A European walk through Bordeaux 24
The Englishman’s Ballroom.
23, Cours de Verdun.
Located at number 23 of what is now Cours de Verdun, the Hôtel d’Angleterre – then called Hôtel Franklin, and the “English Ballroom” – was founded on 12 April 1777 in a building owned by a Mr Rocaute de Bussac, a merchant who lived at Fossés du Chapeau-Rouge. Run by two Englishmen named Stevens and Jacob, it attracted many foreigners, including a large number of British people, right up to the beginning of the Revolution. Anna Francesca, the famous Mrs Cradock, stayed in this hotel during her visit to Bordeaux from June to August 1785. It was “newly built.” “From our windows we had a sweeping view over the avenue bordered by a row of white houses with balconies and at the end of which stands the theatre” (the eastern part of Allées de Tourny, leading to the Place des Quinconces, had not yet been built). Travelling through and describing the urban and rural areas of France, the great economist Arthur Young stayed there in 1787. Prince Frederick, son of the King of England, George III, who was travelling incognito under the name of Count of Delphios, lodged there in 1791 and received the visit of the municipality on 30 May.
In 1793, just after Britain had joined the armed European coalition against France, the hotel was sold and changed its name. Now owned by a Frenchmen, called Alexandre Marquant, it became Hôtel Franklin and the avenue was renamed Cours Fructidor.
It was at this time, in 1794, that the famous Thérésa Cabarrus settled in the Hôtel Franklin. She was born Juana María Ignazia Teresa de Cabarrús y Galabert at the Palace of San Pedro in Carabanchel Alto, near Madrid in Spain, on 31 July 1773. Her mother was Spanish and her father, François Cabarrus, from Bayonne, was a financier in Madrid. He became minister of finance for Spain in 1797.
Arriving in Bordeaux in 1793 at the home of her Cabarrus cousins, after getting married at the age of fourteen to the Marquis Jean-Jacques Devin de Fontenay, she was first arrested at the age of 20, as a suspect, before being released. Largely thanks to the fact that she had seduced Robespierre’s envoy, Tallien, sent on a mission with Ysabeau on 23 September 1793. Once released, she moved to the former Hôtel d’Angleterre, which had since become Hôtel Franklin, and turned it into a popular address for people passing through during the Reign of Terror in Bordeaux.
By influencing Tallien, who became her second husband, she managed to improve the conditions in the prisons, which until then were known to be “of the most barbaric humanity.” She also helped to release many “suspects,” and to save some of those sentenced to the gallows. To the point that Tallien was accused of “moderantism” and denounced for his liaison with Cabarrus, “protector of her caste, nobles, financiers and monopolisers,” and he had to return to Paris to explain himself. In May 1794, left alone in Bordeaux, she was arrested for being a “former aristocrat.” Before being presented to the military commission, with no illusions about the fate that awaited her, she sent a final message to Tallien: “I’m dying because I belong to a coward.” A few weeks later, Tallien joined the conspirators against Robespierre and won fame on 9 Thermidor at the Convention by preventing Saint-Just from speaking during the events that would lead to the fall of Robespierre. Saved, Thérésa Cabarrus returned to Paris and married Tallien. Their daughter was named Thermidor. Thérésa Cabarrus earned the moniker “Our Lady of Thermidor” and, in Bordeaux, Hôtel Franklin became the Bureau des Grâces [office of pardons]. She who made the Reign of Terror less torturous never returned to Bordeaux, but kept fond memories of the Hôtel Franklin and of what she would later call “the sweet moments spent on the large balcony with such a beautiful view.”
Thérésa Cabarrus spent the second half of her life in Belgium. She got married for a third time, in 1805, to the Prince of Chimay. Having become Princess of Chimay, she ended her life in Belgium, where she died at the age of 61, in 1835.
Le balcon de l'Hôtel Franklin
Under the Directoire, Hôtel Franklin, which had taken back its original name, became a very popular place for holding balls for Bordeaux’s high society. It was then also known as the “English ballroom” in memory of its original name. In her memoirs, Johanna Schopenhauer writes: “The English balls [...] held at Hôtel Franklin [...] are much more dazzling [than those of the Intendance residence].” The Société des Chartrons would also meet there.
It was a merchant of Scottish origin, John Lewis Brown, who finally put an end to the Hôtel d’Angleterre’s history on 19 August 1809, by buying the property from Rocaute’s heirs to make it his home.