Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Musing On A Mystery - Napoleon III

When I first started this blog, I spoke about how I found the mysteries regarding some of the scarves histories so intriguing. Hermes has been making scarves for so long that there are always scarves that come along that even long time collectors have not seen. It does not happen often but it does happen, and discussions around them in the past have always been lively and fun for me.

I recently acquired a scarf, that many of us thought was only printed for one special event, that being the 150 year anniversary of Credit Lyonnais Bank in London. Which celebrated its anniversary in 1970. Now while it is true that Hermes did in fact print special pieces in limited quantities for this event, they also printed a Napoleon III / Empire C'est La Paix which was not distributed for this event alone, as it was not printed with the imprint of the anniversary dates.

I love the consistency that in keeping with the historical significance Hermes printed the Napoleon III in a jacquard of "Bees".

Historically speaking there is much reverence and attention given to anything which has to do with the reign of the first Napoleon. No major anniversary of births, battles, or buildings goes uncelebrated.

The legacy of Napoleon III includes some of the most progressive social reforms of the period, along with much of the modern infrastructure of France as we know it today, including railroads and major ports. The second empire also saw the building of major avenues, and a sewer system that still functions today. Napoleon III also organized innovative financial and credit organizations.

Historians have always treated France's "Second Empire" somewhat dismissively. However, Hermes honors the Emperor here with Ledoux's beautiful design, which also commemorates the special relationship held between England's Queen Victoria, and Napoleon III. It is fitting that above Napoleon III the words Empire C'est La Paix . Perhaps Queen Victoria said it best when after visiting the tomb of Napoleon I escorted by Napoleon III, in her journal she wrote:

"The coffin is in a small side chapel, de St. Jerome....Into this the Emperor led me, and there I stood, at the arm of Napoleon III, his nephew, before the coffin of our bitterest foe, I, the granddaughter of that King who hated him most and who most vigorously opposed him, and this very nephew who bears his name, being my nearest and dearest ally!"

Napoleon the III's grave site has no place of honor in France, for he died in exile on the not too distant shores of England following complications with gallstone surgery. His wife had a church built in Farnborough this was to be his final resting place.

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