Why is Napoleon not treated with more respect in France?Breaking News
"Vive l'Empereur!" is not a cry that echoes throughout France much any more. Not everyone is a fan, then or now. In the spring of 1814, as Napoleon travelled through southern France en route to exile, he was jeered by onlookers. His lust for power had left more than one million French dead. People were weary of war.
The following year, Napoleon was back. But only for a brief 100 days before his final defeat at Waterloo and a second exile, on Saint Helena, a speck of land in the South Atlantic, where he died.
Two hundred years on, the French still cannot agree on whether Napoleon was a hero or a villain.
"The divide is generally down political party lines," says Professor Peter Hicks, a British historian with the Napoleon Foundation in Paris. "On the Left, there's the 'black legend' of Bonaparte as an ogre. On the Right, there is the 'golden legend' of a strong leader who created durable institutions."
French politicians and institutions in particular appear nervous about marking the 200th anniversary of Napoleon's exile. The cost of the Fontainebleau "farewell" and scores of related events over three weekends this and last month was shouldered not by the central government in Paris but by the local château, a historic monument and Unesco World Heritage site, and the town of Fontainebleau.