In 1804,the Italian-born Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of France in a coronation robe decorated with 300 gold Bees.
Napoleon at his Coronation, wearing a robe adorned with Bees
The Bee was a hugely important icon of Napoleon’s reign, and his obsession with its symbolism led to his inevitable nickname;The Bee. Napoleon would have grown up with the symbolism of the Bee ingrained in his psyche, for his homeland of Corsica was required to pay the Romans an annual tax equivalent of £200,000 in Beeswax.
The young emperor ensured that the Bee was widely adopted in his court as well as on clothing, draperies, carpets and furniture all across France. By choosing the Bee as the emblem of his reign, Napoleon was paying homage to Childeric (436 – 481), one of the ‘long haired’ Merovingian Kings of the region known as Gaul (which included part of Italy.)
When Childeric’s tomb was uncovered in 1653, it was found to contain 300 golden jewels, styled in the image of a Bee. And of course, these are the same Bees that Napoleon had affixed to his coronation robe.
Sadly, of the 300 Bees only two have survived.
Bees from the Tomb of Childeric I
Except for the ones in my friend Marianne’s powder room.
Of course, they aren’t the real Merovingian bees. But they’re a really good representation. Here are some pictures.
- Man of the Week – Napoleon Bonaparte (imperialmanifesto.wordpress.com)