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Why is it called the Route Napoléon

Icacos

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I am now reading that the Route Napoléon is a 325 km stretch of track in the south east of France. It is so named because it is the route on which Napoléon rode in 1815 on his way to Paris after he escaped from Elba. I wonder now why the track over the mountains between SJPP and Roncesvalles also came to be known as the Route Napoléon. Can anyone shed light on this?


 
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I wonder now why the track over the mountains between SJPP and Roncesvalles also came to be known as the Route Napoléon. Can anyone shed light on this?
It's a catchy name. Sounds good in tourism brochures.

The French government improved the road from SJPP to Roncesvalles over the pass (hardened surface and similar) to better allow transport of heavy machinery, for example artillery, for their army. Napoleonic wars. In this context against Spain. Early 1800s. Napoleon himself never set foot on it. He travelled to Spain once. He crossed the French-Spanish border further to the west, closer to Biarritz.
 
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From an earlier thread: Until a new road was built in the Valcarlos valley around 1880, the higher route over the pass was the only one where coaches could travel and artillery (canons) could be transported during the time of Napoleon because sections of the old Valcarlos road were too steep for them (too steep for the horses who pulled it, I guess). The higher road was in fact called Camino de la artillería o de Napoleón.

Nowadays, Napoleon Route sounds better than Artillery Route. 😶
 
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Icacos

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I was just cleaning up my desktop and came across this, about the Peninsular War 1808 - 1814; it ties in with @rappahannock_rev’s map.
It’s very long but I‘m posting it here in case anyone is interested in reading it. Not intended to open any discussion as I’m sure things would go south very quickly. The mods can delete it if they think it best.
 

camino.ninja

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From an earlier thread: Until a new road was built in the Valcarlos valley around 1880, the higher route over the pass was the only one where coaches could travel and artillery (canons) could be transported during the time of Napoleon because sections of the old Valcarlos road were too steep for them (too steep for the horses who pulled it, I guess). The higher road was in fact called Camino de la artillería o de Napoleón.

Nowadays, Napoleon Route sounds better than Artillery Route. 😶

Is it named by the French or the Spanish?
 
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Is it named by the French or the Spanish?
You wonder perhaps when the road was officially named as such on official maps and not just called as such in spoken language in the region on both sides of the border? It is difficult to find out because you need to be able to read documents from that time with a name in it, provided that they even exist. All I know, and have seen, is that the road has a name on the famous Cassini map: Grande Route de l'Espagne - Main Road to Spain. Despite the Italian name, Cassini was French and he drew a detailed map of the Kingdom of France and named places and some roads in French. All roads stop at the French-Spanish border. The map was created before 1800.

A lot has been written about Roncesvalles, the area and the roads leading to it, especially during the last 50-100 years. French writers use French names, Spanish writers use Spanish names.

I found an article, in French, published in 1912 in a series edited by the University of Bordeaux and dedicated to Ancient History. The author, L. Colas, mentions the "route de l'Artillerie" three times and says it is the name for the ancient Roman road over the pass. The name "Napoleon" appears only once, namely: Dans sa partie espagnole, elle porte encore le nom de "Camino de Napoléon" - the part of the road on Spanish territory is still named "Camino de Napoléon" (no typo). Ah, we didn't expect that ...🤓

I guess we should just accept that the road and the trail is now called Route Napoleon, that the road got associated with Napoleon's name, and that Napoleon did not walk it on foot, did not ride on it on a horse and did not travel on it in a coach.

 
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sillydoll

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The route that goes through Val Carlos (Valley of Charlemagne) is the original path described by pilgrims to Roncesvalles.
San Michel was the pilgrimage village mentioned in the 12thc Liber Sancti Jacobe. St Jean was built a bit later. Both were in Lower Navarra and belonged to Spain. The boundry between France and Spain was redrawn in the 18th century and Arneguy became the border town. The military avoided the lower route as it passed through gorges and valleys covered in forests and dense bush, ideal places for ambushes.
 
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I guess we should just accept that the road and the trail is now called Route Napoleon, that the road got associated with Napoleon's name, and that Napoleon did not walk it on foot, did not ride on it on a horse and did not travel on it in a coach.
Maybe we shouldn't.
 

