While we were in Paris this summer, the Musée de l'Armée had an exhibit, Napoleon and Europe. Part of the exhibit was the fabulous “Chaumet Crown” and the Ruby Parure for Archduchess Marie-Louis of Austria, Napoleon's second wife. Chaumet traces its origins to 1780. Founded by Marie-Etienne Nitot who along with his son Francois-Regnault Nitot became the official jewelers to Napoleon I during the Consulate and the Empire. Napoleon was a real wife-pleaser, lavishing an avalanche of gemstones upon his lady-loves. In the autumn of 1810 an order was placed with the emperor’s favorite jeweler, François-Regnault Nitot, in honor of his new wife, Archduchess Marie-Louise of Habsburg, the daughter of Emperor Franz I of Austria and niece of Marie-Antoinette. During the autumn of 1810, Nitot, began crafting two new parures, one of emeralds and diamonds, the other of rubies and diamonds. The finished pieces were delivered to the emperor on January 16, 1811. The Ruby Parure set used nearly 400 rubies and more than 6,000 diamonds in all. Both Napoléon I and Napoleon III seemed to love jewels and lavished them on their companions. I thought a post would be a good opportunity to review the history of the French Crown Jewels during and after Napoléon I.
Since we had just eaten at the Grande Cascade restaurant, we decided to walk around and visit its namesake, the actual Grande Cascade created by Baron Haussmann in 1852. Napoleon III was personally involved in planning the new parks. “We must have a stream here, as in Hyde Park,” he observed while driving through the Bois, “to give life to this arid promenade”. The first plan for the Bois de Boulogne was drawn up by the architect Jacques Hittorff, and the landscape architect Louis-Sulpice Varé. Their plan called for long straight alleys in patterns crisscrossing the park, and, as the Emperor had asked, lakes and a long stream similar to the Serpentine in Hyde Park. Unfortunately, Varé failed to take into account the difference in elevation between the beginning of the stream and the end. If his plan had been followed, the upper part of the stream would have been empty, and the lower portion flooded. When Haussmann saw the partially finished stream, he saw the problem immediately, dismissed Varé and Hittorff and designed the solution himself. An upper lake and a lower lake, divided by an elevated road, which serves as a dam; and a cascade which allows the water to flow between the lakes. This is the design still seen today.
It has been raining quite a lot in Paris, we were getting a little stir-crazy, so we decided to get out for lunch to a famous Paris restaurant, La Grande Cascade. The building started out as a cottage for Napoleon III and was converted to a restaurant for the Universal Exhibition of 1900 by Gustave Eiffel. As our waiter put it, “the flower is by Eiffel”. The restaurant been directed by many chefs including Alain Ducasse from 1995-1997 and the current chef Frédéric Roberts who moved from Lucas Carton. Over the years, the Grande Cascade has evolved while maintaining its “retro-modern” style. Le Grande Cascade is a place of memories, the grand alleys of the Bois de Boulogne, the splendor of the Second Empire, the elegance and lavish lifestyle of living La Belle Époque. Currently the restaurant has one Michelin star but a second star is expected by almost everyone who has eaten there.
I have been posting on the large gardens of Paris, so I thought I would present some of the smaller gardens as well. This is inside the Hôtel-Dieu complex, a working hospital, next to Notre Dame. The French believe that gardens help cure patients more quickly. This hospital has a full time gardener who keeps the gardens in good condition. The medicinal garden was a staple of gardening in medieval times, often mixed in with the kitchen garden. Also known as a herb garden or a garden of simples, specialized medicinal gardens have been made at least since the Middle Ages, though plants were grown for medical purposes long before. A “simple” is a herb used on its own in medical treatment. Many modern drugs are, of course, extracted from herbs and other plants.
