The Head of State will visit the Institut de France on Wednesday to participate in the commemorations of the bicentenary of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte.

A ceremony which, like the Emperor, has divided the political class for two centuries, and raises the question of the political meaning of this event wanted by Emmanuel Macron.

On Wednesday, Emmanuel Macron will mark the 200th anniversary of Napoleon's death with a speech in which he will "face" the legacy left by the emperor, both admired and controversial figure in the history of France.

Commemorations that are part of the memorial project of the Head of State and his promise made for Napoleon, as before for Algeria or Rwanda.

"Emmanuel Macron does not shy away," pleads one of his relatives.

The Head of State will visit the Institut de France in the afternoon to participate in a ceremony with academics and high school students.

He will speak after a presentation by historian Jean Tulard, one of Napoleon's best experts in France.

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A more solemn sequence will follow with the laying of a wreath of flowers at the foot of the emperor's tomb, under the dome of the Invalides, where Emmanuel Macron will be surrounded by the Minister of the Armies Florence Parly, the Chief of Staff of the Armies François Lecointre and Jean-Christophe Napoléon Bonaparte, member of the illustrious family.

By marking this anniversary, Emmanuel Macron "does not shy away", underlines the Elysee, while his predecessors had been cautious on this file.

The divided political class

Death on May 5, 1821 in exile on the British island of Saint Helena, Napoleon remains an extremely controversial figure for his action during the fifteen years in which he exercised power, between 1799 and 1815. And the Elysee has obviously well perceived the political risk of this date.

An important adviser tries to demine in advance, explaining that "to commemorate is not to celebrate", and promising a speech "neither hagiographic, neither in denial, nor in repentance".


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But once these principles have been established, we cannot ignore the controversies surrounding Napoleon.

Because his figure has divided the political class for two centuries.

The right regularly praises its heritage and its leadership, while the left emphasizes its authoritarianism and its decision to reestablish slavery. 

Keep "the best of the Emperor"

So does Emmanuel Macron have political messages to convey through this event?

A hypothesis that his entourage denies, simply stating that the Republic has kept "the best of the Emperor".

But as if to cultivate a "at the same time" memory, the Elysée suggests that it is not excluded that Emmanuel Macron also commemorates the 150 years of the Paris Commune, after Napoleon.

As if both right and left should have a right to their commemoration.