Today in History: December 2, 1804, The Coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte
In Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Napoleon Bonaparte is crowned Napoleon I, the first Frenchman to hold the title of emperor in a thousand years.
The ceremony had started at nine a.m. when the Papal procession set out from the Tuileries. The procession was led by a bishop on a mule holding aloft the Papal crucifix. The Pope entered Notre Dame first, to the anthem Tu es Petrus, and took his seat on a throne near the high altar.
The two-part ceremony was held at different ends of Notre Dame to emphasize the disconnectedness of religious and secular facets. An unmanned balloon, ablaze with three thousand lights in an imperial crown pattern was launched from the front of Notre Dame during the celebration.
At the moment of the crowning when the Pope said, “Receive the imperial crown…” Napoleon unexpectedly turned and, forestalling the Pope, removed his laurel wreath and crowned himself and then crowned the kneeling Joséphine with a small crown surmounted by a cross, which he had first placed on his own head. At Napoleon’s enthronement the Pope said, “May God confirm you on this throne and may Christ give you to rule with him in his eternal kingdom”.
Limited in his actions, Pius VII proclaimed further the Latin formula “Vivat imperator in aeternum!” (May the Emperor live forever!), which was echoed by the full choirs in a Vivat, followed by “Te Deum”. With his hands on the Bible, Napoleon took the oath:
“I swear to maintain the integrity of the territory of the Republic, to respect and enforce respect for the Concordat and freedom of religion, equality of rights, political and civil liberty, the irrevocability of the sale of national lands; not to raise any tax except in virtue of the law; to maintain the institution of Legion of Honor and to govern in the sole interest, happiness and glory of the French people”.
After the oath the newly appointed herald of arms proclaimed loudly: “The thrice glorious and thrice august Emperor Napoleon is crowned and enthroned. Long live the Emperor!” During the people’s acclamations Napoleon, surrounded by dignitaries, left the cathedral while the choir sang “Domine salvum fac imperatorem nostrum Napoleonem”—”God save our Emperor Napoleon”.