French ship Normandie (1835)

The Normandie built in 1835, was a French paddle steamer working in conjunction with her sister ship the Seine (1836) on the lower reaches of the Seine.[1] The route she serviced was between Le Havre and Rouen via Honfleur with secondary stops along the way. She gained fame by being a participant in the retour des cendres ("return of the ashes") of Napoleon to France.

Normandie a Seine steamer on the Le Havre-Honfleur crossing in 1837.jpg
Normandie making the Le Havre-Honfleur crossing in 1837
In serviceJuly 1835
General characteristics
Length189.75 feet (imperial)
Propulsionsteam engine (120 HP), paddle wheels


The Normandie, was 178 french feet in length, 42 feet wide, and 12 feet high. She was over 190 tons, and could carry 1000 passengers.[2] She was built in Le Havre by M. Lenormand. She was equipped with two low pressure engines of 60 horse power each. The oscillating cylinder steam engines for both the ‘’Normandie’’ and the ‘’Seine’’ were built by Barnes Miller, Ravenhill and Co. of Glasshouse Fields, Ratcliffe, London. The company had been stated in 1822 as Miller and Barnes. In 1835 they won approval as a supplier of Marine engines to the British Royal Navy. Barnes left the business that year to go on his own, and from that point the company was known as Miller and Ravenhill. Robert Barnes (1798-1852) was a godson of James Watt.[3][4]

La Normandie (left) alongside La Belle-Poule in Cherbourg
Napoleon's coffin being loaded onto the Normandie
The boarding of the body of Napoleon at Cherbourg from the frigate La Belle Poule to the Normandie

The Seine also from the same builder was smaller, 150 feet in length, her engines from the same maker were 40 horsepower each. She could carry 800 passengers.[2]

The Normandie (Captain Bambine) and the Seine (Captain Fautrel) were operated by a new company which began operating in 1835, Cie des paquetbots a vapeur sur la Seine (directors Jalliant and Viellard). They started the company with capital of 600,000 francs. Both vessels were primarily for passenger use, but they also carried cargo.[5]

On her first journet from Le Havre to Rouen it took her 6 1/2 hours, the fastest sailing to that date according to the Rouen newspapers.[6] In the first six months of 1835 she carried approx. 2,600 tons of cargo.[7]

She commenced carrying passengers on a ferry service from Le Havre to Rouen on 25 July 1835.[8][9] The distance of the route was 150 leagues (approximately 100 English miles, which they often achieved in less than 7 hours. The fare for the full journey, and major stops (including Honfleur) was 10 francs and 6 francs for interim stops on the Seine.

On board she had a house band, dressed in uniform, military in appearance, which was unusual at the time.[10]

The Seine made her maiden voyage carrying passengers on 15 April 1836.[11]

By May 1837 both steamers were picking up and laying off passengers at Honfleur, using rowing boats to ferry to the shore.[12]

On 10 December 1840 she had the honour of receiving the ashes Napoléon from the Belle Poule at Cherbourg. La Normandie whose crew were augmented by sailors from the company numbered 200, all in military style uniform,[11] carried the coffin in a convoy of 5 steamers with great ceremony as far as the mouth of the River Seine at Val-de-la-Haye, where it was transferred on 16 December to a small ship La Dorade 3 (1840),[13] which took Napoleon on to the Paris suburb of Courbevoie.[14] As a souvenir of the event the company fixed a cast iron eagle to the back of the bridge and a balustrade was erected to enclose the space that the coffin took up.[2]

The DoradesEdit

The Dorades were small steamers which plied between Rouen (at the Quai de' Harcourt, opposite the hotel de Rouen) and Paris. The first came into service in 1839, and was followed by at least three others of the same name. at least 4 were in service by the close of 1840. They were built by a French engineer M. Cavé of Paris, and owned by a M. Rouvin. They were powered simple high pressure engines. Their great rivals on the Seine was a similar fleet the Etoile's.[15][16] In 1844, the Normandie and her partner the Seine carried between Le Havre and Rouen almost 46,000 tons of cargo.[7]

The railwaysEdit

Among the first railway lines, the Paris–Le Havre railway opened a section from Paris to Rouen on 9 May 1843, followed by the section from Rouen to Le Havre that opened on 22 March 1847.[17] The railway from Paris to Honfleur opened in two stages; a branch line from Pont-l'Évêque on 7 July 1862, and the main line from Paris on 8 August 1889.[18]

Passenger numbers were to fall and the Normandie and Seine steamers would stop servicing the route in 1860.[18]


  1. ^ "Transbordement des Restes de L'Empereur Napoleon de la fregate la Belle Poule sur le Bateau a vapeur la Normande, Cherbourg 8 Decembre 1840". National Maritime Museum - Greenwich. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Guide de Paris a la mer par Rouen. 1836. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  3. ^ Smith, Edgar C. (1938). A Short History of Naval and Marine Engineering. Cambridge University Press; Reissue edition (31 Oct. 2013). pp. 59–60. ISBN 1107672937. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  4. ^ Channon, R. A. (2013). HMS Basilisk ('Barnes Miller, Ravenhill and Co.) (PDF). pp. 135–136. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  5. ^ Affleck, Fred Norman. "The Beginnings of Modern Transport in France: The Seine Valley, 1820 to 1860" (PDF). University of London. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  6. ^ "Steamer from Le Havre". Journal de Rouen du 6 juillet 1835. 6 July 1835. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  7. ^ a b "Cargo" (PDF). Le Moniteur de la Marine: 380. 27 October 1850. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  8. ^ Duvergier, J. B. (1844). Collection complète des lois, décrets, ordonnances, réglemens ..., Volume 34. p. 201. Retrieved 27 May 2018.
  9. ^ "Etablissement de la ligne Le Havre Rouen". Journal de Rouen. 25 July 1835. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  10. ^ Quin, Michael J. (1838). "A steam voyage from London to Paris". Colburn's New Monthly Magazine and Humorist - the Second Part. LIII, NO.CCXII (August): 495–505. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  11. ^ a b "Launch of the Seine". Journal de Rouen. 15 April 1836. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  12. ^ "Nouveau service de Honfleur a Rouen". Journal de Rouen. 29 May 1837. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  13. ^ "La Belle Poule". Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  14. ^ Walsh, Robert; Littell, Eliakim; Jay Smith, John (1831–1842). The Museum of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art, Volumes 40-41. E. Littell, Philadelphia. pp. 459–460. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  15. ^ Morlent, Joseph (1841). Voyage from Havre to Paris by the Seine. Rouen, Frère. pp. 162–165. Retrieved 27 May 2018.
  16. ^ Porte, Jacques. "L'echo vaudesien - Le Retour des Cendres de Napoléon -2-". Retrieved 27 May 2018.
  17. ^ Direction Générale des Ponts et Chaussées et des Chemins de Fer (1869). Statistique centrale des chemins de fer. Chemins de fer français. Situation au 31 décembre 1869 (in French). Paris: Ministère des Travaux Publics. pp. 146–160.
  18. ^ a b "Echo Honfleurais". 1866-03-24.

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