Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Ornamentalism in a European Context? Napoleon’s Italian Coronation, 26 May 1805

Caiani, Ambrogio A. (2017) Ornamentalism in a European Context? Napoleon’s Italian Coronation, 26 May 1805. English Historical Review, 132 (554). pp. 41-72. ISSN 0013-8266. E-ISSN 1477-4534. (doi:10.1093/ehr/cex067) (KAR id:56890)


Napoleon’s Italian Coronation has been neglected, or at best consigned to a footnote, by historical scholarship. The ceremony elicited immense expenditure and involved thousands of participants, but its true importance lay in the elusive, and somewhat confused, semiotic claims put forward by its organisers. The manner in which the events of May 1805 were choreographed reveal much about how French Imperialists viewed their nascent Empire and their relationship with their Northern Italian citizen-subjects. The argument put forward here is inspired by the concept of ‘ornamentalism.’ While the realities of imperial brutality, cultural chauvinism and economic exploitation over conquered territories cannot be brushed under the carpet, the reverse side of this coin is also worthy of further investigation. Nowhere more than in the satellite Kingdom of Italy did Napoleon seek to promote collaboration and local investment in his supranational Empire. He rewarded, honoured and rallied his Lombard and Emilian officials to endow them with a sense that they belonged to, and benefited from membership, of the wider imperial community. The Coronation in Milan, on 26 May 1805, was an essential experiment in the creation of new hierarchies and elite affinities. It left a mixed, though significant, legacy which was continued, to a certain extent, by Napoleon’s Habsburg successors well into the first half of the nineteenth century.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1093/ehr/cex067
Uncontrolled keywords: Napoleon, Napoleonic Empire, Ornamentalism, Ceremony, Coronation, Milan, Imperialism
Subjects: D History General and Old World
D History General and Old World > DC France
D History General and Old World > DG Italy
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: Ambrogio Caiani
Date Deposited: 19 Aug 2016 17:18 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 06:22 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.