Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios: "Napoleon & Co."

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios
by Sab Will,  wannabe offbeat Paris street guru

The title says it all: quirks and curiosities. And as luck would have it, Paris is packed with them; you just have to know where to look!

In this on-going series I offer you some hand picked, photographed and commented oddities which particularly interested me, and I hope will do the same for you.

I'm an avid collector of such items so any comments and suggestions you may have would be very welcome. So, without further ado, let's get straight onto...

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios
1st Arrondissement: Quirk 9 ~ "Napoleon & Co."

He was Emperor of France from 1852 to 1870, and in an effigy-obsessed country with a proclivity for statues on every street crossing, you might expect there to be a few of Napoleon III around the place.

Wrong. Not a few. Not even a couple. One.

A single representation of the second emperor can be found at the Louvre, in the Cour Napoleon, appropriately enough, on the Denon wing just opposite the pyramid.

It's a splendid emperorly image, with the gent in question surrounded by any number of swooning muses with possibly a empress keeping an eye on things.

I'm always intrigued to know what the protagonists thought of all this pomp and circumstance. Napoleon III was a very practical chap not necessarily given to show which might explain the lack of statues of him around. He hated the fountain at Saint Michel, for example.

Be that as it may, if he had lasted, which he didn't, to the point of passing on his emperorship to his offspring, we need to look across the way to see who the honour would have fallen upon.

Because, over on the Colbert pavilion on the other side of the pyramid is baby Napoleon IV, as he would have been, the offspring of Napoleon III and the Empress Eugenie, Eugène Louis Napoléon!

A story goes that the birth was a difficult one, and that the emperor, highly troubled, had the following dialogue with his wife:

Eugénie (worried): "It's a girl?"
Napoléon (troubled): "No..."
Eugénie (joyful): "It's a boy!"
Napoléon (still troubled): "No..."
Eugénie (desperate): "So what is it then?!"

The child died in 1879 at 23 years old, fighting the zulus with the British in Africa. By that time the third republic was well under way, and the monumental changes to Paris overseen by his father and the Baron Haussmann had profoundly modified the cityscape to something pretty much as we see it today.

One of the funny things about the Louvre is that Napoleon I claimed to have finally completed it, but on the end of one of the wings lying along the Rue de Rivoli we can see, in the place of the usual and omnipresent 'N's a couple of 'R's, standing for... did you guess... Republic I presume.

* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

© 2012 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and offers always welcome!

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