Napoleon I museum, Palace of Fontainebleau, Seine-et-Marne, France

Famous for witnessing many of the emperor’s important turning points, “The true home of kings, the house of ages,” Napoleon once said about this vast castle built in the Classical and Renaissance styles. The Napoleon Museum will unveil numerous major and unique acquisitions, discover at the same time the statesman, the war leader, the head of the family and the promoter of the arts. Napoleon had locked up the pope of the time there for a long time, Napoleon also signed his first declaration of abdication here Appreciate the double-horseshoe staircase in the main courtyard, the Cour d’Honneur, also known as the Farewell Courtyard, after Napoleon bade farewell there on 20 April 1814, before leaving for the Island of Elba.

The Napoleon I museum, open since 1986, occupies nearly 15 rooms in the Louis Emperor in vermeil made in 1804 by Henri Auguste, Marie-Louise collar watch), weapons (1801 coronation sword from the Versailles arms factory, emperors’ saber created in 1797), decorations, ceramics (services of the Emperor), clothes (coronation clothes, uniforms, Emperor’s frock coat), and personal souvenirs. The rooms on the first floor evoke the coronation (painting by François Gérard dating from 1804), the Emperor’s campaigns, his daily life (mechanical office created by Jacob-Desmalter), Empress Marie-Louise in full costume or doing the portrait of the emperor (painting by Alexandre Menjaud), or the birth of the king of Rome (bronze cradle from 1811 created by Thomire and Duterme, toys). The places have nevertheless retained their appearance of princely apartments thanks to the furniture and works of art that they present.

Fontainebleau is a key stage in the history of Napoleon, Napoleon I brought the Château de Fontainebleau back to life after the Revolution. He had it restored and furnished and made into one of his residences. A visit to this monument is a chance to discover the different facets of the Emperor: the statesman, the warlord, the head of the family and the promoter of the arts. You can also relive the Napoleon I’s emotional farewell to the Guard on the horseshoe staircase.

The palace in which every king of France since the Middle-Ages had lived was spared during the Revolution, but the furniture was either destroyed or sold. Napoleon had the palace both restored and refurbished, thus making it once again a residence fit for royal guests. Almost 600 rooms were transformed to accommodate the court, and the furniture needed for them was either taken out of storage or orders were placed with cabinet-makers such as (Jacob-Desmalter…) and with tapestry-makers such as Baudoin, Legendre, and Decors.

Pope Pius VII came to Fontainebleau to officiate at Napoleon’s coronation. The Emperor made a few visits to the estate between two military campaigns in the spring of 1805 and the in the autumns of 1807, 1809 and 1810. He held the Pope prisoner here between 1812 and 1814 and he spent his last days in the château before abdicating on 6th April, 1814. He left the estate on 20th April, after the famous farewell ceremony during which he delivered a speech to his soldiers assembled before him in the Cour du Cheval Blanc. It ended with the following words: “Adieu my children! I would like to clasp every one of you to my breast: I shall at least clasp your flag”. And he did so before entering his carriage and leaving for Elba.

The most significant alteration undertaken in the palace was the transformation, in 1808, of the king’s bedroom into the throne room following drawings by Percier and Fontaine. It is the only French Royal throne room existing today which is complete with its furniture. The “Grand salon” and the Empress’s bedroom were also decorated in Empire style. Napoleon’s suite was entirely remodelled again in 1804. The most spectacular room remains the Emperor’s bedroom which later on became the bedroom of all the sovereigns until 1870. The small bedroom, the private room also known as the “Abdication room”, the “passage to the bath-house” and the aides-de-camp’s common room complete this magnificent suite which was restored between 1987 and 1995. On the ground floor, under the François I gallery, the smaller rooms for the Emperor and his wife were altered in 1808 and 1810 and reserved for the imperial couple’s personal use.

In 1979, as a result of a donation of many objects by Prince Napoleon and Princess Marie-Clotilde, the state Napoleonic collections were redistributed within all State museums. A museum entirely devoted to Napoleon Bonaparte was thus created in Fontainebleau, its aim being to present a view of the Emperor and his family. It was set up in the Louis XV wing, a part of the château which had been restored by Napoleon in 1810 and which before that restoration (from 1803 to 1808) had been the headquarters of the the special military academy, later known as Saint-Cyr. The exhibition begins by introducing Napoleon and Josephine and the splendour of the imperial regime, before turning to Marie-Louise, the King of Rome and Napoleon’s mother, as well as his brothers and sisters, all of whom played a part during this period. Special attention has been paid to the fabric on the walls and furniture in order to present the portraits, the memorabilia, the arms, the china, the gold and silver objects and the items of clothing in luxurious surroundings.

Around the collections of the present head of the Bonaparte dynasty, includes a gallery of portraits of members of Napoleon’s family, medals and decorations, several costumes worn during Napoleon’s coronation as Emperor, and a gold leaf from the crown he wore during the coronation; a large collection of porcelain and decorative objectives from the Imperial dining table, and a cradle, toys, and other souvenirs from the Emperor’s son, the King of Rome. It also has a collection of souvenirs from his military campaigns, including a recreation of his tent and its furnishings and practical items which he took with him on his campaigns.

