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Saturday 11 May 2013

France plans Napoleonland

A French theme park is being planned in honour of Napoleon Bonaparte, almost 200 years after his death.

France plans Napoleonland
Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor, statesman and military leader of France Photo: AP

“Napoleonland”, the brainchild of former French minister and history buff Yves Jégo, is being touted as a rival to Disneyland – assuming, that is, it can gather the £180 million needed to leave the drawing board.

The plan is to build the unlikely amusement park on the site of the brilliant but doomed French leader’s final victory against the Austrians in the Battle of Montereau in 1814 just south of Paris.

The 1815 Battle of Waterloo, in which the Duke of Wellington ended Napoleon's rule in France, could be recreated on a daily basis with visitors perhaps even able be able to take part in the reenactments.

They will also be able to take in a water show recreating the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar, in which Lord Nelson scored a decisive victory over a French and Spanish coalition aboard HMS Victory but died in the process.

But the park will also give pride of place to Napoleon’s greatest victories, in particular the Battle of Austerlitz in which the Russo-Austrian army was decisively defeated.

“We are not going to take sides,” Mr Jégo said in a reference to widely differing accounts of Napoleon’s legacy in Britain and France ranging from brutal dictator to heroic visionary.

The park is also expected to house a museum, a hotel, shops, restaurants and a congress centre.

Other curious potential attractions include a ski run through a battlefield "surrounded by the frozen bodies of soldiers and horses" and a recreation of Louis XVI being guillotined during the revolution – the precursor to Napoleon’s rise to power.

"It's going to be fun for the family,” he Mr Jégo told the Times.

Napoleon looms large in the French national psyche but has no national museum to his name. The park would help keep him on the map while boosting the local economy, with a potential 1.5 million visitors in its first year.

Mr Jégo hopes that construction work can start in 2014 and the park open its doors in 2017. He is due to provide more details on the attraction won February 18 - the 198th anniversary of the Battle of Montereau.

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