|Fontainebleau, Grand Courtyard of Main entrance|
My biggest kicks come from standing in the very spots that others infinitely more interesting than I have stood. Reflecting on how they must have felt at certain points in their lives—or seeing what has become of those places long after they have passed sends ripples of ennui down my spine.
Here, hopefully tickling your need to feel the same sort of ripples, are a few from my recent trip to Paris in October. Note the dates I have put in bold. Many are poignant coincidences of time, place and people.
|Closeup of front steps of Fontainebleau|
|Napoleon signing abdication papers|
in Fontainebleau, April 1814
|The Golden Courtyard where Napoleon's troops would have heard his farewell in April 1814|
before he departed for Elba. Here you have the view Napoleon had as he addressed his troops.
|A small portion of Josephine's gardens blooming still|
After Napoleon's departure to Elba in late April 1814, the Bourbons returned to France to rule once more. But they came with those foreign officials (and armies) who had defeated Napoleon's army and forced him to abdicate. One of those in Paris at the time was the Tsar Alexander I of Russia. Taking liberty to visit Napoleon's second wife, Marie-Louise, who remained near Paris in the old chateau of Rambouillet, he also took a coach south to visit Josephine, former empress and first wife of Napoleon. She introduced him to her family, Eugene and Hortense. She had an entertainment prepared for him in her music room. (See picture here.) They strolled in her famous rose garden and then, days later, she took a chill. Developing a high fever, she took to her bed. She developed a throat infection, could not speak, and passed away in her home within the week. She died May 29, 1814, leaving her son Eugene the house and contents of Malmaison. When Napoleon returned to France in 1815, he went to Malmaison to mourn the woman he had loved so dearly.
|Front entrance to Josephine's home, Malmaison on a rainy October day.|
|Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette at prayer,|
representations in main chapel of Saint Denis
|Saint Denis, main entrance, undergoing restoration|
What is interesting about this ensemble of Louis and his wife? The statues are representations, yes. But the two are not buried here. No. What is intriguing to learn here is that, while the two were guillotined during the Terror and both were buried in the cemetery of Madeline, their bodies were exhumed in May 1814 and sent to Saint Denis to be buried alongside their ancestors. The two now rest in the lower crypt beneath a huge black granite polished stone bearing their names. Alongside them are other members of the Bourbon family—some named, others not—in a gigantic mass grave. Sobering to regard, this mass grave bears witness to the inhumanity of man to man.
|Basilica of Saint Denis in Paris suburbs, undergoing major renovations,|
is burial place of all French kings.