Located at Saint-Léonard, this charming gentleman’s country residence was chosen as the headquarters for Napoleon I from 1803 to 1805.
The Legion of Honour, the creation of the Empire’s flags, the Imperial Eagles which were marched across Europe, the organisation of the Ecole des Ponts-et-Chaussées and the reintroduction of the Gregorian calendar are just some of the issues and matters dealt with at Pont-de-Briques. Can you see where all this is going? This charming gentleman’s country residence in Saint-Léonard does indeed hold a unique place in the story of the Camp of Boulogne, but also more generally in that of the Consulate and Empire itself! Napoleon stayed there for nearly one hundred days, during which he personally shaped a new France.
A highly strategic location
In 1803, when Napoleon positioned his army of 120,000 men at Boulogne for the invasion of England, Pont-de-Briques château (in the hamlet of Saint-Léonard) became his headquarters. Napoleon dictated over 300 letters from there and held eight Councils of Ministers. The First Consul stayed there for no less than 80 days (compared to 50 days in the Palace of Compiègne). The most important decisions regarding the Camp of Boulogne and his conquest of the land of Albion were taken there.
The end of the Camp of Boulogne
It was at Pont-de-Briques that Napoleon took the key decision in 1805, under pressure of events, to abandon the invasion of England and to confront the Austro-Russian alliance. During a meal, he smashed his glass and shouted, “Since it must be abandoned, we will hear Midnight Mass in Vienna !” The soldiers left Boulogne-sur-Mer singing “We must leave this charming place/Where children are safe/Where we have so happily/Built a small town (...)
Saved from destruction
As is the case for many buildings in Boulonnais, Pont-de-Briques château did not always experience peaceful times. Originally built in the 17th century, it was redesigned in the 18th century by Giraud Sannier, an architect from Boulogne. The resulting gentleman’s country residence located in the middle of an estate on the banks of the Liane was the dwelling which welcomed Napoleon. In 1810, it was returned to its owner. After the Second World War, the building seemed to be almost lost. However, this was without counting on the determination of a genuine enthusiast. On the initiative of Fernand Beaucour, a doctor of history and law, a preservation society was created. Pont-de-Briques château was restored and classified as an Historic Monument in 1974. It can be visited during special events. Napoleon's apartments have been preserved.
Since it must be abandoned, we will hear Midnight Mass in Vienna !