Hôtel de Ville, Place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville, Paris, France
23rd August 1855
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The Throne Room at the Hôtel de Ville in Paris, with a green curtain at the far end decorated with the imperial eagle and the Royal Standard. Groups of guests are gathered in front of the thrones on the right, where Queen Victoria and Napoléon III are seated, with Prince Albert and Princess Mathilde beyond. Inscribed below: C. GARNIER.1855. / WORMS. In August 1855 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert spent ten days in Paris, on the invitation of Napoléon III and his wife Eugénie. The historic state visit was intended to celebrate the military alliance between Britain and France in the Crimean War, and followed a visit by the imperial couple to Windsor in April that year. On 23 August there was a municipal ball at the Hôtel de Ville, hosted by Baron Haussmann, Préfet de la Seine, who invited 8,000 guests. The architect Victor Baltard supervised the decorations. The Throne Room was one of the most important spaces in the Hôtel de Ville, occupying the full length of the central block. The paintings on the walls are by Charles Séchan (1803-74)and represent the personification of Paris. The room was the setting for several important events of the post-Revolutionary period: the seizing of Maximilien Robespierre in 1794, the proclamation of Louis-Philippe as King in 1830, and the declaration of the Second Republic in 1848. Aware of these contentious milestones, the Emperor felt that the splendour of the ball would help to 'efface any unhappy memories' (Journal, 23 August 1855). In January 1856 Baron Haussmann sent an album of 19 watercolours of the ball to Queen Victoria as a souvenir of the occasion. The watercolours were all executed by architectural pupils at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, all former winners of the Prix de Rome and described by Haussmann as `among our most distinguished painters and architects'. The figures were added by Jules Worms. The album had an illustrated frontispiece, which is now lost, but is recorded in several photographic copies of the album that were made at the time and distributed among the administrative libraries of Paris. On 4 February Queen Victoria described looking at `the fine coloured illustrations, in a magnificent album, with a beautifully emblazoned account of the fine Fête at the Hôtel de Ville. This truly magnificent souvenir of my visit, has been sent to me by the Ville de Paris, through the Emperor (Journal, 4 February 1856). The watercolours were arranged according to the route that Queen Victoria took through the building. During the Franco-Prussian War, the interior of the Hôtel de Ville was largely destroyed, and so these watercolours are a valuable record of those lost rooms.