Numbers 8, 36 The Foyot restaurant
Between 1889 and 1895 French supporters of ‘propaganda by the deed’ mounted a series of bomb and knife attacks on ‘class enemies’ – of which the most notorious were the assassination of the President of France, Sadi Carnot, and the bombing of the National Assembly’s Chamber of Deputies.
On April 4 1894 a bomb inside a flower vast exploded next to a Foyot Restaurant window looking onto Rue Condé.
The Foyot restaurant, on the corner of Rue Conde and Rue de Tournon opposite the Luxembourg Palace, was popular with Senators and other wealthy diners.
Only one man was permanently injured: Laurent Tailhade lost an eye. He was an anarchist sympathiser, a poet and a good friend of the art critic, dandy and War Office administrator presumed by the police to have planted the bomb, Félix Fénéon.
Others thought Tailhade might have been targeted by a jilted lover.
Felix Fénéon (1861-1944) was arrested, imprisoned and tried for conspiracy with 29 other anarchists and some known criminals after detonators and mercury were found in his office at the Ministry of War, where he was then a Chief Clerk. The trial in August 1894 found all except three not guilty.
The Restaurant Foyot, the upper part of which was the Emperor Joseph II hotel, was demolished in 1937. Paris magistrates had decided it was structurally unsound, possibly as a result of the bombing 33 years earlier. There is now a tiny garden and paved area opposite the Luxembourg Palace.
Seeing it every time I’m in Paris, just below the window of my late father’s flat, and buying Le Monde there from the elderly, usually grumpy kiosk owner, it was only in reading Hazan (WTP) that the corner’s actual history was brought to life for me.
Further up Rue de Condé, at Number 8, George Sand lived in Maurice’s (her son’s) flat from March to May 1848 when she was editing political texts and posters for Alexandre Ledru-Rollin (1807-1874) at the Luxembourg Palace.
Rue de l’Égalité
Appropriately, in 1792 the Rue de Condé was renamed Rue de l’Égalité. Not too happy a name, however, for Lucile Desmoulins who lived at Number 22 or for Jean-Baptiste le Rebours who was living at Number 28 . Both were executed in 1794.
Lucile Desmoulins married the French revolutionary and journalist Camille Desmoulins in 1790 at the Saint Sulpice church five minutes walk away. Robespierre, who had been briefly engaged to her sister, attended the wedding. On April 5 1794 Lucile was arrested for plotting to release her husband from the Luxembourg Palace, where he had been on trial with Georges Danton: both men were guillotined the same day.
Lucile’s execution followed a week later. She was 24, Camille was 34, Danton was 35, and his statue stands a minute’s walk north up Rue Condé to what is now the Boulevard St Germain, marking the site of his flat before Haussmann demolished it (and a big chunk of the neighbourhood).
Le Rebours, in contrast, was Lord of Saint Mard, a village and estate to the north of Paris. He had been chair of the Royal Court’s Committee of Requests under Louis XVI. Le Rebours was guillotined four days after Robespierre introduced the ‘Great Terror’ law of June 10 1794. This law removed prisoners’ rights to be defended, and determined there should be no delay between accusation and punishment. From then until Robespierre’s own arrest and execution on July 28 1794 the numbers of executions increased to 50 a day.
Inevitably, the Rue de Condé resumed its aristocratic reference to a junior branch of the Bourbons in 1805, just a few months after Napoleon had crowned himself Emperor on December 2 1804.