Napoleon Bonaparte and the Grand Armée

The 22nd June 1815, after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, is the date that marks the end of the reign of the French Emperor and dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte.

In 2009 I stayed in a holiday cottage near Boulogne in Northern France and one day drove to the town stopping on the way to visit La Colonne de la Grande Armée, which is conveniently situated next door to Carrefour.

The column was erected in the 1840s and is a fifty-three metre-high monument topped with a statue of Napoleon Bonaparte. (Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square is shorter at forty-six metres high).  It marks the base camp where Napoleon massed France’s biggest ever army of eighty thousand men ready to invade England.  It was initially intended to commemorate a successful invasion of England, but this proved to be a bit premature and as he didn’t quite manage that it now commemorates instead the first distribution of the Imperial Légion d’honneur.

Originally, when it was first completed, the statue had looked out over the Channel towards England, the land Napoleon had confidently expected to conquer but after the Second World War, the French government turned the statue of Napoleon round to face inland, as a mark of respect to the British allies in the war.

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