1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Compiègne

COMPIÈGNE, a town of northern France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Oise, 52 m. N.N.E. of Paris on the Northern railway between Paris and St Quentin. Pop. (1906) 14,052. The town, which is a favourite summer resort, stands on the north-west border of the forest of Compiègne and on the left bank of the Oise, less than 1 m. below its confluence with the Aisne. The river is crossed by a bridge built in the reign of Louis XV. The Rue Solférino, a continuation of the bridge ending at the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, is the busy street of the town; elsewhere, except on market days, the streets are quiet. The hôtel de ville, with a graceful façade surmounted by a lofty belfry, is in the late Gothic style of the early 16th century and was completed in modern times. Of the churches, St Antoine (13th and 16th centuries) with some fine Renaissance stained glass, and St Jacques (13th and 15th centuries), need alone be mentioned. The remains of the ancient abbey of St Corneille are used as a military storehouse. Compiègne, from a very early period until 1870, was the occasional residence of the French kings. Its palace, one of the most magnificent structures of its kind, was erected, chiefly by Louis XV. and Louis XVI., on the site of a château of King Charles V. of France. It now serves as an art museum. It has two façades, one overlooking the Place du Palais and the town, the other, more imposing, facing towards a fine park and the forest, which is chiefly of oak and beech and covers over 36,000 acres. Compiègne is the seat of a subprefect, and has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a communal college, library and hospital. The industries comprise boat-building, rope-making, steam-sawing, distilling and the manufacture of chocolate, machinery and sacks and coarse coverings, and at Margny, a suburb, there are manufactures of chemicals and felt hats. Asparagus is cultivated in the environs. There is considerable trade in timber and coal, chiefly river-borne.

Compiègne, or as it is called in the Latin chronicles, Compendium, seems originally to have been a hunting-lodge of the early Frankish kings. It was enriched by Charles the Bald with two castles, and a Benedictine abbey dedicated to Saint Corneille, the monks of which retained down to the 18th century the privilege of acting for three days as lords of Compiègne, with full power to release prisoners, condemn the guilty, and even inflict sentence of death. It was in Compiègne that King Louis I. the Debonair was deposed in 833; and at the siege of the town in 1430 Joan of Arc was taken prisoner by the English. A monument to her faces the hôtel de ville. In 1624 the town gave its name to a treaty of alliance concluded by Richelieu with the Dutch; and it was in the palace that Louis XV. gave welcome to Marie Antoinette, that Napoleon I. received Marie Louise of Austria, that Louis XVIII. entertained the emperor Alexander of Russia, and that Leopold I., king of the Belgians, was married to the princess Louise. In 1814 Compiègne offered a stubborn resistance to the Prussian troops. Under Napoleon III. it was the annual resort of the court during the hunting season. From 1870 to 1871 it was one of the headquarters of the German army.