By Luis Miguel Pascual
Paris, Apr 19 (EFE).- Two centuries after his death, Napoleon Bonaparte, France’s iconic military leader, is still surrounded by controversy among the defenders of his legacy and those who call it into question.
The conflict between historians over the French emperor (1769-1821) has even spilled into the modern political landscape, with many leaders avoiding any glorification of Napoleon’s for fear of political retaliation.
President Emmanuel Macron does not hide his admiration for Napoleon privately, but is prudent when expressing it in public.
Meanwhile, former president Jacques Chirac detested Napoleon and in 2005 distanced himself from all commemoration activities for the Battle of Austerlitz, which represented the peak of Napoleon’s military success.
Ten years later, François Hollande followed suit during the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, which marked Napoleon’s final defeat.
France had plans to commemorate Napoleon’s bicentenary on May 5 with a state visit from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who would have brought with him the remains of a Napoleonic marshal recovered from the Battle of Valutino, identified thanks to DNA tests in 2019.
But the coronavirus pandemic and diplomatic tension between Paris and Moscow scrapped those plans, and now even Macron’s presence at the commemorative event is the subject of speculation.
“Saved by Covid-19, leaders are going to justify not coming to the commemorative event due to the health crisis,” historian and head of Foundation Napoleon Thierry Lentz tells Efe.
Lentz does not deny there is controversy but denounces “an attempt to erase” the emperor from history.