The French in Egypt, from Louis XIV to Louis XVI

This lecture will provide a brief history of the French in Egypt. Initially, Louis XIV planned to conquer Egypt, if the Ottoman Empire collapsed, as unpublished drawings and maps by his spies and officers in Alexandria confirm. There were similar plans of conquest under Louis XVI. At the same time, French travellers, merchants and consuls could live in Egypt, due to the ancient alliance between France and the Ottoman Empire. M. de Maillet, the French consul, published a two-volume Description de l'Egypte in 1735 with prints of pyramids and mummified human remains. Other French travellers included the coin collector Paul Lucas around 1710, and the artist Louis Francois Casas in 1784. Thus, Egypt was already familiar to some Frenchmen before Napoleon Bonaparte's expedition in 1798. Bourbon interest in Egypt continued after the Restoration. Jean-François Champollion, who deciphered hieroglyphs using the Rosetta Stone, was supported by Louis XVIII, who died 200 years ago in 1824. Then his successor, Charles X, with Champollion's help, created an Egyptian museum in the Louvre Museum in Paris, called the Musée Charles X.

24 11 05 Mansel_Consuls, Travellers, Spies_Carte De La Bass Egypte

Carte De La Bass Egypte (French translation: Map of Lower Egypt)

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24 11 05 Mansel_Consuls, Travellers, Spies_LouisFrancois Cassas_View of Sphinx and Pyramid of Khafre c1790

View of Sphinx and Pyramid of Khafre (Louis Francois Cassas, c. 1790)

Dr Philip Mansel

Dr Philip Mansel

Founding Committee Member, Levantine Heritage Foundation

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