Rue Saint-Honoré

Arrondissement 1, 8

Numbers: 153-155, 157-159, 204, 251, 270, 368

The nearly 2 km road follows most of the old West to East roman road through north central Paris.

The Café de la Régence from 1681 to 1854 was based approximately at Nos. 153-155, nearly opposite the Palais Royal (No. 204). Voltaire, Diderot and Rousseau were all enlightened customers there in the mid-18th century. Benjamin Franklin also visited while he was American Ambassador to France from 1776 to 1785.

The rough location of the Cafe de la Regence on the corner of the Palais royal square.

This café was also where Marx and Engels met on August 28 1844 and agreed to work on ‘The Holy Family‘ together. Further along the street, at No. 251, was the Valentino Hall, which Engels entered on one occasion in his brief 1844 visit to Paris to escape the police spies who were following him.

Upstairs the Café de la Régence was the centre of French chess for over a century. It was where Robespierre, the young officer Napoléon Bonaparte and Louis Philippe all played their chess (no not together!). The café also doubled as one of Paris’ four cafe/shop post offices in the early 19th century.

On October 16 1793 the Jacobin and regicide painter, Jacques-Louis David, sketched Marie-Antoinette in a cart being taken to the scaffold from a first floor window in Rue St Honore

The Café was well-positioned. It was close to the Palais Royal before the Revolution and afterwards it was on the route of those being taken from the Conciergerie prison to the Place de la Concorde to be guillotined.

On July 28 1830 at Nos. 157-159 the very first barricade was erected at the cross roads with Rue Rohan and Rue de Richelieu. This marked the start of the July 1830 Glorious Revolution that overthrew Charles X

At 10.30 pm on the evening of December 3 1973 one of the cartoonists for the French satirical paper Le Canard enchaîné returned to its offices at No. 173 to find a government DST ( Direction de la surveillance du territoire) team of spies installing microphones. The French State has always believed it has the right to spy on dissidents.

The editorial offices of Le Canard Enchaine satirical weekly at No. 179

Nearly two hundred years earlier the French state still believed in its right to execute dissidents. One issue was how this done. Should it be a lengthy process by strangulation (hanging) or a lengthy process by chopping at your neck with an axe?

Dr Joseph Ignace Guillotin, a humanist who opposed the death penalty helped develop a quicker, more efficient way of killing people. One of those who drafted the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, he died on March 26 1814 in his medical office at No. 209. This was on the route of those travelling to be ‘humanely’ executed at what is now the Place de la Concorde.

The medical offices of the man whose name was given to the guillotine died here at No. 209 in 1814.

On November 29 1847 Bakunin spoke to the 1,500 people who attended a commemoration banquet of the 1830 Polish uprising against Russia at the Valentino Hall. Before Haussmann’s re-modelling of Paris its address was No. 359 rue St Honoré. This was where Valentino, the orchestra conductor and violinist, introduced the polka dance to Paris that same year, 1847.

Le Bal Valentino was opened in 1838 and closed in 1890. One of the largest halls in Paris it alternated classical music concerts and dancees, while hosting many political meetings

The size and central location of the Hall attracted many revolutionaries to hold meetings there. In 1848, in February Cabet held a meeting of the Icarians there.

In March, Blanqui organised meetings of the Central Republican Society he chaired at Valentino’s. The Club of Political Prisoners presided by Armand Barbès with Blanqui as its vice-president also met there.

The Socialist Workers’ Club whose honorary president was Louis Blanc also met there until the May 15 1848 demonstration when it was dissolved after the failure of a left insurrectionary attempt to defend the socialist aspects of the February 1848 revolution.

On December 25 1848 No. 251 hosted the first socialist women’s banquet held in Paris.

On January 27 1871 the Valentino Hall was used by the Officers of the 1st Battalion of the National Guard to protest against the Armistice signed by the Thiers government with the Prussians.

251 Rue St Honore is now the exclusive Mandarine Hotel, describing itslf as the ultimate luxury hotel. The earlier dance hall and meeting place was demolished and rebuilt in the 1930s

Olympe de Gouges, opponent of slavery and author of the 1791 Declaration of the Rights of Women and Women Citizens, lived at No. 270. A History of Paris marker post has been put by the front foor to mark this feminist pioneer and martyre.

