It was a cold, snowy day in Paris on the second of December 1804. Dressed in his “long white satin tunic embroidered in gold thread,” “a white velvet vest with gold embroidery and diamond buttons, a crimson velvet tunic and a short crimson coat with satin lining,” as well as an eighty pound “coronation mantle, made from crimson velvet and lined with ermine,” it is doubtful the man from Corsica noticed the weather. He was at the pinnacle, not only of his powers, but his achievements. On a smaller throne is his beloved wife, Josephine, the woman who will be his Empress. He has wielded enough strength to convince Pius VII, the Pope himself, to leave Rome and come to France for the event.
And what an event it was!
This was the three-hour coronation of the man christened Napoleone di Buonaparte, who later took the more Frenchified name Napoléon Bonaparte.
A coronation combining elements of the ancient and the modern, it was Napoleon’s way of showing the world he was going to be a new type of monarch. There were religious rites and the blessing of the Pope. But when it came time for the rite of placing the crown on the head of the new Emperor, it was not the Vicar of Christ who did the honors. He, like everyone else, was a mere bystander to the splendor. Instead, Napoleon placed the Crown upon his own head…before placing Josephine’s upon hers. Contrary to the later spread lies, he never snatched the Crown from the Pope’s hands. According to another apocryphal story, Napoleon’s nasty, jealous sisters hated Josephine so much, they tugged on her robe (which they bore) in the hopes of making her trip as she ascended the stairs to be crowned. Whether they did or not, Josephine – like her husband – performed flawlessly.
Sitting upon a throne at the Cathedral’s west end, he utters the constitutional oath, which ended with the remarkable words “Napoleon Emperor by the grace of God and the constitution”, was the cherry on the cake of this royal-imperial extravaganza. The entire oath was comprised of the following: “I swear to maintain the integrity of the territory of the Republic, to respect and enforce respect for the Concordat and freedom of religion, equality of rights, political and civil liberty, the irrevocability of the sale of national lands; not to raise any tax except in virtue of the law; to maintain the institution of Legion of Honor and to govern in the sole interest, happiness and glory of the French people“.
He was now Napoleon Bonaparte, not only First Consul of the French Republic, but His Imperial Majesty – Emperor of the French, Napoleon I.
The following references were used for this:
The Coronation of Napoleon I: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronation_of_Napoleon_I
History by the Yard: http://www.georgianindex.net/Napoleon/coronation/coronation.html
The Titles and Styles of Napoleon: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titles_and_styles_of_Napoleon