If one obtains a throne by one’s own efforts, then one would do well to legitimize this claim by all possible means. This seemed even more important at a time when people still believed in the legitimacy of kingship and in the fact that the rulers received their grace directly from God.
Napoleon Bonaparte therefore also used every opportunity to continue old traditions. Not only did he choose his wife from one of the oldest noble families of the continent (Marie-Louise of Austria), but he also wanted to underline the legitimacy of his claim by all means in his appearance as ruler.
The most famous sign of this is certainly the “Aigle de drapeu” (flag eagle), which he had introduced in 1804 for each regiment of the Grande Armée and which, as is generally known, was modelled on the Roman legionary eagle.
Much less is known about the bees that adorned everything around him, from the rich silk fabrics of his chairs to his throne and coronation mantle.
For as a self-appointed emperor who had risen from the turmoil of the revolution, he could not follow the traditions of the overthrown Bourbons, and therefore also the lilies had to disappear as a sign of their house.
In his search for a new insignium, however, he was not guided by the House of Valois or by the gender of the Carpetingans, and he even thought he had to skip the Carolingians.
Instead he resorted to the oldest Franconian dynasty, the Merovingians, namely to the first Franconian king Childerich I.
As early as 1653, construction workers found a rare find in the cemetery of St. Brictius Church in Tournai.
They unearthed the skeleton of a man buried among rich treasures. The asked priest recognized the tomb of the Merovingian king Childerich I, who had died in 481, by the golden signet ring showing the bust of a man and the inscription “Childerici Regis”.
In addition to the bones, there were also remains of gold-knitted robes, swords decorated with precious stones and numerous jewellery, including golden insect figures.
After the treasure had been raised and sighted, it was handed over to Emperor Leopold I through the mediation of the governor of the Netherlands, who gave it to Louis XIV as a gift.
So he finally arrived in Paris and was kept in the royal library, where he was finally discovered by Napoleon.
Like the learned physician J. J. Chiflet, who had described the jewels found in the tomb in 1655 in his work “Anastasis Childerici”, he also thought he saw bees in them and therefore decided on the bee as a new sign of his house.
Today, as a result of a theft in 1831, only two of the originally more than 300 golden bees have survived. Recent research shows that these are not bees, but rather cicadas.
So Napoleon, if he had proceeded historically correct according to today’s knowledge, would have had to decide for the cicada and not for the bee as a sign of his rule.