Olympe de Gouges’ time at 270 Rue st Honore is now marked by a historic Paris plaque in the pavement on the right of the door

The main entrance to the second Jacobin monastery in Paris was at No. 328. Its side entrance in the Rue St Hyacinthe led to the monk’s canteen where the anti-royalist Breton Club began to meet in 1789. After the closure of the monasteries in 1790 the convent was rented to the Friends of the Constitution, who later took the name the Jacobin club .

General Lamarque died at his home at No. 368 of cholera. His funeral procession that left from here on June 5 1832, sparked the 1832 uprising against Louis-Philippe’s increasingly authoritarian rule that features in Hugo‘s Les Misérables.

General Lamarque, who lived at No. 368, was a leading critic of Louis-Philippe. He died of cholera here on June 1 1832 and his funeral on June 5 triggered the 1832 June insurrection in Paris

When Robespierre was himself guillotined on July 28 1794, the cart carrying him to the scaffold stopped outside No. 398 (formerly No. 366) where he had lived for three years since he moved there secretly on July 17 1791 to avoid arrest after the Champs de Mars massacre. The house’s walls had been dripped with the blood of butchered cattle.

Off the courtyard behind the doorway to No. 398 Robespierre rented two rooms from Maurice Duplay, a cabinet-maker and supporter. The house was rebuilt to the same floor plan in the 18th century.

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Rue Victor Cousin

Arrondissement 5

Numbers: 1, 14

This is a street that has witnessed many barricade battles. With the Sorbonne University at No. 1, it was the site of confrontations between the police and students in 1968 and 2006.

After the Sorbonne was forcibly evacuated by the police in May 1968
The remains of the barricade across Rue Victor Cousin where it crosses Rue Cujas. On the right of the street the Pantheon Cinema was showing Albert Finney, Billie Whitelaw and Liza Minnelli in Charlie Bubbles.

In March 2006, after Sarkozy’s government introduced a law to force those under 26 to take whatever job they were offered and over the following two years, if they were dismissed by their employer, they would have no entitlement to unemployment benefit. University and secondary school students mobilised massively against the law, with demonstrations beginning at the Sorbonne. The law was withdrawn by the prime minister, Dominique de Villepin in April.

After dislodging students occupying the Sorbonne from March 10 to March 10 2006, fighting took place in the nearby streets. The riot police then closed off the Rue Victor Cousin, the Sorbonne Square and several other streets until April 24. A key symbol for the opponents of the new employment contract, during this period the police were attacked several times, with railings and molotov cocktails.

Further up the street, after it crosses the rue de Cujas is the independent Cinéma du Panthéon (there since 1907). It is opposite the nursery school at No. 14 where Lucie Bernard/Aubrac worked part-time in 1936.

An uninspiring facade and French and European flags outside the school at No. 14 where in the 1930s Lucie Aubrac taught in the nursery school

Originally called the rue de Cluny after an ancient abbey, in 1864 the short street south of the Rue de la Sorbonne was renamed in honour of the educational reformer, Victor Cousin (1792 – 1867). Forced into exile in 1821 for his liberalism, he became a Professor at the Sorbonne University after the 1830 Revolution.

Cousin helped structure French education in the 1840s inserting the history of philosophy into the French secondary school curriculum. This is still taught to all French school students up to the age of 18.

Cousin’s philosophy of eclecticism, merging British empiricism with French idealism, dominated mainstream philosophy from the 1830s to the 1880s. But it was not without its critics.

In his 1839 ‘Refutation of EclecticismPierre Leroux wrote: ‘M Cousin is an excellent translator of phrases, but a dreadful translator of ideas‘. Bakunin in 1882 wrote that ‘This superficial pedant, without a single original idea… this illustrious philosopher has cleverly prepared for the the use of the student youth of France, a metaphysical dish whose consumption, made compulsory in all the schools of the State has condemned several successive generations to indigestion of the brain

Much earlier, in 1741, a much more serious contributor to French philosophy and left thought, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, lived at the St Quentin hotel (finally demolished in 1892) that was on the present location of 7 rue Victor Cousin, but was then 14 rue des Cordiers. In 1744-45 Rousseau stays there again, marrying his mistress, Thérèse Levasseur.

You won’t find this hotel because the rue des Cordiers used to link the rue Victor Cousin and the rue St Jacques but was built over by the southern section of the Sorbonne.

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