Napoleon I 1769-1821

Born into a Corsican family of minor nobility, Napoleon Bonaparte rose swiftly to power after the French Revolution and led an extraordinary life thanks to his belief in his destiny, his “lucky star” as he called it

First an artillery officer in 1785 and then General in 1793, he later became First Consul thanks to the Coup of Brumaire (November 1799). In May 1804, he became Emperor of the French under the name of Napoleon I, and was the architect of France’s recovery following the Revolution before setting out to conquer Europe, which led to his downfall.

Coronation of Napoleon and Joséphine in Notre-Dame de Paris, 2 December 1804 (detail)

© RMN (Château de Versailles) / Peter Willi

Link to the collections website

Right from the start of his reign Napoleon planned to re-establish Versailles, which had been abandoned by the successive Revolutionary powers, as one of the residences of the newly restored crown. After requesting plans from his architects, he abandoned the idea due to the high predicted costs and turned his attention instead to the renovation of the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon in order to stay there with his family.

The Emperor’s Private Apartment in the Grand Trianon

The work was very successfully finished under the leadership of the architect Trepsat, at the time of the declaration of the Emperor’s re-marriage to the daughter of the Emperor of Austria, the Archduchess Marie-Louise de Habsbourg-Lorraine, in 1809. The Petit Trianon, which was initially placed at the disposal of the Emperor’s favourite sister, Pauline Borghèse, was refurnished for the new Empress.

ANECDOTE

Napoleon and Marie-Louise only spent three short stays in Trianon, in 1810, 1811 and 1813.

 

During the restoration of the Grand Trianon commissioned by General De Gaulle in the 1960s, the condition during the First Empire, the only one which was almost fully intact, was chosen for the refurbishment of the apartments.