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Napoleon's tomb facts. History and visits.

Napoleon's tomb facts: Napoleon, one of the greatest military geniuses of all times is buried since 1840 under the dome of Les Invalides in Paris. Napoleon may remain the most illustrious Frenchman as testify the many tourists who visit his tomb. Napoleon's legacy to the City of Lights includes avenues and monuments he commissioned. Paris monuments.

Napoleon, the French Emperor

Napoleon was born in 1769 in Corsica, an island in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of continental France (France map). Napoleon became French Emperor on December 2nd 1804 in a grandiose ceremony in Notre Dame. By 1810, he had conquered most of continental Europe and married the daughter of the Emperor of Austria.

These impressive achievements were made possible by the new opportunities opened by the 1789 French revolution and by Napoleon's incredible military skills and charisma.

Napoleon's tomb in Les Invalides
Napoleon's tomb in Les Invalides

Napoleon's tomb facts

Napoleon was ultimately defeated on June 15th 1815 by English General Wellington at Waterloo, Belgium.

On May 5th 1821, Emperor Napoleon died in Saint Helena, a tiny island in the Atlantic Ocean. Victorious England had exiled him there, very far away from France.

Napoleon stayed so popular that Louis-Philippe, the King of France from 1830 to 1848, returned his ashes in 1840. His ashes mean his remains. Napoleon was not cremated. His tomb stands now under the dome of Les Invalides in Paris.

Les Invalides are open everyday except January 1st, May 1st and December 25th from 10am to 5pm, 6pm from April to September. Telephone 33 (0)8 10 11 33 99. Detailed information on Les Invalides.

You can discover Les Invalides on a guided coach tour.

Paris metro: Varenne station on line 13.

The dome of Les Invalides
Napoleon's tomb under the dome of Les Invalides

Napoleon's tomb detailed history

After Napoleon's defeat, the Bourbon monarchy had been restored in France. In 1830 the Bourbon king Charles X was overthrown by the people. The duke of Orleans, Louis Philippe, was proclaimed King of the French.

After ruling for a few years, he started negotiations with Great-Britain to get back Napoleon's body to France, as he had remained immensely popular.

In October 1840, the ship La Belle-Poule sailed to St. Helena and brought the emperor's coffin back to France. The coffin came to rest under the Dome of the Invalides.

The famous architect Ludovico Visconti was selected to design the tomb. He designed a circular crypt, without a ceiling, so that it is possible to look in from ground-level.It would take more than twenty years before Napoleon's tomb was finished (1861). By that time, Napoleon's nephew, Napoleon III was emperor of France.

Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon and Paris

After the Invalides, the Colonne Vendome is the second must-see of any tour of the Paris of Napoleon.

Located in the center of Place Vendome, the famous square concentrating high-high jewelers, it was commissioned by Napoleon to commemorate his victory at Austerlitz, similarly to what the Roman Emperors did in the Antiquity.

The column is made out of stone covered in bronze, with a spiraling bas-relief that represents scenes of battle and of victory. At the top of the column stands a statue of Napoleon dressed as a Roman Emperor. The bronze used for the column was the bronze from the cannons captured from the enemy at Austerlitz. There is a staircase inside the column leading to the top, but it is sadly closed to the public.

Napoleon and Fontainebleau are also closely associated.

Napoleon's statue tops Colonne Vendome
Napoleon's statue tops Colonne Vendome

Napoleon's death

Was Napoleon Bonaparte poisoned? The debate has raged for 200 years about the cause of Napoleon’s death. Napoleon himself fueled suspicion, writing in his will three weeks before his death at age 51, “I die before my time, murdered by the English oligarchy and its assassin.” Chief among the theories for the exiled emperor’s death is arsenic poisoning—an idea reinforced by the remarkable condition of his body when it was exhumed in 1840 for reburial in Paris. Subsequent 20th-century tests of preserved locks of Napoleon’s hair tested positive for arsenic.

The circumstances of Napoleon's death