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France sends Napoleon census notice

The resident of 3 Rue Saint Charles returned the letter saying: ‘Died in 1821. Forward to Saint Peter.’

LAKSHMAN MENON  London | 14th Dec 2013

He was France's greatest [the British would say their only], military hero. But French bureaucrats seem to be blissfully unaware that Napoleon Bonaparte has been dead for nearly 200 years. Last week, France's national statistics agency, the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies [INSEE], sent the former Emperor of the French a letter asking him for information for their annual census.

The letter, which was addressed to "Bonaparte, Napoleon", was sent to 3 Rue Saint Charles in Ajaccio, next door to Napoleon's birthplace in Corsica, which is now a museum honouring his memory. The bizarre error was discovered when the current resident of 3 Rue Saint Charles returned the letter to INSEE, marking the envelope: "Died in 1821 — Please forward to Saint Peter."

As soon as a local Corsican newspaper picked up the story, the Internet was awash with caustic comments, one of the more printable being "Napoleon brought back to life by INSEE!"

An INSEE spokesman tried to explain the mistake by saying that someone had used the address "probably as a joke" and sent it to them. He added that INSEE had to check whether the address was correct, and automatically sent the letter to Ajaccio.

Napoleon was born in Corsica in 1769. After a string of brilliant military successes, he became Emperor of the French in 1804, continuing his conquests until stopped by a disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812. He was defeated and imprisoned in Elba, from where he escaped and briefly regained his throne. His final defeat came at the hands of the British, in Waterloo, in 1815. Napoleon died in captivity in Saint Helena in 1821.

 
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