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NAPOLEON REIGNS ON ISLAND Name is everywhere in his birthplace


AJACCIO, Corsica -- Corsica has a big attachment to its most famous son. He is the object of an obsession that seems to go beyond mere commercial exploitation. In addition to all the Bonaparte bric-a-brac on sale, the plastic busts, pictures, plates, etc., his visage, with its pouty lips and brooding eyes, his name, ++ is everywhere.

For instance, the Hotel Napoleon is on the rue Napoleon, just off the cours Napoleon where the Bonaparte cinema and Galleria Bonaparte flourish. Around the corner, near the Little Corporal Restaurant and the Restaurant Pizzeria Napoleon, stands a statue of Napoleon I gazing down to the quai Napoleon, where the boats are moored. The emperor, in a toga, is guarded by four lions.

The grandest monument of all is an equestrian statue. fTC Bonaparte, in Roman dress again, rides from the sea and this time he is guarded on four compass points by statues of his brothers, all affecting noble, melodramatic gestures. There is Lucien, Joseph, Louis and Jerome, who in 1803 married Betsy Patterson of Baltimore, although he later abandoned her to marry a German princess and become king of Westphalia.

There are so many Bonapartist references that one gets the feeling that Corsicans are trying to conjure him back to life, maybe to do violence to him.

Why? Bonaparte, who made it in a big way after he left here, was never generous to his island home. And he was certainly no nationalist.

But he did understand his people's rebellious nature, which led him to devise a formula for ruling the island that was used for years by governments that followed his.

Napoleon's formula had two rules. First, bring all the bright Corsicans to Paris, make them bureaucrats and policemen, vocations they have a demonstrated talent for. Send Frenchmen to run the island.

His second rule was to never establish a university in Corsica, as Pasquale di Paoli did at Corte, which lasted only 25 years and was a hot bed of Corsican nationalism.

In 1982, the French government violated Napoleon's second rule. They opened a university in Corte.

Today it is a hotbed of Corsican nationalism.

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