat).
^^^Transporting a wounded man away from the front lines, as the crowd salutes him. Circulation and transportation was not a huge problem during this revolution, since the people had control over most of the city throughout the Three Days–everyone pretty much came and went as they pleased, many went home at night to sleep in their own beds, and many wounded were brought back to their own homes to recuperate. Quite a difference from the enclosed, claustrophobic nature of barricade warfare that Les Misérables makes us think is normal.
^^^Artist Léon Cogniet’s paint sketch of flags flying during the July Revolution. Super artsy symbolism: rising out of the smoke of the gunfire, a progression from the white flag of the Bourbons (on the left) to a bourbonniste flag torn and bloodstained to resemble the tricolor (on the right).
^^^Workingmen chatting on the barricades.
^^^A barricade on the boulevard des Italiens. Boulevards were often lined with big trees, and insurgents chopped many of these down to make their boulevard barricades.
^^^Defending a barricade on the rue de l’Echelle.
^^^The battle for the rue de Rohan, a fierce battle late in the conflict (29 July) that resulted in horrible casualties.
^^^Detail: A polytechnicien leading the insurgents. Polytechniciens are frequently portrayed in these images as being leaders on the barricades, which is to give them too much credit. It seemed safer at the time, though, to portray trained future soldiers (for the most part the sons of wealthy bourgeois) as leaders in battle than to portray low-class workingmen as militant leaders.
^^^Detail: Workingmen shooting and reloading, and wearing silly shit into battle. This guy in the left foreground of this painting thinks a Renaissance helmet’s going to protect him from grapeshot or something. The blond man fainting on the right side of the painting may be the liberal journalist Farcy, who was struck down at this battle.
^^^Detail: Or perhaps this is Farcy’s death. Too many dying blond fellows in this battle.
^^^A posthumous commemorative sketch of Jean-Georges Farcy, a gifted writer who became a martyr for the liberal opposition when he was killed in the battle of the rue de Rohan.
^^^Another posthumous commemorative portrait of Farcy, which hangs today in the July Revolution room of the Musée Carnavalet in Paris. It immortalizes him in a revolutionary state, armed with a musket and two pistols (Combeferre-style!) and crushing beneath his foot a copy of the Ordinances.
^^^Detail: Definitely going for the martyrdom angle here.
^^^Another view of the battle in the rue de Rohan.
^^^The attack on the Palais du Louvre, one of the final major battles of the July Revolution.
^^^The siege of the Louvre. Scaling the palace walls!
^^^The attack on the Palais du Louvre, in which the people and the king’s Swiss guards fought a bloody battle, which ended with the people taking the palace but fortunately did not end with a massacre of the Swiss guards (as had a similar event in the first French Revolution). Another polytechnicien leading the charge here.
^^^Detail: Bourgeois fighters with guns and bayonets (and, in the case of half-naked guy in the foreground, a charming little earring).
^^^Detail: A bourgeois fighter striking with a saber as he falls. (Sorry for the crappy photo quality. Whoever hung this awesome painting in terrible lighting in the Musée Carnavalet is officially a bad person.)
^^^One of the less admirable episodes of the July Revolution: the sack of the archbishop’s palace on the 29 July.
^^^A woman and child offer watered wine to an insurgent, who thanks them. This was, by all accounts, a common sight on the barricades of 1830: the population living around the barricades acted as support for the fighters, bringing them refreshment and medical supplies. That’s what it means to get the people on your side…
^^^Scenes of women’s contributions to the barricades of 1830. The upper left corner shows a Marie Deschamps type figure (perhaps Deschamps herself) leading the charge and capturing one of the enemy’s cannons. The upper right corner shows a woman dragging a wounded man to safety. The lower right corner shows women tending to the wounded and offering them food and drink. The lower left corner shows women actively fighting on the barricades (possibly taking the place of a husband or male relative who’s just fallen). Anecdotes reported in newspapers and pamphlets during the days following the revolution love to tell stories like these about women’s activities on the barricades. Another common anecdote is that of the devoted wife who dresses in men’s clothing so that she can stay by her husband’s side on the barricades. (Claude Enjolras would appreciate, I suppose.)
^^^A barricade scene at an unknown location.
^^^Another unknown barricade.
^^^Artist Paul Gavarni drew these studies of wounded men at the barricades of 1830, possibly intended for a painting or lithograph to be completed later.
^^^Gavarni’s studies of dead bodies on the barricades.
^^^On the night of 30 July 1830, the Duc d’Orléans (Louis-Philippe), advised by his supporters of the possibility of seizing power, came to Paris to be close to the action, and there he took up residence in his palace, the Palais-Royal. This painting depicts that arrival, while showing the barricades still standing in the background.
The next day, the 31 July 1830, with the fighting over, Charles X having fled, and Paris solidly in the control of the people and a provisional government, Louis-Philippe’s supporters urged him to seize the opportunity to present himself as a candidate for leading the provisional government. Meanwhile, orléanistes like Adolphe Thiers got to work pumping out propaganda to support Louis-Philippe’s claim to power. In the above painting, Louis-Philippe rides out of the Palais-Royal and sets out for the Hôtel de Ville, where the provisional government is meeting. Along the way he checks out the barricade damage to the city and schmoozes with “the people.”
