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la Colonne de la Grande Armée, Boulogne

The tallest stone column in France on the hills behind Boulogne, overlooking the Channel; (detail) Napoleon pins medal on a soldier

Napoleon's invasion of England
Erected in a renewal of French national pride in the 1840s, the 53 metre-high column is topped with a statue of Napoleon. It marks the base camp where Napoleon massed France's biggest ever army, 80,000 men, ready to invade England.

Panels on the base of the Colonne mark Napoleon presenting medals of the Lègion d'Honneur (newly-established after the Revolution, France's highest honour) to heroes of his Grande Armée. The gold French Imperial eagle adorns the railings round the monument. Nearby the old arsenal is preserved from the Grand Armée's extensive camp.

Napoleon looks the other way!
After the Second World War, the French government turned the statue of Napoleon round to face inland, as a mark of respect to her British allies in the war. Previously the statue had looked towards England, the land he had confidently expected to conquer.

Napoleon Bonaparte (left), soon to be Emperor of France, plans the invasion of England from his base in Boulogne. The British cartoon (right) shows the French forces attacking from left to right: troops in barges face a barrage of fire from the English fleet in the Channel. Meanwhile hot-air balloons - a relatively new 18th century invention - face defending English kites; not very different to the barrage balloons that held up cables to catch V1 rockets heading for London in WW2. Finally, while the English are busy above ground, the French army crosses under the Channel by a secretly-dug Channel Tunnel - a possibility that was seriously feared during the invasion scare of 1802-5.

An English battalion of the Napoleonic era

Re-enacted battles
Today, enthusiasts from both sides of the Channel meet in Boulogne to re-enact battles from the Napoleonic Wars. You can find more about Napoleon's stay in Boulogne in the Château-Musée museum in the town, which also has a collection of Egyptian relics brought back to France after the Battle of the Nile ended Napoleon's attempt to conquer Egypt, and establish a French Empire in the East to include India.

Background information
Napoleon - for more details of the wars
Relations with the English

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Location: between BOULOGNE and Wimereux
Follow the signs from Nausicaa on the seafront
Information/ reservations:
Tel: 00 33 3 2 ... (see Tourist Information Office)




Castle-museum © Copyright 2000 Invicta Media. Last updated 17th February 2000