The museum celebrating the life of Emperor Napoleon I at the Château de Fontainebleau reopened last Sunday (25th February) after being closed since May 2017. Essential lighting safety work needed to be completed and the decision was taken to partly upgrade and restructure the museum during the downtime of the works. Thanks to public donations and sponsorship the museum have managed to acquire many new pieces, and eighty-eight of these are being incorporated in the displays within the museum.
The Napoleon I Museum is one of four museums within the Chateau, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is situated in the Louis XV wing. It contains many items of furniture, ceramics, paintings, clothes and armour together with documents and historical artefacts from a time at the beginning of the nineteenth century when many of the rulers of Europe were related to the Emperor as shown in one of the pictures in the exhibition. The Chateau though home to the French monarchs was not destroyed during the French Revolution, it was in fact used by Napoleon I and it was from there he was exiled to Elba, and indeed continued to be used until after the time of Napoleon III.
The first records of a castle on the site, date back to the twelfth century, the area was popular with the French monarchy because of the fine quality game that could be hunted in the area. The first palace was built at the beginning of the sixteenth century in an Italian Renaissance style for King Francis I, many subsequent French Monarchs following extended the Palace to put their individual stamp on the property until we have the marvellous building we see today.
The Chateau has been a Museum since 1927, though during World War II it was used as a headquarters by both the Germans and the Allied Troops in turn. Work to restore the Chateau began in the 1960’s, and in 1981 it was granted World Heritage status. In addition to the Museum of Napoleon I, there is also a Chinese Museum and Museums of Painting and Furniture, together with extensive gardens and outbuildings some of which are also still under restoration.