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Bees in Napoleonic heraldry

Bees were used in Napoleonic heraldry. The bee was the emblem of the First and the Second Napoleonic Empire and was reserved so that no one could use a bee in their heraldry without a specific Imperial grant.
Imperial Coat of Arms of the French Second Empire
The bee image is in the red material. (Katepanomegas)

The First Empire of France was under Napoleon Bonaparte from 1804 to1815.  The Second Empire of France was the Imperial regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870. This is when the above Coat of Arms was used.

The Bee was considered a symbol of immortality and resurrection. The bee was chosen so as to link the new dynasty to the very origins of France. "After much debate, Napoleon chose the bee as an emblem, due to its ancient origins and links to antiquity and the Merovingian dynasty." Swide

When trying to find a suitable emblem, Napoleon looked to one of his great heroes, the Emperor Charlemagne who had adopted the cicada as an emblem. Napoleon thought it was a bee and, due to the symbolism associated with the bee found it suitable for his purposes.

Large strip unused furnishing fabric, pure silk brocade,
Jacquard woven complete to selvages,
emerald green satin background to pattern of bees
Source: thebowesmuseum.org.uk

Napoleon had the bee symbol used often and many examples still exist today – from tiny gilded replicas commonly attached to items such as snuff boxes, to the embroidered motifs on his coronation robe or painted images on wallpaper.

Satin and silver slippers worn by the Empress Josephine
at her coronation on December 2, 1804. Musée Des Arts Décoratifs.


SOURCES:
Fondation Napoléon
Encyclopedia Britannica
National Gallery of Victoria

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