Place Vendôme

Paris, France | C.1698

Photo Credit: Francesca Grima

Place Vendôme is commonly regarded as the unofficial home of all things luxury. But egotistic materialism existed long before major houses like Chanel, Dior, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Rolex, and even the Ritz Carlton populated the octagonal square.

It all started in 1698 with Louis XIV. After nearly six decades of leadership, the King felt deserving of a grand Parisian monument. To ensure its beauty and perfection, great care went into creating a massive eight-sided square, and the twice-life-size king-on-horse statue that was erected in its center. 

Unfortunately for Louis, his reign didn’t last. Amidst a violent revolution, French rebels dismantled Louis XIV’s monument and melted down the metal for more practical purposes. Twenty years later, Napoleon commemorated his victory at Austerlitz, by reducing 1,250 captured Russian and Austrian canons into a bronze spiral frieze column that was erected in the same place.

What goes around comes around. Years later, the next Louis, Louis XVIII, decided to follow suit. The new king melted Napoleon’s pillar, replaced it with a statue of fleur-de-lis, only for that too to be replaced with a new Napoleonic statue during the reign of Louis-Philippe. Following Louis-Philippe, Napoleon III came along, tore down the second Napoleonic statue, and recreated the original monument commemorating his uncle. Finally, during the destructive Commune of 1871, the column was torn down once again, only to be reconstructed a few years later. The same statue remains today.

So, if there’s anything we’ve learned from this turbulent tale it’s this: if you find yourself at Place Vendôme buying a Rolex as a monument to your own triumphs but later regret your decision, don’t worry! You can always melt it and fashion it into an AP?

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