Description : Description : Description : E:\\promenadeurop_fichiers/cabarrus.jpgA European walk through Bordeaux 13


The "Hôtel de l'Empereur".

47, Grandes allées (13 Cours Georges Clemenceau)

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Towards the end of the afternoon on 20 June 1777, Emperor of Austria Joseph II, brother of Queen Marie-Antoinette, arrived at Bordeaux “under a sky full of stormy clouds.” He travelled under the name of Count of Falkenstein, borrowing the name of one of his Lorraine possessions, already used during his visit to Frederick II in 1769. He travelled to the innkeeper Lacroix, where Consul Bethmann had reserved rooms for him.

Wanting to avoid any fuss over his visit, the emperor decided to land half a mile from Bordeaux and to enter the city by coach, taking the backstreets. But at the sight of the crowd that had gathered on the port, he preferred to jump to the ground and, without giving it any thought, slipped into the side streets. Alas, his incognito did not last long. Recognised by a German merchant, who cried in German: “Hey! That’s my Prince!”, he asked the man the quickest way to get to his hotel on Cours Tourny, “the rain having accompanied him from the quayside.”

The inhabitants of Bordeaux were bent on following their illustrious visitor, to the point of inconveniencing him. That night, crowds gathered at the Place de la Comédie believing he would go there. Mrs Duplessy reported in a letter the jaunt of two Bordeaux ladies who left, in the middle of the night, for the inn where the emperor was staying in the hope to see him pass by. It proved a waste of time, however, as the emperor had chosen to stay in his room. Legend has it that many people crossed him in the city without knowing it was him, but his letters belie this legend: “The weather is terrible, I’m spending the entire time at home talking with gentlemen traders without going to the theatre, or partaking of any other form of entertainment.”

The rain is not the only thing the emperor came across in Bordeaux. On 21 June, he visited Château Trompette, the stock exchange, the docks and the Nouvelle Comédie. It was the architect Victor Louis himself who took the emperor to this last building, the entrance to which had been barred. That day, the emperor hung on each of the architect’s words, all his explanations about “how the column was built on the corner of the peristyle.” When his critics had cried out that the columns at the corner of the facade were bound to collapse, Louis had replied … …

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Continue to the next building.


© Bertrand Favreau and Tyché Editions 2014

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