Assassination attempt of French king in Paris (July 28, 1835)

You may think that mass casualty attacks are a 20th-21st century phenomenon: think again.

PARIS, FRANCE — In 1835 France was a mere generation away from the maelstrom of the French Revolution and had survived two of Napoleon’s regimes. The country was also five years out from yet another ‘revolution’ – oh those francais! The so-called ‘Second French Revolution’ or the ‘July Revolution’ led to the ouster of the French Bourbon monarch Charles X and the ascent of his cousin Louis Philippe of Orleans as new king.

At least no guillotines this time!

Louis Philippe reigned until 1848 when he too was removed from power: he ended up being the last French royal. He also promoted the French colonialisation of Algeria, which led to all kinds of problems, especially for the Algerians.

He also survived an assassination attempt. On this day in 1835 a former thief, forgerer and vagabond, Giuseppe Marco Fieschi, cobbled together, with a confrere, an ‘infernal machine’: twenty gun barrels to be fired simultaneously. As King Louis Philippe was passing along the boulevard to the Bastille, accompanied by his three sons and a numerous staff, the machine was exploded. A ball grazed the king’s forehead: eighteen people in all were killed and many were wounded but the king and the princes escaped as if by miracle.

Fieschi himself was severely wounded by the discharge of his machine, and vainly attempted to escape. Physicians valiantly kept him alive so he could be brought to justice. He was executed (guillotined of course – this is France after all!) on February 19, 1836.

In today’s parlance what Fieschi wrought would be called an IED – an improvised explosive device. We are all too familiar with those these days. Isn’t it interesting that one of the first examples was deployed almost two centuries ago?

Phil Gurski

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