The political attacks in the XIXe century

The political attacks in the XIX<sup>e</sup> century

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  • Attack on rue Saint-Nicaise in Paris against the 1st consul, 3 Nivôse to 9 (December 24, 1800).

  • Review of the National Guard, Fieschi attack.

    LAMI Eugène (1800 - 1890)

  • Attack on the life of H.M. the Emperor Napoleon III.

To close

Title: Attack on rue Saint-Nicaise in Paris against the 1st consul, 3 Nivôse to 9 (December 24, 1800).

Author :

Date shown: December 24, 1800

Dimensions: Height 29 - Width 39

Technique and other indications: Watercolor, colored print.

Storage location: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - El Meliani

Picture reference: 75-000392 / invgravures1781

Attack on rue Saint-Nicaise in Paris against the 1st consul, 3 Nivôse to 9 (December 24, 1800).

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - El Meliani

To close

Title: Review of the National Guard, Fieschi attack.

Author : LAMI Eugène (1800 - 1890)

Creation date : 1846

Date shown: July 13, 1835

Dimensions: Height 57 - Width 277

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas commissioned by Louis-Philippe for the historical museum of Versailles in 1842

Storage location: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Picture reference: 19-501519 / MV 5169

Review of the National Guard, Fieschi attack.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais

To close

Title: Attack on the life of H.M. the Emperor Napoleon III.

Author :

Date shown: January 14, 1858

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage location: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Raux

Picture reference: 07-517450 / 53.86.4826C

Attack on the life of H.M. the Emperor Napoleon III.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Raux

Publication date: September 2010

Historical context

The increase in political attacks

Under the Ancien Régime, the attacks directed against political figures already existed, as evidenced for example by the assassination of Henri IV by François Ravaillac in 1610. A new spectacular turning point was reached during the great attack on the rue Saint -Nicaise: on December 24, 1800, an "infernal machine" exploded on the passage of the First Consul's car, killing twenty-two and a hundred wounded. During the XIXe century, the phenomenon is amplifying, under the influence of the development of the opinion system and the advent of the media. The acts of subversive violence perpetrated against the sovereigns then culminated in a marked way in the attacks of Fieschi against Louis-Philippe on July 29, 1835 and of Orsini against Napoleon III on January 14, 1858.

Image Analysis

Murderous violence

The political attacks perpetrated in the 19th centurye centuries in urban areas using explosive devices are characterized by their murderous violence: unlike regicide which strikes only its target, they cause many victims in the population. This was the case with the attack on rue Saint-Nicaise, by which the royalist conspiracy wanted to assassinate the First Consul Bonaparte, the day after the coup d'état of 18 Brumaire, while he was trying to pacify the revolt of the chouannerie. As this watercolor print shows, the explosion was so violent that its blast swept away everything in its path, sweeping passers-by, riders, horses and carriages in all directions, tearing or shattering many windows. The brutality of the scene is well captured by the contrast between the rectilinear layout of the street and the facades of the buildings and the disorder that reigns there, as well as by the red watercolor highlights on the clothes of the victims.

The same impression of violence emanates from the canvas of Eugène Lami (1800-1890), a brilliant painter who excelled in depicting military scenes and events of his time. It shows the attack perpetrated by the Corsican republican Giuseppe Fieschi on the person of Louis-Philippe while the king was reviewing the National Guard on the Grands Boulevards on July 28, 1835, on the anniversary of the July revolution. If the king miraculously escaped, the "infernal machine", made up of twenty-five assembled rifle barrels, nevertheless left eighteen dead and forty-two wounded, including a large number of National Guards lying on the ground in the foreground. of the whiteboard. As the terrified crowd tries to flee, the guard rushes to the aid of the king who manages to keep his cool.

There will be an even greater number of wounded on January 14, 1858 during the attack by Felice Orsini, Italian revolutionary and patriot, against Napoleon III, whom he accused of hindering Italian unity: this time, 156 people are affected, of which a dozen will die, by the three bombs that Orsini and his accomplices throw on the imperial procession in front of the Opera in the rue Le Peletier. This engraving represents the moment when, the detonations having ceased, the Empress, awaited by Napoleon III, gets out safe and sound from her car. The marks of the explosion are visible through the broken windows, the cracked ground; some bodies are contorted; the scene is invaded by smoke and stones. Like Fieschi, Orsini was quickly arrested and guillotined.


Brutal repression

Whether they emanate from royalists or republicans, these three attacks directed against the regime in place had particularly brutal consequences, commensurate with the passions they triggered: the first, which allowed Bonaparte to consolidate his power, was immediately followed by a ruthless police repression against the Jacobins and then the Chouan royalists, leading in particular to the execution of the Duc d'Enghien in 1804 after the discovery of the conspiracy of Cadoudal; as for the other two attacks, they helped to bring stigma to the Republicans who were prosecuted and targeted by an arsenal of repressive laws. However, these laws were far from putting an end to the criminal acts perpetrated against public figures. They continued throughout the XIXe century, reaching their climax with the wave of anarchist dynamite bombings that rocked France in the 1890s and the assassination of President Carnot on June 24, 1894 by Caserio, an Italian immigrant. Foreshadowing contemporary terrorism, this violence ended around 1900, thanks to the strict application of villainous laws against anarchists, but above all thanks to the rise of socialism and unionism, which offered opponents the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction or their disagreement through legal channels.

  • attack
  • Consulate
  • Louis Philippe
  • July Monarchy
  • Bonaparte (Napoleon)
  • Napoleon III
  • Second Empire


Lucas DEBRETON, Louis-Philippe and the infernal machine 1830-1835, Paris, Amiot-Dumont, 1951. André JARDIN and André-Jean TUDESQ, France of the Notables (1815-1848), Paris, Le Seuil, 1973. Jean TULARD, Napoleon dictionary, Paris, Fayard, 1987. Jean TULARD, Dictionary of the Second Empire, Paris, Fayard, 1995.Philippe VIGIER, The July Monarchy, Paris, P.U.F., 1982.

To cite this article

Charlotte DENOËL, "The political attacks in the XIXe century "

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