Rotterdam – Napoleon, emperor of the French and since a year also our monarch, entered our city around 11 this morning under the Delftsche Poort. The Emperor was accompanied by Empress Marie Louise and some prominent members of his court.

Namens het Department of “Bouches de la Meuse”, Mouths of the Meuse he was accompanied by Prefect Goswinus Josephus Augustinus Baron de Stassart. The company was received a little later by the mayor, or rather now maire,  Suermondt and a delegation of Rotterdam notables.

The Mayor welcomed the Emperor with the following words:

”Sire, allow me, in this happy moment, to be the interpreter of your faithful subjects of Rotterdam, lay down the keys of this city at your feet, which your goodness has arranged among the good cities of your vast ryk, and to pay tribute to your majesty of the deepest reverence, of the admiration and devotion of the inhabitants of Rotterdam, the hometown of Erasmus, the seaport of den Ryn, and who's pennant took precedence in the splendid tydvak of the Trompen and the Riders in the sea. We mark the presence of Your Majesty in our walls as a sacred building of the highest benevolence, and we are waiting there, believe respectfully, the return of our happy days. I would fear, by expressing to your Majesty the feelings of my fellow citizens longer, slow down their happiness: because all of Rotterdam is impatient, Sire, to behold your illustrious person, to admire and bless you. "

Mayor Suermondt

Thereafter the mayor Napoléon handed over the keys to the city on a velvet To kiss.

In his speech, the mayor referred to the fact that earlier this year Napoléon elevated Rotterdam to “Bonne Ville”. In a special charter, our city also received a new city coat of arms. A golden bar with three bees on it (the personal weapon of the Bonapartes) was added.

This weapon now adorned many a gate of honor through which the imperial company accompanied by Rotterdam members of the “Garde d'Honneur” drove on their way to the Schielandshuis.

The city palace of the Schieland Water Board was used as an imperial palace for the occasion. The large eagle on the facade carried a large N.. in the mouth.

The wrought iron gate that has been there since 1694 was removed for the occasion. The interior was also overhauled. In total to the interior such 58.455,37 francs spent.

The whole city had been preparing for the arrival of the emperor for almost a year. The police commissioners had been ordered to report all persons, who could be labeled as “enemies of France”.

The day before the visit, all kinds of instructions were given in the Rotterdamsche Courant. Flower pots should not be placed high, fireworks are prohibited, no vessels should be under bridges, the sale of alcohol along the Emperor's route is prohibited.

The emperor would take up residence in the fourth room on the right on the first floor of the Schielandshuis. The empress took the third room on the left.

Once arrived Napoléon quickly and standing eaten a simple meal with some coffee after. Then he held an audience.

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He was the first to receive the military in the person of Vice Admiral Kikkert. Then it was the turn of the civil authorities, prefect De Stassart, chief of police De Marivault. Dozens of others followed.

The emperor left the Schielandshuis at three o'clock to visit the squadron and the naval dockyard at Oostpoort. It is expected that upon return the Emperor will devote himself to the correspondence pertaining to ruling over an empire as extensive as his own..

Due to the weather conditions, the announced party lights in the city have come into question. A cruise through the city is planned for the coming days and a party in honor of the imperial couple on Saturday evening in De Doelen.


Napoleon is up 23 started his journey through the Netherlands in September. He has previously visited places in the south of the country, as in Limburg and Brabant, but during this tour he will visit more than forty places. This started with his arrival from Ostend via Blankenberg to Cadzand and Breskens.

In our region he already visited Hellevoetssluis and Goedereede, he spent the night on his yacht in front of Ooltgensplaat.

Dordrecht and Gorinchem

Dordrecht visited Napoleon 5 oktober. He arrived there earlier than expected. The notables of the city were still asleep.

The emperor then decided to take a walk along the canals of the city. When the city council arrived at the Grand Head warned, Napoléon was already on board his ship.

He just replied to their apologies: “Well, gentlemen, I alone are to blame for this, for why do I make my visit at such a foolish hour?”

