As I stated in my previous post aobut the “Invalides”, its history is much dominated by Louis XIV, who decided about its construction, and by Napoleon … and I indicated that I would revert to the Napoleon part.
As I already I mentioned in the previous post, Napoleon was of course guilty of a high number of invalids, wounded soldiers, who were taken care of here and he paid regular visits to the "Invalides" to see them.
Napoleon is present in the major courtyard by the statue which once stood on top of the Vendôme Column (see previous post). In the meantime it had spent a few years on the bottom of the Seine River.
As we know, Napoleon spent his last years (1815-21) on the Saint Helena Island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, where he was also interred. Louis Philippe (French King 1830-48) decided in 1840 that his remains should be brought back to Paris. Arriving by a sailing vessel to Cherbourg, the coffin was transferred to a steamer, then again to a smaller vessel and brought on the Seine to Courbevoie, a Paris suburb, and finally in great pomp to the Invalides, December 15, 1840. (The Saint Helena tomb can now be seen in an inner courtyard at the Invalides.)
It took until 1861, until his final place of rest, as we can see it today, designed by Ludivico Visconti (the film director was of the same family), was ready. A lower level was created in what used to be the Royal Chapel, under the dome (see again previous post). Some other imminent war personalities - Foch, Vauban... have their tombs on the upper level.
On the entrance portal leading down to the tomb you can read “I wish that my ashes lie on the banks of the Seine, amidst the French people that I so loved”.
The tomb is in red porphyry, on a granite base and circled by a crown of laurels and inscriptions.
You can down there also find another statue of Napoleon and, in front of it, the tomb of his son, Napoleon II, who died at the age of 21 and “reigned” for all together two weeks – in 1814 and 1815 – at the age of three or four. His ashes were brought here 100 years after those of his father, in 1940 … on the order of Hitler.
Talking about the son Napoleon II; his mother was Marie-Louise of Austria, Napoleon’s second wife. Napoleon never had any children with his first wife, Josephine…, but he had – at least – two, acknowledged, illegitimate sons, one with a short time mistress (Eléonore Denuelle de la Plaigne), Charles Léon, or Count Léon (1806-81) and one with a long-time beloved mistress, Marie Walewska, of whom there is a painting in one of the Invalides rooms. Their son, Alexandre Walewski (1810-68) later became the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of State. He in his turn had an illegitimate, but again recognized, son with a famous actress, also called Alexandre, who in his turn had a son, André Walewski (1871-1954). André created a taxi company in 1905, which now is the leading Paris taxi company, known as G7, and he and his taxis played an important role in the “Taxis de la Marne” operation, when Paris’ taxis transported troops from Paris to the war front in 1914 (WWI). (I included a "love letter" from Napoleon to Marie.)
Today, the "Invalides" is occupied by a war museum, by different defense related administrations ... and still by about hundred wounded or retired soldiers.