Rue de Lille

Arrondissements 7

Numbers 23, 45

The old Rue de Bourbon running parallel to the Seine was renamed the Rue de Lille in 1792 to commemorate the successful defence of Lille against an Austrian army, whose six-day bombardment of the town destroyed half of Lille’s houses.

After the 1814 restoration the street’s name reverted again to Bourbon before going back to Lille again in 1830. Unusually, it kept this name – even under the Second Empire, where Louis Napoleon often swept out names associated with the French Revolution of 1789-1794.

The street does four plaques, including one to Max Ernst, who lived at No. 19 from 1962 up to this death in 1976, but neither Friedrich Engels nor Karl Marx’s stays are acknowledged.

Engels lived at No. 23 from 1846 to 1847, where the police kept a close eye on him as he wrote reports of the emerging republican and democratic movement for German and the Chartist Northern Star papers.

From June to August 1849, while fighting the fearful French government’s stringent conditions for granting him exile after his May expulsion from Germany (he had to live in Morbihan in Brittany), Karl Marx and his family came back to Paris secretly and lived at No. 45 under the name of Meyen in two rooms rented to a person called Ramboz.

Ironically, directly opposite the rooms lived in by Engels and Marx, stood the Orsay Palace. This was built between 1810 and 1838 and its ground floor became the central building of the French State Council (Conseil d’État) in 1840, while its first floor housed the French Exchequer Accountants (Cour des comptes) , two of the most important legal and financial institutions of the French state. The palace was burnt down during the Commune on the night of 23 to 24 May 1871, and the Gare d’Orsay was built on the site to transport visitors to the 1900 Universal Exhibition.

Ordered by Napoleon to serve as a barracks and headquarters of his Overseas Department, the Orsay Palace was burnt down in 1871. Today the site is partly occupied by the Orsay museum.

Further along the street there was a very important barricade erected across it at No. 50 during the Commune – and made famous by Émile Zola in his 1892 novel la Débâcle (The Downfall), the penultimate novel in the Rougon-Macquart series.