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War of Words over an Emperor's Bones

Mister Nizz

It's good to know that in these modern times, the French and the English can still squabble over symbols from the past.

Napoleon III was the last monarch of the French people and first president of the Modern French Republic, yet his remains have laid in an English Abbey for 120 years, largely forgotten by his people. . Stunningly, that has recently changed.

Born in Paris in 1808, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte was the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, and lived a colorful life.
After a number of foreign adventures, including supporting the disasterous Imperial adventure into Mexico in the 1860s, his army was crushed in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, prompting him to flee with his wife, Empress Eugenie, to Chislehurst, Kent, where he remained in exile until his death in 1873.

The Emperor died on January nine, 1873, during a multistage process to break up a bladder stone -- the actual cause of death being kidney failure and septicaemia. He was originally buried at St. Mary's Church in Chislehurst. However, after Napoleon III's son also died in 1879 fighting in the British Army against the Zulus in South Africa, Eugenie decided to build a monastery to house monks driven out of France by the anti-clerical laws of the Third Republic, which would provide a resting place for her husband and son.
Thus in 1888 the bodies of Napoleon III and his son was moved to the Imperial Crypt at Saint Michael's Abbey in Hampshire. Eugenie, who died many years later in 1920, is now buried there with them.

After lying ignored in a crypt in an English abbey for 120 years, the exiled emperor's ashes are suddenly the subject of a French ministerial delegation intent on repatriating them to the republic he helped bring about.

Christian Estrosi, the French secretary of state for overseas territories, said: "This trip will be for me an occasion to send a clear message to the British, to thank them for all they did for the imperial couple in exile, but also to remind them that we have some rights over them."

He may be in for a nasty surprise.

In a statement to the French people, Abbot Cuthbert Brogan, who runs the abbey, said:

"Unlike the English, who are very interested in the memory of your last emperor, not a single French person comes and meditates at the crypt where his remains lie.

I hope that your overseas minister is coming to ask for forgiveness. It's the least he can do in terms of politeness because you, the French, attach great importance to politeness."
Commenting on Mr Estrosi's intention to spend 10 minutes in silent reverence by the tomb, the abbot went on: "Ten minutes for a silence of 120 years! They are not interested in the remains at all!

What do you think of someone who has shown no interest in someone for much of his life and who suddenly claims, more than a century later, that the body belongs to him?"

Despite the ignominy of his later years - especially the crushing defeat by the Prussians at the Battle of Sedan - France owes much to Napoleon III. He had a huge hand in turning Paris into the elegant city so loved by tourists today - he replaced its unhygienic medieval streets with wide boulevards, created sewage systems and built parks and impressive apartment blocks for the masses.

The French, who want to reunite Napoleon III with his uncle's body in Les Invalides, in Paris, can also thank him for their railway network, and for creating a modern economy modelled on that of Victorian Britain.

Sources: Daily Telegraph, Daily News and Analysis, Wikiepedia.