Published: October 14th 2010October 14th 2010
With the rail strike dragging on I'm definitely not going to be able to make it to Versailles, which is a bit miffing. On the other hand, I have walked myself silly the last few days so at least I won't have to suffer sore feet yet again!
Yesterday I went to the French Army Museum and Napoleon's Tomb. The tomb is amazing, an exercise in self-loving grandiosity second to none. Even the Prussian kings didn't manage this level of self-worship. The exterior is like St Paul's Cathedral, the Parthenon and the Temple of Zeus combined, the interior is full of towering ceilings painted with scenes of the lovely Mr Bonaparte consorting with angels and the walls are covered in reliefs of Napoleon as either Caesar or God, imparting his knowledge to the world. It's at once awe-inspiring and comical. I couldn't help wondering if old Bony was doing it all for a giggle. I loved it!
The Army Museum was especially interesting having seen the British one a week ago. There is a completely different slant on French wars to the British view of them. Interestingly most of it centres around fear of France being invaded, much like
Interior of Bony's Tomb
I want something like this when they bury me.
Britain akways feared invasion from the continent, but this is sometimes used to justify the invasion of the whole of Europe and even Russia as pre-emptive strikes to protect France! Bony's invasion of Egypt in the 1790s that ended in utter disaster and the death of most of the army is considered a daring venture that succeeded against the odds! There is no mention of Trafalgar, only that the army the French fleet was to pick up from the coast to invade Britain had a change of priorities. And just how many men were there in the Grand Armee that invaded Russia? I've seen it quoted as 300000 (Ladybird history book :)), 400000 (adult history book) and 700000 (French Army Museum) with anywhere between 3000 and 20000 getting home, depending on your source. I don't mean to beat my drum and of course the French are going to have a different view. It's justified in many instances, Britain was a massive world empire with the Royal Navy as its brutal enforcer and they had to fear them. But on the other hand the Prussian and German invasions of France in the 19th and 20th centuries are portrayed as naked German
aggression. No pre-emptive strikes here!
Overall though there was a lot of good stuff in the museum, including dozens of vast accurate miniature models of coastlines and fortifications made by French generals from the 17th century onwards as a way of working out their military strategies. They just love playing with toy soldiers. Don't we all?
In the evening I finally found an English pub that was open and had a traditional English brew (Kilkenny). It were grand.
There are more photos below