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Macron Negotiates Politically Charged Napoleon Commemoration

French President Emmanuel Macron will celebrate the 200th anniversary of his death on Wednesday after months of debate over the heritage of the country’s most famous dictator, dedicating a wreath to the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Macron is waiting to the last minute to announce his tricky 200th anniversary plan, and is on the way between those who want to celebrate and those who seek a boycott.

The famous Corsicans were one of the most disruptive figures in French history and made a significant contribution to the creation of a modern nation against his imperialism and war.





A painting by French artist Jean-Baptiste Mosaisse on display at the Invalides Museum in Paris depicts Napoleon’s deathbed.
AFP / THOMAS COEX

However, Napoleon’s decision to reestablish slavery in 1802, triggered by the Black Lives Matter movement and the emergence of a new generation of voice anti-racist activists in France, has been the focus of debate. ..

“This is a memorial, not a celebration,” a French presidential aide told reporters on Monday, adding that the ceremony would include the laying of wreaths and a speech.

Macron criticized recent attempts to defeat the French image of slavery and denounced the so-called “withdrawal culture” as an attempt to “erase what we are.”

“Our approach is to look at history head-on,” he added, adding that this approach means “neither denial nor repentance.”



Macron is looking for an intermediate path between those who wanted Napoleon's celebration and those who sought a boycott.


Macron is looking for an intermediate path between those who wanted Napoleon’s celebration and those who sought a boycott.
POOL / Ian LANGSDON

Macron believed that it was wrong to judge past numbers by today’s ethical standards, the aide added.

“Someone in the early 21st century doesn’t think like someone in the early 19th century,” he said. “Our history is our history and we accept it.”

However, in a speech at the Institut de France, one of many Napoleon institutions, the French president would accuse slavery of being “abomination in the context of the times,” the aide said.



The far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, asked: "Why shouldn't Napoleon be celebrated?


Far-right leader Marine Le Pen asked, “Why shouldn’t we celebrate Napoleon?”
AFP / Thomas Samsung

Elected as the youngest leader in France since Napoleon, the 43-year-old president also details his lasting impact on the state’s bureaucracy, schools and legal system.

Napoleon seized power in a coup d’etat in 1799 and overthrew France’s first republic, which was founded in the wake of the 1789 revolution, which abolished the monarchy.



Macron dedicates a wreath to Hotel Invalides, where Napoleon's body was enshrined in 1861.


Macron dedicates a wreath to Hotel Invalides, where Napoleon’s body was enshrined in 1861.
AFP / THOMAS COEX

Famous for his military power, he recorded a series of victories, including the Battle of Austerlitz. As a result, the French Empire ruled most of the European continent.

However, Napoleon not only crowned the emperor and shattered serious attempts at home democracy, but also reversed the interests of women and the ban on slavery introduced under the First Republic.

Slavery was rebuilt in the French colony. This is a move that appears to have been motivated by the desire to control the Caribbean sugar trade in the face of competition from its great enemy, England.

However, French historian Matilde Larere believes that this decision had a “racist side”.

Marlene Dart, an American scholar who recently wrote for the New York Times, called Napoleon “the greatest tyrant in France” and “a symbol of white supremacism” in a column condemning a planned memorial ceremony in France.

Towards the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s death on St. Helena, about 160 French educational institutions, from schools to museums, have enrolled in an event grouped under the label “Annee Napoleon 2021”.

Many of these events have been hit by a coronavirus pandemic, but the French television schedule has been saturated with new documentaries, and the library is full of new books that look at every aspect of his life.

“Why shouldn’t we celebrate Napoleon?” Far-right nationalist leader Marine Le Pen told France Interradio on Tuesday. “He is a huge historical figure. I regret that the president is in a hurry to commemorate him.

“He did a lot for the country, and he gave the world a lot.”

The left urged Macron to avoid the opportunity.

“The republic should not give official respect to those who filled the first Republican experience in our history by introducing an authoritarian regime,” leftist Alexis Corbières told the Le Figaro newspaper in March. wrote.

Other French leaders also had to fight how to remember the man known as the “little body”, famous for his frock coat and “bicorne”, which he wore sideways on the battlefield.

In 2005, the late President Jacques Chirac refused to attend the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Austerlitz, where Napoleon defeated the larger Russian and Austrian troops.



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