Anonymous Benefactor Discovered

September 9, 2021

The Fire of Hôtel-Dieu in Paris 1772 by Hubert Robert

We will cite but one more [act of kindness]. During the night of the 29th and 30th of December, 1772, a frightful fire broke out in the Hôtel Dieu at Paris. The fire, after having smouldered in the cellars, burst forth toward one o’clock in the morning with such violence that the light was visible as far as the outskirts of the city. Despite the promptitude with which aid arrived, despite the activity of the fire department ,which had been recently organized, and the devotion of workers at whose head were the archbishop of Paris, Monseigneur de Beaumont, the principal magistrates, and the priests of the city, the majority of the buildings were destroyed; the loss was valued at two millions. Ten of the sick were burned to death; the others were carried in haste to the archbishop’s palace, to Notre Dame and to the churches; and several of those who had run to their aid perished in the flames or were wounded.

Fire at l’Hôtel Dieu, in 1772 by Jean-Baptiste-François Génillion.

Seized with consternation at this frightful disaster, the archbishop of Paris made a warm appeal to public charity and ordered collections to be taken. When Marie Antoinette was informed of it, she hastened to send a thousand écus, and with a modesty which does her even greater honour than her compassion, took the most minute precautions that no one should know of it, pushing the mystery so far as to say nothing of it to Mercy or to Vermond. Despite this, the secret leaked out; and the public was the more grateful to the young princess for her, generous charity since the initiative had come from her and no one of the royal family had set her the example. But such compliments were embarrassing to her modesty, and she sought to escape them.

The Life of Marie Antoinette, Volume 1 By Maxime de La Rocheterie, Chapter VII, Page 79-80.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 794



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