Napoleon, Emperor of the French and Charlemagne, King of the Franks

Jacques Louis DAVID
French 1748-1825
Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul, crossing the Alps at Great St. Bernard Pass, 20 May, 1800 1803
oil on canvas
267.5 x 223.0 cm
Versailles, musée national du château (MV8550)
© RMN (Château de Versailles) / Franck Raux

Although a thousand years (literally) separate Napoleon and Charlemagne, they have a lot in common: both ruled France; both created empires that united much of Western Europe; both crossed the Alps via the Great Saint Bernard Pass to invade northern Italy; both married the daughter of the king whose army they conquered in northern Italy – Napoleon to Marie-Louise, the daughter of the Austrian Emperor, Francis I, and Charlemagne to Desiderata, the daughter of the King of Lombardy, Desiderius; Charlemagne was the first Holy Roman Emperor, crowned in 800 and Napoleon dissolved the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. They are like matching bookends to 1,000 years of French history. Kooky coincidence or fickle fate?

 

 

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