History and Statutes

OUR “raison d’être” : Le sens de l’histoire, ensemble [THE MEANING/DIRECTION OF HISTORY, HAND IN HAND]

The Fondation Napoléon is a registered charity established in France dedicated to historical research, to the dissemination of public history, and to the preservation of heritage. The historical period we cover includes the two French Empires and more broadly the 19th century, which was in large part that of the Bonaparte family.

Our activities reflect our desire to enlighten people by recounting and explaining our history and culture. For not only did the aforementioned period see the establishment of the legal, social, economic and geopolitical foundations of contemporary France and Europe, it also introduced some of the principles and concerns of present-day French society, such as meritocracy, French national political reconciliation, modernity, and globalisation.

The Fondation Napoléon sheds light, by means of history and culture, on those principles that are shaping the society of tomorrow, both that in France and in Europe. Our guiding principle is scholarly integrity, and our driving force is a commitment to disseminating the story of the 19th century. We make our knowledge and expertise available to all in a spirit of generosity, via both traditional and innovative media.

We are supported in our mission by a network of experts, renowned institutional and private partners, as well as by our own considerable accumulated experience and by the communities of enthusiasts that share our values.

Knowledge, debate, transmission and debate, together, searching for what history is all about, this is the Fondation Napoléon’s raison d’être.


A genius entrepreneur, Martial Lapeyre (1904-1984) was a discreet man who was passionate about history and fascinated by the adventures of Napoleon. He was a knowledgeable collector and a member of the Association du Souvenir Napoléonien, which was the organisation that created the Fondation Napoléon.

It took four years for the president Baron Gourgaud to bring Martial Lapeyre’s legacy to term, in accordance with legislation and French administrative procedures, resulting in the creation of Fondation Napoléon which was registered as a charity and funded by the income from the capital left by Martial Lapeyre of which the Fondation de France is the sole executor; the Fondation also received its patron’s prestigious collections, and took on the task of raising awareness of the First and the Second Napoleonic Empire.

Martial Lapeyre wanted the work from his donations to include:

  • furnishing a library and improving the service for the wider public,
  • supporting PhD students by awarding scholarships,
  • rewarding historians via an annual History Prize,
  • publishing a magazine, and innovative books as well as historical reissues.

His wishes were fully respected and even surpassed, in particular when taking technological advances and the Internet revolution into account.
It is in the most complete respect of Martial Lapeyre’s intentions that the Fondation Napoléon has worked to develop a genuine online documentation and information centre despite the fact that the possibilities of cyberspace were only clear after his death. What better way to bring Napoleonic history to the attention of a wider public? The public is international, varied in its reasons for exploring the period and with varying levels of knowledge. Our works and writings are from sources which are as varied as those that we intend to introduce to them: museums, universities, enthusiasts, collectors, and children …
What better way to bring together all those who contribute to the world’s wealth of Napoleonic knowledge? To encourage them to find things that interest them, to discover, share, communicate, all those things which delighted one discreet but yet eminent and generous member of the Souvenir Napoléonien organisation?



A registered charity (Reconnue d’utilité publique) by a decree of 12 November 1987, the Fondation is administrated by a Board of Trustees comprising twelve members:

  • Four members designated by Souvenir Napoléonien.
  • Four permanent members: the president of the Souvenir Napoléonien, a representative of the Interior Ministry, two representatives of the Ministry for Culture.
  • Four members co-opted by previous members.

The members of the board other than the permanent members have a mandate of six years.
The general director of the Fondation Napoléon is a permanent member with a consultative vote.
The Board elects itself a committee composed of a president, a vice-president, a secretary, a treasurer and a joint-treasurer.

The Fondation’s statutes can be consulted in full in PDF format (in French).

Last update: 28 June 2022