NAPOLEON AND BURGUNDY
In 1778, as a boy of nine, Napoleon left his native Corsica with his father and his brother Joseph, and travelled to the French mainland to attend school in Autun (Saône et Loire). Joseph remained there for the duration of his studies, but Napoleon stayed just long enough to learn to speak, read, and write French, under the watchful eye of the Abbot Chardon. He left after three months, having been admitted to the School of Brienne (Aube). At school Napoleon excelled in mathematics, showed a great interest in geography, but history remained his favourite subject. He was judged capable of entering the Corps of Cadets-Gentilhommes at the military school in Paris.
Between 1788 and 1791 he trained at the Auxonne Artillery Academy. It was supposedly during this stay in Burgundy that Bonaparte acquired a taste for Chambertin wine. Already in the 7th century, the Monks of the Abbey of Bèze produced a high quality wine within their Clos de Bèze in Gevrey. Their peasant neighbour, Bertin, produced a fine wine as well, and at his death, the Monks from Bèze acquired his land called the ' Champ de Bertin' (Bertin's field). Thus the Chambertin wine got its name. Bonaparte is said to have drunk half a bottle (cut with water) with every meal. The wine merchants Soupé et Pierrugues made an agreement with Bonaparte that he would always have a bottle of Chambertin available, even in the midst of battle.
After taking up the position of commander-in-chief of the Italian army in 1796, Napoleon arrived in Chatillon-sur-Seine with his brother Louis. They stayed with one of his school friends, Auguste-Frédéric-Louis Viesse de Marmont (later Marechal Marmont) and his family, at their chateau called “Chatelot.” A young lady, Victorine de Chasteny played the piano, and sang at his request. She was more than surprised at his sudden departure for Chanceaux, where he spent one night. He had already met Marie Rose Josephine Tascher de la Pagerie (Josephine de Beauharnais), and perhaps she was on his mind instead.
When Napoleon returned from Egypt in 1799, he headed for Paris by way of Chalon-sur-Saône and Nevers. This same year, he was voted Premier Consul of the Republic and stayed in Dijon. In May of 1800, Napoleon settled at his Dijon headquarters for a few days in the Bouhier de Lantenay Town-House (the current Prefecture). This same year, Napoleon created the Bank of France, the Prefects, established the Senate, the Tribunal, the new constitution, and escaped an assassination attempt.
Encouraged by Napoleon's desire for the re-establishment of Roman Catholicism as the state religion in France, Pope Pius VII negotiated the celebrated Concordat, which was signed in Paris on the 15th July 1801, and ratified by Pius on the 14th August 1801.
Between the 9 and 11 January of 1802, Napoleon travelled to Lyon to be elected President of Italy. On his way, he spent the night in Lucy-le-Bois, passed through Saulieu, ate dinner in Autun, slept in Chalon-sur-Saône, and had lunch in Tournus. With all this travel, Napoleon still had time to restructure the French educational system, sign the Treaty of Amiens with England, and create the Legion of Honour. His reforms were so popular that he was proclaimed First Consul for life on May 18th 1804. Shortly after this event, Napoleon opened negotiations with Pope Pius to secure his consecration as Emperor. The Pope conceded and Napoleon Bonaparte was subsequently crowned Emperor in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris on December 2nd 1804.
On his way to Italy in 1805, Napoleon stopped in Chalon-sur-Saône with his entourage. At exactly the same time, Pope Pius passed through Chalon with his train of 16 cardinals and church dignitaries. It was out of the question that either the Emperor or His Holiness stay at an inn, so an appeal was made for a house that could accommodate 106 people in total. The widow, Madame Chiquet, offered her grand residence, one of the biggest and most comfortable in Chalon,.
Visits of this house can be arranged through the Service Animation du Patrimone in Chalon-sur-Sâone 03 85 93 15 98. The monumental stairway, which occupies one third of the structure, is a classified historical monument.
Napoleon, who relied heavily upon horses to conduct his empire’s battle campaigns, ordered the creation of 30 breeding farms across France. These stud farm and stallion deposits were installed in former religious buildings, including the former abbey of Cluny. The abbey of Cluny was founded in the 10th century and grew to be the centre one of the largest and most important monastic movements in the Middle Ages. It's twelfth century church, known as Cluny III, was the largest church in Christiandom until the building of Saint Peter's in Rome in the 16th century. The abbey church and it's surrounding buildings were tragically demolished at the time of the French revolution, and the stone was used for building other structures in the town, including the stud farm.
