Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa , seated on his tasteless golden throne for his coronation, 1977


Jean-Bédel Bokassa was a military officer and head of state of the Central African Republic from his coup on 1 January 1966. But being President was not enough so in 1976 he declared himself Emperor of the nation, which was renamed. Central African Empire.

Bokassa attempted to justify his actions by claiming that creating a monarchy would help Central Africa to "stand out" from the rest of the continent and earn the respect of the world.

The throne was fixed on December 4, 1977, the 173th anniversary of Napoleon's coronation, which is why Bokassa chose this date. Meanwhile, the Empire was mobilizing every resource to ensure the success of the coronation. Special committees were formed to oversee various aspects of the work.

The committee in charge of accommodation had the task of finding suitable rooms for an estimated 2,500 foreign guests. To this end began to commandeer apartments, houses and hotels for the festive period, renovating them in a suitable way.

Another committee was responsible for making the capital the best, especially in the areas that would be involved in the coronation ceremony. Streets were cleaned, buildings were painted and beggars were banished.

The empire's textile industry was kept busy producing hundreds of new suits for local guests. Strict rules of protocol set the colours: white for schoolchildren, navy blue for middle-management people in the private and public sectors, and black for cabinet ministers and senior officials.

French craftsmen create a royal splendor for an emperor's first coronation on the African continent since the late Haile Selassie of Ethiopia was crowned in 1930. Bocasa's coronation ceremony had to faithfully repeat the coronation of his favorite man, Napoleon Bonaparte, with attention to detail. ,

Parisian sculptor Olivier Brice was invited to do the throne and carriage as well. A team of thirty French craftsmen were hired to craft a two-ton gold-plated bronze throne worth $2.5 million in Normandy. Bryce bought an antique coach in Nice and refurbished it in the Napoleonic style.

Eight white horses were found in Belgium to pull it, and a few dozen Normandy grays were acquired to escort the "hussar" that accompanied the carriage. To make sure everything went well during the day, a contingent of Central African soldiers marched in Normandy in the summer of 1977 to learn how to ride European-style and balance on the steps behind the emperor's carriage be made.

The 200-year-old firm of Guislin, which had embroidered on Napoleon's uniforms, was called upon to create Bocasa's coronation dress in collaboration with Pierre Cardin. A total of thirteen outfits were ordered for a total cost of $145,000.

Lanvin made the Queen's coronation gown for a $72.400 bill. The royal crown was the work of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés jeweler House of Arthus Bertrand, established under the reign of Napoleon. Along with the royal scepter, sword, and other pieces and pieces, the total jewelry bill reached approximately $5 million.

Finally, 60 brand-new Mercedes-Benzs were ordered from Germany, to transport guests around Bangui in style and comfort. The cars were shipped to Cameroon, from where they were shipped by plane to the land-locked kingdom. The air freight charge alone was $5,000 per car.

As preparations progressed, Bocasa's major concern was to ensure respectable voting for international dignitaries. His fellow emperors, Hirohito of Japan and Shah Reza Pahlavi of Iran, were the first to be invited, but they declined.

The rest of the reigning emperors of the world were also on the official guest list, and one by one they declined as well. The only aristocrat to accept was Prince Emmanuel of Liechtenstein, a relative of the sovereign of the small country.

No president came. Ould Dadda, the President of Mauritania, sent his wife and all African leaders, with the exception of the Prime Minister of Mauritius, Sir S Rougulam, to politely refuse to attend an occasion that was considered an embarrassment to Africa's emerging countries. was.

They were either represented by their ambassadors or the matter was boycotted. Old friends like Mobutu, Bongo and Idi Amin also found excuses to stay away. Bokassa commented on this saying 'they were jealous of me because I had an empire and they didn't'.

French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing decided not to participate, to the surprise of many. Paris was represented by the Minister of Cooperation Robert Galli and the President's Adviser on African Affairs René Jerniac. François Giscard d'Estaing, who arranged most of the payments, was also there. Altogether 2,500 international dignitaries were invited and 600 were accepted.

Those guests would be kept in the best hotels or in specially constructed accommodation for several days and the country would be fed and watered at considerable expense. Among them were 100 journalists. Thus the media coverage of the coronation was assured.

On the designated day, the procession began with eight of Bokassa's twenty-nine official children marching down the royal carpet to their seats. He was followed by the heir to the throne, Jean Bedel Bocasa II, who wore a white admiral's uniform with a gold top. Catherine followed, Bocasa's nine wives and a favorite of the new empress. When the Marine Band sang "The Sacred March of His Majesty, Emperor Bokassa I", His Highness walked the 80m red carpet.

In the tropical heat, Bocasa wore a floor-length velvet bouffant adorned with 785,000 small beads and 1 220,000 crystal beads. It was accompanied by matching pearl-covered slippers. White gloves covered his hands. On his forehead he wore a gold crown of laurel wreath, just like Napoleon, making him an Imperator Caesar.

The emperor successively received the regalia from the hands of his officers of the guard. The first one was his 9-metre crimson velvet, embroidered with gold royal emblems (bees, sun, shining eagle), trimmed with omen, and later carried by an honor guard was.
Then the royal crown was brought on a red pillow.

It was largely inspired by Queen Elizabeth II of England's crown, but paired with Napoleonic objects: a heavy gold frame resting on an ermine headband with a red velvet canopy on top. The eagle was seated, wings outstretched, on a blue orb representing the earth, on which a map of Africa was engraved in gold. The crown was studded with rubies, emeralds and 8,000 local diamonds, of which the largest, displayed prominently in the front, weighed 80 carats.

Bocasa I removed his laurel wreath, lifted the crown containing his own ornaments from the pillow, and placed it firmly on his head, as Napoleon had done. He then received the final insignia: a jewel-encrusted, gold-plated sword (presented by President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing) and a huge diamond scepter. 10:43 am, December 4, 1977, the twentieth century saw a new emperor.

The coronation was a grandeur for which he will always be remembered. When everything was added up, the total cost of the two-day event came to about $25 million. Some even said $30 million. This was a huge amount considering the state of the national economy.

This was about one-fourth of the annual budget of the empire. France paid for much of it, as it had promised to do with Libya in exchange for the breakup of the centrifuge and its rich uranium deposits. The cost of the coronation was equal to all French development aid for that year.

Bokassa wanted to be noticed, and he certainly was. The world press diligently reported on his moment of glory, though without the praise or admiration that he had expected. His crowning image was flashed around the world, usually with derisive remarks.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a cheap music video setup. "We wuz kingz and sheet"


Powered by Blogger.