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Changing Paris
by [?]

Paris is beginning to show signs of the coming “Exhibition of 1900,” and is in many ways going through a curious stage of transformation, socially as well as materially. The Palais De l’Industrie, familiar to all visitors here, as the home of the Salons, the Horse Shows, and a thousand gay fetes and merry-makings, is being torn down to make way for the new avenue leading, with the bridge Alexander III., from the Champs Elysees to the Esplanade des Invalides. This thoroughfare with the gilded dome of Napoleon’s tomb to close its perspective is intended to be the feature of the coming “show.”

Curious irony of things in this world! The Palais De l’Industrie was intended to be the one permanent building of the exhibition of 1854. An old “Journal” I often read tells how the writer saw the long line of gilded coaches (borrowed from Versailles for the occasion), eight horses apiece, led by footmen–horses and men blazing in embroidered trappings–leave the Tuileries and proceed at a walk to the great gateway of the now disappearing palace. Victoria and Albert who were on an official visit to the Emperor were the first to alight; then Eugenie in the radiance of her perfect beauty stepped from the coach (sad omen!) that fifty years before had taken Josephine in tears to Malmaison.

It may interest some ladies to know how an Empress was dressed on that spring morning forty-four years ago. She wore rose-colored silk with an over-dress (I think that is what it is called) of black lace flounces, immense hoops, and a black Chantilly lace shawl. Her hair, a brilliant golden auburn, was dressed low on the temples, covering the ears, and hung down her back in a gold net almost to her waist; at the extreme back of her head was placed a black and rose-colored bonnet; open “flowing” sleeves showed her bare arms, one-buttoned, straw-colored gloves, and ruby bracelets; she carried a tiny rose-colored parasol not a foot in diameter.

How England’s great sovereign was dressed the writer of the journal does not so well remember, for in those days Eugenie was the cynosure of all eyes, and people rarely looked at anything else when they could get a glimpse of her lovely face.

It appears, however, that the Queen sported an India shawl, hoops, and a green bonnet, which was not particularly becoming to her red face. She and Napoleon entered the building first; the Empress (who was in delicate health) was carried in an open chair, with Prince Albert walking at her side, a marvellously handsome couple to follow the two dowdy little sovereigns who preceded them. The writer had by bribery succeeded in getting places in an entresol window under the archway, and was greatly impressed to see those four great ones laughing and joking together over Eugenie’s trouble in getting her hoops into the narrow chair!

What changes have come to that laughing group! Two are dead, one dying in exile and disgrace; and it would be hard to find in the two rheumatic old ladies whom one sees pottering about the Riviera now, any trace of those smiling wives. In France it is as if a tidal wave had swept over Napoleon’s court. Only the old palace stood severely back from the Champs Elysees, as if guarding its souvenirs. The pick of the mason has brought down the proud gateway which its imperial builder fondly imagined was to last for ages. The Tuileries preceded it into oblivion. The Alpha and Omega of that gorgeous pageant of the fifties vanished like a mirage!

It is not here alone one finds Paris changing. A railway is being brought along the quais with its depot at the Invalides. Another is to find its terminus opposite the Louvre, where the picturesque ruin of the Cour des Comptes has stood half-hidden by the trees since 1870. A line of electric cars crosses the Rond Point, in spite of the opposition of all the neighborhood, anxious to keep, at least that fine perspective free from such desecration. And, last but not least, there is every prospect of an immense system of elevated railways being inaugurated in connection with the coming world’s fair. The direction of this kind of improvement is entirely in the hands of the Municipal Council, and that body has become (here in Paris) extremely radical, not to say communistic; and takes pleasure in annoying the inhabitants of the richer quarters of the city, under pretext of improvements and facilities of circulation.