In summer, the National Stud of Cluny offers horse shows or events, and visits for individuals and groups at certain times of the year.
Haras National de Cluny 2, rue Porte des Prés
tel: 03 85 59 85 19
Napoleon continued to wage war on England, but after a massive naval defeat at Trafalgar, he turned his attention toward Austria and Russia. He won a decisive victory at Austerlitz, but his invasion of Russia in 1812 was catastrophic for France.
In January of 1814, European sovereigns invaded France. Mâcon (Saôn et Loire) had been taken by the Austrians, who were now advancing north toward Tournus. Some 300 soldiers and peasants from Tournus, Chalon-sur-Saône and Saint Jean de Losne (Côte d'Or), marched south to lend a hand, and they managed to liberate Mâcon. On the 22nd of May 1815, Napoleon decided to honour and thank the trusty band by awarding the towns with the Legion of Honour (which he himself had created in May 1802). Tournus is one of the few towns to have the distinction of displaying the symbol of the legion of honour on its town crest.
Napoleon surrendered on March 30th 1814, and went into exile on the island of Elbe. However he then escaped the island, and returned to power and to war mongering.
In March of 1815 Napoleon travelled to Auxerre, to the Prefecture of the Yonne, where he received Marechal Ney. After Napoleon's exile, Ney swore allegiance to King Louis XVIII, but he turned coat in Auxerre, and later fought once more beside Napoleon. His actions at the battle of Waterloo were greatly criticised, and he was tried and executed, and Napoleon exiled this time permanently, to the Island of Saint Helena, where he died in 1821.
However even after the death of the Emperor, his faithful soldiers of Burgundy continued to honour him.
The oldest café in Burgundy was founded in 1830 by one of Napoleon's “grognar” (soldiers of Bonaparte's Old Guard – the most faithful as well as the most experienced). It still exists today – heading towards Dijon from Gevrey, it is on the right hand side of the Route National – it is painted pink, the entrance surrounded by a peculiar rock structure, and looks as if it would be more at home on a beach in Brittany. It was first called 'le relais du soldat de Napoléon', then the 'café du Rocher 'to become the ‘Table du Rocher’. It is so named because of the decor of rocks, combined with the original wall paintings from the 19th century depicting Napoleon's various campaigns. The entrance to one of the rooms has been carved from rocks in the shape of the island of Corsica. It presently serves traditional Burgundian fare using fresh, seasonal ingredients.
La Table du Rocher, 58 Route de Beaune, 21160 Marsannay-La-Côte
Tel: 03 80 52 20 75.
Claude Noisot, a Burgundian born officer of Napoleon's Imperial Guard (another grognard), followed Napoleon into exile on the Island of Elbe. After returning from Elbe and retiring to Fixin (Côte d'Or), Noisot decided to honour his leader by creating a park and a musuem. The park was planted with laricio pines from Corsica between 1830 and 1840, and 100 steps were cut into the rock to commemorate the 100 days of Napoleon's return to power between the 1st of March and the 18th of June 1815. Noisot, a native of Auxonne, commissioned a bronze sculpture called “Napoleon Awakening” (to immortality) from his friend and well-known Dijon sculptor, François Rude. Then he created the Napoleon Bonaparte museum building which is modelled on Napoleon's house of exile on Elbe. The musuem contains momentos from the Napoleonic period. Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, future president of the Republic and future emperor, Napleon III, inaugurated the museum in 1847.
Parc Noisot c/o Mairie 21220 Fixin
Tel. 03 80 52 45 62 and/or 03 80 52 45 52
Fax. 03 80 51 09 64
Apparently on Saint Helena Napoleon said to his valet Marchand, “Believe me Marchand, when I'm no longer of this world, buy a piece of land in Burgundy, it's the land of the brave. I am loved there and you shall be loved there too because of me.”
The vineyard 'Le Clos Napoleon' is a monopole of Pierre Gelin, winemaker of Fixin, and just opposite the vineyard is the restaurant 'Au Clos Napoleon' Rue de la Perriere, 21220 Fixin Tel 03 80 52 45 63
Napoleon Bonaparte (or Buonaparte), was born in Ajaccio, Corsica on August 15th 1769. After his defeat at the battle of Waterloo on 30th of March 1815, Bonaparte was forced to abdicate. He was exiled to the Island of Saint Helena and died there on May 5th 1821.
By Kelly Kamborian and Paul Thomas
See our article in the November 2015 issue of Wine Connoisseur magazine http://mydigimag.rrd.com/publication/?i=280670