There is a sign near Farnborough station which has always intrigued me this sign says Chapelle Impériale And I’ve always wondered about it so yesterday I found their website and we trotted along. The Imperial Chapel was built to house the body of Napoleon the third Emperor of France.
Yeah you read that right: Napoleon III, Emperor of France is …..I would say ‘buried’ but he’s not buried …..he’s in a sarcophagus in Farnborough in Hampshire in England.
Practically, in our back garden!
Now you may know that dear reader but I did not. If I’d done a bit more research I probably would’ve done before going but we just turned up at the only time each week that the gates are open to visitors (details on their website, or if you can’t bear to click away, it’s 3pm on Saturdays).
It’s still, a few days later, somewhat mind blowing to think of one of the most powerful men in the world not being treated as it is his due and housed in the Abbaye St. Denis or somewhere in Paris but left here in Farnborough. It’s also strange to think that when Empress Eugénie died in 1920, Royal families from around Europe came to little sleepy Farnborough to pay their respects at her funeral. It’s strange that the marble sarcophagus for Eugénie was a gift from George the Fifth and that’s Napoleon’s sarcophagus was a gift from Queen Victoria and these are all sat (sitting!!!!!! Ed.) just round the corner.
Eugenie lost her husband in 1873 and her only son fighting in the British Army in South Africa in 1879 and she is reported to have said “I died in 1879”. She came to live to the rest of her years in England in exile after the collapse of the second empire in Paris. At this point, the Bonapartes were thrown out from France and Napoleons the third are usually more or less airbrushed out of French political history.
I can understand that given that France is a republic and the Bonapartes were in someway almost Royal and the Empire didn’t suit the new France but is still strange to me that their bodies are left here in Farnborough. I’m told that the Queen occasionally visits the chapel which seems like a nice thing to do to pay respects to forebears as they are really all related and that Princess Eugenie has also visited at times.
We visited, by chance, on the anniversary of the Chapel being inaugurated in 1881(when the Emperor and his son were laid to rest).
It would be a nice outing (2-3 hours) on any day, but we will return in the Summer, when the rhododendrons will be magnificent.
Who knew there was so much history in ‘our back garden’?