Camberley & District Probus Club

St Michael’s Abbey in Farnborough, 14th January 2023

Article & Photos: Alan Boyd

In 1880, the Empress Eugénie bought a house in Farnborough. Crushed by the loss of her husband Napoleon III in 1873 and the death in 1879 of her 23 year old son in the Zulu War, she built St Michael’s Abbey as a monastery with the Imperial Mausoleum. Subsequently, in 1895, the Empress invited French Benedictine monks to England, and the daily round of work, prayer and study began.

Inside the abbey, one of the just 10 resident monks in the monastery, eloquently and competently described the varied architecture with many French features which make it ‘a little corner of England which is forever France, irreclaimably French’.

Underneath the abbey is the large and impressive mausoleum with tombs of Napoleon III and the Empress – the tombs are apparently famous – a coach full of ‘Friends of Napoleon ‘ arrived whilst we were there.

The abbey and its history remains remarkably hidden and unknown by locals and that is probably appreciated by the monks, who experience a very long and devoted day, starting at 4 am.

Thanks to SH&F Probus.

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