The hostility of the people of Provence in 1814 (see Munro Price’s entry for 26 February) had forced Napoleon to find an alternative route to Paris. The route he took became France’s first official tourist route in 1932 but long before then, from as early as May 1815, locations of significance were marked and can still be found.
Thus there are traces of the Eagle’s flight north in Grasse (reached 2 March), Castellane and Barrême (3 March), Digne (4 March), Gap (5 March) and Laffrey (6 March).
While most of the towns and villages along the route have columns, or plaques, at Laffrey there is a statue of Napoleon on horseback, commemorating one of the most significant moments of the march on Paris: the moment when royalist troops sent to stop him instead went over to his side.
From Laffrey, Napoleon headed to Grenoble where the gates were broken down and the crowds enthusiastically welcomed him. The writer Stendhal, born in the city, described the reaction of the local people in some detail in his A Life of Napoleon and recounts how, unable to present him with the keys of the city, they tore down the gates to give to him instead.
The plaque shown here can still be seen Rue de Bonne and bears Napoleon’s own retrospective reflection on the importance of Grenoble to him in 1815: ‘before Grenoble I was a soldier of fortune, at Grenoble I was a Prince again’.
Stendhal, A Life of Napoleon (London: Rodale Press, 1956)
Jordan Girardin, dissertation : ‘De l’aventurier au Prince Le retour de Napoléon de l’île d’Elbe : le vol de l’Aigle de Grenoble à Lyon 7 – 13 mars 1815’, SCIENCES PO LYON, Juin 2012. Available electronically at http://digitalbooks.napoleon.org/book/ThesesNum/GIRARDIN.pdf