Italian Week – Napoleon And The Bee Room

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.

8 thoughts on “Italian Week – Napoleon And The Bee Room

  1. Louisa says:

    love this! I have a little golden bee necklace a little like like Napoleon’s bee here – I wear it all the time, bought from Etsy last year!

  2. mountainmae says:

    Did I miss the naming of the queen? Napoleon was an interesting character.

    • Her name is Queen Maria Amalia, and I named her on Mother’s Day. I am hopeful her Name Day will be a good omen. 🙂
      I was just thinking about Napoleon when I received your message. I’ve always been fascinated by him, but he has his share of detractors. 🙂

  3. Emily Heath says:

    Fascinating stuff Deborah. That’s quite a powder room your friend has!

  4. I never knew about the bee connection with Napoleon, but it is wonderful and rich in symbolism. I read the excellent trilogy by Sandra Gulland about Josephine Bonaparte which does give interesting insights into the man and I couldn’t help but be fascinated with the two of them and his ambitious family, meddling behind his back trying to influence and gain power for themselves.

  5. Interesting, Napoleon chose the honey bee as an imperial symbol of his reigh because the hieroglyph of a honey bee in ancient Egypt meant king, that is, pharaoh as explained in the following link:

    http://ferrebeekeeper.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/the-first-beekeepers/

    I make mead using pure honey, water, yeast, Passion Fruit, rosemary and cardamom. Of course, I eat honey every day.

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