I find it fascinating that Australia could have been a French colony! And rather than celebrating our long reigning Queen Elisabeth II as we have done this week we could have been celebrating - well let's just say Bastille Day! After all the first name for Victoria (named of course after the Queen's great-great-grandmother) was originally named Napoleon-land (Terra Napoleon). Our region was part of Napoleon's imperial ambitions. We would have spoken French and not been part of the Commonwealth. And Melbourne may have had the architecture of Paris (without the Eiffel Tower). The Paris end of Collins Street - now ravaged by the developers - perhaps eludes to this!
|Napoleon crossing the Alps on a white steed|
Napoleon: Revolution to Empire has just arrived in Melbourne (until 7 October 2012) with a wonderful exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. I suggest booking a ticket on line rather than waiting patiently in the queue to see this Winter Masterpiece. It seems the masters of spin were at work during his reign - after all he is depicted in this wonderful painting above (which is included in the exhibition) as riding to victory on a white steed when in fact he rode over the mountains on a mule!
|Crossing on a mule - not so uplifting!|
I haven't yet visited the exhibition but it has already had great reviews. I have been fascinated to read that Josephine - Napoleon's first wife - kept kangaroos and black swans at her home Malmaison outside Paris. Josephine was tiny and stood around 4 feet (I am hanging onto the old English measurements!) while my image of Napoleon is that he was short - but he was in fact taller than most at that time.The exhibition also contains maps and drawings from the French explorer Nicholas-Thomas Baudin expedition (1800 - 1803).
|The Queen - who has been a constant in most of our lives|
And so if Napoleon had not been defeated by the English at the Battle of Waterloo we may all be French-speaking today. Which brings me (in a circuitous route) to the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen this week. What a spectacle of pomp and ceremony the English are capable of organising and all done without seeming to put a foot wrong. 60 years on the throne - what a selfless feat. I can't imagine how tedious much of what the Queen has seen, heard or participated in over the years could have been - suffice to say she has done it with dignity, grace and aplomb.
But I can't help but wonder if Henry VIII was as interested in his civic duties as our Queen. Only the English with their wry sense of humour could have created this advertisement for the London Underground - removing yet another wife for his own interests seemed to be more important to him!