Charles Stewart Parnell

Parnell visits Victor Hugo, from Le Figaro, Feb. 17, 1881
Charles Stewart Parnell (Avondale, Co. Wicklow, 1846 – Brighton, England, 1891) had a long, multifarious relationship with Paris. His wealthy American uncle, Charles Tudor Stewart, lived a comfortable existence at 122, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and his mother, Delia (Charles Tudor’s sister) was a frequent visitor there, often with her growing tribe of children. Charles Stuart Parnell himself stayed with his uncle on the Champs Elysées in April and again October 1870, when he courted a wealthy American heiress called Mary Woods.

Parnell’s next visits to the city are a bit of a mystery. Improbably, Robert Kee's biography The Laurel and the Ivy tells us that Parnell was back to pursue his (ultimately unsuccessful) courtship of Miss Woods in Paris in winter 1870 and again in the following spring. Why are these two visits improbable? Because the Prussians began their siege of Paris in September 1870 and because spring 1871 saw the establishment and bloody suppression of the Paris Commune. More reliably, the Parnell Society of Ireland places his visit to Paris in spring 1872.

The Hôtel Brighton
Parnell came to Paris several times during the 1880s, mostly in connection with his political activities. In early 1881, an emergency meeting of Parnellites was called in Paris at which it was decided to park Land League funds in a bank in the city, well out of the reach of the British authorities. The meeting took place at the upscale Hotel Brighton at 218, rue de Rivoli (1
st arrondissement) in mid-February 1881. (Mark Twain was a frequent guest of the Hôtel Brighton and a dying Daniel O'Connell had stayed briefly in the same street in 1847.)

But Parnell did not turn up until several days after the appointed time for the meeting. His supporters, anxious as to his whereabouts, opened a letter addressed to him at the hotel and thereby acquired their first knowledge of Parnell’s liaison with Kitty O’Shea.  When he did eventually turn up, Parnell gave several controversial interviews to the French press (in an interview with
Le Figaro he recounted how he had given plain-cloths policemen “the slip in the rue Vivienne”) and he met such luminaries as Victor Hugo and Georges Clemenceau. He was even invited to dinner at Hugo’s home at 130 Avenue d’Eylau in the 16th arrondissement (now 120 Avenue Victor Hugo). He also apparently met John O'Leary, a leading light on the Irish Republican Brotherhood's Supreme Council, and Fenian Brotherhood member William Mackey Lomasney, who was to blow himself and his brother up three years later trying to destroy London Bridge. Parnell was back in Paris in late February 1881, again staying at the Hotel Brighton. During this short visit, he met the former French president, Marshall MacMahon, the builder of the Suez Canal, Ferdinand de Lesseps, and the Archbishop of Paris.

 Hôtel Saint Petersbourg
Parnell’s older sister, also called Delia, lived at 125, Boulevard St Michel (5
th arrondissement), unhappily married to an American called James Livingston Thompson. The death through typhoid of their son, Henry, brought Parnell to Paris in April 1882. Imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin at the time along with James J. O'Kelly, Parnell was granted parole to attend his nephew’s funeral. He stayed in the posh Grand Hotel at 12, Blvd des Capucines (9th arrondissement), having gone to Brighton to see Kitty O’Shea and her dying daughter by him along the way. Alas, according to L’Indépendant of April 14, 1882, Parnell " unfortunately arrived too late and was unable to attend" his nephew's funeral. Parnell made a further short visit to the French capital in March 1883, when he again met Georges Clemenceau, and in June of the same year. Police surveillance reports tell us that he stayed at the Hotel Dominici at 7/9 rue Castiglione (1st arrondissement) during his March visit and at the Hotel d'Albe at 71, avenue de l'Alma (now called Avenue Georges V, 8th arrondissement, building no longer exists) in June.

Parnell's connections with Paris did not end there. In the summer of 1886, the notorious forger Richard Pigott met an English journalist in the Hôtel St. Petersbourg at 33-35 rue Caumartin (9th arrondissement). Against payment, Pigott handed over a number of letters purportedly from Parnell's hand that suggested the latter had a much more ambiguous attitude to the Phoenix Park murders of 1882 than he had publicly displayed.

Select Bibliography
The Infiltrator – Henri Le Caron, the British Spy Inside the Fenian Movement (2010)
Peter Edwards

Charles Stewart Parnell, the Man and his Family (1976)
Robert Fitzroy Foster

The Laurel and the Ivy: The Story of Charles Stewart Parnell and Irish Nationalism (1993)
Robert Kee

Charles Stewart Parnell (1977)
F.S.L. Lyons

“Paris & the Parnell Family”, Parnell Society of Ireland (2007)

“M. Parnell à Paris”, Le Figaro, Feb. 14, 1881

“M. Parnell chez Victor Hugo”, Le Figaro, Feb. 17, 1881

“Parnell”, Le Figaro, Feb. 19, 1881