You are here: Home / Temporary exhibitions / Previous / One number, one destiny. Serving Napoleon

One number, one destiny. Serving Napoleon

From 13 June to 27 September 2015, Mons Memorial Museum

Which would you choose? To set off to conquer Europe for France and Napoleon, or to stay in Mons and see your daily life transformed by the French Revolution? How would you feel if this choice wasn’t yours, but rather that of the cold, inescapable justice of a lucky draw?
The exhibition tells the story of conscription under the French regimes established here between the Battle of Jemappes (1792) and the Battle of Waterloo (1815), taking us on a journey back in time to an era when the destiny of our ancestors was decided by nothing but chance.
Once inside the exhibition, everyone will be given a number and then, thanks to a lucky draw, they will be guided towards one of the two parallel destinies presented: the daily life of a conscript serving under
the French flag or that of a civilian who stayed “at home”.

Those named as conscripts will find out about the lives of these soldiers sent to the other side of Europe
to fight France’s enemies. Through moving letters left by these soldiers and a collection of objects from their everyday lives, the exhibition invites visitors on a journey back in time on one of Napoleon’s endless
marches to experience the sleep deprivation, hunge and lack of cleanliness of the adventure promised
by the recruiting offices. For a third of them, this adventure would end in death ; a death that was rarely
as heroic as those depicted in the paintings, but just as painful.

In contrast, the visitors chosen to experience what things were like for civilians, like those who stayed in Mons, will see how day-to-day life was turned upside down. A brand new calendar was adopted, references to religion were suppressed, voting rights were awarded and access was secured to a huge new European market, along with brand new cultural
influences. As a result, plenty of the administrative, urban, cultural and economic traces that were left by the French at that time show how the anti-clericalism, economic policies and propaganda of the new
French power would transform the daily lives of the people of Mons.

Document Actions