In Gorinchem, where all kinds of guests had been waiting for him for a week, he had two morning receptions and on the ramparts he met an army captain whose son who spoke to him so shrewdly that the boy was allowed to go to the lyceum on an imperial look.

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Departing from Gorinchem, he crossed Leerdam and the Diefdijk to Vianen, both places paused to listen to the praise of the local administrators. Utrecht and Amsterdam then followed.   

From that city he would make trips through all of North Holland and eventually there 24 October to leave for our city.

How it went

Napoleon left 27 October from Rotterdam to Utrecht via Gouda and Oudewater.

He still donated when he left 2.000 francs to the Rotterdam rowers and 15.000 francs for the poor. Part of it was bought bread and meat 27 were distributed in October, resulting in “more than 1,000 people being fed” .

After a stay in Het Loo Palace, he moved to the east of the country. The visit to the Netherlands ended 31 October when he left for Wesel via Grave.

The reason for his visit to our regions was probably due to international developments.

His alliance with Tsar Alexander I of Russia was in jeopardy after four years. The Russians had detached themselves from the Continental System to economically isolate Britain's arch-enemy.

The Dutch maritime reputation, for example in their struggle against the English and the idea that the former Republic still had a lot of wealth with which to finance its army, were reason enough for the emperor to pay special attention at this stage to his new departments on the North Sea.

But all these plans aimed at the enemy on the other side of the North Sea would eventually be sidetracked by the attack on Russia in 1812.

Tens of thousands of Dutch people would make that trip as part of “la Grande Armee”. Only a fraction of them would return from Moscow after the harsh retreat.

On this retreat, Dutch troops would play a heroic role several times. For example, the pontonniers built bridges over the Berezina in the icy water, allowing the remnants of the army to escape almost certain destruction.

To make this crossing possible, a Dutch regiment sacrificed itself. After this disastrous campaign, Europe rose against their ruler. Napoleon managed to regroup and even some battles Lützen, Bautzen and Dresden to win.

But at the Battle of Leipzig, the battle of nations, van 16 October to 19 oktober 1813 Napoléon was defeated and had to withdraw to French territory.

French troops in the Netherlands also moved south. Not everywhere, by the way, some strongholds such as Den Helder would last until 1814.

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In this situation, a Provisional Government was declared. This Triumvirate consisted of Gijsbert Karel van Hogendorp (whose brother Dirk van Hogendorp had visited the camp on the side of Napoléon Rotterdam as an aide), Frans Adam van der Duyn van Maasdam and Leopold van Limburg Stirum.

Op 20 november 1813 they issued the proclamation in The Hague in which it took over the general management. The next day a proclamation followed proclaiming a Sovereign Principality of the United Netherlands in the name of the Prince of Orange.

This Willem Frederik Prince of Orange-Nassau, son of the last stadtholder William V had 1802 still relinquished all claims to the Netherlands in exchange for the principality of Fulda. Now, however, he accepted the invitation from the Provisional Government.

An English frigate took him to the coast of Scheveningen where he was on 30 november 1813 set foot on Dutch soil. Op 1 December Willem was proclaimed sovereign monarch, what on 2 December was accepted by him. The French era in the Netherlands seemed to be over. The Dutch would have to deal with Napoléon one more time.

After his abdication in 1814 he was exiled to the island of Elba. To the surprise of the crowned heads of Europe, he returned in March 1815 back in France and managed to take the throne again without a fight.

The end of these "hundred days" was initiated by the devastating defeat at Waterloo on then Dutch territory. Napoléon had to abdicate for the second time and this time was exiled to Saint Helena where he was on 5 mei 1821 died.

Consulted literature

W.F. Lichtenauer, Napoleon's visit to Rotterdam 25-27 oktober 1811 (Rotterdam 1963)

Hans Shoot, "The emperor visits the Netherlands": Historisch Nieuwsblad April 2011

Roy de Beunje and Anja Krabben, Napoleon in NL, in the footsteps of the emperor (Zutphen 2016)

Rotterdam Courant 25 oktober 1811

Author: Allard Schellens MA

published: 25-10-2019

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