Bonaparte’s mind-blowing return also raised questions of sovereignty – otherwise known as the authority to govern. Other European leaders were particularly worried when the French people welcomed him home. He had no royal blood or real legitimacy for his origins at a time when monarchs were believed to derive their power from God.
“Cartoonists in Britain also love his comeback, as he pokes fun at former monarchs,” Astbury said. “Secretly, many people are delighted that he is back to smash the boring old status quo. Then, when he is finally defeated at Waterloo, a few months after his escape, crowds gathered to see displays of his possessions. and were fascinated by what he represented. He quickly became a cult figure.”
Today, the modern N85 road (official name Route Napoléon) does not exactly follow the path taken by Bonaparte in 1815. At the time the Emperor made his journey, there was not a single paved road to follow, but rather a succession of tracks and trails, as well as a few cross-country hikes in some parts.
To get closer to what Bonaparte himself experienced, it is best to go on foot. There are literally thousands of trails and hikes to follow that take walkers through picturesque villages, former farmlands, impressive geological formations and UNESCO-protected nature parks and forests. The general climate is also very mild, which makes hiking very pleasant almost all year round.
“The South-East of France is a wonderfully diverse and interesting part of the world to explore on foot,” says Andrea Bacher, a mountain guide specializing in the Verdon Gorge and the Castellane region. “I have worked here for over 30 years and I still discover something new each time I go. The natural landscape is particularly rich, and as much of this land is difficult to access, many things haven’t really changed in thousands of years.”