On May 5, the bicentenary of Napoleon’s death will take place. On the executive side, nothing seems planned for the event. The deputy Julien Aubert and the Bonapartists call to commemorate it and not to “refuse to celebrate the national story”.
Should we commemorate, or even celebrate, the 200th anniversary of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte, who died on May 5, 1821, on the island of Saint Helena? Or is it necessary, as recommended by the deputy of La France insoumise (LFI) Alexis Corbière, not to pay any “official homage” to the one who “was the gravedigger? [de la République] by putting an end to the first Republican experiment in our history to create an authoritarian regime ”. Contacted by us, the communication department of Jean Castex informed us “that at this stage, there was no particular sequence programmed”.
“Nothing is planned, neither organized, nor confirmed”, we are therefore told on the side of Matignon, adding that the Prime Minister was “dependent” on the health context and its development. For its part, at the time of publication of this article, the Elysée did not respond to RT France’s request as to the President of the Republic’s desire to commemorate this bicentenary or not. It must be said that for several decades, the emperor has rarely been treated well by our heads of state, as in this year 2005 when Jacques Chirac refused to commemorate the Austerlitz victory of 1805 but sent the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, the same year, in commemoration of the defeat of Trafalgar …
In fact, Emmanuel Macron and the government probably do not want to awaken certain tensions. Because it is not only within rebellious France where Napoleon is contested. Close to the PS, the deputy for Martinique Serge Letchimy said he wanted to refuse any celebration. Also on the right, the President of the Constitutional Council Jean-Louis Debré believes that celebrating Napoleon would be a “provocation”.
Enough to make the hair stand on end for some (rare) who dare to affirm with pride that Napoleon has everything to deserve a commemoration, even a celebration.
Interviewed by RT France, the Republican deputy Julien Aubert is one of them. As he writes in a tribune for the JDD, “To ignore the bicentenary of Napoleon’s death would be a fault against the nation”. Not celebrating “the little corporal” would be “an error which engages a responsibility” because, for the elected Gaullist, “by refusing to commemorate Napoleon, the State would refuse to celebrate the national story and what makes us French” .
We prefer to take time to apologize, recognize past crimes and make repentance rather than to be proud of being the homeland of Napoleon, Colbert or Richelieu
However, Julien Aubert fears that the executive seeks not to offend the “deconstructors”, including the defenders of the cancel culture or the decolonials. “We have a kind of biased vision where we prefer to take time to apologize, recognize past crimes and make repentance rather than to be proud of being the homeland of Napoleon, Colbert or Richelieu”, is offended he does. “Napoleon was undoubtedly a violent conqueror”, recognizes the parliamentarian of Vaucluse “but he is also the man of the civil code”, he says. Julien Aubert asks that we do not look at just one facet of a historical figure: “De Gaulle undoubtedly mismanaged the way out of the Algerian crisis but he is also the leader of Free France, Louis XIV. went to war but it is the man who built Versailles, Mitterrand received the francisque, but are we going to reduce Mitterrand to the francisque?
Soon only Saint-Augustin will be celebrated
“Even Jesus drove the merchants from the temple … soon it will only be Saint-Augustine to celebrate”, he quipped, finding all this “ridiculous”.
He also believes that the health, economic and social crisis is “not only a material crisis, but also a spiritual crisis”. However, “to celebrate Napoleon is to celebrate the national bond, it is to open the French on something which goes beyond them”, he justifies.
Napoleon, a model of French integration?
In the same philosophical line, David Saforcada is president of the political organization France Bonapartiste. This movement defends Napoleon’s heritage and puts forward “Bonapartist principles and values” which are found, according to its president, “in Gaullism or left sovereignty, for example”.
For his part, he considers the commemoration to be an “obligatory” event for France. In the same approach as Julien Aubert, David Saforcada stresses that France must not “fall into this repentance imposed under the guise that, 200 years later, society has evolved”. He therefore warns against the anachronisms that would be made about a historical and central character in French and European politics of the nineteenth century, with the perspective of the twenty-first century.
Napoleon puts an end to the Revolution but he also saves it, by saving his achievements
David Saforcada agrees to hear criticism from those who, as within France rebellious, denounce a Napoleon having put an end to the first cycle of the Republic for his own glory, but he puts limits. “Whether we like it or not, despite what Alexis Corbière or others from LFI thinks, Napoleon puts an end to the Revolution but he also saves it, by saving his achievements”, argues this defender of the Grand General in listing some of our current legacies directly from the Napoleonic period: “If today, we still have the civil code, the presence of prefects, in principle meritocracy … all this, we owe it to Napoleon.”
“We are dependent on this heritage,” he argues. He deplores the fact that the minority represented by the decolonials and the natives constantly put forward the reestablishment of slavery in the colonies in 1802, without taking any height on the time. In short, he is astonished that these same detractors do not point the finger at the fact that “the Americans, the English [et toutes les puissances] all had slaves ”. Consequently, for the Bonapartist, history should not be seen as “all white or all black” and recalls that Napoleon for example “abolished slavery in Malta when he took the island, abolished serfdom when he ’emperor arrived in Poland and that wherever he went, gave freedom to the Jews’.
David Saforcada notes that, like what is happening in the United States with “the unbolting of statues like those of General Lee”, this minority “has decided to unravel France”. “We have governments that are afraid of it because they think that this minority succeeds in influencing populations,” he adds. “However, I am convinced that the majority of West Indians or French of African origin who live in metropolitan France do not care that Napoleon re-established slavery in 1802”, he affirms.
Napoleon abolished slavery in Malta, abolished serfdom in Poland and, wherever he went, restored freedom to the Jews
If he therefore accepts that we can make accusations against Napoleon Bonaparte, David Saforcada fears this spirit aimed at denying not only history but “France”: “How do you expect young people from immigrant backgrounds or who have been French for two or three generations, recognize themselves as truly French if we explain to them, all day long, that the history of France was only made by bastards, nasty slavers, assassins, misogynists , etc.“
David Saforcada would also like to point out that Napoleon Bonaparte is “one of the most beautiful symbols of French integration”: “A kid who hardly spoke French, was uprooted from his native island to find himself in the middle of French who laughed at his accent and his “noirot” side, because he was a Corsican with a slightly dark complexion. This kid, by his desire to rise up and helped by historical events, ends up emperor of the French ”.
Bonapartists and admirers of Napoleon will be in Paris on May 5
The leader of Bonapartist France tells us that he made two requests for the organization of events in Paris for the bicentenary: a first place Vendôme on May 5 and a second for a vigil on the Esplanade des Invalides on the night of 4 to 5 may. He is now waiting for the prefecture’s response.
Defining himself as a “diehard”, David Saforcada will be there, whatever happens in Paris on May 5, to celebrate Napoleon, “confinement or not confinement, and even if the authorizations are not granted”. In the hope at least of paying homage to the Invalides to this controversial character of the history who will have made, in his time, the greatness of France.