'Coronation Fete at Paris', 3 December 1804.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Steel engraving showing the festivities at the coronation of Napoleon (1769-1821) on 3 December 1804. Balloons formed a prominent feature at Paris fetes, and on this occasion the great French aeronaut Andre-Jacques Garnerin (1769-1823) was given the honour of arranging a balloon ascent to coincide with a fireworks display to celebrate the coronation. The main feature of Garnerin's balloon was a gilded crown decorated with lanterns. The balloon was launched from Notre Dame in Paris at 11pm. Next morning it was sited in Rome, where it eventually sank in Lake Bracciano. Unfortunately, during its voyage, a portion of the balloon's crown had snagged on Nero's tomb. Napoleon was furious at the asociation with the dictator and dismised Garnerin from his post.