Battle rages for the Napoleonic succession

The Battle of Austerlitz was fought 192 years ago yesterday with cannons and cavalry and guile. The battle of the Napoleonic succession was being fought out in a gentleman's club in Paris last night without so much as a bread-roll. Obscure legal and constitutional argument, precedent and sentiment will probably carry the day.

Members of the Souvenir Napoleonien - an organisation dedicated to upholding the memory of the Emperor - were unwilling to discuss the proceedings with outsiders. Especially British outsiders. "Prince" Charles Napoleon, great great-grandson of the Emperor Napoleon's youngest brother, Jerome, is battling for his right to be considered Chief of the Imperial Household. The title is, in legal terms, meaningless, but important to nostalgics and, doubtless, useful as a business calling card. When his father, Prince Louis Napoleon, died seven months ago, it seemed Charles, 47, (pictured), who runs a financial services business in Corsica, would inherit the distinction automatically. But the cantankerous, octogenarian prince left a "political testament", saying the succession should pass to his grandson, Jean-Christophe, Charles's son, an 11 year-old schoolboy. The deceased man's motives were twofold, according to his lawyer, Maitre Jean-Marc Varaut. Louis Napoleon disapproved of the fact that his eldest son had divorced and re-married without his permission. He also detested his political views, which were, by his admission, "republican and democratic". In an interview yesterday with Le Figaro, Charles Napoleon admitted he was a democrat and an ordinary chap. Asked if he would take become a full-time, dispossessed Royal if he succeeded, he replied: "No, my psychological balance wouldn't stand it." He conceded his "personal values" made him feel closer to the early period Napoleon (defender of the Republic) than the later period Napoleon (autocratic emperor). Certain aspects of the Emperor Napoleon's record, and that of his nephew, Napoleon III (1852- 70), should be "judged severely".

This mildly revisionist view of Napoleon is now standard in France. If anything, the academic trend is towards a downward revaluation of his bloody attempts to create a prototype European union (with headquarters in Paris). The winner of this year's Prix Goncourt, the most prestigious literary prize in France, was a novel by Patrick Rambaud, La Bataille, which re-creates the battle of Essling, a forgotten and disastrous episode in the Napoleonic wars.

It presents Napoleon as a foul-mouthed, callous bully, driven by vanity and detested even by his closest comrades. In the conservative Le Figaro yesterday the writer Claude Jacquemart said it had to be admitted the "Napoleonic adventure" was "an immense tragedy which left France physically and morally exhausted".

This is unlikely to impress the Souvenir Napoleonien nostalgics, holding their annual meeting yesterday, on the anniversary of Austerlitz and also of the coup which brought Napoleon III to power. Charles Napoleonwas addressing the meeting to try to persuade his great, great, great-uncle's most devoted followers he was worthy of the imperial lineage. Legally, their approval or disapproval counts for nothing: the battle will continue elsewhere. But, morally, it was essential for Charles to persuade the last remnants of the Grande Armee to follow him.

The omens were not good. He told Figaro he wanted to make the Napoleonic tradition "modern and forward-looking". As head of the Imperial household, he would emphasise the republican Napoleon, elected by popular vote, and the constructive Napoleon, who built many of the institutions which serve France to the present day. It is difficult for a mere Briton to judge, but it sounds as if Charles Napoleon's father was right: he is a good democrat but he would make a useless emperor.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world