The “Retour des Cendres”: Napoleon’s body is returned to Paris

“It is my wish that my ashes may repose on the banks of the Seine, in the midst of the French people, whom I have loved so well.” This is the most quoted sentence from Napoleon’s last will and testament. (The old term ‘ashes’ means ‘mortal remains’).

However, this dying wish would not be granted for another nearly 20 years. Napoleon’s coffin finally arrived at the Hôtel des Invalides on 15 December 1840, having travelled more than 7,200 km from the island of St Helena to the French capital, in a symbolic and politically charged expedition ordered by King Louis-Philippe, which would become known as the “Retour des Cendres”.

Return of the Remains of Napoleon I, 15 December 1840
by Jacques Guiaud 1841 Château de Versailles.