Festivals & Events

Napoleon returns to Golfe-Juan

During the first weekend of March Napoleon returns to Golfe-Juan the seaside resort of Golfe-Juan. With the collaboration of the Tourist Office and Town of Vallauris and Golfe-Juan, the whole town re-enacts the historic events of March 1, 1815 – Napoleon’s landing on the beaches of Golfe-Juan.

There is something for all the family to enjoy. From “Le Village Napoléonien” to “Le Bivouac”, cavalry exercises with sabres, battle simulations with cannon fire, hand-to-hand combat with bayonets and musket fire, military band music to conferences, as well as even a temporary post office issuing a special Napoleon postmark.

Napoleon returns to Golfe-Juan, Frank SamsonSince 2005 and for the past ten years the key role of Napoleon had been re-enacted by Frank Samson, a Parisian lawyer in real life. To fulfil his role he learnt to ride a horse, speak Corsican, dance the ‘quadrille français’ and made an in-depth study of Napoleon’s mannerisms and character. It is said he even wore the same eau de Cologne – Farina – as the Emperor.

Incredibly Frank not only looked like him with the small dimple in the chin and grey eyes but was also a portly 90 kilos. He also paid for his own costume which was tailored by AntiCostume, a military costumer in Dinard, near to Saint-Malo.

Napoleon returns to Golfe-Juan, Gérald LarcinFrank stepped down in 2015 and the new Napoleon is now re-enacted by Jean-Gérald Larcin, a 52-year old Belgian originating from Mons and a jeweller by trade in Brussels. Like his father before him, Jean-Gérald has been fascinated by Napoléon and the First Empire since he was a child.

The first person to take on the role of Emperor was Armand Frascuratti, a Corsican in 1992. Due to health reasons he stopped in 2003. Frank Samson stepped into the Emperor’s boots in 2005 and Jean-Gérald Larcin took over the reins in 2016.

I should explain that these men do not just play the role of Napoléon at Golfe-Juan. They also play Napoléon throughout France, Belgium and Russia – in fact wherever the history of Napoléon is officially re-enacted.

In February 2015 the house of Galimard (based in Grasse) launched Napolean 1815, a distinctive fragrance to mark the celebrations of the bicentenary of the Route Napoléon. Presented in a beautiful carved glass bottle and featuring an emerald green label – the flagship colour of the Napoleonic era – Galimard have created a scent that brings together hints of tangerine and citron from Napoleon’s native Corsica, peppery notes evoking the emperor’s zest and Rose for his love for Josephine while fig and orange complete the bouquet.

A little background history
After Tsar Alexander I and King Frederick William III of Prussia marched into Paris on March 31, 1814, Napoléon was forced to abdicate.

He left Fontainebleau on 20 April 1814 and encountered some hostility on his passage to St. Raphael where he embarked nine day later for Elba, a small island off the coast of Tuscany, on board the English frigate, Undaunted. There he remained for ten months, during which time his mother, Madame Mere, came to live with him on the island. His sister Pauline and his old friend Maria Walewska were frequent visitors.

He “reigned” there from 3 May 1814 to 26 February 1815 when he escaped British surveillance and returned to France. On the afternoon of 1 March 1815, Napoléon landed on the shores of Golfe-Juan, at a point then called “La Gabelle” on board his vessel l’Inconstant, a small brig armed with 40 cannons and 300 hundred of his Guard.

The rest of his Guard and troops, totalling some 1,100 men, sailed on the rest of the flotilla made up of l’Etoile, Le Saint-Joseph, Le Saint-Esprit, La Caroline as well as two feluccas (small Mediterranean vessels with oars and lateen sails), La Mouche and l’Abeille.

Upon landing Napoléon gave a rallying speech to his soldiers. Once his two generals, Drouot and Cambronne had landed with the rest of his men, he despatched a captain with a company of chasseurs to a garrison at Cap d’Antibes to feel the pulse of the soldiers. The captain was taken prisoner with all his company and two officers sent to demand their release shared the same fate.

At eleven o’clock that night, Napoléon, who had waited in vain at a nearby inn for the rallying of the troops and return of his men from the Antibes garrison, took up his march for Cannes.

That night he and his men bivouacked on a sandy beach now known as La Croisette. Before sunrise the next morning, Napoléon and his troops were already marching on to Grasse arriving there just before midnight. Thus begun the “Route Napoléon”and the famous “100 days.”

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Vallauris-Golfe Juan Tourist Office
Bd des Freres Roustan, Vieux-Port, 06220 Golfe Juan
Tel: 04 93 63 73 12
Fax: 04 93 63 21 09