The Arc de Triomphe is another signature site of Paris.
This monument was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon to honor his great victories as a general. He had proclaimed himself Emperor in 1804, and he was revered by the people for basically bringing greatness back to France after the horrors of the Revolution.
Construction began in 1809, and before it was finished, Napoleon was forced to abdicate (1814) by the French generals, and was banished from France not once, but twice (first to Elba, then to St. Helena after attempting a comeback).
Now you would think that given the circumstances, the French might have decided not to finish the monument, or at the very least dedicate it to someone else, but no. When construction was completed 19 years (19 years!!!) after Napoleon’s death, they had his body exhumed from his grave in St. Helena and paraded under the Arc on the way to its final resting place in the chapel of the Hotel des Invalides.
Turns out that many French people still saw him as a hero, despite his downfall. And in fact, the epitaph on his tombstone simply says “Here lies . . . ” because they couldn’t agree with the British about what to call him: hero vs. tyrant?
So, if you aren’t yet bored to tears over another history lesson, here is my writing analogy . . . so many to choose from with Napoleon.
But I choose to focus on perseverence.The French saw the building of the Arc de Triomphe to the end despite the obstacles they faced. Surely there must have been a moment where they questioned whether or not the monument to a leader fallen from grace was worth the resources it was taking. But they moved forward, and their work is beautiful. It is universally admired.
As writers, we too will face obstacles. We will find numerous reasons to quit and wash our hands of this tyrant that binds us down. But if we quit, we’ll never know the works we might have produced. The influence we might have had over countless others. I imagine that other European nations mocked the French for their folly, but not anymore.
So finish those Arcs! Fight the good fight! And never give up! (And I do believe that this was basically Napoleon’s philosophy, too.) 😉