Melbourne! Cut it out!

Napoleon in Melbourne

Sydney, a semi-tropical city, and Melbourne, closer to Antarctica, are Australia’s two largest cities. Sydney was founded by British Marines as a dumping ground for convicts in the late 1700s. Most people admit that Sydney’s history is riddled with bribery, crime and corruption. Melbourne was founded much later by free settlers, and has a reputation for sobriety and social responsibity. Except for the occasional bout of bribery, crime and corruption.

But, damn it, Sydney is older, larger, and more beautiful, which makes people from Melbourne grit their teeth. Or so we imagine, in Sydney.

“Napoleon conquers Melbourne (again) — the untold story of Bonaparte’s Victorian reign”, screams the headline, splashed all over the front of the Entertainment section of The Melbourne Age. An article by Raymond Gill, dated May 11, 2012, follows:

“From a map marked “Terre Napoleon” claiming Victoria as French territory to a country residence outside Paris that was a show-place for Australian exotica, Napoleon Bonaparte was a great admirer and preserver of our heritage.”

Apparently a collection of indigenous Australian and local flora and fauna by French explorers “is winging its way to Melbourne to tell an untold story of the emperor’s fascination with the new world Down Under.”

The excited reader can be forgiven for imagining Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, absorbed in planning a lightning military campaign to invade Australia and claim Melbourne as his own city.

There’s only one problem with this bizarre theory: Napoleon died in 1821. Melbourne didn’t exist then: it was founded fourteen years later by settlers from Launceston in Van Diemen’s Land.

I recall reading an article a year or so ago (in the same paper?) that likened Berlin to Melbourne: they both have trams, and a zoo, and lots of culture and history. More or less the same, really, except that Melbourne is so much livelier. So say the people from Melbourne.