The Pope Crowns His Enemy:
December 2, 1804
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Despite all the negotiations, despite the hopes and fears, despite the long journey from Rome to Paris, only a few days before it was to take place, it looked as if the coronation would not occur. As part of the ceremony the pope was to crown Josephine empress; but, Pius VII learned, Napoleon and Josephine had had only a civil marriage. They had not been married in the Church. The pope told the couple that if they did not have their marriage blessed, he would perform no coronation. Unwilling to have a public fight with the pope, Napoleon reluctantly agreed to Pius’s demand. On December 1, he and Josephine were married in a private ceremony at the palace of the Tuileries.
The next day, December 2, 1804, thousands gathered in the cathedral of Notre Dame for the great event that would make Napoleon Bonaparte the anointed of God. As the pope’s throne before the high altar was being prepared, the ancient walls (hung with rich tapestries) and vault of Notre Dame echoed to the chanting of 400 priests. Adding to the splendor were the senators, counselors of state, and tribunes of France wearing hats topped with great plumes. Bishops and priests, adorned in rich, beautiful vestments, stood in the sanctuary while a host of lovely women, dressed in exquisite gowns and adorned with jewels, lined the aisles or sat in the wings. Napoleon had seen to it that his crowning would have all the glory of the ancient regime. Continue reading