Bees and Napoleon

Napoleon had a big thing about bees. He liked being painted wearing ermine adorned with golden bees.  The bee crops up all over the insignia of his reign. Why bees? A rather regal Napoleon, with a covering of bees There’s an old story that when he became emperor, he told the servants to flip the drapes with all those fleurs-de-lis of the French monarchy. Once flipped, they looked like bees. The more likely reason was that Napoleon was looking for legitimacy, for his own “regal” connections, but with more “noble” times. For his own heraldry, the bee was perfect. It was an ancient emblem of France, the symbol of the Merovingians. “Symbol of immortality and resurrection, the bee was chosen so as to link the new dynasty to the very origins of France. Golden bees (in fact, cicadas) were discovered in 1653 in Tournai in the tomb of Childeric I, founder in 457 of the Merovingian dynasty and father of Clovis. They were considered as the oldest emblem of the sovereigns of France.”

Hives mean honeycombs mean hexagons.  Bees also mean hives, and honeycombs – and hexagons. The hexagon is a recurring shape in nature, from atoms and honeycombs to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. But in a beehive the hexagon is both natural and built. You can see where this is going, and it’s no surprise that the Freemasons and other secret societies grabbed this natural/constructed shape and loaded it with extra layers of meaning, from the historical to the mystical.

The hexagon = ‘France.’   l’Hexagone is the shorthand name for France. This hexagon shape is deeply engrained into French culture. Kids learn about it from an early age in school, and it’s on euro coins, it’s the name of many cafes and restaurants, and you’ll even find it in the shapes of many public places. L’Hexagone (above) was in an old French schoolbook. It’s a symmetrical shape, saying that society must somehow be ordered and mathematical too. When you draw lines between its opposite corners, they just happen to bisect either in (a) the Massif Central or (b) near Paris. The heart of the hexagon. L’Hexagone is shorthand for social order, and for the “metropole”, as opposed to France’s overseas territories such as Corsica, Martinique or French Guiana.


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About LaLA Honey

I am a treatment-free beekeeper in the Berkshires.
This entry was posted in Bees in Poetry, Painting, and Other Arts, HIstory and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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