From Life Consulship to the hereditary Empire (1802-1804)

Period : Directory / 1st Empire
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The establishment of the Consulat

This timeline forms part of our close-up: on the proclamation of Empire.

15 December, 1799 (25 Frimaire, An VIII): The proclamation of the “Constitution of An VIII”: Three Consuls, appointed for 10 years.

27 December, 1799 (6 Nivôse, An VIII): The establishment of the Sénat conservateur.

1 January 1800 (11 nivôse an VIII): The establishment of the Tribunat and of the Corps Législatif.

The Life Consulship

6 May, 1802 (16 Floréal, An X): The Tribunat desires that the First Consul be given a “glorious sign of national recognition”.

8 May, 1802 (18 Floréal, An X): A Sénatus-consulte is passed regarding the Tribunat’s desire to re-elect Bonaparte for a further 10 years on the expiration of his first ten-year mandate, taking his term up to 1819.

10 May, 1802 (20 Floréal, An X): A Consular bill is passed submitting the following question to a plebiscite (sort of referendum): “Should Napoleon be Consul for life?”

12 May, 1802 (22 Floréal, An X): The Tribunat votes unanimously (all apart from Carnot) in favour of the Life Consulship. The entire Corps Législatif (all except for three members) votes in favour of the Life Consulship.

2 August, 1802 (14 Thermidor, An X): Napoleon Bonaparte proclaimed Consul for life on the results of the plebiscite. 3,653,600 ayes; 8,272 noes. (Source: Bulletin des Lois).

4 August, 1802 (16 Thermidor, An X): A Sénatus-consulte organique is passed adapting the Constitution of An VIII to include the Life Consulship, known as the “Constitution of An X”.

15 August, 1802 (27 Thermidor, An X): Celebration of Bonaparte’s birthday and the ‘Fête du Consulat à vie’ with a Te Deum at Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris.

The Proclamation of Empire

27 March, 1804 (6 Germinal, An XII): Vote by the Sénat on a motion proposed by Fouché “inviting Napoleon Bonaparte to complete his work and render it as immortal as his glory”, the first step towards the proclamation of Empire.

28 April, 1804 (8 Floréal, An XII): Motion of Curée to the Tribunat proposing that Napoleon Bonaparte be proclaimed ‘Emperor of the French’.

1 May, 1804 (11 Floréal, An XII): Speech of Lazare Carnot to Tribunat in opposition to Curée’s motion.

3 May, 1804 (13 Floréal, An XII): Curée’s motion adopted unanimously (except Carnot) by the Tribunat. A delegation from the Tribunat presents the motion to the Sénat.

13 May, 1804 (23 Floréal, An XII): At a privy council meeting at the Château de Saint-Cloud, the project prepared by Cambacérès for a Sénatus-consulte comprising 16 titles and 142 articles regarding the hereditary empire is presented Bonaparte.

16 May, 1804 (26 Floréal, An XII): Presentation by Portalis to the Sénat of the project for the sénatus-consulte approved by the privy council.

18 May, 1804 (28 Floréal, An XII): A sénatus-consulte proclaiming Bonaparte ‘Emperor of the French’ under the name of ‘Napoléon Ier’ and containing modifications to the Constitution (known also as the ‘Constitution of an XII’) is approved unanimously (apart from three votes against and two abstentions). Immediate application of the sénatus-consulte as a result of demands by Cambacérès, without waiting for the results of the plebiscite on the principle of hereditary empire.

6 June, 1804 (17 Prairial, An XII): Protests of the Comte de Lille (future Louis XVIII).

13 July, 1804 (24 Messidor, An XII
– Decree passed stipulating precedence and imperial etiquette.

27 July, 1804 / 8 Thermidor, An XII
– The Conseil d’Etat adopts the ‘aigle éployé’ (eagle with wings spread) as the emblem of the Empire.

2 August, 1804 / 14 Thermidor, An XII): End of the counting of votes cast during the plebiscite on the Empire: 3,521,675 ayes, 2,579 noes (Source: Bulletin des Lois).

7 September, 1804 (20 Fructidor, An XII): Napoleon stands in reflection before the tomb of Charlemagne in Aix la Chapelle (Aachen).

15 September, 1804 (28 Fructidor, An XII): Napoléon invites the Pope to come to Paris to preside at his coronation.

6 November, 1804 (15 Brumaire, An XIII): A Senatus-consulte is passed proclaiming the definitive results of the consultation regarding the hereditary empire.

2 December, 1804 (11 Frimaire, An XIII): Coronation of ‘Napoléon Ier’ at the cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris.

Nathalie Clot trans. ed. P.H.

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