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ISABEL linares

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It's a catchy name. Sounds good in tourism brochures.

The French government improved the road from SJPP to Roncesvalles over the pass (hardened surface and similar) to better allow transport of heavy machinery, for example artillery, for their army. Napoleonic wars. In this context against Spain. Early 1800s. Napoleon himself never set foot on it. He travelled to Spain once. He crossed the French-Spanish border further to the west, closer to Biarritz.
Gracias for the information.
 

DoughnutANZ

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And he was not so short as some people seem to think.
In fact for a man in those times he was of average height.

I love it when a thread goes off into interesting areas like this. 😻

Unfortunately though, the link is content blocked for Aotearoa New Zealand. 😢 Perhaps they don't want us to know history??
 

bbanks1217

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Reading this thread reminds me of my early days translating Latin stories, specifically Hannibal crossing the Pyrenees by elephant. He crossed the Pyrenees by the Col du Perthus, a relatively low pass near the eastern end of the mountains, not very close to the Napoleon Route!
 
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I love it when a thread goes off into interesting areas like this. 😻

Unfortunately though, the link is content blocked for Aotearoa New Zealand. 😢 Perhaps they don't want us to know history??
I love this sort of thread, too: discussions of history, geography, cartography, linguistic and political minutiae- all this is right down my alley! And, I cannot understand why the Kiwis should be excluded from the fun?!?!
 
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@Doughnut NZ
You’re not alone. Here in Sydney (Australia)., I get the same block out message to that link.
There is a notice on the History.com website: Due to business and legal constraints, we are no longer able to offer History.com content in certain territories.

Probably a copyright / intellectual property / licensing issue / national internet law issue.

My IP address shows that I am in Europe and I am occasionally barred from American news websites (because of the EU GDPR / personal data protection law). A VPN app can help because it hides the location of your IP. This can also be useful when you want to watch a movie on TV in another country or some live broadcast that is geo-blocked. I’ve used it sometimes to watch something on Spanish TV that was not accessible otherwise. Yesterday, thanks to VPN, I could watch a movie on Austrian TV that was geo-blocked. Geo-blocking is a real PITA. I’m barred from online content even when I am willing to pay for it!!!
 
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sillydoll

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I guess we should just accept that the road and the trail is now called Route Napoleon, that the road got associated with Napoleon's name, and that Napoleon did not walk it on foot, did not ride on it on a horse and did not travel on it in a coach.
I agree 100% !!
There are many routes that we think are historic paths to Compostella, but the large majority of them were paths used by travellers, merchants, soldiers and pilgrims, but with no historic connection to the Santiago pilgrimage per se.
For instance, the Le Puy route was established in the 1970s and many French academics have proven that "for the Puy route and that of Vézelay, no old pilgrim's story nor any old guide has come down to us and of the 4 routes briefly described in the Codex Calixtinus, only the Toulouse route and Tours route have a historical foundation. That of Puy and that of Vézelay do not - and no old pilgrim's story, nor any old guide are known to us." https://verscompostelle.be/cheminhi.htm

This is what makes all of us 20th and 21st century pilgrims Camino pioneers! 100 years from now historians will write, "There was an exponential resurgence of pilgrims in the mid-20th and early 21st centuries with an avalanche of new pilgrim stories published every day! New technologies like the World Wide Web (1994) and easy search engines like Babelfish, Google (1998) Yahoo and Bing followed by Camino Forums( Caminodesantiago Me Nov 2004) and social media (Facebook 2005-2007) made information sharing explode across the globe at the speed of electricty! Every country in Europe and beyond wanted a share of this phenomenon and new 'historic' paths were discovered and traced at every sign, sculpture or wiff of a scallop shell!"
20 and 21st century pilgrims searching for new, less crowded paths to Santiago have reinforced the authenticity of the newly found paths and soon hundreds of thousands followed in their foot steps.
In ‘Proverbs and Songs’ (1917) Spanish poet Antonio Machado wrote, “Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking”. That's what we are doing - so take your place in history and follow the new paths!
 
