NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) —New Orleans received a very important visitor recently, with French President Emmanuel Macron making his historic visit to tour the Crescent City.
New Orleans’ relationship with France is a storied one that goes back far.
Susan Maclay is the Louisiana State Museum Interim Director and says, “René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle was an explorer who sailed upon the Louisiana territory in 1682. He named it and claimed it for the King of France. In 1718, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville came down from Canada to found the French city of New Orleans.”
As the years progressed from Louisiana’s birth, a king of France would eventually give Louisiana to his cousin, the King of Spain in 1762. Louisiana would be given back to France and eventually sold to the United States, during the time of Napoleon in 1803.
Susan Maclay is passionate about history and while giving a tour through the Cabildo, she points out a portrait saying, “that is Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon and President Thomas Jefferson were the key players in how New Orleans and Louisiana became part of the United States. On December 20th, 1803, the French flag went down, and the American flag went up. This room in the Cabildo is where the transfer documents were signed turning the territory officially over the United States.”
Over the years, the Cabildo would see much of the French influence of New Orleans. Over three hundred years of French influence is on display. There is a death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte among other artifacts.
As time passed in France’s history, eventually Napoleon would return to govern France after his death. It would not bet the original Napoleon. It was his Nephew, Napoleon III. Napoleon III was the first president of France in 1848, as France was now a republic and not a monarchy.
The city of New Orleans would eventually host a few French dignitaries over the years. President, General De Gaulle made a visit in 1960.
“It was a very exciting time. He was only here for 24 hours,” says Maclay.
Fourteen years later, President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing would visit. The Cabildo would be part of his visit as Susan Maclay says, “Mayor Moon Landrieu hosted him for a private banquet here at the Cabildo. There was a lovely jazz band playing in the courtyard. It was a lovely evening and visit to have President d’Estaing come to Louisiana and New Orleans. It was a very important moment in our city’s history and relationship with France.”