A republican who opposed the regime of Napoleon III, Victor Noir became tragically mixed up in a quarrel between his colleague, Paschal Grousset, and the cousin of Napoleon III, Prince Pierre-Napoleon Bonaparte. Noir visited the Prince to deliver Grousset's challenge to a duel, but an altercation ensued, and the Prince shot and killed Noir on January 10, 1870. His death provoked demonstrations against the Empire, and probably hastened anti-Napoleonic sentiment before the demise of the Second Empire only months later. For his own part, Bonaparte was acquitted of murder by a special high court in Tours, having claimed that Noir provoked him by slapping him in the face, although this was disputed by an eyewitness.
Noir was buried in Pere Lachaise, where he now enjoys more fame than he did in his time. Upon his grave is a detailed life-sized sculpture of Noir as he must have looked the moment after he was fatally shot, right down to the top hat lying forlornly at his feet. Legend has it that the monument has special powers: young wives wishing to get pregnant go to Pere Lachaise to rub Victor Noir's somewhat prodigious crotch for luck, over the years leaving a conspicuous shiny spot. Upon close inspection, it also appears that a fair number of visitors have rubbed Victor Noir's nose, for reasons unknown.
Victor Noir was born on this day in 1848 in Attigny, France.
Categories: Journalism, Paris