In honor of the marriage of the dauphin to Marie-Antoinette, Louis XV ordered public rejoicings throughout France in the spring of 1770. A vast street-fair located on the northern side of the ramparts inaugurated festivities in Paris toward the middle of May.1 The celebrations were to culminate on the evening of 30 May in an enormous pyrotechnic show and illumination of the city, a spectacle highly prized by Parisians and likely to mobilize large crowds.2 Municipal authorities, in consultation with royal officials in Paris and Versailles, appear to have planned the event with considerable care. City-sponsored fireworks usually took place on the town square in front of the Hotel de Ville but the municipality rejected this location on the grounds that it was too small to permit a sufficiently magnificent performance and to accommodate a huge audience. The idea of mounting the show on a barge in the Seine foundered on the objection that it would be too costly and cumbersome and that it would seriously inconvenience river commerce. Because it seemed to provide the best guarantees for safety, comfort and control, officials finally chose the spacious place de Louis XV, the monumental square and traffic jam that we know as the place de la Concorde. Chief among the advantages of this square, noted the municipality, was that it boasted “more exit roads” than any other vast outdoor meeting place.3
KeywordsPolitical Economy Public Administration Advocate General Late Sixty Police Authority
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- Hardy’s Journal, 4, 9, 22 June 1770, BN, ms. fr. 6680, pp. 152–54, 158; Mercier, Tableau de Paris, I, 61 and VI, 141; memoir of the Guet, AN, H 1873, copy BHVP, p. 1799; Memoirs and Recollections of Count Segur, I, 30; d’Holbach to Galiani, 3 June 1770, in Amici e corrispondentifrancesi deWabate Galiani, ed. by F. Nicolini (Naples, 1954), 199; d’Epinay to Galiani, 7 June 1770 in La Signora d’Epinay e Vabate Galiani, lettere inedite, 1769–72, ed. by F. Nicolini (Bari, 1929), 61. In a letter to Galiani dated 1 June d’Epinay reported “more than 500 persons killed or wounded.” Ibid., 58–60.Google Scholar
- Mercier, Tableau de Paris, XI, 141.Google Scholar
- Hardy’s Journal, 4 June 1770, BN, ms. fr. 6680, p. 153; Memoirs and Recollections of the Count Segur, I, 30; d’Epinay to Galiani, 7 June 1770, La Signora, ed. by Nicolini, 61; Tabourel, ed., “La Catastrophe,” 418; d’Holbach to Galiani, 3 June 1770, Amici e corrispondenti, ed. by Nicolini, 199.Google Scholar
- Mercier, Tableau de Paris, VI, 141. Cf. Diderot’s remark: “I am sure that, ten years hence, there will still be vestiges of this unprecedented catastrophe.” To Galiani, June 1770, Correspondance Diderot, ed. by G. Roth (Paris, 1955–70), X, 67 (#612).Google Scholar
- Hardy’s Journal, 4, 22 June 1770, BN, ms. fr. 6680, pp. 152–53, 158; Mercure de France, XCIX (July 1770), 201’02.Google Scholar