San Francisco Chronicle
Macron fetes bicentenary of the death of Napoleon
PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron, in an unusual gesture on Wednesday, marked the bicentenary of the death of Napoleon, the warrior-emperor who famously bequeathed France its civil code, among other major reforms, but whose legacy remains tarnished in the eyes of many.
Macron said Napoleon Bonaparte’s reinstatement of slavery was a “betrayal of the spirit of the Enlightenment.” But in his speech under the dome of the Institute of France, he said that “Napoleon is part of us” and France “must look our history straight in the eyes.”
With such distinctions, Macron refused to cede to those who would refuse any honor to Napoleon, who is among the most important figures of French history and adored by some members of the right. The timing works for Macron, who is expected to try to renew his presidential mandate in elections next year.
Macron later laid a wreath at the foot of Napoleon’s grandiose tomb at Les Invalides, a golddomed monument and site of a military hospital. He was greeted by Prince JeanChristophe Napoleon, pretender to the longabolished throne of the emperor.
Napoleon gave France its civil code and penal code, established the system of prefects, representatives of the state in each French territory, and lycees, or high schools, among other things. But even the Institut of France refers to Napoleon as “a major figure of history since always contested.”
Ruler from 1799, he became emperor in 1804 for a decade, then again for three months in 1815. He was exiled to the Mediterranean island of Elba, escaped and miraculously raised a new army, only to meet defeat on June 18, 1815, at the hands of a Britishled military coalition in the crucial battle of Waterloo. He was sent that year to the British outpost of St. Helena, where he died after falling ill on May 5, 1821.