The coffin of French writer Alexandre Dumas is displayed at a chateau in Marly le Roi, west of Paris
France honours author Dumas
Saturday, November 30, 2002 Posted: 1903 GMT
PARIS, France (AP) -- The coffin of celebrated French novelist Alexandre Dumas has arrived at the Senate in Paris ahead of its transfer to the Pantheon, the domed monument where French luminaries are interred.
France's Republican Guard escorted the remains of the author of "The Three Musketeers and "The Man in the Iron Mask" from Dumas' elegant Monte Cristo chateau, outside Paris, to the Senate on Saturday.
From there a procession was to carry his body, flanked by Musketeers and actors in period dress reading his works aloud, through the streets of the capital's Left Bank to the Pantheon.
President Jacques Chirac will give a speech on the mausoleum's steps, and the Culture Ministry has asked spectators to carry copies of Dumas' books.
"He is a writer admired across the world, the French writer most read abroad, loved and adored by millions of people," historian Alain Decaux told reporters at the Senate.
Villagers in Dumas' hometown of Villers-Cotterets had initially opposed the transfer, saying Dumas laid out in his memoirs that he wanted to be buried there.
But the village eventually bowed to the government's decision. Workers on Tuesday put Dumas' body in a new coffin and brought him to the town hall, where a few hundred residents paid tribute.
Other notables buried in the Pantheon include Victor Hugo, Voltaire and the Curies.
Earlier this year, Chirac ordered Dumas' transfer there, calling him one of France's "most turbulent children, one of its most talented -- and one of its most creative geniuses."
Born in 1802, Dumas led a life almost as adventurous as his novels.
He became a captain of the national guard in the 1830s, had several children out of wedlock and supported Italy's struggle for independence in the early 1850s.
The grandson of a black Haitian slave, Dumas entered French high society and became a popular novelist and dramatist.
Dumas died in 1870 in Normandy, and he was buried there because the Franco-Prussian War prevented his burial in Villers-Cotterets. His son moved his body there two years later once the war had ended.