According to legend in 1880 Napoleon III gave his wife the Empress Eugenie, this authentic Swiss chalet, which he had fully dismantled and reinstalled in the same way on an island in the Bois de Boulogne. At one time it was the location of a literary cafe frequented by Proust and Zola. The chalet has been burned and restored many times; the latest restoration took place in 2001 when the chalet was refurbished in French colonial style. It is located in the Bois de Bologne, on the largest lake in the park, Lac Inferieur. You get to the restaurant on a cute little boat that crosses the water.
If you are visiting the Eiffel tower and looking for something else to do, you might consider the French Maritime Museum at the Trocadero, the largest in the world. Apart from Napoleon’s canot, seen below, another striking feature in the first room at the Paris Musée de la Marine is the painting of the arrival of Napoleon III at Gênes in 1859, by Théodore Gudin seen above.
In 1748, Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau offered a collection of models of ships and naval installations to Louis XV of France, with the request that the items be displayed at the Louvre and made available to students of the Naval engineers school, which Duhamel headed. The collection was put on display in 1752, in a room of the first floor, next to the Academy of Sciences; the room was called “Salle de Marine” (Navy room), and was used for teaching. King Charles X decided to create the maritime museum in 1827, which he named the Musée Dauphin but after 1830 the name was changed to what we know it as today, the Musée de Marine.
The Palais Garnier is probably the most famous opera house in the world, a symbol of Paris like Notre Dame cathedral, the Louvre, or the Eiffel tower. It is an elegant 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 by Napoleon III for the Paris Opera. This is the thirteenth building to house the Paris Opera since it's founding in 1669 by Louis IV. The Opera has now relocated to L’Opera de la Bastille as of 1989 and the Garnier is used mostly for ballet. The new opera house has had some issues with appearance and acoustics but both “opera houses” are sold out for every performance.
The selection of the architect was the subject of an architectural design competition in 1861, a competition which was won by the architect Charles Garnier (1825–1898).
Proposed by Louis XIV in 1670 as a home for “invalids” – disabled and impoverished war veterans, Les Invalides was designed by Libéral Bruant and completed in 1676. Shortly after the veterans' chapel was completed, Louis XIV commissioned Mansart to construct a separate private royal chapel referred to as the Église du Dôme from its most striking feature. Inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, the original for all Baroque domes, it is one of the triumphs of French Baroque architecture.
The dome itself is 107 meters high (351 ft) making it one of the tallest monuments in Paris, and was centrally placed in order to dominate the court of honor – one of 15 courtyards at the complex, designed for military parades. The inside of the dome was painted by Charles de La Fosse, disciple of 18th century well-known French painter, Charles Le Brun.
The doors seen you see to the right are covered in gold leaf, 25 feet tall, weigh almost 3 tons and have several symbols on them. The top round monogram is Louis XIV with two crossed “L's”. The two round monograms framing the fleur de lis of France in the middle are for Saint Louis, King Louis IX. The square section between is topped with two trophy helmets, the sun with a human face for Louis XIV (he believed he was unique and radiant like the sun) and finally the coat of arms for the kings of France, three golden fleur de lis on a sea of blue.
The Crown of Empress Eugénie was the consort crown of Eugénie de Montijo, the empress consort of Emperor Napoleon III of France. Though neither she nor her husband underwent a coronation a consort crown was specially created for her. Though most of the French Crown Jewels were sold by the French Third Republic in 1887, the Crown of Empress Eugénie was kept and is on display in the Louvre museum in The Apollo room. In the spirit of full disclosure I took pictures of these crowns but they were in a glass case with lots of reflections and I decided to use pictures from the web.
A collection of crown jewels around the time of Napoleon III was on display near the Apartments of Napoleon III. From left to right they are the tiara of Marie-Theres, the only living daughter of Napoleon I and Marie-Antoinette, Empess Eugene's diamond bow broach and Empress Eugene's Pearl parure made for her wedding to Napoleon III. All of these pieces had to be rebought, at considerable expense, after the dispersal of the Crown Jewels in 1887.