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The Lallemand event is a pretty obscure footnote these days, but well worth knowing for Les Mis context-- and nigh impossible to research if you don't know French, apparently. Hence, this post is from the lovely LOVELY AssumeSarcasm on Tumblr. I keep more discussion on it over on my Tumblr tagged with " the Lallemand thing" .

“Bahorel had figured in the bloody tumult of June, [1820], on the occasion of the burial of young Lallemand.”

Seeing as there’s practically nothing about this event to be found in English on the Internet about this event, and that most French sources just contradict each other on everything, I promised *cough*four*cough* months ago that I’d make a post with what I had found about what would probably be yet another forgotten event of history if not for Victor Hugo’s mention of it.

…As usual, I got sidetracked. But here it is, now! (and you definitely should all thank Pilf for that)


Let’s talk about that first fortnight of June 1820;  

(Note that I won’t really get into what happened inside the Chamber of Deputies because that would become a novel-length essay and it’s not really what interests us, but long story short: Benjamin Constant was a snarky badass who pretty much stole the show. (uh, don’t quote me on that))

We’ll first need a bit of political context, since it’s actually pretty much what it’s all about. France, in 1820, had been under a constitutional monarchy for a few years: the Bourbon Restoration.  The Charter of 1814 acted as a compromise between the King and the Revolution, but both ultra-royalists and the more liberal left disliked it for giving too much to the other party. Having already lost their majority in the elections of 1816, the murder of the Duke of Berry on February 13th, only sent the monarchists, afraid of seeing their power weaken, into panic. In an attempt to bring more ultras deputies to the Chamber of Deputies, they were, as of late May 1820, discussing around the idea of implementing the double vote law. This law was meant to add a set of 172 new deputies (to the 258 already in place) but —and here’s the catch— these new deputies would only be elected by the very richest electors, in ADDITION to their regular vote.

This clearly unjust law inevitably displeased a lot of people and caught the general public’s interest.

On May 30th, M. de Chauvelin, a liberal/leftist deputy who was bedridden and in great pain at the time, nonetheless ordered for his bed to be taken to the Chamber of Deputies so that he could make his voice heard. Impressed by his courage, a good number of medicine and law students came to meet him at the exit of the Chamber the next two days, to thank him for his devotion to the cause and to know where the negotiations were heading, and to follow him back to his hotel while shouting “Vive le roi! Vive la Charte!” a lot.

June 2nd was the third day of the students’ demonstrations. Only, this time, they were also joined by a group of well-dressed young men (who would the next day be identified as a group composed of disguised military personnel). Everything went as usual, until Chauvelin came out of the Chamber, carried by two men to help him to get to his car, and some of these absolutely-not-royalists decided to deliberately block the carriers’ way. For the next quarter of an hour, as Chauvelin testified, the men that he calls “bourgeois” would shout “Vive le roi!” (with no mention of the charter: here lies all the difference) and threaten anyone who dared to approach with their batons, while the students were too busy trying to protect their deputy to do more than answer back with a few “Vive la charte!” until, finally, Chauvelin made it safe and sound to his car.

After this incident, the students didn’t waste time to tell about the day’s incident to everyone they could reach, and on June 3rd, it was a huge crowd of Parisians of all classes that showed up. After their usual chat with Chauvelin, the police that was posted on the scene began to disperse the crowd that had started shouting “Vive le roi! Vive la charte!” again.

As people started to peacefully heading back to their occupation, they were intercepted by the same group of well-dressed men as the previous day, trying to force everyone they saw to shout “vive le roi!” and beating up everyone who tried to add “vive la charte!” to it.

The worst to happen of that day was when people would be attacked with fucking hidden hatchets for saying the word “charte”, or even for simply not complying fast enough. One person having to defend themselves against up to twenty of these men was not unusual, and the police was suspiciously idle in front of that, or even arrested the people the bourgeois brought to them when they were getting bored of beating them up. (Whether or not some people died as a result of these beatings is unclear.) Also, some deputies felt that people had insulted them and hadn’t respected their authority. (Oh no! both of my main sources make a big deal out of it.)

As it started to die down and most people were getting out of there, groups coming from the surrounding streets gathered in the Place du Carrousel. Royal Guards were sent to disperse them, and one of them fell as he tried to arrest someone. In anger, he shot without aiming, and the bullet ended its course when it hit a law student from behind. This student, Nicolas Lallemand, was fatally wounded.  

Although the above version of Lallemand’s death is the one that was recognized as factual, I would note that it took several days for the commission de censure, the governmental censorship under the Restoration, to reluctantly admit it. Initially, they tried to stop the liberal newspapers from spreading it and banned them from publishing a letter from Lallemand’s father, favoring the ultràs’ version that Lallemand was trying to forcibly disarm a soldier when he was shot, saying that this version was more likely and that they had to make sure that they were not misinforming the public.

Lallemand’s burial was in the morning of June 6th. Despite the torrential rain, four thousand people, most of them law or medicine students, showed up: it was the biggest funerals for a “mere” citizen that was ever seen. Fearing trouble, many police officers were sent to watch over the cortege, but everyone behaved well and maintained a perfect silence all the way to the Père Lachaise cemetery. After the ceremony’s end, they went back to their occupations, but not before slipping a few “vive la charte!”

The rain stopped the people from reuniting for most of rest of the day. Bahorel’s “bloody tumult” would have to wait for the evening.


Notice: the Chambre des Députés at the far left, the Cimetière du Père Lachaise at the far right, and mostly everything in between.

In the two days between Lallemand’s death and his burial, tension had built up. June 5th had seen number of people reuniting in public places to spread shouts of “Vive la charte!” from the Place Louis XV, until it reached all the other crowds across the center of Paris. Three or four hundred young men rushed through the boulevards (Boulevart on the map) from the Place Louis XV (now Place de la Concorde), their cries of “Vive la charte!” echoed by the women at their window. When they reached the Porte Saint-Martin, they were now more than six thousand people. At least 35 people were arrested and the royal dragoons were sent after the crowd refused to disperse.

Some people were slightly injured, but it is June 6th that first saw blood: over 20 people were injured by the dragoons’ swords.

It gets worse. On June 7th, it’s the workers turn to gather and protest (until then, it was mostly only students). The dragoons were sent out again, but this time, they were drunk. There were more serious injuries than on the previous day; notably, a man lost all the skin of his face to the dragoons’ swords. On June 9th, over a hundred thousand people were on the streets; men, women and children were shouting “vive la charte!” On that night, a lot of people were gravely injured and even killed –mostly innocent people: the ones causing trouble are the ones who can run. People were angry. On the next day, the Chamber of Deputies receives a letter: people felt that public security couldn’t be left for the official authorities to deal with.

For many other days, people would still gather in public places, but the resistance they met from the gendarmes was too great that they had to give up. No more people were injured, although many were still arrested.

On June 12th, the Double Vote law passed.





Main sources :

Tableau de Paris dans les quinze premiers jours de juin 1820, par M.J.J.E.R.

Histoire de la première quinzaine de juin 1820


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Let's all be miserable together!

May 2014



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