After the Fall
Updated: Feb 8
There is the old expression the higher you climb the harder the fall, just to keep that in mind. And then some just bounce back. One character that covered the scenario so well was the small in stature, Napoléon Bonaparte from a modest Corsican family. At 15 he was in Paris studying at Ecole Militaire and 36 years later he would again be residing next door at Les Invalides for eternity.
No doubt he was a very controversial figure being at the right place at the right time, with many ups and downs, but no one will dispute his military genius. He moved through the ranks at breakneck speed. A general at 24 years of age and by 26 he was in command of the Army of Italy and moving it forward into Austria. But it was Egypt that was his springboard to further fame and attention in France’s political life. At 36, he became the first Emperor of the French in 1804.
He used that military mind to transform and make his imprint on Paris in many ways. He masterminded infrastructure -- a sewage system, canals for water and transport, city market buildings, wider roads and the Arch de Triomphe. Napoleon established no less than fifteen monuments to embellish his city. Among the many streets and bridges that commemorate his victories is a favorite of mine, the Rue Bonaparte on the left bank. And he also established the modern legal code that continues today. He left a phenomenal legacy!
Yes he was exiled after abdicating to beautiful Elba, but he marched back for a second round taking over France with his 100 days just before his Waterloo. Now that saying is synonymous with brutal defeat. The British had had enough and sent him to St Helena off the coast of Africa where he died at a mire 51 years.
But now as you walk around Paris you can enjoy his embellishments and you cannot deny that his tomb designed by Louis Visconti, at L’Eglise du Dome is befitting an Emperor! It is magnificent even if you are not visiting for military purposes, it really demands a visit. Here lies a man that started life being bullied for being Corsican. He is well known for being short in stature, a hand placed in his waistcoat, I guess to give him an air of decorum and he sported his famous hat sideways. All of which were made by his official hat maker, M. Poupard. He married his true love, Joséphine de Beauharnais from Martinique, but it was sadly annulled after 14 years to procure an heir with Marie Louise of Austria in an arranged marriage to offer the Emperor more imperial polish.
He and I do share some very favorite flavors, he was very fond of Champagne, as he would say, “In victory you deserve it, in defeat you need it.” As part of this, he received a bottle of Champagne every day while imprisoned on St Helena. Another is his love of Croquamandes, chocolate covered almonds made for him by Debauve et Gallais. The iconic chocolate makers are still at 30 Rue des Saints-Pères today, just pick up a supply in his honor. Then my very favorite, Le Grand Vefour at the Arcades du Palais Royal, the first grand restaurant in Paris…you can still dine at his table as the restaurant remains the same today as it was when the general ate there and had a modest apartment above. It is said it was there that he met his love Josephine. Raise a glass of Champagne to love and romance and bouncing back!