Emperor Napoléon III, in the uniform of a Général de Brigade, in his cabinet at the Tuileries Palace, Paris (about 1862, Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin). The painting is in the Musée National du Château de Versailles.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
200th Birthday of Napoléon III
Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Napoléon III, Emperor of the French. Born the third son of Louis, King of Holland (brother of Emperor Napoléon I) and Queen Hortense (daughter of the Empress Josephine by her first husband); the Emperor proved unequal to the great burden he took up: hope of the Bonaparte dynasty, would-be reconciler of the heritage of the French Revolution with monarchial Europe. Defeated by Bismarck, he died in exile, haunted even on his death-bed by the shame of his own, his country's and Europe's catastrophe at the Battle of Sedan -- his last words, spoken in delirium to his friend and loyal physician, Henri Conneau: "Etiez-vous à Sedan?" (Were you at Sedan ?).
I had more to say about the Emperor, to whom I give higher marks than many of his detractors, but on second thought, that will be for another time. Instead, for Napoléon III's 200th birthday, I will leave you with a link to a beautiful rendition of Partant pour la Syrie, a popular song at the Emperor's court, written by his mother, Queen Hortense.