Louis in Louisville

Louis in Louisville
Virginia Insurance
Image by elycefeliz
I loved the lace on this statue –

On the corner of Sixth and Jefferson, across from the Louisville City Hall, is a statue of King Louis XVI, that was presented as a gift to Louisville from Louisville’s sister city, Montpellier, France, on July 17, 1967.

At the presentation, a crowd of 300 dignitaries, both French and American, saw Montpellier’s Mayor François Delmas officially present it to Louisville Mayor Kenneth Schmied.

It was sculpted in 1829 by Achille-Joseph Valois for the king’s surviving daughter, Marie-Thérèse, queen dowager of France, and made its public debut in Montpellier. However, the Second French Revolution soon took place, endangering the statue. It was then placed at a military base to protect it, and then was placed in Montpellier University, and then finally in the municipal archives’ storage basement. In 1899 the statue was found to have an arm damaged, and to be in disrepair.

It stayed in storage until it was decided in 1966 to give the statue to Louisville, making a seven-month journey between Montpellier and Louisville. The Carrara marble statue weighs nine tons, and is 12 feet (3.7 m) high.

The influence of those of French ancestry on Louisville Kentucky, USA and the surrounding area, especially New Albany, Indiana, is immense. Louisville was even named for a French king, Louis XVI. Before Louisville a French outpost existed called La Belle.

Louisville was almost completely settled by French immigrants from the Rhine. Early French immigrants came in three phases; the first group of about 15,000 settled mostly on the coastal states. The first French settlers of Louisville were second- and third-generation American-born Huguenots. The first generation arrived in North America in 1685 after the Edict of Nantes was repealed. These were represented by such people as Thomas Bullitt, a surveyor who started Bullitt’s Lick, Kentucky’s oldest industry. The second significant immigration was mainly of culture value during the American Revolution as most of the French that came overseas during this time returned after the war.

The third migration during the French Revolution during 1793 provided a wide variety of people from nobles to clergy. Most of the groups that traveled to Kentucky settled in Louisville at the Falls of the Ohio. During this time, the French descendants and immigrants utilized Shippingport and Portland for commerce. In 1782, Jean A. Honoré and Bethelemi Tardiveau had a business at Shippingport in which they dealt in flour, furs and land, leading them to meet George Rogers Clark. Their business became the first exploit of the New Orleans trade.

In the mid-19th century, the French commerce boomed. Frenchman James Berthoud established Kentucky’s second insurance agency and chartered the first Bank of Kentucky. Berthoud’s son Nicholas went on to be a charter member of the Louisville and Portland Canal.

Louisville experienced its largest impact from immigration in the period from 1830 to 1850. The majority of immigrants were of French, German, and Irish descent. The two counties that saw the most impact in the Louisville Metropolitan Statistical Area were Jefferson County, Kentucky and Floyd County, Indiana. The populations for the two counties doubled within this time period. Floyd County saw French immigrants locating in the county as early as 1817.

King Louis XVI of France
The guy whose Frenchness causes there to be no "S" sound in the word "Louisville"
The statue of King Louis ("Loo-ee") the 16th of France that stands outside the Jefferson County Courthouse in downtown Louisville turned 175 years old in 2004 and marks its 40th year in Louisville in 2007.

This marble representation of Louisville’s namesake was commissioned by the king’s daughter, Marie-Therese, and originally unveiled in the 1820’s in Montpellier, France, 36 years after his beheading. Marie-Therese was the offspring of King Louis XVI of France and Marie-Antoinette of Austria, who had married to combine their empires.

King Louis XVI is not considered a bright man by historians. Nonetheless, his help was instrumental in the American Revolution. In 1778 he reached a deal with Ben Franklin to send assistance to the fledgling United States. That backing, in the form of supplies and soldiers, helped secure America’s independence.

One form of thanks given to Louis that same year was the naming of a Virginia settlement in his honor. The town of Louisville ("Loo-ee-vill") was officially chartered by the Virginia Legislature in 1780, and became part of Kentucky upon the commonwealth’s statehood in 1797.

Unfortunately, the exorbitant outlays for which the Americans were so grateful did not get the same response in France, and contributed to the severe financial problems Louis was facing at home.

When reforms swept through the French government in the late 1780’s, Louis supported the changes, but things moved too quickly for him to keep up. He and his family were caught in the crossfire and tried to escape the country in 1791. They were captured and confined to their homes while the interim French government convicted Louis of conspiracy and cut his head off. His second son Louis-Charles de France, duc de Normandie, ascended to the throne, becoming King Louis the 17th.

Louis the 16th’s younger brothers also became king after the French Revolution, Louis the 18th, and Charles the 10th.

Our statue of Louis XVI here in Louisville holds a unique status as one of a man for whom a US city was named, coming from a French city where it had been commissioned by the man’s daughter. And Louisville holds a unique status as one of the few cities in the world named for an executed criminal.

Comments are closed.