Les Etains du Prince present their last prestige item, the Treaty of Tilsit . Between history and legend , this scene illustrates the unconventional meeting between Napoleon and Tsar Alexander 1 , representing the two main powers of Europe at the time.
A little bit of history ...
Everything starts 200 years ago, when the Napoleonic Empire was at its height . The coalition between Prussia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Russia sees weakened after the Battle of Friedland ( June 14, 1807 ) . The Grand Army of Napoleon pushes the Russian soldiers to the banks of the Niemen . However, neither side wishes to continue the war : the Russian army is defeated , his soldiers are exhausted. Napoleon , far from its borders and fearing an attack from Austria, does not feel the means to pursue the enemy beyond that river.
On the 16th of June, Russian ambassadors meet Napoleon to seek an armistice. Then on 25th, a meeting is held secretly between Napoleon and Alexander 1st to sign a peace treaty .
The legend tells that the Emperor and the Tsar met on a raft in the middle of the Niemen River near Tilsit , a small town of East Prussia , now known as Sovietsk in Russia.
More friends than rivals
Alexander 1st, aged of 28 years (twenty less than Napoleon ) hardly covers a sort of admiration for his counterpart. The two arefundamentally opposed : Alexander, the heir to the Romanov dynasty , is highly cultivated, he speaks French without any accent. Napoleon born in Corsica is a man of common origins, has brutal ways and kept the rude accent of his native island. The French Emperor feels for the young Russian sovereign a condescension which will turn through the meetings in an almost paternal affection.
Beyond the Treaty
Alexander pressed to sign the treaty , would have started negotiations by saying "Sir , I hate the English as much as you do" and Napoleon would have replied "In that case , peace is made ! ".
This peace treaty covers much larger ambitions for both parties : The Tsar , beaten at Austerlitz , Eylau and Friedland , wants to save time in the war against the French. As well, he pretends to reconcile with Napoleon in order to extend the domination of Russia to Constantinople, capital of the Ottoman floundering empire.
On the other side, Napoleon wants to get over with the resistance of the United Kingdom . He organized a continental blockade intended to ruin the British economy. He hopes he can persuade Russia to be the mediator between France and the United Kingdom.
This treaty is also an opportunity to redraw Europe : in return for supporting the blockade against England , Napoleon authorized the Tsar to take Finland , to the detriment of Sweden. A clause in the treaty provides also for the division of Turkey between France and Russia.
With the Treaty of July 7th , it's the end of the fourth European coalition against France.