Just before his coronation in 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte decided to make the Château de Fontainebleau one of his residences. He then ordered the renovation of the palace to host Pope Pius VII who was visiting for his coronation – the castle was refurnished in only nineteen days. He would continue to develop this jewel in the State’s crown until the end of his reign.
The former artillery lieutenant had reached the height of his power and wanted to follow in the footsteps of the monarchs who came before him by setting up residence at Fontainebleau. He viewed this immense residence as a key location to establish his legitimacy. He redesigned the gardens, luxuriously rearranged the Grand Apartments and restored customs that ruled life under the monarch. The former King's Bedroom became the Throne Room and from then on Imperial symbols and monarchist emblems existed side by side.
In the Petits Appartements on the ground floor the private life of the Emperor and his two successive wives is revealed. Josephine could not give him and heir and an inevitable separation followed. Marie-Louise would then take her place and fall pregnant with the future king of Rome.
But Napoleon the tireless worker is also present at Fontainebleau. Presiding over the Empire kept Napoleon Ist so busy that he had a bed installed in this study. In the living room next door he signed his abdication in April 1814 before giving his famous Farewell to the Old Guard at the foot of the Horseshoe Staircase.
Today, a museum dedicated to Napoleon Ist is housed at Fontainebleau. Interesting artefacts of note include the coronation sword and the tunic, the Emperor’s famous bicorn hat, his country furniture and the King of Rome’s cradle. In room after room, portraits, busts and art objects represent his family members, dignitaries and officers of the Empire. Many people who Napoleon put on the throne of European kingdoms and entrusted to them in the administration of these countries. There are more than 700 works in total and most of them were commissioned to serve the Emperor's political aims by narrating the dazzling Napoleonic epic.