NAPOLEON … REMEMBERED & HONORED THIS YEAR OF 2015 …

All of 194 years ago French Emperor Napoléon Bonaparte passed away in exile on the Atlantic Island of St. Helena. His jailers – the British – buried him on the island, but 40 years later the French brought his body to Paris and today his magnificent tomb can be visited in the capital’s Les Invalides. […]

Napoleon in the park of Malmaison (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Napoleon in the park of Malmaison (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

All of 194 years ago French Emperor Napoléon Bonaparte passed away in exile on the Atlantic Island of St. Helena. His jailers – the British – buried him on the island, but 40 years later the French brought his body to Paris and today his magnificent tomb can be visited in the capital’s Les Invalides.

Les Invalides in Paris where Napoleon lies buried (copyright marilynztomlins)

Les Invalides in Paris where Napoleon lies buried (copyright marilynztomlins)

Napoléon exhaled his last breath on Saturday, May 5, 1821. Born on August 15, 1769, on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, he was 52 years of age. Officially he had  died of stomach cancer (the disease was in his family), but many believe that the British had poisoned him with arsenic and there is a calling to have his remains analysed. I am one of those who would like to have this done.

Napoleon's tomb in Les Invalides. (copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Napoleon’s tomb in Les Invalides. (copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Each year, on the windswept St. Helena, the British Governor lays a wreath at the empty tomb on behalf of the French President and the Paris-based Napoléon Foundation.  This year’s commemorative ceremony was held on Saturday, May 2 at 10 a.m.  As happens every year locals had gone to watch silently. Respectfully.

Paris, the French capital, too, as is done every year, will pay her respects to the late Emperor with a mass in Les Invalides’s Saint-Louis Cathedral. It will be held at 6.30 pm on Tuesday, May 5 in the presence of HIH the Prince Napoléon and General Jean-Louis Georgelin, Grand-Chancelier of the Légion d’Honneur representing French President François Hollande. The mass will be preceded at 6 p.m. by the laying of wreaths, including one from President Hollande and one from the Fondation Napoléon, at the foot of the late Emperor’s tomb under the golden dome of Les Invalides.

As 2015 is also the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo fought at Waterloo in Belgium on June 18, 1815, throughout the year there will be Napoléon exhibitions.

Three of these exhibitions have already begun. They are:

1 – Napoléon et Paris, Rêves d’une capital at the Musée Carnavalet in Paris.  (Dreams of a capital). The museum is at #16 Rue Francs-Bourgeois in Paris’s 3rd arrondissement (district). The museum is closed on Mondays, its opening times on the other days being from 10 am to 6 pm. The exhibition runs through to August 30 of this year.

Poster of the Carnavalet exhibition

Poster of the Carnavalet exhibition

2 – Cap sur l’Amérique, la Dernière Utopie de Napoléon at the Musée national de Malmaison (Napoléon’s last Utopia). After the Emperor’s Waterloo defeat and his abdication in favour of his son, he took refuge in the Chateau of Malmaison. There he dreamt of America and going there, wondering about passports and visas and whether the Americans would allow him in, and this exhibition covers that aspect of Napoléon’s post-Waterloo life.

Poster of Malmaison exhibition

Poster of Malmaison exhibition

The museum of Malmaison is in the château of that name which is on Avenue du Château de Malmaison in the town of Rueil-Malmaison. This château was the private residence of the Emperor and his first wife, Joséphine: she had bought the property and enlarged the mansion which stood on the grounds while Napoléon was away on one of his very many military campaigns. (She had remained living in the château after Napoléon had divorced her and had died there.

The Chateau of Malmaison (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

The mansion of Malmaison (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

The museum/château is open every day except Tuesday from 10 am / 12.30 and from 1.30 pm to 5.45 pm. Over weekends it remains open until 6.15 pm. The park which is magnificent is open continuously from 10 am to 6.30 pm.

I recommend that you take Bus No 258 from La Défense metro station. The bus leaves from the station’s basement. The stop for the château is Le Château and it will take about 25 minutes to get there. It is a most delightful ride.

I wrote about the château here and about the fate of Napoléon’s son here.

Casket of Napoleon's son being taken to Les Invalides

Casket of Napoleon’s son being taken to Les Invalides

3  – Napoléon 1er ou la Légende des Arts  at the Palace of Compiègne. The exhibition is about art in the Napoléonic era and runs through until July 27 of this year. The palace is open every day except Tuesday from 10 am to 6 pm. Do take note however that part of the palace is closed for renovation until January 2016. The exhibition will cost you €8. The address is Place du Général de Gaulle, Compiègne.

It is not difficult to get there. You take a SNCF train from Gare du Nord railroad station and the trip will take from 40 minutes to 1h20 depending on the route the train will take.  Buy a 5-zone Mobilis ticket which will cost you €16.60. As the ticket is a day ticket, buy it at your starting point in Paris, so that you can travel on that ticket already to Gare du Nord railroad station.

When you get to Compiègne you can either walk to the palace – it will take you about 10 minutes and it is a really pleasant walk – or outside the station you can get on to Bus No 1 or Bus No 2 which is free. The stop where you will have to descend for the palace is Saint Jacques.

Should you feel a little hungry or you are thirsty know that there are several small bistros and restaurants on the square in front of the palace. If your visit falls on a warm and sunny day you will be able to sit at one of the tables set out on the sidewalk.

Poster of Napoleon exhibition

Poster of Napoleon exhibition

Finally, if you wish to attend the reconstruction of the Battle of Waterloo you can do so from June 18 to June 21 at Waterloo. Here you will be able to get all the details of the bicentenary battle re-enactments.  Tickets can cost up to €38 and be warned that many of the re-enactments are already sold out: so be quick.

 

 

Cyprus tree planted by Napoleon and Josephine at Malmaison.  (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Cyprus tree planted by Napoleon and Josephine at Malmaison. (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

 

 

In this head was the brain of a military genius: Napoleon. Can be seen in Malmaison (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

In this head was the brain of a military genius: Napoleon. Can be seen in Malmaison (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

 

 

 

 

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

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