On This Day in Napoleonic History – 12 June 1804

12Deliberations regarding Napoleon’s coronation

The new Imperial Council, which was essentially the old Conseil d’État, met at St Cloud to determine the format of Napoleon’s coronation. It was then that Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris was decided upon as a possible location. Napoleon wanted his coronation to be held on 9 November, the 5th anniversary of Brumaire coup, while the Pope demanded it took place on Christmas day when Charlemagne was crowned in 800 AD. As a compromise, the date of 2 December was chosen.

The heraldic insignia and the official badge of the Empire were also discussed, with cockerel (the emblem of Ancient Gaul), eagle, lion, elephant, bee and oak tree proposed. Even the Bourbon’s fleur-de-lis was suggested but later dismissed.

‘The cock belongs to the farmyard, it’s far too feeble a creature,’ said Napoleon. No vote was taken but Napoleon chose the lion. The council agreed to keep the words French Republic on the coinage and it would remain there until 1809. As soon as the meeting was finished, Napoleon changed his mind from the lion to the eagle with spread wings on the basis that it affirms Imperial dignity and recalls Charlmagne and Ancient Rome. The bee was also chosen as the symbol of immortality and resurrection and a link between the new dynasty and the very origins of French royalty, since golden bees were discovered in 1653 in Tournai in the tomb of Childeric I, founder of the Merovingian dynasty in 457.