The Victor Noir Affair

Victor Noir

Victor Noir was born in Paris on the 11th of January 1870. His notoriety started when a radical newspaper, La Revanche, published an article against Bonapartists and dictatorships. Then Emperor Napoleon Bonapart III's cousin, Prince Pierre Bonaparte, responded by having his angry letter published by a loyalist newspaper L'Avenir de la Corse. Another radical newspaper, La Marseillaise, took La Revanche's side in the quarrel. Pierre demanded a duel with Henri Rochefort, owner of La Marseillaise, while the editor of the same newspaper, Paschal Grousset, also demanded a duel with Pierre. Victor Noir registers in here: he was asked by his friend and editor Paschal Grousset to be a witness in the dual, alongside fellow friend and witness, Ulrich de Fonveille.

Victor and Ulrich travelled to Pierre Bonaparte's home in order to give him the demand for a duel. Pierre, with his tempestuous personality, was outraged that the duel did not come from Henri Rochefort, who had not answered Pierre's demands. What happened next is told in two different versions. Ulrich claims that out of anger, Pierre struck Victor, and promptly shot him, killing Victor on the spot. Pierre, however, claims self defense when Victor, insulted by Pierre's disgust at people lower ranked than him asking a duel, struck him first at which Pierre shot him in response. This second version was accepted in court and Pierre Bonaparte was acquitted.

Pierre's acquittal at the murder was seen as a direct strike against republicans, and Noir's funeral procession was attended by over 100,000 republicans, thinking it to be their civic duty. A number of public outcries and violent demonstrations ensued until events led Napoleon III to be defeated in the Franco-Prussian Wars,  and eventually leading to the overthrow of the Empire.

Noir himself was not particularly important, but many believe his death to be the catalyst to anti-dictatorship protests, and although almost non-related, also catalyst to the end of the Empire.

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