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the road has a name on the famous Cassini map: Grande Route de l'Espagne - Main Road to Spain.
Someone (https://www.davidrumsey.com/xmaps10000.html) has digitised the Cassini Map of France of 1750 and done an excellent job. Below you can see an extract. Top right it says Orisson Chapelle et Cabaret; the place is marked with a small building with a cross on top. All gone. This is where your find the modern Gîte Orisson today but on the other side of the road. The road going past it is labelled as Grande Route d'Espagne. It goes over the pass to Roncesvalles and is where we walk today. A bit further along it says Chateau Pignon. This was a castle or fort, also gone. To the left you can make out the names of the towns of Arneguy and Lußayde or Val Carlos.

Strictly speaking, the trail does not deserve to be named after Napoleon. It was there before him and got repaired, maintained and improved before him and it was there after him and gets still repaired, maintained and improved, for example better sign posting, access to mobile phone net for emergency calls ...

Cassini.jpg
 
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A snapshot from 200 years ago; Napoleon had already been banned to St. Helena and died; no mention of a road named after him; no mention of it being a road to Santiago or a pilgrimage road. It was a major road for people who wanted or needed to travel from and to Spain.

To go from France to Navarre, there are a great number of more or less difficult routes; but the main route is via Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the old capital of French Navarre. Leaving this town, one follows a road to the left of which one finds the Orisson Chapel, the ruins of the Pignon castle, and then one enters Navarre by the Bentarte pass.

Charles du Rozoir, Description géographique, historique, militaire et routière de l'Espagne, ed. 1823
 
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Finisterre

Active Member
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Sarria 2001,
Porto 2006,
Valenca 2008,
Finisterre 2010,
SJdPP 2012,
Tui 2014.

No plans to return, yet.
The historical documents illustrated by the story of Sharpe have very catchy tunes.


:)

I think the song is original. i'm planning on learning the words for next time


Edit ---- ---- ---- ----

I should actually link the proper version...

 
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StephenChad

Member
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Norte 2014
CF 2017
Le Puy to Moissac 2018
The last French garrisons to hold out at the end of the Peninsular war were in Pamplona and San Sebastian. As the allied armies readied to attack these the French army led by Marechal Soult had to prepare a defence of the border from St Jean Pied de Port to the coast. With 80,000 troops at his disposition but no idea where the main allied attack would come from it was vital that troops and equipment could be rapidly moved along the border and several roads were built or improved for this purpose. There is at least one more Route de Napoleon in the area. To relieve the pressure on the French garrison in Pamplona Soult attacked the British and Portuguese army at Roncesvalles in July 1813 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Roncesvalles_(1813) No doubt the route de Napoloeon was used for this purpose.

After the defeat of the two garrisons at San Sebastian and Pamplona the main attack came across the Bidasoa river near Irun. The French were defeated at the battle of the Nivelle (November 1813) and regrouped at the Bayonne fortress while the allied armies made winter camps just to the south. Napoloeon himself was retreating from Russia and the war ended when he surrendered in Paris (March 1814)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Nivelle
 
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OzAnnie

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2020
The historical documents illustrated by the story of Sharpe have very catchy tunes.


:)

I think the song is original. i'm planning on learning the words for next time


Edit ---- ---- ---- ----

I should actually link the proper version...

Thanks. I enjoyed the proper version of the song. I liked the first link as well.
Very ‘up’ …and foot tapper.

And he was not so short as some people seem to think.
In fact for a man in those times he was of average height.


And so did I, here in Adelaide, when I tried. Was it something we said?
@Doughnut NZ Y @Anna Cameron
We probably didn’t miss too much… (did we @SabineP ? .
At least we can view the @Finisterre links.

I’m feeling so pumped from reading the plans and excitement of those walking.
Also on a high to be back home also from Int travel (not 🇪🇸 spain ❤️) and counting my blessings.

Buen camino everyone… can’t wait to return to spain. No plans yet tho.

Annie
 

trecile

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PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese
This can also be useful when you want to watch a movie on TV in another country or some live broadcast that is geo-blocked. I’ve used it sometimes to watch something on Spanish TV that was not accessible otherwise. Yesterday, thanks to VPN, I could watch a movie on Austrian TV that was geo-blocked. Geo-blocking is a real PITA. I’m barred from online content even when I am willing to pay for it!!!
Some of the streaming services can outsmart the VPNs. A few years ago while I was in Guatemala I tried to watch something from the US on Netflix or Prime video using my VPN, and I got a message that a VPN was detected, and it would play what I wanted.
 

