Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Fall of Thrones

Victor and Vanquished: Emperor Napoléon III talks with Count Bismarck after the Emperor's surrender at Sedan, September, 1870.

This date in history has been a poisonous one for monarchs and thrones. Today, in 476, the Germanic barbarian chief Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustus (age 13), last Emperor of Rome in the west.
Jumping forward to 1870, on this date the Paris mob deposed Emperor Napoléon III, France’s last monarch. Actually, the poor Emperor wasn’t at home to be deposed – he was a prisoner of state in Prussian captivity, (his army had been trapped and forced to surrender at the French town of Sedan on the 2nd). The Emperor: an inept commander-in-chief, had to swallow the humiliation of giving up his sword to the Germans after trying and failing to get himself killed.
Alas for Napoléon III, his cup of bitterness was not yet full: his country invaded; his army beaten; his health breaking; his 14 year old son in flight without his parents; his wife alone at Paris. The captive Emperor heard of his own no-doubt anticipated dethronement second-hand. In Paris, the Emperor’s wife, Empress Eugénie, (regent in her husband’s absence), was assisted in escaping the mob by her American dentist.
It all seems long ago now: and of little importance to us. No doubt the trials, wars and problems of our own time will be equally boring and inconsequential to our own heirs and successors – hundreds of years hence. Nothing is left to us of these men but dusty books and a few paintings. But to the two Emperors, and to those who loved, followed and supported them; or the opposite – all this was once real. RIP, Your Majesties.

No comments: