Place Vendôme

Arrondissement 1

Numbers: 1-2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11-13, 23-26

On May 16 1871 Gustave Courbet endorsed the proposal by Félix Pyat to demolish the column in the centre of the Vendome Square and to melt down the bronze to use in making canon.

The statue of Napoleon had become the symbol of Napoleonic imperialism. It was first put up on August 15 1810 and was then taken down in 1814, replaced in 1831, thrown into the Seine in 1848 and finally restored by Napoleon III.

The column had been decorated in bronze melted down from the canons captured at the battle of Austerlitz. Its crowning figure, Napoleon, had not survived the Bourbon restorations of 1814-1815. Louis XVIII replaced it with the white Bourbon flag and then with the Fleur de Lys. He melted down Napoleon’s statue on top of the column to create the horse-backed Henry IV, founder of the Bourbon dynasty, on the Pont Neuf where it crosses the Island of the Cité.

Citizen Courbet pushing over the Vendome column as seen at the time by the latest version of the revolutionary satirical paper Le Pere Duchesne

During the defence of the Paris Commune in May 1871 a barricade defending the Headquarters of the National Guard at Nos. 11-17 was put up from No. 1 to No. 2 and across the Rue St. Honoré. The Versaillais troops took the barricades from the back by getting through the Hotel du Rhin at No. 4.

Félix Lepeletier, an aristocratic revolutionary, lived at No. 6 and allowed Babeuf, Buonarroti and others involved in leading the Conspiracy of Equals to meet there in March 1796. Félix’s older brother, Louis-Michel Lepeletier de Saint-Fargeau, had cast the deciding vote on the execution of Louis XVI, and that same evening, 20 January 1793, he was stabbed with a sword by one of the king’s former bodyguards.

Louis-Michel Le Peletier died soon after at his family house at No. 8 Place Vendôme. and his body was then draped over the pedestal of Louis XIV’s statue that had been pulled down in 1792. Louis XVI was guillotined the following morning.

The Jacobin painter, Jacques-Louis David, painted LePeletier on his death bed, and one of his students then produced this lithograph print of it. The sword pierces a piece of paper on which is written “I vote the death of the tyrant”, and as a tribute at the bottom right of the picture David placed the inscription “David to Le Peletier. 20 January 1793′

On 18 March 1871, when the Versaillais troops tried and failed to capture the canons stored on the Montmartre and Belleville hills, four battalions of National Guardsmen from Batignolles and Montmartre marched on the National Guard Headquarters at No. 7 and threw out the commanding officer put in place there on March 5, and installed their own commanders.

Jaroslaw Dombrowski, the Polish commanding National Guard General at its headquarters in the Ministry of Justice in Nos. 11-13, was mortally wounded on May 23 1871, when all the defenders were summarily killed.

One of the only 18 Paris barricades in May 1871 that was fortified with canons crossed from Nos. 23 to 26, the Barricade of the Rue de la Paix. It was defended by the 88th, 113th and 182nd National Guard battalions. Very few of the more than one thousand defenders survived the battle.

Chopin, the former lover of George Sand, died in his first floor flat overlooking the court at No. 12 in 1849.

The Ritz Hotel at No. 15, the former Hôtel de Gramont, was colonised by senior Germans and Vichy collaborators under the Occupation and its bar was famously liberated by Ernest Hemingway on August 26 1944, when he gave some American rifles to the arriving FTP. This was also where Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed had their last meal together on August 31 1997.