ISABEL linares

Active Member
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camino frances,camino del norte,camino frances
The historical documents illustrated by the story of Sharpe have very catchy tunes.


:)

I think the song is original. i'm planning on learning the words for next time


Edit ---- ---- ---- ----

I should actually link the proper version...

Nice song,I wonder if the film was filmed in the Napoleon Route.
 
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Jeff Crawley

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Nice song,I wonder if the film was filmed in the Napoleon Route.
A lot of the Sharpe series were filmed in Ukraine!

The lands to the western end of the Camino Frances feature heavily in a couple of books by G A Henty. Henty was a profilic writer (122 books) in the Victorian era and wrote historical novels mainly with a military background including the War of the Spanish Succession which is when the song originated - the original lyric was "Queen Anne commands and we obey".

His writing can cause a sharp intake of breath nowadays especially his views on the "inferior" races around the world. You need to remember he was a Son of Empire so they are best taken as "Ripping Yarns".

Of interest might be With Moore at Corunna: A Tale of the Peninsular War covering the retreat of the British and Spanish armies in the Leon/Astorga/Coruna area (a Peninsular War Dunkirk you might say) the hero of which is a young Irish ensign who rises up through the ranks, gets involved in special missions and irregular skirmishes with the French . . . .

And, Under Wellington's Command: A Tale of the Peninsular War which is its sequal.

The links will take you to downloadable editions from Project Gutenberg - Amazon Kindle versions are available, usually free of charge, if you prefer supping with the devil :)

Having read them you might wonder if Bernard Cornwell had read them both before writing his Sharpe novels ;)

PS That was all a bit long winded but I've been waiting in for a parcel . . . which just arrived!
 
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I wonder if the film was filmed in the Napoleon Route.
The 'Sharpe' movie about the Battle of Waterloo was filmed in Turkey. Waterloo is a small town in what is now Belgium, and Napoleon was finally defeated there. The actor visited the area where the battle took place some time after the end of the filming for the first time. There's actually a thoughtful article about his visit.

He and the Radio Times journalist stayed in a hotel nearby where there was some disorganisation in the morning and they organised their breakfast themselves. Quote: Apart from a confused Belgian chambermaid there are no staff and the only other guests have been spotted exiting via a ground-floor window. Locked in and with no signs of any petit dejeuner, we are reduced to foraging in the kitchen for stale bread rolls left over from dinner. Sounds familiar to pilgrims? 😉

The 'Sharpe' movie with the title 'Rifles' is on YouTube. It's about the French invasion of Galicia and it is set near A Coruña (spelled Corunna in English). I think some of it was filmed on location in Spain, perhaps even in Santiago? Anyone seen it?
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
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A "Tourigrino" trip once Covid has passed, so 2023
The 'Sharpe' movie about the Battle of Waterloo was filmed in Turkey. Waterloo is a small town in what is now Belgium, and Napoleon was finally defeated there. The actor visited the area where the battle took place some time after the end of the filming for the first time. There's actually a thoughtful article about his visit.

He and the Radio Times journalist stayed in a hotel nearby where there was some disorganisation in the morning and they organised their breakfast themselves. Quote: Apart from a confused Belgian chambermaid there are no staff and the only other guests have been spotted exiting via a ground-floor window. Locked in and with no signs of any petit dejeuner, we are reduced to foraging in the kitchen for stale bread rolls left over from dinner. Sounds familiar to pilgrims? 😉

The 'Sharpe' movie with the title 'Rifles' is on YouTube. It's about the French invasion of Galicia and it is set near A Coruña (spelled Corunna in English). I think some of it was filmed on location in Spain, perhaps even in Santiago? Anyone seen it?
All of the episodes, apart from the possibly mis-judged revamp in India, are to quite a high standard a lot of which is due to the quality of the actors employed: Brian Cox, Mark Strong and a very young Daniel Craig among others.

My daughter, Katherine, is the font of all things Sharpe in the family and says some serious liberties were taken in translating the books to the screen not the least being the transposing of Sharpe's birthplace in the slums of London's docks up into Yorkshire - principally because of Sean Bean's famed inability to produce anything other than his natural Yorkshire accent.

