You are currently viewing The real Napoleon through three works

For Napoleon

by Thierry Lentz

Perrin, 200 p., € 15

Napoleon and Bonapartism

by Arthur Chevallier

PUF, “What do I know? », 126 p., € 9

Napoleon and Jesus. The advent of a messiah

by Marie-Paule Raffaelli-Pasquini

preface by Jean-Marie Rouart, Cerf, 272 p., € 20

In the flood of publications that try their luck on the occasion of the year of Napoleon, we can easily notice the For Napoleon by Thierry Lentz. Because the prolific and learned patron of the Fondation Napoléon recalls, saber clear, historical truths always good to hear in our world of fake news.

Since his death on Saint Helena and despite the flight of his legend, the Emperor has indeed been overwhelmed with accusations, especially on the left: despotic, bloodthirsty, megalomaniac, heartless, outlaw, unfaithful to the Revolution and ruining the country. To these hackneyed charges is added today, among active minorities, that of having re-established slavery in the colonies in 1802 and of having thus become an icon of “white supremacy” with a genocidal vocation. Thierry Lentz rejects this accumulation of ignorance, anachronisms and ideological bias.

No, the Ogre of Corsica did not like the lace war, in Goya’s Spain for example, but it was also “To make peace”. Yes, he restored slavery and he agreed after the fact that it was “A great madness”, but it was to better counter a slavery England as well. And Lentz gets straight to the point: “No red heel, no red cap”, the man of Arcole and Brumaire was « national » in the full sense because, he said, he has “Finished the novel of the Revolution” by guaranteeing a peaceful exercise of its best principles: “Representative government, property, equality, liberty, reconciliation of the rights of citizens and the interests of the State. “

And his completion of the ambitions of 89, he built it by endowing the country with a framework that still supports us: prefects, high schools and baccalaureate, “large corps”, prudhommes, court of appeal, Court of Auditors, Bank of France, etc., all codified and administered under the protection of the Civil Code of 1804. It had to be said. It is done.

Qualify the praise

However, we can qualify this praise. Because we forget too much the bloodshed, the sunless butchers of Austerlitz: on this chapter, we conveniently re-edit the fine work of Marie-France Rey (1) who, on archives and unpublished testimonies, said the atrocity, and not only at the passage of the Berezina, of the savage clash between the French Empire and the Russian Empire.

We have also too easily glossed over Bonapartism by sticking this label on any popular authoritarianism, any brave military, any propensity to coup. By making fun of the “three rights” of the historian René Rémond and with a nice bit of a pen no doubt learned from Morand or Blondin, Arthur Chevallier joined Thierry Lentz in deliberately cutting back all Bonapartism. post on Napoleon in view of, that he thus wash away all original sin. His ardor, so rare in a “Que sais-je?” », Gives food for thought on the twists and turns of our appeals to the people, from the left and then from the right, since 1821 and our fear of putschs.

A new Savior

We will not fail, for dessert, to taste the original work of Marie-Paule Raffaelli-Pasquini, a young philosopher who has like Leon Bloy in the gibern. His thesis is supported on the texts, on the Memorial of Saint Helena, on the point-to-point study of allegories and frescoes, stained glass windows and relics, crowns of thorns and laurels, columns and crosses, not to mention the Pantocrator and exits from the Tomb, which thus honored a new Savior more than an Imperator.

She scrutinizes the thurifers of this Sovereign, writers like Chateaubriand or Hugo, philosophers à la Hegel or artists nuance Beethoven or Gros. It is, she concludes, Napoleon himself, “Inspired by the evangelical Christ”, who wanted “To become a political Christ” and which activated its religious mythification; it is out of ambition that he has crowned himself as the instigator of a new order which will once again save humanity. And he proclaimed it loud and clear: “I became the ark of the old and the new covenant, the natural mediator between the old and the new order of things! “ In short, the real Napoleon wanted to be messianic too.


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