Mr President of the Public Establishment of the Château de Fontainebleau,Mr Director General,Madam Director,Mr Director General of the Judicial Police,Mr Regional Director of the Judicial Police of Versailles,My Colonel,Ladies and Gentlemen,Dear friends

We have kept little memory of the ephemeral reign of JÉRÔME
in the kingdom of Westphalia, this kingdom created by his elder brother
NAPOLEON, whose name alone makes one think of the famous treaty that laid down the
bases of a new Europe, in 1648. JÉRÔME was the sovereign between
1807 and 1814: seven years – a symbolic figure – only seven years
during which he reigned, never officially crowned, during
which the royal attributes were all the more displayed as they referred to
power of little, if any, reality. It was a bit like
a prince of theatre or comedy, a sovereign without a crown, a prince
of Aquitaine to the Kingdom abolished…
This fleeting and transient character of the kingdom of Westphalia made us
even more sensitive to nostalgia for the disappearance of these two swords,
stolen from the Napoleonic Museum of Fontainebleau 15 years ago,
on the night of December 30 to 31, 1995. They were the perfect emblems
of a kingdom itself almost dreamed of.
But the novel was not finished. And Napoleonic Romanticism succeeded a
investigation worthy of a police novel of very high quality, which shows us
how reality, as often, transcends fiction.
Because the swords, as you know, have been recovered from patients
research, investigation and monitoring conducted by the Office
Central for the fight against the traffic of Cultural Property (OCBC) and in particular
by its director, Colonel Stephane GAUFFENY that we have the
pleasure to receive today, as well as from his men of course, with the
officers of the Judicial Police Regional Directorate of
Versailles and their director, Philippe BUGEAUD, placed under the authority
of the Central Director of the Judicial Police, Christian LOTHON,
I also greet his presence among us today.
I would like to thank each of them for their exemplary dedication that
made possible this happy outcome. I would also like to
brief by Commander Bernard DARTIES, Deputy Chief of the OCBC, for
his mobilization and involvement in this case.
This success demonstrates the remarkable effectiveness of police services and
that it is able to restore to the nation, to the public, masterpieces of
our collections that were fraudulently removed from them.
For this ceremony of presentation of the two swords, just before their return
at the Fontainebleau Museum, the choice of this Jérôme salon, here at the Ministry
of Culture and Communication, was obvious, and
I wanted to open it personally to mark in the most
solemn – and at the same time most friendly – my attachment to
the integrity of our heritage and my gratitude to its defenders
and meticulous. For a brief moment, it is given to us to
contemplate these swords near the portrait of the prince, in this place which was his
exhibition under the Second Empire, long after the tumult of the epic
where he had distinguished himself, in his youth by wielding other
Weapons, swords and swords, until they receive a reward for a kingdom.
These two ceremonial swords, exceptional pieces of goldsmith’s hand
by Martin-Guillaume BIENNAIS, testify to a know-how worthy of the
best masters of art, and we can only admire the elaborate work
their handle and sheath, and the fineness of the stones which
serweave (it seems to me to be “chrysoprases”, a form of
quartz – I speak under the control of specialists, especially those in the
judicial police that are, I believe, “goldsmiths” in the matter…). These
masterpieces, I am delighted that they are returning to our collections and that
soon everyone can admire them again at the Castle of
These two swords, the «royal ceremonial sword», simple accessory of
parade, as its name suggests, and the “Royal Westphalian Sword”,
which can be found in several portraits of Jerome, make us think a little
those of the Oath of the Horaces of DAVID, but they are not
only the lavish attributes of the appearance of power. They
also wanted, I believe, symbols of the union of force and right, to
both the sword of the warrior and that of justice. They illustrate, to their
frustrated by history, this France is the mother of arts and weapons
and laws» sung by DU BELLAY, whose
anniversary (450 years of death). They illustrate the famous fragment
by Blaise PASCAL entitled «Justice force»: «Justice without force is
powerless; force without justice is tyrannical.” I feel like adding
that today before investigators as shrewd and effective as without
law enforcement, culture would have been powerless…
These two ceremonial weapons are therefore fragments of History of France
that you return to us, a little in the image of what has preserved of unfinished
the Napoleonic epic, as well as his last jolt that
was the Second Empire.
Dear Jean-François HEBERT, perhaps waiting for a sword
academician – on my side, like any minister, I am thinking,
sometimes, with the sword of Damocles… I think about it and then I forget….
so very warmly entrust these two swords and I console myself with
"Farewell from Fontainebleau" or rather farewell to
Fontainebleau, keeping at least the portrait of Jerome in this
salon which bears his name and where I have the great pleasure of receiving
who, through their dedication and efficiency, have well deserved
of this national epic of which they have helped to better know the History.
Thank you.