The former royal military school of Napoleon houses a museum 40 kilometers from Vitry-le-François

indispensable. The castle of Brienne-le-Château, a town in the Aube about forty kilometers from Vitry-le-François, easily stands out for its location at altitude. Dating from the 18th century, a domain of Loménie, one of the counts of which was the first mayor of the city, it was almost taken over by another historical figure, whose name is given to a boulevard and who has a close connection with the village. ..Napoleon Bonaparte.

The future emperor arrived in the region at the age of 10 to join the royal military school. ‘The Count de Brienne’s brother was an adviser to Louis XVI. When the king decided to open a dozen royal military schools in the country to accommodate poor nobles, including the Bonaparte family, one was built in Brienne, says Bernard Mathieu, deputy mayor responsible for culture. Napoleon was going to study in Thiron-Gardais, in Eure-et-Loir, but his father didn’t want him to study in a “hole in the middle of nowhere”. He first went to a school to learn to speak French, since he spoke only Corsican and Genoese, arrived in Aube on 15 May 1779 and left there in 1784. He then went to an artillery school in Paris. »

This is Napoleon’s first visit to the city. And the site of the snowball fight, in the winter of 1780, where Napoleon took on the role of captain. The exercise allowed the students to practice strategically for their future battles. The military school, or rather what is left of it, because according to Angélique Duc, in charge of development since 2007, nothing remains of the original building “only 10%”, houses a museum dedicated to Corsica.

“The first museum was established in 1969. It closed for work for a year and a half in 2016 and reopened in 2018.” Tablets serve as teaching aids, as well as paintings and objects, just under 400 in total and as many in reserve. One of them allows you to clearly visualize the movements during the Battle of Brienne in January 1814, during the French campaign (the year when Napoleon tried to keep his throne against a coalition of European countries waging war against him). bring.

This is Napoleon’s third and final visit to the village. And another passage that will mark him, because on his deathbed on the island of Saint-Hélène, he decides to donate 1 million 200,000 gold francs to the city, as compensation for the hundreds of human losses Brienne suffered in 1814 and the destruction of the city. “Only 400,000 francs were given to the city by Napoleon III”, says Bernard Mathieu. The money will be used to redesign the church organs, build a statue and hire staff for the charity hospital.

The museum is divided into four different parts: the silhouette of Napoleon, with an authentic stitch, made by Poupard and purchased by the municipality; his fights; whose reforms still exist, including the Civil Code and the patent of the colleges; his education in Brienne and his legacy. “More than 1000 movies have been made about Napoleon, that’s more than about Jesus Christ”, underlines the chosen one for the posters of the Napoleon by Sacha Guitry (1955). “The town was named by Brienne-Napoleon from 1849-1881. »

In addition to the permanent exhibition, temporary exhibitions are organized throughout the year. The current one concerns the Château de Brienne. It was installed on July 1 and will remain until September 18. Artistic projects are carried out by the two museum employees in collaboration with schools. Bernard Mathieu also wrote a play about Napoleon and his three visits to Brienne, in a tone “shifted”, to be read in the museum in the coming months.

Napoleon Museum, 34 rue de l’école Militaire, Brienne-le-Château, open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 12.30pm and from 1.30pm to 6pm, hours valid until September 30. Full price: €9, reduced price: €4.50.

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