21st May 1927

Hauteville House is bequeathed to the City of Paris

Was Victor Hugo really exiled from France, or just on the run from Napoleon?

Hugo was elected to the French National Assembly in 1848, just three years before Napoleon III siezed power. Napoleon dissolved the Assembly and Hugo declared him a traitor. The writer then fled to Guernsey, by way of Jersey, and set up home at Hauteville House in St Peter Port. He lived there for 15 years and wrote some of his most renowned works on the island, including Les Miserables and Toilers of the Sea.

Whatever his reason for fleeing the country, Hugo was eventually forgiven. He returned to France after Napoleon’s death. By the time of his own death, he was so renowned that he was awarded a state funeral, and more than two million people joined his funeral procession. He is now buried among the great and the good of France, in the Pantheon.

A Victor Hugo museum

Unsurprisingly, France wanted to preserve many artefacts from his life, including his homes in both Paris and Guernsey. The City of Paris applied to the Guernsey Royal Court for permission to acquire Hauteville House and preserve it in his memory. The Royal Court granted permission in May 1927.

The house, including its art and many of Hugo’s personal belongings, had until then been the property of his heirs. They could not sell it (or even give it) to a non-Briton without permission from the Lieutenant Governor.

Victor Hugo's former home, Hauteville House

Paris’s application to acquire it had been made by Baron de Coudenhove, an agent for the French consulate. The consulate itself had plans to turn the house into a museum. The Lieutenant Governor raised no objections, thus allowing the donation from Hugo’s family to go ahead.

The museum finally opened to the public on 14 June 1927. It is still a major tourist attraction today, and there are often queues of visitors at its door.

 

FREE Guernsey history newsletter

Don't miss our weekly update on Guernsey's fascinating history. We promise never to sell your data to anyone else, and there's a super-easy unsubscribe link on the bottom of each email so you can leave whenever you want. We'll also keep you up to date with our latest book releases and early-bird discounts.

 

Other events that occured in May

Priaulx Library opens for the first time 1st
Horse racing returns to L’Ancresse race course 2nd
Guernsey deportee, nurse Gladys Skillett was born
“Twink” goes missing on its way to Guernsey 3rd
Role of Chief Minister of Guernsey abolished 4th
Guernsey Airport opened for business 5th
Alderney debated in the House of Commons 6th
Songs of Praise comes from Guernsey 7th
Final issue of Deutsche Guernsey-Zeitung was published 8th
Guernsey was liberated from German occupation 9th
A Guernsey retiree’s £1m offer attracts 57,000 requests 10th
A liberation celebration ended in disaster 11th
Guernsey plays Tottenham Hotspur 12th
Guernsey’s telephone wars broke out 13th
British papers reported Dame of Sark’s deportation 14th
The States of Guernsey bought Aurigny 15th
Alderney was liberated at the end of the second world war 16th
Herm goes back on the market 17th
A mainland murder with a Guernsey connection 18th
Guernsey declared a State of Emergency 19th
Wartime diplomat Wilfred Gallienne born in Guernsey 20th
Hauteville House is bequeathed to the City of Paris 21st
Guernsey poet and painter Denys Corbet was born 22nd
John Doyle was appointed Lieutenant-Governor 23rd
The Imperial Hotel opened for the first time 24th
Elizabeth College is founded in St Peter Port 25th
Game of Thrones actor Roy Dotrice was born 26th
Head of Guernsey CID is shot in St Peter Port 27th
Work started on the Victoria Tower
Guernsey’s first paid constables were hired 28th
Guernsey woman advised to leave for her safety 29th
Occupation stories occupy the mainland papers 30th
“Overdose” verdict in Guernsey farmer’s death inquiry 31st