On the eve of his coronation in 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte decided to make the Château de Fontainebleau one of his residences. He then ordered the renovation of the palace in order to accommodate Pope Pius VII, who had come to crown him: the château was refurbished in just nineteen days. He would continue the refurbishment of this “jewel in the Crown” until the end of his reign. By taking up residence at Fontainebleau, the former artillery lieutenant who had reached the pinnacle of power wanted to follow in the footsteps of the monarchs who had preceded him. He saw this immense residence as an essential place to establish his legitimacy.

He redesigned the gardens, luxuriously refurbished the Grands Appartements, and re-instated the traditional etiquette that had been one of the customs of monarchical life. The former King’s bedroom became the Throne Room, where one can find imperial symbols as well as emblems of the monarchy. The Petits Appartements [Small Apartments] on the ground floor bear witness to the private life of the Emperor and his two successive wives. This is where Josephine, who could not give him an heir, was informed of their inevitable separation. Later, Marie-Louise, pregnant with the future king of Rome, would take her quarters there.

Fontainebleau is also a reminder of Napoleon the tireless worker. The administration of the Empire kept Napoleon I constantly busy, so much so that he had a bed installed in his study. It was in the adjoining salon that he signed his abdication in April 1814 before bidding his famous farewell to the Guard [the Adieux à la Garde] at the foot of the horseshoe staircase.

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Today, the Château de Fontainebleau houses a museum dedicated to Napoleon I. The sword and the tunic he wore at the Coronation, the Emperor’s famous bicorn, his campaign furniture and the King of Rome’s cradle can all be found there. From room to room, portraits, busts and art objets depict members of his family, dignitaries and officers of the Empire, the chosen ones to whom Napoleon distributed the thrones and entrusted the administration of the kingdoms of Europe. In total, more than 700 works, most of them commissioned to serve the Emperor’s political project, tell the story of the dazzling Napoleonic epic.

Château de Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau is a lovely historic town 55.5 km south of Paris, France. It is renowned for its large and scenic forest that surrounds one almighty château, once a hunting lodge beloved of the kings of France. Built in the 12th century, this chateau is also a fabulous relic of French history, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Over nearly eight centuries, 34 emperors and two monarchs spent time in the estate, inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage list since 1981.

The Château de Fontainebleau enlarged in particular by François I, the residence of Fontainebleau is the only château that was lived in by every French monarch for more than eight centuries. With 1500 rooms, it is one of the biggest châteaux in France, and the most furnished in Europe. Testimony to the life of the official and initimate courts of the monarchs across the centuries, it embodies better than anywhere else the French ‘art de vivre’.

Surrounded by a vast park and neighboring the Fontainebleau forest, the castle is made up of elements of medieval, Renaissance, and classical styles. The overall effect is awe as successive monarchs added their own personal touches. Fontainebleau is an inspiring place, full of rich details. The most furnished chateau with the decor like Renaissance frescoes, precious porcelain, exceptional furniture through the Second Empire. A stroll in the sprawling gardens and along the canal designed by architect André Le Nôtre is a must.

It bears witness to the meeting between Italian art and French tradition expressed both in its architecture and in its interior decorations. This specificity is explained by the desire of François I to create in Fontainebleau a “new Rome ” in which Italian artists come to express their talent and influence French art. This is how the School of Fontainebleau was born, which represents the richest period of Renaissance art in France, and inspired French painting until the middle of the 17th century, and even beyond.

Fontainebleau is not only famous for its part in Napoleon’s imperial adventures. Discover the Renaissance masterpieces commissioned by François I, the major projects of Henri IV, the refined decoration of Marie Antoinette, Napoleon I’s apartment, the splendour of Napoleon III and Eugenie, etc. Head toward the west wing, where you’ll find the Renaissance rooms and the Galerie de François Ier lavishly decorated by Rosso Florentino, a master of the School of Fontainebleau. Admire the dramatic chimney in the Guard Room, the original Saint-Saturnin Chapel, and Napoléon’s luxurious Throne Room.

Discover the Chinese Museum created by Empress Eugénie, and its precious antiques originating from China and Thailand. Explore rooms normally off-limits to the general public, like the luxurious theater created under Napoleon III in 1857, similar in its refined style to that of the Chateau de Versailles. There is also Marie-Antoinette’s Turkish boudoir, with its fabulous Oriental exuberance.

Situated in a park of 130 hectares, the château spreads its architecture around four main courtyards and is at the heart of three historic gardens including the largest parterre in Europe (11 hectares), the work of André Le Nôtre. Go boating on the Carp Pond, admire the Grand Parterre, also known as the French Garden, designed by Le Nôtre and Le Vau, or take a walk in the English Garden. The botanical and architectural imprint of each monarch promises a truly royal stroll in the park.

Rich in a first-rate architectural setting, the Château de Fontainebleau also has one of the most important collections of ancient furniture in France, and preserves an exceptional collection of paintings, sculptures, and art objects, dating from the 6th century in the nineteenth century. A favourite weekend getaway for Parisians, which gives a remarkable quality of air and life in the Paris region.

A little train and carriage rides are available for a fun jaunt around the grounds with the family, while initiations at hot air ballooning will soaring over the chateau and the Fontainebleau forest, one of the largest forests in the region. Take a break at the Café des Mariniers on the Cour de la Fontaine is well deserved. Appreciate a stop at the restaurant Les Petites Bouches de l’Empereur located in the heart of the château, in the wing known as the “belle Cheminée”, a stone’s throw from the Porte Dorée decorated by Primaticcio.

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