Le grand veneur de Napoléon Ier à Charles X

Work published with the financial support of the CRCV.

Charles-Éloi Vial, Le grand veneur de Napoléon Ier à Charles X, Paris: École nationale des chartes, collection “Mémoires et documents de l’École des Chartes”, vol. 102, March 2016, 824 p., 60 ill., 16 x 23,5 cm, €34,50 (ISBN: 9782357230798).


Hunting, always the privileged activity of royalty and pursued by all the kings of France, was more than a mere distraction, rather it was an accessory to power – a performance and a means of controlling the courtiers. The royal hunt disappeared during the French Revolution, but Napoleon I, with his desire to appropriate the outward show of power, reinstated it and made it a powerful political instrument. But although the Restoration did not revive Ancien Régime customs, it chose to preserve the Napoleonic hunting administration, which continued until 1830. The July Revolution removed the figure of the hunter-king from the throne, as it personified the unpopular Charles X and his son. This continuity – human, budgetary as well as political and symbolic, can be detected in the different aspects linked to the organisation of the hunts analysed here: the circulation of the court around the various royal palaces, the establishment of a specific etiquette, inviting ambassadors or sovereigns from abroad, as well as breeding game, managing the forests, establishing packs of hounds and organising stables and finally, the role of a key figure in the royal household, the Grand Veneur, who was in charge first of the imperial then of the royal hunts. Based on a variety of largely unknown sources – archives, memoirs, personal diaries, paintings and objets d’art – this study approaches the development of politics and society under the Empire and Restoration from an unusual angle. It highlights not only the resurgence of the traditions of Versailles and royal symbolism in the early 19th century, but also the passion for hunting, shared by Napoleon and the last of the Bourbons.

Charles-Éloi Vial, a palaeographic archivist (prom. 2011) and a scholarship student (2010) from the Fondation Napoléon, wrote his doctoral thesis on hunting during the Empire and the Restoration. He is currently curator in the manuscript department of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. This book was awarded the Madeleine-Lenoir prize in 2014, and was published with the support of the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles, the Fondation François Sommer pour la Chasse et la Nature, the Fondation Napoléon and the Société de l’École des Chartes.

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