The sun shone bright upon Hardouin-Mansart’s golden dome of Les Invalides as we prepared to worship at Napoleon’s tomb one April in Paris. Rich in history, it was stormed by Parisian rioters on the 14th July 1789 who inconsiderately helped themselves to the cannons and muskets stored in its cellars and used them to damage the Bastille later the same day. Napoleon was entombed under the dome of the Invalides with great ceremony in 1840 and In December 1894 the shocking degradation of Captain Alfred Dreyfus was held in front of the main building, and he was there in 1906 again when he was restored to favour.
Napoleon’s sarcophagus rests on a green granite pedestal. According to the officials, “It contains a nest of six coffins: one made of soft iron, another of mahogany, two others of lead, one of ebony and finally the last one of oak. Napoleon is dressed in his Colonel’s uniform (of the cavalry of the Guard) which bears his sash of the Légion d’Honneur. His hat rests on his legs.” The state of his legs and hat are not mentioned. Also the sarcophagus is said to be of “red porphyry“, but that was too hard to get I understand at the time so it is in fact of aventurine quartzite, similar to porphyry, from quarries in Karelia, Northern Russia on the shore of the Onega lake. (Make sure you find any excuse to drop this into any conversation to particularly impress your friends.)
I could go on but I am assuming that this is enough information for even the most determined reader for now..
I realise that being a confessed Francophile I should worship Napoleon. At the risk of offending I must confess that after reading Christopher Hibbert’s biography of him, I do not. Quelle horreur!