The Emperor has clothes but no country …

Portrait of Napoleon 3 by Franz Winterhalter We all know what happened to Louis the 16th and his wife Marie-Antoinette, so it’s pretty certain that the French will never again go in for a monarchy, yet there is debate here whether to allow another of France’s monarchs, in fact, France’s last monarch, to return home. […]

Portrait of Napoleon 3 by Franz Winterhalter

We all know what happened to Louis the 16th and his wife Marie-Antoinette, so it’s pretty certain that the French will never again go in for a monarchy, yet there is debate here whether to allow another of France’s monarchs, in fact, France’s last monarch, to return home. Or rather to allow his remains to come back home:
He died in
England on January 9, 1873, and lies buried in Farnborough, Hampshire.

He is Emperor Napoléon the 3rd, who Victor Hugo called ‘Napoléon le Petit’ (Napoléon the small) in contrast with Napoléon 1 – the Napoléon called ‘Napoléon le Grand’. Karl Marx also had something to say about him and also with the other Napoléon in mind. He said that history repeats itself: ‘The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.’ (So that there can’t be too much confusion here, I will refer to Napoléon le Grand from now on as Napoléon Bonaparte.)


Well, Napoléon the 3rd’s reign and rule (he was both monarch and president) wasn’t exactly ‘farce’, but because he was so little loved, he is so little remembered now and many are even wondering who exactly he was and what he had got up to that had resulted in him dying in exile.

Napoléon 3rd was born Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, in Paris on April 20, 1808 (same day as Adolf Hitler, by the way, but 88 years earlier). He was the son of Louis, Napoléon Bonaparte’s brother and Hortense de Beauharnais, the daughter of Napoléon Bonaparte’s first wife, Josephine de Beauharnais. (Louis and Hortense were king and queen of Holland, put on the throne by Napoléon Bonaparte of course.) In 1815 at the fall of Napoléon Bonaparte, all the Bonapartes went into exile and so did young Louis-Napoléon’s parents. He therefore grew up in various European countries and did not return to Paris until 1836 when he staged a coup and grabbed power. He then married a half-Spanish/half-Scottish noblewoman named Eugénie y Montijo and fathered a son and heir, Louis Napoléon Eugène John Joseph, known as the Prince Impérial.

Despite having modernized and industrialized France (he was the one who had Paris’ elegant Haussmannian buildings constructed and ordered the French railroad network built) and having won a few wars and conquered a few countries to turn them into colonies, Napoléon 3rd’s demise came as a result of the Franco-Prussian War and back into exile he went, forever ending Monarchy in France.

It was 1870 and he, Eugénie and the Prince Impérial fled to England, to Chislehurst in Kent. Three years later, aged 64, he died there of kidney stones and the grieving widow (he’d been a great womanizer in his day so she must have been a greatly understanding and forgiving spouse) buried him in the graveyard of the local St. Mary’s Catholic church.

A really sad thing then happened: On June 1, 1879, only six years after the emperor’s death, the Prince Impérial, fighting with the Brits against the Zulu nation in Natal, South Africa, was speared in the heart by a young Zulu warrior. After death his body was actually disemboweled, the Zulus having believed that to do so the dead man’s spirit would not be able to come and seek revenge. The body was then repatriated to England
and Eug
énie buried him and his father in the crypt, today called the Imperial Crypt, of the Saint Michael’s Abbey in Farnborough. She joined them there on her death.

On April 20 this year, the 200th anniversary of Napoléon the 3rd’s birth, the Bonapartes held a memorial service in the abbey. Present was the heir to the Bonapartes; the 22-year-old Prince Jean-Christophe Louis Ferdinand Albérie Napoléon. I’ll spare you the details of how he fits into the picture but to say he is the great-great-great-grandnephew of Bonaparte.

Now, Farnborough is where France’s staunchest republicans say the emperor should remain; royalists, though, say he should come home, perhaps to be laid to rest under the golden dome of Les Invalides, there where Napoléon Bonaparte lies.

As for me: I’ll repatriate Napoléon the 3rd’s body as well as that of Eugénie and that of the Prince Impérial just so to put fini to Monarchy in France forever.

Just another word on Napoléon Bonaparte ‘le Grand’: there is a strong lobby here who wants his body exhumed for tests to finally determine what he died of. They’re sure the Brits poisoned him?

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

2 Responses to “The Emperor has clothes but no country …”

  1. 2
    Anonymous Says:

    I am also a Napoleon ‘enthusiast’. Yet I think that monarchies are something of the past.
    Catherine Modin

  2. 1
    Jo Says:

    I have always been a lover of the Bonaparte period of French history, maybe because I was christened Josephine. I lived in Kent for a large part of my life and had no idea there were members of the family buried in Farnborough. Nor did I realise there were members of the family still alive. Thanks for the new info.

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