The Funeral of Victor Hugo

A giant of French literature, Victor Hugo was a politically active man. He declared Louis Napoleon was a traitor when the latter seized complete power in 1851. He imposed self-exile upon himself afterwards to the channel island of Guernsey where he wrote some of his best work, including Les Misérables. After the fall of Napoleon, he returned to France, where he was elected to the National Assembly and the Senate.

He was in Paris during the siege by the Prussian army in 1870, famously eating animals given to him by the Paris zoo. As the siege continued, and food became ever more scarce, and he wrote in his diary that he was reduced to “eating the unknown.” He died in Paris on 22 May 1885, at the age of 83. More than two million people showed up his funeral procession, the largest crowd ever assembled in France for a funeral of a public figure and the first ever such reverence for a celebrity elsewhere in the world. Forty thousand waited overnight to get a good vantage-point. People sold seats at the window on the route for over sixty pounds.

Six orations were delivered before the catafalque, lying-in-state under the Arc de Triomphe. Hugo was buried in Panthéon, in the same crypt within the Panthéon with Alexandre Dumas (Émile Zola was later added into it too).

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