^^^Detail: Louis-Philippe greeting his supporters.
^^^Detail: Barricade bros. Another symbolic representation of social consensus in favor of Louis-Philippe’s takeover. A National Guard links arms with a workingman smoking a pipe and wielding a pick-ax, who links arms with a bourgeois bearing a gun, who links arms with another workingman wearing a Renaissance cuirass and armed with what looks like an antique sword, who links arms with yet another workingman wearing a Renaissance helmet: men of different classes join together in brotherhood on the barricades. And join together in their love of ridiculous historical armaments.
^^^Detail: An elderly man puts money into a collection bowl. By the 31 July, unofficial collections had been set up throughout the city to support the widows and orphans of the barricade dead.
^^^Louis-Philippe riding through the barricaded place du Châtelet on his way to the Hôtel de Ville.
^^^A model in the Musée Carnavalet showing the arrival of Louis-Philippe at the Hôtel de Ville on 31 July 1830.
^^^Different angle of the same model. Here you can see the huge size and unusual shape of the place de Grève, which really does not lend itself naturally to barricade-building.
^^^A painting depicting the same event, Louis-Philippe arriving at the Hôtel de Ville. This representation has pretty well retconned this event into some rapturous orléaniste rally, when in reality it was quite a tricky situation for Louis-Philippe, in which eyewitnesses say that the crowd was sullen and even downright hostile to this potential future king. It was only later that Lafayette persuaded the crowd to accept Louis-Philippe’s leadership. Louis-Philippe was crowned king only about a week later, on the 9 August. Thus, whether the revolution succeeded in its aims depended on who you asked: the orléanistes got what they wanted (a moderately liberal king and a government controlled by the bourgeois), while the republicans felt betrayed and tricked at the bait-and-switch of having one king replaced by another.
^^^The heat of July resulted in the quick decay of dead bodies on the barricades, which caused concern over hygiene. The solution was to give the unidentified dead makeshift graves throughout the city until they could receive a more suitable burial spot. One of the spots chosen for the mass graves was the place des Innocents, another was the Champ de Mars (where the Eiffel Tower now stands), and another was the Louvre, shown above. The dead were buried in a trough along the Louvre’s outer wall, as seen here, and the crowd went to the neighboring church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois to demand that one of its priests perform the mass for the dead.
^^^Detail: A wounded bourgeois mourns a dead man in the foreground, while behind him workingmen bring another body to the grave and the priest conducts the mass.
^^^Detail: Workingmen and a polytechnicien comfort a woman mourning one of the dead.
^^^Burying the dead in the place des Innocents. Before you freak out about having been walking over dead people all these years when you’ve visited Les Halles or the Eiffel Tower, you should know that these mass graves were emptied at some later point (during Haussmann’s renovations?) and the remains were moved to more suitable locations (the catacombs, I think).
^^^The Duchesse d’Orléans, Louis-Philippe’s wife, visits the wounded of the barricades at the Hôtel-Dieu hospital on 2 August 1830. Good PR move.
^^^A fashion plate celebrating the July Revolution. Tricolor revolutionary fashion, hurrah! (”Suck-ups,” grumbles Enjolras. “Kiss-ass fashion designers.”)
^^^Photos of the so-called “medailles de juillet.” During the year following the July Revolution, the new king had a medal designed to reward men who were identified as having been especially brave or instrumental in the July Revolution. In other words, they were an orléaniste propaganda statement with which Louis-Philippe could thank those who put him into power. The front features the Gallic cock (a standard symbol of France) holding a tricolor flag, with the message, “A ses défenseurs la patrie reconnaissante” [”The grateful fatherland, to its defenders”]. On the back it has three laurel wreaths (symbols of victory) with the numbers of the Three Days (27, 28, 29), “July 1830″ at the bottom, and “patrie” (“fatherland”) and “liberté” (“freedom”) along the top.
Those given this award were called “décorés de juillet” (and were often referred to as such for decades afterward, as if they were actually veterans of combat, which many weren’t). Many of those awarded with this medal were republicans, who were offended at the award and took it as an attempt to buy their loyalty. So confused were loyalties during the year after the revolution that some republicans were offered this medal one month and arrested for political crimes the next.
^^^A rather republican political cartoon lamenting the outcome of the July Revolution. “Pauvre liberté, qu’elle queue!!” it declares, which translates roughly to “Poor liberty, what an end for her!” (A pun on the word “queue,” which means “end,” but also “tail” or “ponytail.”) Louis-Philippe is shown as a hairdresser, yanking on Marianne’s hair as she dejectedly looks down at the revolutionary phrygian cap that she’s not allowed to wear.
All of this stuff and much more forms a huge part of the 1830 volume of Virago, hence my research on this topic. Poor Enjolras can’t quite come to terms with the outcome of 1830, and she copes by pinning all her hopes on the future instead:
“It could be, as Combeferre might have suggested, that we had simply embraced an idea whose time had not yet come. In that case we were doomed to fail. But I could not accept that. It must have been something we’d done, some error we’d committed somewhere along the way. I would dedicate myself to finding that error, and correcting it. Next time things would be different.”