The Objects

28th Apr 1815

Source: © Collections École polytechnique - Palaiseau (France)

Napoleon visits the École Polytechnique

Contributed by: Marguerite Hughes

The École Polytechnique was established in Paris in 1794 as the École Centrale des Travaux Publics (Central School of Public Works) to train engineers. In 1804 the school became a military academy and its purpose was to provide the French Empire with military officers. Education was a means through which Napoleon shaped patriotism and loyalism throughout the period. The students at the École Polytechnique, destined for careers in science, business and politics were future leaders and military officers of the French Empire. Napoleon reinforced the school’s aspirations and objectives by giving it the motto, Pour la Patrie, les Sciences et la Gloire (For the Homeland, Science and Glory).

Having taken part in the defence of Paris against the Allies a year earlier, the students of this school would have been loyal followers of Napoleon. Not surprisingly, students of the École Polytechnique in Paris welcomed Napoleon on his return from exile and he made a surprise visit to the school on the 28th April 1815. The Journal de l’Empire’s account of the visit suggests that it was not quite as successful as it might have been as many of the pupils were absent since there were no classes on Wednesday or Friday afternoons. The occasion signals Napoleon’s desperation to restore loyalty and support after initial enthusiasm for his dramatic return had waned. Once again the students were told to defend Paris...

The print shows the visit to the École polytechnique on 28th April 1815.
"Une visite (la seule) de Napoléon le 28 avril 1815 à l’École royale polytechnique /dessiné et gravé par Peronard
Paris : Gautier, [vers 1850]
Aquatinte ; 46 x 50 cm (61,5 x 66 cm pour toute la feuille)
C1 5"

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