Today, 150 years ago on April 2, 1861, Napoleon was laid to rest …

  Today, this spring Saturday, April 2, it is most wonderfully sunny in Paris.  It is therefore difficult to imagine this day 150 years ago. On that day, a Tuesday, a funeral took place here in Paris. It was one of pomp and ceremony because it was the day that Napoléon’s remains were transferred to […]

A romantisized image of the departed Napoleon

 

Today, this spring Saturday, April 2, it is most wonderfully sunny in Paris.  It is therefore difficult to imagine this day 150 years ago. On that day, a Tuesday, a funeral took place here in Paris. It was one of pomp and ceremony because it was the day that Napoléon’s remains were transferred to its final resting place: the dome of the Hôtel des Invalides on Paris’ Left Bank.

The Hôtel des Invalides was commissioned by Louis 14 (The Sun King) in 1670 as a barrack and military hospital. (Yes, wounded soldiers are nothing new.) Napoleon, the great war machine, made good use of it, and visited his men there in 1808, 1813 and 1915. And, in fact, after his forced abdication 5,000 of his Great Army men were barracked there.

Les Invalides in Paris

The Invalides’chapel was constructed at the end of that 17th century, and in 1840 when Napoléon’s remains (his ashes, as is said here, although he was not cremated and it was his remains, apparently without his penis, which were shipped back to France from Saint Helena where he had died in exile) a tomb was constructed underneath the chapel’s dome. It was there that Napoléon would finally be laid to rest, but at first his remains were left to rest in the smaller and less magnificent, Chapelle Saint-Jérôme.

On that second day of April all the members of the imperial family which included Napoléon III, France’s very last ‘monarch’, and also those of Napoléon’s  generals who were still in the land of the living, attended the laying to rest in the red quartzite tomb. There are, in fact, six coffins, each made of a different material, inside that red quartzite tomb, and Napoléon’s hat rests on his knees. He is clad in his colonel’s uniform and across his chest is the sash of the Légion d’Honneur, the highest decoration in France, and which Napoléon himself had established.

Napoleon's magnificent coffin

Napoléon had died on Saint Helena on May 5, 1821, a captive of the British.  They had buried him there on the windswept, godforsaken island which I plan to visit because I have a thriller in mind set on that island which I plan to write …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

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