A "Ripping Yarn" all the same - especially the one where they evoke the spirit of Santiago to get the locals to rise up against the dastardly French!
 
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howardd5

Member
I am now reading that the Route Napoléon is a 325 km stretch of track in the south east of France. It is so named because it is the route on which Napoléon rode in 1815 on his way to Paris after he escaped from Elba. I wonder now why the track over the mountains between SJPP and Roncesvalles also came to be known as the Route Napoléon. Can anyone shed light on this?


My research showed that when French troops were sent to Spain to fight the Spanish and English forces after Napoleons brother was put on the throne in Madrid, these raw/ green troops were marched over the col into Pamplona , because 1- it toughened they up 2- they were not subjected to the narrow village road and steep defile where they could be attacked and disbursed and demoralized . The French fortress in Pamplona gave these new troops time to acclimate. It was known locally as Route Napoléon.
 

Icacos

Veteran Member
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My research showed that when French troops were sent to Spain to fight the Spanish and English forces after Napoleons brother was put on the throne in Madrid, these raw/ green troops were marched over the col into Pamplona , because 1- it toughened they up 2- they were not subjected to the narrow village road and steep defile where they could be attacked and disbursed and demoralized . The French fortress in Pamplona gave these new troops time to acclimate. It was known locally as Route Napoléon.
I am reading this between my first and second sleeps. My first thought was how could Napoleon’s brother be installed on the throne in Madrid before the French troops arrived via what is still known as the Route Napoleon. But another read on Wikipedia tells me - if my understanding in correct - that initially Spain and Napoleon’s France were allies fighting against Portugal. (It was during this time that Napoleon’s brother was installed on the throne.) However, not all of Spain was happy with the occupation, and the English certainly were not, and it all escalated into the Peninsular War. It’s a slow process, but I think I’m beginning to understand.
 
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I think I’m beginning to understand.
Google Battle of the Pyrenees. There is a lot of detailed information on the net. The Battle of Roncesvalles is one of a series of battles that took place within one single week in the summer of 1813 in the area marked by Pamplona, SJPP, San Sebastián, Saint-Jean-de-Luz as corner points. The pass of Roncesvalles was not the only pass involved. The battle of the Maya Pass was another one. The events near SJPP are given much prominence because we hear about one of the names for this one road across the mountain range and next to nothing about the rest. It is a narrow vision.

Summer 1813.jpg
 
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Back to the name again. Books and guidebooks give us the impression that this road, or trail, had been officially called Route Napoleon since the time that Napoleon lived and fought his wars. I very much doubt that this was the case.

I've never found out when the name Route Napoléon appeared on official French maps for the first time. My guess is 20th century. On the French Géoportail website, run by the National Geographic Institute of France, you can see an État-Major map from 1820-1866. The battle had been fought by then and Napoleon had died. I am fairly certain that, on this map, the road has the label "Espagne" in the first part, near Hunto, and "Artillérie" "Ancienne" in the higher part, near the former Castle Pignon.

It is also wrong to think that this part has been called Camino Frances since the Middle Ages. Etat-Major maps are official maps.
Etat Major.jpg
 
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That makes total sense, @Kathar1na.
Hmm. 🤔 Calling it the Artillery Route might finally make more people more interested in the Valcarlos - the main route over to Roncesvalles since long before Napoleon, whose name is centuries older.
🤭
 
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I found the missing bit of the label near Orisson: Route.

An old track with many names. Some of them never recorded in a document or on a map, so we don't know the name in use at the time. At one time it was called the Main Road to Spain. Then it became the Old Road to Spain. It was once known as the Artillery Road. Now it's known as the Napoleon Route.

Did pilgrims of old know a name? Perhaps it was This Road, as in 'How do I get to Roncesvalles?' 'Take this road.'

Ancienne Route D'Espagne.jpg
 

howardd5

Member
I am now reading that the Route Napoléon is a 325 km stretch of track in the south east of France. It is so named because it is the route on which Napoléon rode in 1815 on his way to Paris after he escaped from Elba. I wonder now why the track over the mountains between SJPP and Roncesvalles also came to be known as the Route Napoléon. Can anyone shed light on this?


Napoleons route from Elba started on the south of France
 

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