Talking Point with Thierry Lentz : Le bicentenary has begun

Author(s) : LENTZ Thierry
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The 9th of March was an important moment in our Napoleonic Year, with the inauguration of the exhibition “Drawing for Napoleon“, (see also this month’s image, below) organised by the National Archives, with the support of the Fondation Napoléon and the Maison Chaumet. Three days later, the study day on “Education and libraries in the Napoleonic era” took place at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. These first two, events in a cycle that will take us through to next December were – alas! – almost exclusively “virtual”, at least for the public, who could only participate thanks to, respectively, a video recording and the livestream broadcast (with replay).
Be that as it may, even for the moment, the bicentenary of the death of Napoleon I is well and truly underway. It will take place, dare we say it, whatever the cost.

Talking Point with Thierry Lentz : Le bicentenary has begun
Thierry Lentz © Editions Perrin 2020

Like everyone else, but apparently not as much as the those in power here in France, we hope that the museums and conference halls will soon be open so that the public can discover what organisers have been cooking up (sometimes years in advance). Let’s hope that the time is near. And while we wait, let’s spend the time online, viewing, reading and sharing our knowledge.

We just found out – ten days ago to be precise – that the President of the French Republic will participate in the bicentenary, in a way that is yet to be determined.

This obviously important participation provides confirmation that, contrary to what we sometimes hear, the French State has not turned its back on Napoleon. For the moment, the Musée de l’Armée, the Archives Nationales, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Malmaison, Fontainebleau, several prefectures and embassies, to name a few… have planned events, ceremonies, conferences and exhibitions (indeed the list of partners to “2021 Année Napoléon”, on is expanding daily). These institutions and “decentralised services” are an integral part of the “French State” and have been acting for months with the agreement of their governmental and other superiors. It is true that, at times, backstage there are some murmurings or sudden reluctances. And there is surely going to be one of those famous pronouncements using the expression “but at the same time” so beloved of Emmanuel Macron, when the highest authorities have finally to open their mouths. But the fact remains: Napoleon will be ‘grandly’ commemorated throughout this “Année Napoléon”, this Year of Napoleon. And the associations, the municipalities, semi-public institutions, most television channels and, let us say, a large part of the Nation, will also be there.

The framework is there. Everything else now depends on us. In the end, are not the historians, the enthusiasts and the simply curious also “France”?

So let’s get on with the Year of Napoleon!

Thierry Lentz
Mars 2021

Thierry Lentz is director of the Fondation Napoléon.

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