Perhaps unsurprisingly, given our current collective mood, our Saturday jaunt to Les invalides was infused more with melancholy than our previous Invalides excursions. Typically being more along the lines of “hey, let’s go to Invalides,” after which we happily bound off into the sunset and through the entrance gates, we entered what is usually one of our favorite haunts under overcast skies, the normally glowing dome of the tomb shrouded instead in a blanket of grey.
Having been through the permanent collections several times, we came exclusively for the current temporary exhibition, a small but poignant chronicle of Napoléon’s life of exile on the island of Sainte-Hélène. Along with video of the island in its current (still beautiful, in a harsh way) state, the exhibition featured artifacts from the main house in which the ex-emperor and his entourage stayed, as well as artifacts such as his shaving kit, a chessboard, and a table service setting that had accompanied them to the incredibly remote island. Also present was an extensive account of the exile as experienced by his entourage, the activities of the whole crew through his death, and the fight to define his legacy to history (which was the ultimate thrust of the exhibit; these years were spent writing the history of the time, attempting to place them within a historical context, and attempting to get in front of the narrative that would be up for grabs [and an obvious target for politicization] as soon as Napoléon died).
I do not think that either of us had expected to spend nearly two hours on such a small exhibit, but its thoroughness and thoughtfulness proved too great a pull, so we did.