The Bicentennial of Napoleon’s Death

The Bicentennial of Napoleon’s Death
A blockbuster exhibition marks the Emperor’s demise on Saint Helena island in 1821. It’s impossible to live in France, or even visit the Hexagon, without finding multiple references to Napoleon. My favorite is when I’m seated on the red velvet banquette at restaurant Le Grand Véfour, marked with a copper plaque on the wall, where Bonaparte wined and dined Josephine. For others it’s a visit to the Arc de Triomphe and walking along Avenue de la Grand Armée. Or, admiring the Vendôme Column from your suite at The Ritz Paris, enjoying chocolate treats from Debauve et Gallais, or tucking into a classic Napoleon millefeuille at a local patisserie. Bonaparte franchissant le Grand-Saint-Bernard par Jacques-Louis David (musée du château de Malmaison). Public domain It’s been 200 years since Napoleon’s death on Saint Helena, a remote island in the south Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa. His remains did not return to France until 1840; the day they arrived in Paris a formal funeral procession wove its way from the Arc de Triomphe, along the Champs-Élysées, and finally, to St. Jerome’s Chapel, Les Invalides. Twenty-one years later, the Emperor was moved to a magnificent new sarcophagus beneath the dôme at L’Hôtel des Invalides, his final resting place. The tomb sits on a granite floor where the names of Napoleon’s battles are inscribed in mosaic. Regardless of your opinion of Napoleon, he has long captured the popular imagination. Wearing the iconic black felt bicorne hat (made by Poupard & Cie), his image is familiar worldwide and has inspired artists, musicians and writers for over 200 years. A man of huge ambition and ability, he rose to the pinnacle of success. A complex character, admired and controversial, victorious and conquered, heroic and tragic… Napoleon’s life is a dramatic story that continues to fascinate to this day. Napoléon exhibition poster. An intriguing exhibition at La Villette, carefully planned to mark the bicentenary of Napoleon’s death, presents his life chronologically and by theme: “Napoleon” not only highlights the political and cultural legacies that profoundly impacted certain countries, chief among them France, but also the mistakes Napoleon made. Among the super, must-have merchandise of the exhibition, Playmobil marks the occasion with a handsome figurine depicting Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz, mounted on his horse Vizir (from the painting by Francois Pascal Simon Gérard 1770-1837). Price €6,90. Available from the exhibition boutique and online.

Lead photo credit : La bataille d'Austerlitz, par François Gérard. Public domain

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Born in Hampton, Middlesex, UK, Margaret Kemp is a lifestyle journalist, based between London, Paris and the world. Intensive cookery courses at The Cordon Bleu, London, a wedding gift from a very astute ex-husband, gave her the base that would take her travelling (leaving the astute one behind) in search of rare food and wine experiences, such as the vineyards of Thailand, 'gator hunting in South Florida, learning to make eye-watering spicy food in Kerala;pasta making in a tiny Tuscany trattoria. She has contributed to The Guardian, The Financial Times Weekend and FT. How To Spend, The Spectator, Condé Nast Traveller, Food & Travel, and Luxos Magazine. She also advises as consultant to luxury hotels and restaurants. Over the years, Kemp has amassed a faithful following on BonjourParis. If she were a dish she'd be Alain Passard's Millefeuille “Caprice d'Enfant”, as a painting: Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe !