In Ajaccio, the tourist season has got under way with the opening scenes in massive celebrations to mark the bi-centenary of the birth of Napoleon I in the resort, and which will go on until December.
In Ajaccio, the tourist season has got under way with the opening scenes in massive celebrations to mark the bi-centenary of the birth of Napoleon I in the resort, and which will go on until December. As the ceremonies started last weekend, Prince Napoleon, great-grand-nephew of the Emperor and a direct descendant of Jerome, King of Westphalia, arrived to take part; unlike his noted ancestor, Prince Napoleon towers above his entourage and stands six-feet (two metres) tall.
Napoleon I, Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1814, and again for "the Hundred Days" in 1815, was born in Ajaccio on 15 August 1769, and this year's celebrations will reach their climax on the actual anniversary of his birth this year. He was born one year and three months after the cession of Corsica to France into a family of ancient nobility. His father, Carlo, was a lawyer who managed to win the favour of the French and became assessor for the judicial district of Ajaccio in 1771. From the age of nine, Napoleon was educated in France.
Wherever one goes in Ajaccio, there is to be seen reminders of the town's most famous son. Streets and shops are named after him, and the house in which he was born is open for all to see. Another favourite place for tourists to visit is the Imperial Chapel where Napoleon's family are buried, although the Emperor himself is now buried in the Hotel Des Invalides in Paris where he was re-interred after the first simple burial in St. Helena where he died in 1821.
Corsicans turned out in strength to welcome at their land Prince Napoleon when he arrived to take part in the ceremonies. There was one moment of embarrassment when Prefect of Ajaccio was to attend a ceremony at which the intensely nationalist Corsicans sang their own version of the National Anthem, the "Ajacienne", but this was diplomatically overcome.
Around the Imperial Palace, the Army mounted a ceremonial guard as part of the festivities surrounding the bi-centenary of the birth of the man had never shown any great promise as a soldier -- he finished 42nd in a class of 51 at the military academy in Paris -- but who later rose to become Emperor of the French.