Macron to defy ‘cancel culture’ and lay wreath for Napoleon commemoration

French President Emmanuel Macron will commemorate the 200th anniversary of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte on Wednesday despite calls to boycott the late emperor over his record on slavery. 

Macron to defy 'cancel culture' and lay wreath for Napoleon commemoration
French President Emmanuel Macron would deliver a clear denunciation of slavery, according to an aide. Photo: Ludovic MARIN / AFP

The landmark posed a dilemma for Macron caught between calls from nationalists to celebrate one of the most significant figures in French history and a campaign from anti-racism activists against the fabled Corsican.

“It will be a commemoration, not a celebration,” an aide told reporters on Monday on condition of anonymity.

The head of state will lay a wreath at Napoleon’s tomb at the Invalides monument in Paris and deliver a speech on the legacy of the man who overthrew the first republic and crowned himself emperor.

The aide made clear that Macron would not bow to pressure to ignore or “cancel” Napoleon.

“Our approach is to look at history in the face,” the aide said, adding that the approach meant “neither denial, nor repentance”.

EXPLAINED: Hero or villain: Why France is divided over Napoleon 

France owes many things to Napoleon, who seized power in a coup in 1799, including many of the political, cultural and educational institutions that exist to this day, the aide explained.

These include the civil code, the basis of the French legal system, the school system, the central bank and the country’s highest civilian award, the Legion d’Honneur.

The aide said Macron would deliver a clear denunciation of slavery, which was re-established by Napoleon in French colonies in 1802 after being abolished under the first French republic.

“The president will say that it was an abomination, including in the context of the era,” the aide said.

Before and after he rose to power, Napoleon clocked up a series of historic military victories, most notably the Battle of Austerlitz against the larger Russian and Austrian armies.

Considered a military genius and one of the best-known characters in French history, he is still studied in military academies around the world.

Yet his war-mongering in Europe and the Middle East, his record on slavery, and sexist laws that discriminated against women have led to a re-evaluation of his place in the French historical pantheon.

Late president Jacques Chirac refused to attend the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Austerlitz in 2005, while ex-prime minister Lionel Jospin published a book titled “The Napoleonic Evil”.

Over previous months, politicians on both sides of the left-right divide have weighed in, while historians have argued whether it is fair to judge Napoleon by today’s ethical standards.

Member comments

  1. It’s not necessary to judge Napoleon by today’s ethical standards since he was bad enough by the standards of the day and why he met his Waterloo.

  2. He was one of the greatest military brains in history, he transformed education and made many numerous contributions to the quality of life and rights in France. He got power crazy and overplayed his hand in the end, but repeating hackneyed old british revisionist nonsense doesn’t really add to the debate. Books are good.

    And ‘Waterloo’ was Abba.

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French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.